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Design Stage Risk-based Inspection (RBI) - Can it be done?

By Greg Alvarado, Chief Editor at Inspectioneering Journal. February 9, 2015
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InspectorsI recently received an inquiry about performing risk-based inspection (RBI) at the design stage of a unit. More specifically, I was asked if it was possible to start an RBI project in the Front End Engineering Design (FEED) phase even though the PFD and P&IDs have not yet been approved. Of course, many of the details are not available at this point, but my experience shows there can be a lot of value in RBI at the design or FEED stage of a plant or unit.

The simple answer is yes, it can be done. But, as with all risk analyses, it must be done in context. The unapproved status for some detailed parts but RBI can still bring great value if one would like to identify high risk items early or catch opportunities to upgrade materials of construction that will become unacceptable later. It can also red flag equipment items that are not yet in FEED, but will be. As always:

  • If assumptions are being made about anything that can affect the effectiveness of the analysis, make sure that qualified, experienced people are the ones making those assumptions. And you will definitely be making some assumptions at this stage.
  • Use qualified people to interpret and extrapolate the learning and results. For example, if the top of a tower is made of one material and the bottom of another, and you wish to extrapolate the FEED stage RBI to piping and other equipment, make sure you have a thorough understanding of the nuances that could affect degradation and failure, such as flow, temperature changes, vapor vs. liquid presence and percentages, injection of inhibitors, and injection points.

The payoff for all this is that you will be able to catch opportunities for upgrades in materials of construction. You will also be well down the road for establishing the basis for inspection strategies for that unit or plant. You might even be able to get the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) company to deliver data you will use for RBI analyses in a format that allows easy download to your RBI or IDMS programs. Of course, you will have to pay for it, but it should be cheaper than doing it yourself after the fact.


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