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Ask the Expert: How to level up your asset integrity, with Add Energy’s Senior Asset and Integrity Manager, Emeka Onuh

17 January 2023 by Emeka Onuh

At Add Energy, we help our clients overcome their biggest challenges in asset and integrity management, drilling and well engineering, safety and risk, and decarbonization, which couldn’t be made possible without our driven team of industry experts.

In our ‘Ask the Experts’ series, we delve into the knowledge and insights of specialists across the company, asking them to share their most compelling advice, as well as the keys to success within their roles.

Based in Aberdeen, Emeka Onuh, our Senior Asset and Integrity Manager, has gained a deep understanding of the challenges within asset integrity management, and has been a valued member of the Add Energy team for over 14 years now. 

In this interview, which forms part of our ‘Ask the Experts’ series, Emeka reflects on his many years of experience and shares his advice on how maintenance teams can overcome key challenges in asset integrity management, and what the future holds for this area of specialty…

Emeka Onuh AE sign

Could you tell us a bit about your background and what brought you to Add Energy?

“I was first attracted to Add Energy and what they do because I love working with data. At that time they were looking to develop software programs, help companies manage their data and apply asset integrity management to their maintenance strategies. I had previously worked as an engineer in the oil and gas industry and was looking to specialize in asset integrity, plus I had skills in IT and data, so Add Energy was a perfect opportunity for me.

“Since joining the company 14 years ago, I’ve migrated from looking after the software to now managing or sourcing for projects. Back in 2011, I went to work in the Middle East for a few years, starting in Abu Dhabi as a technical manager for a project, then to Muscat in Oman for 2 and a half years to deliver on another project on asset integrity management. Since then, I’ve been leading various different projects around the world, becoming one of the senior project managers in asset integrity management.”

What does a typical day look like for you? 

“My biggest priority is the overall management and delivery of projects, but a big part of that is looking after a team of people to make this happen. It’s important that I coach them and provide guidance on how to use or follow certain processes, while also looking after client relationships too. I deal with a lot of people in my role - either within the organization or our different clients - so it’s important that I can be personable, communicate effectively and really understand what our clients and our team needs to get the project completed.”

What are your key responsibilities or goals?

“I would say it’s project delivery and project development but another key responsibility of mine is business development. Although I’m part of the operations team rather than the business development team, while I deliver a project I’m also looking at different opportunities with our existing clients on how our services can provide additional value to them, as well as looking out for new clients to do business with.”

engineer and plant

What are the key challenges facing asset integrity management at the moment?

“The big challenge at the moment definitely stems from the relevance of oil and gas in a net zero future, but it’s really all about finance. The energy transition has meant that many companies are not as willing to spend money on maintenance compared to what they used to, and so that has a knock-on effect on asset integrity. 

“A lot of investors prefer to just wind down rather than spend money on ensuring the right maintenance, integrity, inspection is all done at the right time for their existing assets. As a result, assets end up having integrity issues because corners are maybe being cut in order to save money, or the life of the asset has gone beyond its design life and requires more maintenance which companies aren’t willing to spend the money on. Either way, the equipment or part of the structure of the asset is not as it should be.

“I think the key solution to this is focusing on maintaining the most crucial aspects of the asset, and making sure the safety critical elements are looked after correctly. This means that the life and safety of any personnel is assured, it minimizes any environmental damage and the life of the asset is maintained. You don't want to neglect things as it could cause an issue in the near future as there will be failures.”

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How are you and the team at Add Energy overcoming this challenge?

“At Add Energy, we're always looking at how we can provide our services in ways that are slick and add plenty of value to our clients. We tailor our services to focus on where the main values and biggest impacts are, to maximize the return on the client's investment."

Are there any quick wins when it comes to asset integrity management?

“One quick win we can support our clients with is looking at their data to see how they categorize their safety programs and equipment and provide recommendations. There might be pieces of equipment that the operator doesn’t actually know are safety critical because they haven’t done the full analysis, and if anything was to go wrong, it’s those pieces of equipment that will be impacted first.

"On the other hand, if they are managed properly then the asset stands the chance of operating within a safe level. So if we can target those pieces of equipment, make sure they are identified and categorized properly and provide integrity measures to be applied to them, that can make a huge difference.

“By presenting our clients with the data, we can often highlight that they’re spending a lot of time in an area that actually isn’t safety critical, and they could really spend that time elsewhere on a piece of equipment or program which is more critical and therefore more important. This isn’t always quickly done, but that simple change over could make a really big impact in terms of return on investment and safety.”

What would be your number one piece of advice to someone working in this area?

“I think my number one piece of advice is to make sure you focus your effort where it matters most. Don't neglect any safety or integrity concerns that you have - no matter how little they may seem at first - because those could become big problems for assets in the future.

engineer doing maintenance

What do you think the future looks like for asset integrity management in the next 3-5 years?

“I think it’s going to become increasingly challenging as clients look for services that are even more slick, efficient and optimized, and there’s still going to be a lot of work to be done as many existing assets are reaching the end of their life cycle. These aging assets require more integrity services to make sure they reach their 25 to 30 year lifecycle and at this point, you find that operators might want to extend the life of the asset to make sure they get the remaining oil from out of the ground.

“There’s not a lot of money going around to start new projects, so life extension is something that is going to be a lot more demanding in the years to come as operators will want to maximize the production of their existing assets, without spending huge amounts of money. This means service providers will have to really up their game, because it’s not going to be business as usual - there won’t be a lot of budgets paying above and beyond, so they need to be very slick in their offerings and provide a lot of value for money. 

“That being said, I do see huge opportunities in this area - I think there’s going to be a good market for our services and Add Energy is well positioned to support these clients. We’ve got bespoke products, services and software that we can use to quickly analyze client data and provide quick wins to help them operate at a premium level.”

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What do you think it takes to become an expert in your field?

“I think you've got to have the passion to do it and you've got to be open to learning. In this industry, it’s not always easy - challenges and uncertainties are inevitably going to come your way - so you need to have a genuine passion to carry you and your team through those. With that passion, you also have to be willing to learn and accept the challenges so you can reframe these obstacles as opportunities. If you don't take on challenges with an open mind, then you might not expand your knowledge and you're definitely not going to grow that much.”

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