Integrity? Aera definitely has it, including the mechanical kind
Aera’s Ted Witt could talk mechanical integrity all day long.
It’s what you’d expect from someone with a degree in mechanical engineering.
But it’s also a major part of Witt’s job as vice president of operations for Aera’s Midway-Sunset, Coalinga, San Ardo and Ventura fields.
“Mechanical integrity is all about managing equipment to ensure it’s safe, reliable, clean and compliant with some of the world’s most stringent regulations,” Witt said.
At Aera, that involves thousands of wells plus pipelines, pumps, storage vessels and tanks. And although most of it is concentrated in relatively small footprints, that network of steel demands 24/7 attention.
The man responsible for those four operating networks grew up in Tennessee and attended the University of Tennessee. That’s where he earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
In 1990, Witt began working as a facilities engineer for Shell in Bakersfield. When Shell and ExxonMobil created Aera Energy in 1997, Witt continued in his engineering role, supporting the Ventura lease. While in Ventura, he became a process supervisor and then manager of operations there. He has held his current role as Aera’s vice president of operations since 2017.
That background has positioned Witt to lead Aera’s teams in making sure oilfield equipment is fit for service.
Helping them do that is an all-encompassing system known within Aera as Total Process Reliability. TPR includes preventive maintainence, proactive inspections and, when needed, equipment repair and replacement.
“Every day, Aera employees and contractors are working together to make sure our pipelines and equipment are safe and reliable,” said Witt. “We also have technology in place at all times to help detect issues of concern or potential equipment failures so that we can shut down safely and protect the people and surrounding environment.”
One way Aera’s teams inspect pipelines is with hand-held devices that use ultrasonic technology to measure a steel pipe’s wall thickness and detect corrosion levels. These inspections, along with other installed technology monitoring pipeline flow, temperature and pressure, work around the clock to help to prevent equipment failure.
Beyond myriad ground-level inspections and daily surveillance and monitoring by Aera team members, Aera also gets a helping hand from daily airplane surveillance.
“We contract with a company to fly at low altitudes over all our fields to look for indications of equipment malfunctions and other issues outside of parameters. ” said Witt, himself a licensed pilot. “If they see anything unsual, they call us right away.”
Delivering the goods
“Our pipelines are like roads or highways that people rely on every day for transportation and delivery.”
Like people, equipment wears out over time. Parts eventually need upgrading or replacing to improve their performance and lifespan. Pipelines are a good example.
“Every year, Aera spends a significant amount of capital to replace aging piping,” Witt said.
In years past, pipelines were often buried underground. But these days, new piping is typically installed aboveground, except at places like road crossings. Installing new pipelines aboveground makes them more accessible, helping simplify and improve inspections and monitoring. That, in turn, also makes the the field-to-refinery transport of oil and gas environmentally safer.
“In some ways, our pipelines are like roads or highways that people rely on every day for transportation and delivery,” added Witt. “Aera makes sure ours are safe and reliable to deliver the energy that California needs.”