The 670-km gas pipeline crossing the Amazon Forest to connect the production field in Urucu to Manaus, the main city of Brazil’s North region, presents many challenges for operation and maintenance. The difficulties of accessing remote areas in the forest, seasonal flooding and lack of infrastructure result in complex and expensive logistics. Many intermediate installations of the pipeline can only be accessed by helicopter. This highly complex operational scenario has been chosen as the prototype for a broader management program which aims to eliminate risks of failures that can impact natural gas delivery.

The main principle behind this program is focus on the critical equipment and prioritization of better maintenance for that equipment. The program combines concepts of asset management, reliability centered maintenance (RCM), and Lean Six Sigma. A well-designed asset management program, supported by remote monitoring of instrumentation, allows better control and management of the critical equipment, meaning faster maintenance response and less transport of spare parts. RCM provides a suitable mechanism to define the critical equipment and Lean Six Sigma simplifies both operational and maintenance processes by reducing the activities that do not add value while working to prevent risks of failures of critical equipment.

An interactive computational system has been developed to disseminate and facilitate the use the Six Sigma quality tools. In addition, the program coordinators have already been trained in the Six Sigma Green Belt module and the technical staff will be trained in the Yellow Belt module. As a result of the initial stages of implementing the program, the number of execution standards for operation and maintenance has been reduced from 35 to 8, with an increase in productivity. For the next stages of the program, further productivity improvements are expected, along with more efficient control of critical processing and transport equipment, to minimize or promptly mitigate the effects of failures that can prevent delivery of natural gas.

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