Inspectioneering Journal

API Risk Based Inspection RP Release Imminent!

This article appears in the March/April 2002 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.
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The American Petroleum Institute's Recommended Practice for Risk Based Inspection, RP 580, is expected to be available for purchase in early May 2002. This important document covers the minimum requirements for RBI technology and implementation for the process industries. Authors of this landmark recommended practice include leaders in inspection and materials engineering and corrosion from refining and chemical industry owner users and consultants.

Following is an excerpt from the Scope of the RP:

The purpose of this document is to provide users with the basic elements for developing and implementing a risk-based Inspection (RBI) program. The methodology is presented in a step by step manner to the maximum extent practicable. Items covered are:

a. An introduction to the concepts and principles of risk-based inspection for risk management; and

b. Individual sections that describe the steps in applying these principles within the framework of the RBI process:

c. Planning the RBI Assessment;

d. Data and Infor.

e. Identifying Deterioration Mechanisms and Failure Modes;

f. Assessing Probability of Failure;

g. Assessing Consequence of Failure;

h. Risk Determination, Assessment and Management

i. Risk Management with Inspection Activities

j. Other Risk Mitigation Activities;

k. Reassessment and Updating;

l. Roles, Responsibilities, Training and Qualifications

m.Documentation and Record Keeping;

The expected outcome from the application of the RBI process should be the linkage of risks with appropriate inspection or other risk mitigation activities to manage the risks. The RBI process is capable of generating:

a. A ranking by risk of all equipment evaluated.

b. A detailed description of the Inspection plan to be employed for each equipment item, including:

c. Inspection method(s) that should be used: (e.g. visual, UT, Radiography, WFMT).

d. Extent of application of the mation Collection; inspection method(s): (e.g. percent of total area examined or specific locations).

e. Timing of inspections/ examinations.

f. Risk management achieved through implementation of the inspection plan.

g. A description of any other risk mitigation activities (such as repairs, replacements or safety equipment upgrades).

h. The expected risk levels of all equipment after the inspection plan and other risk mitigation activities have been implemented.

1.1.1 Key Elements of a RBI Program

Key elements that should exist in any RBI program are:

a. Management systems for maintaining documentation, personnel qualifications, data requirements and analysis updates.

b. Documented method for probability of failure determination.

c. Documented method for consequence of failure determination.

d. Documented methodology for managing risk through inspection and other mitigation activities.

However, all the elements outlined in Section 1.1 should be adequately addressed in RBI applications, in accordance with the recommended practices in this document.

1.1.2 RBI Benefits and Limitations

The primary work products of the RBI assessment and management approach are plans that address ways to manage risks on an equipment level. These equipment plans highlight risks from a safety/health/ environment perspective and/or from an economic standpoint. In these plans, cost-effective actions for risk mitigation are recommended along with the resulting level of risk mitigation expected.

Implementation of these plans provides one of the following:

a. An overall reduction in risk for the facilities and equipment assessed.

b. An acceptance/understanding of the current risk.

The RBI plans also identify equipment that does not require inspection or some other form of mitigation because of the acceptable level of risk associated with the equipment's current operation. In this way, inspection and maintenance activities can be focused and more cost effective. In some cases, in addition to risk reductions and process safety improvements, RBI plans may result in cost reductions. This often results in a significant reduction in the amount of inspection data that is collected. This focus on a smaller set of data should result in more accurate information.

RBI is based on sound, proven risk assessment and management principles. Nonetheless, RBI will not compensate for:

a. Inaccurate or missing information

b. Inadequate designs or faulty equipment installation

c. Operating outside the acceptable design envelope

d. Not effectively executing the plans

e. Lack of qualified personnel or teamwork

f. Lack of sound engineering or operational judgement

1.1.3 Using RBI as a Continuous Improvement Tool

Utilization of RBI provides a vehicle for continuously improving the inspection of facilities and systematically reducing the risk associated with pressure boundary failures. As new data (such as inspection results) becomes available or when changes occur, reassessment of the RBI program can be made that will provide a refreshed view of the risks. Risk management plans should then be adjusted appropriately.

