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Leverage Risk-Based Inspection and Risk Assessment for Improved Profitability

Equipment failures and unplanned shutdowns cost the oil and gas industry billions of dollars each year. When it comes to mitigating this risk, proper management of loss of containment is crucial within a facility from an organizational, engineering, and economic point of view. Imagine being an inspection engineer who receives 50 work orders a day with a limited time, labor, budget, and tools. How should he or she prioritize and organize the workload?

Two-thirds of these costs are associated with failures of static equipment. The reason for these failures is twofold: First, the use of outdated time-based inspection for assets. Engineers conduct inspections that are not necessary at the particular facility while missing inspections that are critical. Second, applying improper methods of inspection. This results in poor data and does not support risk management. All these issues result in increasing costs, increased likelihood of equipment failure, negative impact on environmental compliance, and the health and safety of personnel.

The Solution

Many in the oil and gas, petrochemical, and pipeline industries utilize a more intelligent methodology: one that presents unparalleled visualization into the plant, assets, and equipment health. Implementation of this methodology allows for automating the approach to manage the data and increase profitability and productivity. The model, risk-based inspection (RBI), is based on sophisticated risk analysis which significantly decreases overheads and helps to avoid equipment failures or unnecessary shutdowns.

RBI has been proven to reduce instances of unplanned shutdowns. It applies risk analysis to a company's unique modus operandi and all of the equipment therein. It sets inspection schedules based on the likelihood of failure (LOF) and consequence of failure (COF). The combination of consequences and likelihood identifies which equipment warrants the most attention. RBI is therefore a tool to first select which items require attention and then plan when and how to inspect the component or system.

As a rule of thumb, 80% of the risk is caused by only 20% of the equipment. It is therefore essential that this high-risk equipment is identified beforehand. This allows the best allocation of limited resources from maintenance and shutdown budgets. Assets with the highest business risk and higher likelihood of failure will be inspected most frequently, while lower-risk assets can be inspected at longer intervals.

Synergizing RBI With Risk Assessments

How does collecting data influence the risk assessment?

In an RBI assessment, all factors are considered that impact the equipment lifespan. Key elements include process stream, composition, temperature, pressure, and flow. Utilizing the objectives of each inspection facilitates the design of an RBI algorithm. The specific risk model that is configured will differ according to each equipment type and its associated variable factors.

  • Data sources that determine the RBI assessment include:
  • Design and construction records
  • Inspection and maintenance data
  • Operating and process technology results
  • Hazards analysis and management of change data

The data collected provide information needed to assess damage mechanisms, potential failure modes, and failure scenarios. In addition, they determines the probabilities and consequences for the most critical assets.

Determining Risk With the COF/LOF

The primary objective of RBI is to direct the management decision-making process of prioritizing resources to manage risk. Inspection impacts the uncertainty of the risk by improving the knowledge of the deterioration state and the LOF.

Although inspection does not reduce the risk directly, it enhances risk mitigation, which results in reducing the number of unplanned equipment failures and shutdowns. Furthermore, the LOF analysis determines all credible damage mechanisms to which the equipment is susceptible. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of inspections and identify risk, all combinations of process conditions and existing materials of construction are taken into account. Another part of the RBI equation is estimating the consequences. It is vital to rank and review the potential threats for the equipment, personnel, environment, and production. The COF combined with point of failure establishes the risk level for a particular piece of equipment and set inspection intervals based in the applied risk model.

Due to RBI, the number of hazardous problems of the plants and facilities is strongly decreasing. The RBI program is quickly becoming the No. 1 methodology in the industry. More companies are altering their inspection methods to adopt this system because it complements the asset integrity management (AIM) process from cost savings, equipment lifespan, improved safety and efficiency, to reduced risk of failure.

Benefits of RBI

Implementing an RBI program results in several business benefits. Engineers do not perform unnecessary inspections. Equipment failure and unplanned shutdowns can be reduced by up to 50%. Moreover, the inspection data will be used efficiently to assess and evaluate the risk. This provides operators with unparalleled understanding of the actual condition of a plant and all of the equipment therein—in real time, all the time. Risk assessment data are obtained and combined with previous inspection history, allowing for determination of the most efficient, safe, and cost-effective inspection scopes, methods, and intervals. The result is logical, repeatable, and flexible procedures around which a company can base its inspection planning.

