Inspectioneering Journal

Best Practices of a Joint Integrity Program

By Neil Ferguson, Joint Integrity Leader at Hydratight. This article appears in the March/April 2014 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.


Joint integrity programs (JIP) should be an integral part of every refinery, petrochemical, production, or other industrial-complex facility operations.  This article advises and outlines deliberate, sequential steps to take when creating processes and procedures, as they relate to flange joint integrity.  It discusses new standards and the best practices available for companies needing to standardize their joint integrity management systems, or for those who need to implement a joint integrity management process from the ground up.  This series of guiding principles align, meet or exceed joint integrity management practices detailed in current U.S. standards and requirements by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and will assist in compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) performance rules.   


Historically, the management of bolted-joint flanges has been subject to limited guidance compared with the highly regulated welded joint.  This is despite the fact that bolted joints are used in the same types of process conditions and under the same pressures as welded joints, therefore posing a similar, if not higher, risk due to this limited guidance (See Figure 1).  However, recent events have illustrated the need for new processes and procedures, which apply similar management practices to bolted joints as welded joints.

Figure 1.  Treat a bolted joint as if it were a welded connection.
Figure 1. Treat a bolted joint as if it were a welded connection.

In a recent example in the North Sea, a four bolt hub joint connector passed a nitrogen-helium leak test as required by the operators’ safety and codes program on an offshore oil and gas production platform.  However, three years later the joint failed, causing an explosion and leading to an estimated $30 million in damage to the platform.  The cause of the failure was determined to be galvanic corrosion due to the use of a carbon-steel seal ring between two stainless-steel hubs, instead of using a stainless-steel seal ring.  The accident could have been avoided with proper seal ring selection, positive material identification during inspection and assembly, and appropriate personnel training and competency management.   

In fact, some operators estimate that the repair costs of a leaking flange can reach six figures worth of manpower and material cost per flange.  Taking a facility though a turnaround might uncover 10 leaking flanges.  During such an event, the repair and replacement costs could be as much as $1 million, even before including the cost of lost production through delayed start-up and schedule creep.  

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Posted by Jeffrey Stoudt on October 19, 2017
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