ConocoPhillips has adopted 3D printing to improve supply efficiencies at its Kuparuk site on Alaska’s North Slope, overcoming extreme weather and logistical challenges. The company’s strategy, led by Pragati Mathur, chief digital and information officer, and Carlo De Bernardi, principal engineer, aims to mitigate the difficulties in maintaining critical components for gas turbines and other infrastructure due to the site’s remoteness and harsh conditions.
In the challenging environment of Kuparuk, where temperatures can plummet to negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit, traditional supply chains struggle to deliver vital parts like burner plugs and choke valves. These parts, essential for the turbines’ combustion process, used to face extended lead times due to the reliance on conventional manufacturing methods. The absence of certain parts, like the original burner plugs, exacerbated the issue, necessitating replacements through labor-intensive traditional manufacturing processes.
ConocoPhillips’ solution involved leveraging additive manufacturing, significantly reducing the time to replace parts. Burner plugs, previously taking 30 weeks for replacement, can now be produced in 2-3 weeks. The approach not only speeds up production but also enhances part performance. Similarly, the production time for choke valves has been reduced from 45 weeks to as little as 5 weeks, with a notable increase in their use-life.
This shift to 3D printing has broader implications for operational efficiency and environmental impact. By reducing the need for physical inventory storage, the company can focus on digital designs and on-demand manufacturing, aligning with their goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. This method also diminishes the logistical challenges associated with transporting parts to remote locations.
ConocoPhillips is also spearheading the development of the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) Standard 20S, aiming to standardize additive manufacturing processes in the oil and gas industry. This initiative, coupled with partnerships for a digital inventory platform, indicates an industry-wide shift towards 3D printing adoption.
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