One of the biggest challenges to resolving these issues is the overwhelming amount of data coming from disparate sources. Additionally, different teams across an organization tend to rely on different systems to examine all of this data, ranging from spreadsheets and flow calculation software to field data capture and sample management systems.
Without a clear picture of their operational data, teams often struggle coming to a consensus when trying to identify and address sources of imbalance.
“You have multiple teams that are pulling at this information from all of these different systems to try and come to an answer as to why something is imbalanced,” explains Austyn Rattee, Services Manager at Validere. “Lack of communication between teams makes it difficult to really come to, number one, the right answer and, number two, an answer that everyone actually agrees on and will get behind.”
Start driving your facility imbalances to less than 1% with these three expert tips.
1. Centralize your data and make insights accessible.
Having a centralized data source is essential to enabling multidisciplinary decision-making. Before you can start identifying and addressing imbalances, you need to have a single source of truth in place for all of your operational data.
With different sources providing key information at varying frequencies (i.e. continuous, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly), it’s important to centralize and verify all of this vital information. Working from the same insights helps different teams stay on the same page.
“You’re talking the same language,” says Rattee. “You’re looking at the same information, the same insights, the same calculations.”
“It makes accessing your information more efficient,” he adds. “It contextualizes the information with all of the surrounding information — production volumes, qualities, meter calibration dates — tracking your imbalances over time so that you have all of these insights across teams to come to a solution more effectively.”
Organizations should work with trusted measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) experts and technology that can make insights actionable, with auditable and verifiable data centralized on a single platform.
2. Focus on the common causes.
In order to narrow your investigation efforts into imbalances, it is important to know that these issues typically stem from four categories of common causes.
“There isn’t an infinite number of causes for an imbalance,” explains Rattee. “When you look at all of them, they really come into these four categories of the core problems that are driving your imbalance.”
Physical gains or losses
An issue that is usually easy to spot, this happens when an actual imbalance has occurred.
“It’s not a paper imbalance, it’s not due to any of these other items,” says Rattee. “You’re physically losing product within your process.”
In this instance, data from meters may signify there is an issue, even though an imbalance has not actually occurred.
“The cause is because the meter or the hardware in the field giving you that information that you’re making decisions off of itself is incorrect and needs action taken,” explains Rattee.
Calculation or accounting errors
Another common cause is when issues arise with the input of data and how it gets calculated. These can be mistakes with manual data entry, software updates that start using different API calculations, and other errors that occur during the calculating or accounting process.
Component analysis errors
This issue occurs when there is a problem with how composition is analyzed, often leading to errors in other areas. For example, a bad measurement in the quality of your product can lead to problems when converting from gas to liquid due to a faulty understanding of the composition.
“If it’s incorrect, it’s going to have succeeding issues in your imbalance,” says Rattee.
3. Utilize a modern approach to investigate imbalances.
Narrowing down which cause is behind your facility imbalance requires an efficient and modern approach. Instead of analyzing data for hours, searching for that needle in the haystack, get to the root cause faster with these three key steps:
Each of the four common causes of imbalance has a unique profile of characteristics. The first step is to use these profiles as guides to quickly identify what the error could be.
“When you look at it against that profile of a possible imbalance, you can quickly determine whether it matches that volume or component imbalance profile that you would suspect from something like a physical loss or an accounting error,” explains Rattee.
The next step is to take into account the likelihood of a specific error occurring when determining the root cause at play. For example, understanding the probability of an issue occurring in the exact same way on multiple occasions can help you identify whether it is a certain set of conditions or specific equipment causing the issue.
The final step is to verify your hypothesis on the cause of the imbalance by putting it to the test. Use a mock data set or sandbox environment to quickly qualify or disqualify the likelihood of an issue occurring.
“If someone says a meter is out, you can very quickly say, ‘If that meter is out, it would have to be out by 15% for it to be the source of our imbalance, is that likely or is that unlikely,” says Rattee. “Probably unlikely that, out of nowhere, you have a 15% unnoticed metering error.”
Watch our recent webinar to learn more investigative techniques and how to drive facility imbalance to less than 1%.