This is the first of a series of articles that outlines the 101 essential elements that need to be in place, and functioning well, to preserve and protect the reliability and integrity of pressure equipment (vessels, exchangers, furnaces, boilers, piping, tanks, relief systems) in the refining and petrochemical industry. This article is not just about minimum compliance with rules, regulations or standards; rather it is about what needs to be done to build and maintain a program of excellence in pressure equipment integrity that will permit owner-users to make maximum use of their assets to generate income.
Each of the 101 work processes outlined is explained concisely to the extent necessary, so that owner-users will know what needs to be done to maintain and improve their pressure equipment integrity (PEI) management program. This article does not prescribe in detail how each of these 101 key elements is to be accomplished, as that description would result in a book rather than an article. This article simply outlines all the fundamentals that are necessary to avoid losses, avoid safety incidents, and maintain reliability of pressure equipment. It pulls together a complete overview of the entire spectrum of programs, procedures, and preventative measures needed to achieve first quartile performance in maintaining pressure equipment integrity (PEI).
In this first installment, I will cover ten of the 101 essential elements. There are at least 101 essential elements to any program aimed at preserving the mechanical integrity of stationary pressure equipment, in-service, in refining and chemical plants. Each of these 101 elements may need to be prioritized by site management, basis risk or current status of each element, in order to assign resources and schedule improvements in the work processes. However, the user must keep in mind that each of these 101 elements, regardless of work priority and resource limitations, needs to be implemented effectively, continuously, in order to avoid the potential for pressure equipment incidents. In other words, it is not a matter of choosing between the 101 elements and deciding that some are important and others are not. If anyone of these 101 elements is neglected long enough, there will be a potential for incidents involving a breech of containment, loss of reliability, and the subsequent consequences, i.e. fires, explosions, toxic releases, environmental damage, personnel exposure to hazardous substances, and business interruption.
The information in this article can be used by operating sites to improve the effectiveness of their existing pressure equipment integrity program, whether the site is just beginning to rebuild their program after their last big loss, or are now putting on the finishing touches to a fairly effective program, that may simply need some tuning up. One point that I cannot emphasize enough is that this is a description of a program of building excellence in pressure equipment integrity management (PEIM), and not just about compliance with standards, rules and regulations. In my experience, those who focus too much on “compliance” and not enough on “excellence” will never rate in the upper quartile of our industry in avoiding losses, (asset loses and/ or production losses), due to pressure equipment integrity problems. Compliance is not the key to success in PEIM; excellence is. As Vince Lombardi said when he took over a mediocre national football team in a small town in northern Wisconsin back in the late 50’s, if we go back to the basics including blocking and tackling, and do them well, we will win. He was right, and he proved it. This paper is about “blocking and tackling” for pressure equipment integrity management (PEIM).
There is no real secret to achieving success in maintaining pressure equipment integrity at a high level. It’s simply doing all the things (101 of them), that need to be done, and doing them well, day after day, without let up, regardless of what the “hot program” of the month is, or regardless of what other priorities may get in the way. One of our responsibilities, those of us who are dedicated to the discipline, is to help keep management focused on the whole program, even though they may be primarily focused on handling a few “hot rocks” that day, or that week. It is also important for everyone, including plant management, to understand that the job of protecting and preserving all stationary assets in a hydrocarbon process facility belongs to a multitude of people, not just the inspection and corrosion group. An effective PEIM program includes specific roles for operators, crafts persons, operations managers, process engineers, project engineers, as well as inspectors and corrosion engineers. Plants that have specific roles and expectations outlined for each of these contributors will be most effective in preventing asset losses from breeches of containment.
Hopefully, those who are skilled practitioners of PEIM will read this paper and say, “Well I already know that!”, and that’s great. But all too often I find that many outside our field of endeavor have no idea what the magnitude and scope of our task is. One of the purposes of this paper is to pull it all together so that others who have an interest in effective PEIM will know what it takes to be really successful.
So let’s start somewhere, briefly describing each of the 101 elements that needs to be effectively implemented and managed in order to avoid breeches of containment. The following 10 essential elements included in this first installment are in no particular order, except that I chose to mention some of the higher priority issues in the first article.