Inspectioneering Journal

Risk-Based Inspection

How Healthy is Your RBI Program?

By Greg Alvarado, Chief Editor at Inspectioneering. This article appears in the March/April 2007 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.

Introduction – Setting the Stage

An earlier version of this updated article appeared in the January-February 1998 issue of the Inspectioneering Journal. It is hard to believe that nine years have passed so quickly. Fortunately the industry, as a whole, has learned much and technologies have advanced, in the interim. Unfortunately, in that time period plant infrastructures have aged and equipment has failed, sometimes with catastrophic results. Some failures were directly attributable to damage mechanisms and fixed equipment reliability program weaknesses. Often times related, we have seen, what appears to be breakdown in management systems, in refineries, chemical plants and exploration and production areas that lead or contributed to or enabled equipment failure 1, 2, 3 . On the other hand, organizations like the API (American Petroleum Institute) RBI User Group, API RP 579 Fitness for Service Committee, API Subcommittees on Inspection and Corrosion and Materials continue to move forward, desiring and acting to improve the effectiveness of fixed equipment reliability programs via implementation of sound risk based inspection technology and the creation of excellent supporting reference documents like API RP 571 on damage mechanisms. These committees continue to improve their codes and respective reference documents as do other organizations in various countries, such as NACE, EU CEN documents, the HSE, ABSA (the Alberta Boiler Safety Association), ASME, Australian authorities, the state of California and others too numerous to list.

API RBI has a very solid and formidable technical basis that is available on the open market to the public at large. It certainly is not the only RBI methodology. It is the most comprehensive, in my experience, and as such, I will use it as a frame of reference from which to write. In this editorial/article, I will establish a solid foundation for understanding RBI and explore the most basic concept, i.e. certainty or confidence and it’s place in Risk Analysis and inspection. There is nothing else like RBI, that so comprehensively provides the opportunity to effectively manage and continuously “ratchet up” improvements in fixed equipment reliability performance. RBI is at the top of the fixed equipment strategy pyramid, just under regulatory and corporate laws, rules and standards and definitely is representative of industry best practice.

For readers’ information, the API Base Resource Document 581 is currently being revised and the second edition should be released in late 2007 or early 2008. In typical API fashion, it has been developed via an ANSI approved process. The format will change drastically. Some content will remain largely the same and some will change significantly, e.g. expanded consequence modelling capabilities to include the chemical industry, soil underground corrosion modelling, CO2 corrosion modelling, calculation of T-Mins and MAWPs, and more, as the technology and capabilities continue to expand and improve. Risk modelling of pressure relief devices and heat exchanger bundle reliability have been added, in addition. We will keep you up to date on progress and changes.

A committee is also working on the second edition of the API RBI RP 580. The committee undertaking this task is currently at work preparing the document, which should be released in early 2008. The master editor is John Reynolds, contributing author and editor of the Inspectioneering Journal, also retired Shell Global Solutions. We will keep you up to date on progress.

As an instructor of the official API RBI 580/581 training course, I always draw on my experience and interactions with students, predominately owner operators. This has occurred over the last 11 years formally teaching RBI, and over 30 years of experience in fixed equipment reliability, starting from my early days in a very large chemical plant and having worked with refiners, mid-stream operators and various chemical plant operators since 1987. It is important to distill the subject matter down to the most basic elements to assure the class has a solid basic understanding. This is an important early step to ensure successful technology transfer and learning, establish accurate expectation levels, discourage mis-use of the technology and enable maximum realization of benefits that can come from the RBI process. These are CRITICAL elements if one desires an effective, on-going RBI program that they own.

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