Why immediate savings impair plant safety?

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We can help you to develop an optimal plant integrity management strategy, which will comply with budget goals safely. A step change in integrity data assessment methods is involved. While there is so much talk about the Oil&Gas industry competitiveness, why don’t upgrade the asset management confidence level?

a picture of clamped wallet

Mentioning ‘safety‘, what comes into the mind of plant workers? PPE, JHA, KPI and more well recognized abbreviations. What is the prominent message from a typical safety induction session? ‘If you don’t commit unsafe actions in workplace, you will be fine out there!’ This message is well memorized by workers, safety rules are followed, the clock is ticking, but this is only one side of the medal – these procedural health and safety measures in place.

The other side of the medal is the equipment technical integrity condition – a more sophisticated issue, which largely defines the risk environment where workers and procedures are operating.

Equipment failures can easily cancel all the safety efforts made on the procedural side. How are the failure prevented? By conducting technical risk assessments at all life stages of the plant, and effectively, by managing the change of our knowledge of that risk – via applying risk controls. Not surprisingly, the risk controls have their own costs – sometimes high costs due to the periodic shutdown requirement.

As we are all aware, the budgetary pressure continues to build up. Unfortunately, a trivial solution to the cost savings problem became quite popular: ‘Just save that budget!’ (in design, on inspections and maintenance, by deferring risk control actions).

The prime recent change in the integrity management (IM) practice worldwide is actually the change in the IM budget volumes. This is what affects the plant technical condition, hence, safety risk exposure of plant workers in quite a worrying way.

Not only the personal safety, but the whole business future can be affected, as equipment failures can: stop plant production, breach contractual obligations, and in turn, trigger even more savings motives… Continue the loop.

Such is the role of managing the equipment technical integrity. For an optimal management, our awareness of hazards (qualified risks) must be upgraded to a knowledge of risks (quantified hazards).

But this is rather not the case if traditional risk and integrity assessment methods are used. Looking at the most recent revisions of the industry inspection standards (API-581, API-570 and so on), the same flawed concept of ‘deterministic remnant life, is still on board.

Hence, the budget savings motive triggers the requirement to upgrade the integrity assessment apparatus towards quantitative but still robust risk estimates made in realistic terms or safety and cost exposure, which are in fact driven by equipment failure probability functions versus time, as opposed to the simplistic but virtual ‘remnant life’ estimates of a traditionally low confidence.

To conclude:

  • The immediate savings trend leads us to a deterioration of workers safety, and even of business sustainability.
  • This trend must be managed by a wise decision making, by a well informed and realistic decision making, if compared to what was used until now.
  • An ultimate safety compliance can be achieved practically, which is actually in the best interest of plant owners and operators, not just a formal action.
  • Because the degree of compliance is proportional to the success of the risk management process.
  • If the equipment failure risks are managed not formally, but effectively – down to set numeric risk limits, then the business sustainability is also safeguarded, as the potential of sudden failures is minimized accordingly.
  • The transition to numeric risks also offers a framework for a cost/benefit analysis of risk control options.
  • In this way, all elements of the integrity budget optimization puzzle are brought together in their correct positions, as soon as the root problem – technical integrity monitoring and control – is addressed genuinely and realistically.

image of puzze missing central element

Does it sound as a modern philosophy for a winning integrity management? Feels like too hard and expensive to accomplish? Many tried? Unnecessary? Not a priority?

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