ICM: Planning is key to a successful shutdown

By Matt Thompson | June 12, 2019

Kristen Gordon, director of reliability services at ICM Inc., presented ICM’s best practices for managing ethanol plant shutdowns at the 2019 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop and Expo June 12 in Indianapolis.

“Shutdowns can be an overwhelming thing,” Gordon said. “However, if you follow a process and steps, it can be less intimidating.”

ICM, with its experience in ethanol plants, has developed what it sees as the best practices for managing shutdowns.

Planning is the first of the five steps, Gordon said. “The more time we spend in the planning stage, the better off we are,” she said. This includes determining the scope of the shutdown, what cleaning and maintenance will be completed and what tools and parts may be required.

Also important is the preparation and budgeting phase, which includes planning the logistics of the shutdown. Gordon said it even includes details like how many portable toilets will be needed.

The next phase is execution, where the shutdown activities take place. “One thing to note is that there are going to be scope changes, no matter how thoroughly we plan,” Gordon said. “This is where the contingency comes in.” Gordon said that ICM classifies risks of shutdowns into two categories: safety and financial. “No matter how well you plan, you always have to have a contingency, from a financial and timeline perspective,” she said.

Following the execution phase is the startup phase, where final inspections are completed, and punch lists are constructed. “During this phase we also have to make sure we’re communicating and are able to communicate to operations about where we are,” she said.

The final step is measuring success, according to Gordon. During this phase a final report is issues, and the plant reviews what worked and what didn’t during the shutdown, to make future shutdowns even smoother and efficient.

“Hopefully this process will help you have a more successful shutdown and minimize the impact of your shutdown,” Gordon said. She also said ICM can help plants with their shutdowns. “Our field technicians have years and years of experience, so they can leverage their knowledge from one plant to the next,” she said.