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Overview of Failure Analysis

It is undeniable that every plant will experience equipment failure at some point during its lifetime. Despite this, avoiding failures is the goal of every asset integrity professional in the oil and gas industry. As such, using Failure Analysis to avoid recurring failures is vital to the industry.

Failure analysis can be defined as “the process of interpreting the features of a deteriorated system or component to determine why it no longer performs its intended function.” Failure analysis involves using deductive logic to find the root causes, either mechanical or human, of a failure. Once that is done, inductive logic is used to find the latent causes, which are most often organizational in nature. Finally, an engineered solution should be determined to help prevent recurrences of the failure in the future.

When it comes to failures that could have been catastrophic but weren’t, a more thorough analysis with specific steps is required. These steps consist of:

  1. Diagnose the failure

  2. Collect background data on the failure

  3. Examine the equipment under low power magnification

  4. Analyze the critical pieces in detail

  5. Determine the physical damage mechanisms behind the failure

  6. Determine any other potential root causes of the failure

Once the causes of the failure have been determined, it is then possible to identify solutions to prevent the failure from happening again. If this cannot be done, then it is important to at least come up with ways to mitigate the damage should the part suffer failure in the future.

Failure analysis is an essential part of maintaining a safe and reliable plant or factory. Because of this, a good failure analysis program should be present in every high quality reliability maintenance program and be implemented at every site to understand the root cause of problems, avoid the recurrence of issues, and reduce the cost of unreliability.


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