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A Dynamic, Proactive, Risk-Management Approach to Successful Turnarounds – T.A. Cook

TA Cook Logo Feature

Mark C. Munion, Consultant, CMRP

T.A. Cook Consultants, Inc.

Turnarounds (TAs) are periodic, planned refinery shutdowns to meet license to operate (LTO) requirements, to have preventive maintenance, renovations, capital project tie-ins and upgrades performed to maximize the availability and efficiency of refinery assets and ensure safe and competitive reliable operations. They demand a well-defined scope and an aggressively implemented, in-depth risk evaluation and mitigation process to not only ensure the safety of the workforce, but also to ensure they are performed within the targeted budgets and durations.

Risks are uncertain events or conditions that, if they occur, can effect at least one performance objective for better or worse.  All projects carry some elements of risks, which are dynamic in nature. While the complete elimination of risk is rarely possible, poor or reactive risk management has the ability to severely impact a project’s benefits. A comprehensive “through the life cycle” risk-management approach must be utilized to improve performance outcomes in TAs and make them predictable.

FEL Risk-Management Planning

Risks are initially identified during the development of the TA premise strategy and at least once during each subsequent TA Phase. Further risk refinement during scope definition will enhance the  visualization and conception of the TA’s risk profile. By understanding the TA team’s capabilities and willingness to actively manage certain risk, TA leadership can create a risk-ownership structure, which can help shape the TA risk profile. Risk management must be a core element in the planning and execution of a TA and has to be continuous throughout the life cycle of the TA.

Strong Set of Practical Tools to Analyze and Document Risks

Risk assessments can be very subjective in nature. One of the primary tools to create a consistent, standardized and objective approach by the entire TA team is the risk matrix. This practical tool is used to evaluate and prioritize risks based on the severity of their impact (Consequences) and their likelihood to occur (Probability). TA leadership can effectively employ this tool to raise awareness and increase visibility of potential risks so that sound decisions can be made in context with the TA team (Figure 1).

TA Cook Figure 1

Figure 1

Another critical and practical tool is the risk register, which enables the TA leadership to document and monitor the risk-management process. The purpose of the risk register is to record the details for each specific risk that has been identified, its grading in terms of likelihood of occurring and seriousness of impact on the TA, initial plans for mitigating each high level risk, the costs and responsibilities of the prescribed mitigation strategies and subsequent results. The risk register must be proactively maintained throughout the life of the TA and will change regularly as existing risks are re-graded based on the effectiveness of their mitigation strategies, and new risks are identified (Figure 2).

TA Cook Figure 2

Figure 2

Risk Assessment Meetings / Follow-Up

A crucial first step is to conduct a formal risk assessment meeting to brainstorm any and all potential risks to the event. These formal meetings should be conducted throughout each phase of the TA’s lifecycle. Once the risks have been brainstormed, they must be ranked using the risk matrix (figure 1). Subsequent risk assessment meetings are to agree on a mitigation strategy, assign responsibility and a due date, which are recorded in the risk register (Figure 2). In addition to risk management specific meetings, risk should be part of the agenda of every TA event update meeting.

These ongoing  risk assessment meetings are critical for follow-up on the current progress of risk mitigation action plans. Not only is this a means to hold the responsible parties accountable, but this also provides an opportunity to review the current mitigation actions plans effectiveness to completely eliminate or reduce the specific risks to an acceptable level. This should be a continuous activity by the TA team to assess the efficacy of all risk mitigation action plans and to implement revised action plans as required. By facilitating the management of risk, TA leadership ensures that the maximum number of risks are mitigated prior to the execution of the event.

Post-TA Lessons Learned Analysis

Following every TA, a lessons learned analysis must be conducted to not only identify the strengths and weaknesses of the TA itself, but also the risk management performance. How effective was the overall risk management process? Did the risk mitigation action plans successfully eliminate or minimize the risks to an acceptable level? Were there any unidentified risks that emerged and impacted the success of the TA? These are just some of the questions the TA leadership must answer and then integrate these lessons into the next TA preparation.


TAs, some of the most challenging and difficult projects to execute, must be conducted under strict time constraints with severe financial repercussions for any delays. Given the scale and scope of TAs, site leadership must embrace a dynamic, proactive, risk-management approach throughout the entire life cycle of these strategic events to identify, evaluate and mitigate risks in order to ensure TA performance objectives are successfully achieved.

For more information about T.A. Cook, please visit:

T.A. Cook Consultants, Inc.
21 Waterway Avenue, Suite300
The Woodlands, TX 77380
Telephone Number: +1-281-362-2716

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