Managing Asset Integrity

29 July 2014

As the lifespan of offshore assets continues to extend, a growing number of operators are looking at a targeted, risk-based inspection regime from the start of their operation. In the interview below, Richard Rowe, a Risk Management Partner at ERM answers some of the questions currently being posed by clients as they consider their options for managing Asset Integrity. 

What do you understand by the term “Asset Integrity”?

It is the ability of a facility, such as an offshore platform, to continue operating safely and efficiently over a given timeframe. 

How do you manage Asset Integrity and when should this process begin?

Protecting the asset integrity of a facility involves planning for a regular programme of inspections and putting systems and processes in place to support the inspection of equipment over its operational lifecycle. This should mean, for example, ensuring that material selection takes account of conditions over an asset’s expected lifespan.  It should also consider the need for regular inspections and maintenance as part of the facility’s design and layout. Another tool, now readily available for recording the condition of an asset, is digital photography. A standard digital camera can be used from the construction stage of a facility to record such factors as the internal layout and the condition of pressure vessels. Effective AI management should also involve carrying out a comprehensive baseline inspection during the commissioning of equipment as well as a robust corrosion risk assessment to identify vulnerable areas and the potential for damage and accidents, as well as the introduction of prevention and mitigation measures

How should Asset Integrity be managed over the asset lifecycle?

As part of an Asset Integrity Management System (AIMS) which includes important design, regulatory, engineering and operational data, there should be a particular focus on the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for each facility. Examples include hydrocarbon releases and the backlog of safety critical maintenance issues. Other KPIs might typically look at the number of inspection anomalies that are identified in hydrocarbon lines. At every stage of the asset life cycle the AIMS should address key aspects of performance, from concept design through to decommissioning. It should be a living system which is understood by all relevant stakeholders.

What is a risk-based approach to Asset Integrity?

A risk-based approach to Asset Integrity will involve a selective inspection regime, based on such factors as the results of a corrosion risk assessment, the type of facility, its age and its operating conditions and location. The risk-based approach tailors future inspection and remedial work prioritised on a risk basis. Risks to safety, the environment and production can all be included. It extrapolates from targeted sample inspection results and draws conclusions about the need for major accident prevention and mitigation measures. Increasingly operators are looking at a risk-based approach because it helps to drive performance and encourages greater workforce involvement. It also helps to avoid a ‘one size fits all’ method of inspection across a portfolio of assets, placing the onus on prevention and mitigation measures relating to actual risks. The aim is to identify areas of greatest concern - for example, the corrosion of a pressure containment system - and putting these areas under greater scrutiny to highlight any potential problems at an early stage.

What are the cost implications of pursuing a risk-based approach to Asset Integrity?

It is possible to save money, notably at early stage design and FEED, by focusing on particular risks and using the right tools and techniques to explore what might be acceptable levels of risk. A bowtie diagram, for example, can help to focus on prevention and mitigation barriers in a given situation, as can an increasingly sophisticated array of software alongside an appropriate level of interpretative skills. Clearly, the more proactive and targeted you can be in this area the better. 

How frequently should inspections be carried out in order to protect Asset Integrity?

Again, avoid a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Inspection may, of course, be a regulatory requirement in a particular jurisdiction at different stages of an asset’s lifecycle or at agreed regular intervals. Our advice would be to adopt a “living” inspection regime based on the actual operating and environmental conditions at a particular facility, its areas of operation and relevant regulatory requirements as well as the condition of the facility when last inspected. Another factor is the condition of the hydrocarbon reserves being exploited. For example, as reservoirs become depleted it is common to increase water injection, which in turn increases the volume of fluid residue which can increase the corrosion risk to process pipework.

How do you see Asset Integrity Management evolving?

Historically, Asset Integrity Management has not been fully integrated into the management of process safety and environmental risk. For example, fire and explosion risk assessments are traditionally based on generic industry leak frequency data. The actual level of performance and known condition of a facility is not used to calibrate these data. Similarly, as reservoirs mature, pressure containing systems are often de-rated as the operational pressures reduce, which make the consequence of leaks less severe. I expect the industry will move toward assessments which include consideration of actual asset integrity data rather than just relying on generic norms and averages. The result of risk studies can then be used to improve the targeting of ongoing asset integrity activities; in other words developing a virtuous circle.

Richard Rowe will present his ideas in more detail as part of a one hour Managing Asset Integrity webinar on the 16th September. For more information and discussion on any of the issues raised in this article, please contact Richard Rowe.

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