RBI is a dynamic method—constantly updated throughout the asset’s life cycle. Furthermore, the technology itself is continuously evolving and improving the latest technical innovations that facilitate several benefits for a plant and their operators.

These include:

  • Reduced management time and overhead costs
  • Intelligent, fluid analysis of every asset and its unique risk/condition at any given moment
  • Improved workplace safety, environmental protection, and community security
  • Easier adherence to regulatory standards for assurance with auditing
  • Reduced downtime, unplanned shutdowns
  • Enhanced plant reliability

All these components integrate seamlessly into an asset integrity management system that simplifies compliance and risk aversion in managing assets. The cost savings of implementing RBI methods are increasing and the number of advantages are proven by return on investment (ROI). Operators recorded that the benefit of RBI is up to 20 times the cost savings when compared to the cost of implementation over a 5-year period.

How To Implement RBI

When considering an RBI system, there are multiple options available. The first question to ask is: Should I implement a standalone RBI system, or a complete AIM system with RBI built in?

Some software tools exist solely for the purposes of RBI analysis and assessments, whereas an AIM software will have all the same RBI functionality in addition to other comprehensive modules for full analysis, assessment, and management of the equipment. The latter option (AIM software) includes more comprehensive features for a more rounded visualization into asset health at any given time.

With standalone options, you are forced to “make do” with a tool that only provides an asset summary—in other words, a high-level view of the equipment being managed. Since it does not deliver on AIM for all assets, you may ultimately end up making two purchases: one for RBI and one for the rest of AIM. Therefore, it may be more cost-effective from the get-go to select an AIM software with RBI worked in.

Another concern with standalone tools is the lack of transparency. When only the final results of an assessment are provided—with no indication as to how the risk level was assessed—it is hard to trust the conclusions made by the software. Comparatively, with AIM, you retain ownership of all your data, can clearly see how the risk was determined, and can re-assess at any time free of additional cost.

Selecting the Right Software

Look for an AIM software that delivers flexibility and detailed actions. It should give you the flexibility to configure your own risk models according to your company’s unique needs—in any combination of quantitative, semiquantitative and qualitative—with the option to select from a preconfigured list or to configure your own.

The right software will provide:

  • Dozens of additional available modules tailored to the equipment types and needs of your company
  • Robust scheduling features
  • Detailed and varied reports
  • Dashboard feature for all asset information at a glance
  • Fully featured index
  • Excel Wizard data import/export functions
  • Comprehensive and detailed inspection reports
  • Thickness Monitoring Location (TML) trending
  • Datalogger interface and quarantine
  • Integrity Operating Windows (IOW)
  • All data for all equipment types and sites in one location
  • Ability to keep integrity data current
  • Reassessment of RBI and results applied immediately with updated schedules

Conclusion

The most cost-effective approach to risk assessments in the oil and gas, petrochemical, and pipelines industries is the implementation of RBI as part of a larger AIM program. Selecting the right software is key to maximizing the program’s ROI. Utilizing an AIM software that incorporates RBI, Integrity Operating Windows (IOW) data, and corrosion control documents helps ensure that risk assessments are seamlessly researched, permanently retained, and easily updated. [IOW enables the improvement of predictive accuracy. It monitors an asset’s operating conditions and sends early alerts if predefined boundaries are exceeded.] 

With the right software, you can improve your asset performance, likelihood of failure, overall inspection intervals and maintenance costs, and ultimate profitability—all while maintaining regulatory compliance and ensuring you are up to date with the current industry standards.

 

Dave Maguire is a senior advisor–asset integrity with Metegrity Inc. He has spent over 12 years implementing the Visions Asset Integrity Management (AIM) software and instructing/supporting clients with AIM and inspection systems. He worked with Shell Canada for 30 years in inspection, corrosion, major projects, and process operations. He is a long-time member of NACE, the National Association of Corrosion Engineers.

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