RBI offers the added advantage of identifying gaps or shortcomings in the effectiveness of commercially available inspection technologies and applications. For cases where technology cannot adequately and/or cost-effectively mitigate risks, other risk mitigation approaches can be implemented. RBI should serve to guide the direction of inspection technology development, and hopefully promote a faster and broader deployment of emerging inspection technologies as well as proven inspection technologies that may be available but are underutilized.

1.1.4 RBI as an Integrated Management Tool

RBI is a risk assessment and management tool that addresses an area not completely addressed in other organizational risk management efforts such as Process Hazards Analysis (PHA) or reliability centered maintenance (RCM). It complements these efforts to provide a more thorough assessment of the risks associated with equipment operations.

RBI produces Inspection and Maintenance Plans for equipment that identify the actions that should be implemented to provide reliable and safe operation. The RBI effort can provide input into an organization's annual planning and budgeting that define the staffing and funds required to maintain equipment operation at acceptable levels of performance and risk.

1.2 Scope

1.2.1 Industry scope

Although the risk management principles and concepts that RBI is built on are universally applicable, RP 580 is specifically targeted at the application of RBI in the hydrocarbon and chemical process industry.

1.2.2 Flexibility in Application

Because of the broad diversity in organizations' size, culture, federal and/or local regulatory requirements, RP580 offers users the flexibility to apply the RBI methodology within the context of existing corporate risk management practices and to accommodate unique local circumstances. The document is designed to provide a framework that clarifies the expected attributes of a quality risk assessment without imposing undue constraints on users. RP580 is intended to promote consistency and quality in the identification, assessment and management of risks pertaining to material deterioration, which could lead to loss of containment.

Many types of RBI methods exist and are currently being applied throughout industry. This document is not intended to single out one specific approach as the recommended method for conducting a RBI effort. The document instead is intended to clarify the elements of a RBI analysis.

1.2.3 Mechanical Integrity Focused

The RBI process is focused on maintaining the mechanical integrity of pressure equipment items and minimizing the risk of loss of containment due to deterioration. RBI is not a substitute for a process hazards analysis (PHA) or HAZOP. Typically, PHA risk assessments focus on the process unit design and operating practices and their adequacy given the unit's current or anticipated operating conditions. RBI complements the PHA by focusing on the mechanical integrity related deterioration mechanisms and risk management through inspection. RBI also is complementary to reliability centered maintenance (RCM) programs in that both programs are focused on understanding failure modes, addressing the modes and therefore improving the reliability of equipment and process facilities.

1.2.4 Equipment Covered

The following types of pressurized equipment and associated components/internals are covered by this document:

a. Pressure vessels: all pressure containing components

b. Process piping: pipe and piping components

c. Storage tanks: atmospheric and pressurized

d. Rotating equipment: pressure containing components

e. Boilers and heaters: pressurized components

f. Heat exchangers (shells, heads, channels and bundles)

g. Pressure relief devices

1.2.5 Equipment Not Covered

The following non-pressurized equipment is not covered by this document:

a. Instrument and Control Systems

b. Electrical Systems

c. Structural Systems

d. Machinery components (except pump and compressor casings)

1.3 Target Audience

The primary audience for RP 580 is inspection and engineering personnel who are responsible for the mechanical integrity and operability of equipment covered by this recommended practice. However, while an organization's Inspection/Materials Engineering group may champion the RBI initiative, RBI is not exclusively an inspection activity. RBI requires the involvement of various segments of the organization such as engineering, maintenance and operations. Implementation of the resulting RBI product (e.g. Inspection Plans, replacement/ upgrading recommendations, etc.) may rest with more than one segment of the organization. RBI requires the commitment and cooperation of the total organization. In this context, while the primary audience may be inspection and materials engineering personnel, others within the organization who are likely to be involved should be familiar with the concepts and principles embodied in the RBI methodology.

When released the RP will be available for purchase via the website Or visit the API website at

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