Shutdown and Turnaround

Difference Between a Turnaround and a Shutdown in Oil and Gas


The oil and gas industry is a complex and high-stakes environment where operational efficiency and safety are paramount. Two critical processes that often get confused are turnarounds and shutdowns. Understanding the difference between these two can significantly impact the success of your operations. In this article, we will delve into the nuances of turnarounds and shutdowns, providing valuable insights and examples. By the end, you’ll see how digital workflows like FAT FINGER can streamline these processes. Request a demo today to see how FAT FINGER can revolutionize your operations.

Understanding Turnarounds

Turnarounds are planned events where an entire unit or plant is taken offline for maintenance, inspection, and upgrades. These events are meticulously scheduled and can last from a few weeks to several months. The primary goal is to ensure the long-term reliability and efficiency of the plant.

Key Characteristics of Turnarounds

  • Planned and Scheduled: Turnarounds are planned well in advance, often years ahead.
  • Comprehensive Maintenance: They involve extensive maintenance, including cleaning, repairs, and upgrades.
  • High Costs: Due to their scale, turnarounds are expensive, both in terms of direct costs and lost production.
  • Resource-Intensive: They require significant manpower and resources.

For example, a refinery may schedule a turnaround every five years to replace aging equipment, inspect critical components, and implement new technologies. This ensures the plant operates efficiently and safely until the next scheduled turnaround.

Understanding Shutdowns

Shutdowns, on the other hand, are unplanned events that occur due to unforeseen issues such as equipment failure, safety concerns, or regulatory requirements. Unlike turnarounds, shutdowns are reactive and can happen at any time, often leading to significant operational disruptions.

Key Characteristics of Shutdowns

  • Unplanned and Reactive: Shutdowns occur without prior notice and are usually a response to emergencies.
  • Immediate Action Required: They necessitate immediate attention to resolve the issue and resume operations.
  • High Costs: Similar to turnarounds, shutdowns are costly due to lost production and emergency repairs.
  • Disruptive: They can cause significant disruptions to the supply chain and overall operations.

For instance, a sudden pipeline leak may force a refinery to shut down operations to prevent environmental damage and ensure worker safety. This unplanned shutdown can last from a few hours to several days, depending on the severity of the issue.

Comparing Turnarounds and Shutdowns

oil and gas drilling site

While both turnarounds and shutdowns involve taking a plant offline, their differences are stark. Turnarounds are proactive, planned events aimed at long-term maintenance and upgrades. Shutdowns are reactive, unplanned events triggered by emergencies or unforeseen issues.

Key Differences

  • Planning: Turnarounds are planned years in advance, while shutdowns are unplanned and occur suddenly.
  • Scope: Turnarounds involve comprehensive maintenance and upgrades, whereas shutdowns focus on immediate repairs.
  • Cost: Both are costly, but turnarounds are budgeted for, while shutdowns incur unexpected expenses.
  • Impact: Turnarounds are scheduled to minimize impact, while shutdowns cause significant operational disruptions.

Understanding these differences is crucial for effective operational planning and risk management in the oil and gas industry.

How Digital Workflows Help Manage Turnarounds and Shutdowns

Drag and drop workflow builder on FAT FINGER. Quality assurance with FAT FINGER

Managing turnarounds and shutdowns efficiently requires meticulous planning, coordination, and execution. This is where digital workflows like FAT FINGER come into play. FAT FINGER offers a robust solution to streamline these processes, ensuring minimal disruptions and maximum efficiency.


  • Real-Time Data: FAT FINGER provides real-time data and analytics, enabling informed decision-making during turnarounds and shutdowns.
  • Task Automation: Automate routine tasks and ensure compliance with safety and regulatory standards.
  • Resource Management: Efficiently allocate resources and manpower to minimize downtime and costs.
  • Collaboration: Enhance collaboration among teams with centralized communication and documentation.

For example, during a planned turnaround, FAT FINGER can help schedule tasks, track progress, and ensure all maintenance activities are completed on time. In the event of an unplanned shutdown, FAT FINGER can facilitate rapid response by providing real-time data and coordinating emergency repairs.

Case Studies: Real-World Examples

petrochemical storage tank

To illustrate the impact of effective turnaround and shutdown management, let’s look at some real-world examples.

Case Study 1: Successful Turnaround

A major refinery in Texas scheduled a turnaround to replace aging equipment and implement new safety protocols. By using FAT FINGER, they were able to:

  • Plan and schedule tasks efficiently.
  • Track progress in real-time.
  • Ensure compliance with safety standards.
  • Minimize downtime and costs.

The result was a successful turnaround completed ahead of schedule, with improved operational efficiency and safety.

Case Study 2: Managing an Unplanned Shutdown

A pipeline leak forced a refinery in California to shut down operations unexpectedly. Using FAT FINGER, they were able to:

  • Quickly identify the issue and assess the damage.
  • Coordinate emergency repairs with real-time data.
  • Minimize downtime and resume operations swiftly.

This rapid response minimized the impact on production and prevented environmental damage.


Understanding the difference between turnarounds and shutdowns is crucial for effective operational management in the oil and gas industry. Turnarounds are planned, proactive events aimed at long-term maintenance and upgrades, while shutdowns are unplanned, reactive events triggered by emergencies. Both are costly and disruptive, but with the right tools, their impact can be minimized.

FAT FINGER offers a comprehensive solution to streamline the management of turnarounds and shutdowns. With real-time data, task automation, resource management, and enhanced collaboration, FAT F