The oil and gas industry has embraced risk-based inspection (RBI) as a way of fending off unplanned shutdowns, unexpected future costs, and potential threats to health and safety offshore. But are they being used as accurately or as frequently as required?
RBI seeks out the potential of an asset’s failure, providing a ‘risk snapshot’ in time. The risk-based approach has been utilised for some time within refineries, and petrochemical and chemical facilities, which have reaped the benefits of significant cost savings.
By their own admission, the British Engineering Services describe RBIs as: “If implemented correctly, an RBI approach can improve asset integrity management, as well as increase the organisation’s efficiency, while reducing plant downtime and increasing income.”Reducing decommissioning costs
The use of the phrase “if implemented correctly” clearly shows that many UK engineering industries are struggling to fully implement an RBI approach and take advantage of the benefits available - one of the more prominent advantages, being cost and savings.
This will however be music to the ears of those in the oil and gas industry who are looking to implement RBIs as a way to save on costs, as the industry looks to achieve safe decommissioning in UK waters for less than £39 billion - a 35% cost reduction than originally forecast by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA).
So in what ways is RBI a cost-saver, and why is it a growing interest across a number of other industries?
The key benefits of RBI
The HSE stresses that when looking to implement RBI, ‘safety concerns need to take precedence over loss of earnings.’ However, many companies often find that improving safety through RBI’s systematic approach often saves on costs. Here are three ways that RBIs can reduce costs.
Optimising inspection frequencies
By far the greatest cost savings come from an overall increase in inspection frequencies. However, risk-based inspection will determine the level of inspection that is needed, depending on the risk level of the assets.
Clearer financial planning
An effective RBI analysis can indicate the type of damage that can lead to failure, where it may occur, and the frequency of inspections that should take place to rectify the issue depending on the probabilities and consequences of failure. This makes future financial planning clearer, and allows businesses to eliminate a risk before it becomes an unexpected and expensive cost further down the line.
David Long, reliability leader at Conoco Inc. refinery, stated in an interview in Oil & Gas Journal that "In the long run, RBI reduces inspection costs and downtime. It puts money towards the problem areas. Now, it may take some money from one area and move it to another, but your overall risk is reduced. You're looking at the whole picture, not just one part of it."
Best practices when implementing a procedure
During the implementation of a risk based inspection, full attention needs to be paid in order to ensure that the quality and accuracy of the information being collected, is tested and validated effectively. The HSE has published a report breaking down the best practices when implementing effective RBI.
Just some of these best practices include:
- RBI requires that the quality and veracity of the information is tested and validated. Risk is increased when there is lack of, or uncertainty in, the key information required to assess integrity.
- Key information needs to be generated from the design, operational experience and inspection records of assets. Knowledge of the deterioration mechanisms and the rate at which deterioration will proceed will also enable current and future fitness-for-service to be assessed.
- With future fitness-for-service assessed, inspections can then be planned at appropriate intervals using inspection methods that are able to detect the type and level of deterioration anticipated.
- A suitable written scheme of examination in terms of the equipment to be inspected and the frequency and nature of examination will need to be prepared in a survey format - here is one such example.
- Risk changes with time either because the equipment conditions physically alter, or because new information becomes available. The importance of feedback and the re-assessment of risk is therefore essential, particularly when inspection intervals are long.
A single survey and inspection program that combines asset integrity and classification requirements has been recommended as an innovative way to further cut time and costs, as:
- Inspection activities would only need to be conducted once
- Inspection and maintenance regimes would be fully optimised in line with operations
- It would eliminate unnecessary integrity management costs and activities.
The combination of both classification procedure and risk-based inspection will maintain that relevant performance standards are being met, while ensuring the safety and integrity of the assets assessed.
Where Claxton can help you
Issues arising from asset ageing and life extension present constant challenges for offshore engineers. According to a HSE report, and as covered on the Claxton blog, 50% of all technical integrity incidents are related to ageing assets.
After risk-based inspection analysis has been determined, Claxton are able to provide the concept studies and engineering solutions needed to rectify any assets that are at risk - whether it is the introduction of additional conductor guides or the equipment required to quickly and safely complete a slot recovery project.
Download our free Asset Life Extension Buyer’s Guide to see the full suite of products and services we can offer you.