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Asset integrity: A major issue for the T&T energy sector

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Managing the integrity of assets and infrastructure is a crucial issue for the oil, gas and petrochemical sector. It is critical for optimising the commercial viability of assets while, at the same time, enhancing safety and improving environmental performance. Given the fact that T&T is one of the oldest oil producing provinces in the world, an effective asset integrity management programme is even more important because of ageing infrastructure.

Health and safety challenges
The oil, gas and petrochemical sectors have the potential for major safety and environmental incidents. On a daily basis there is the challenge to: prevent loss of life, reduce damage to plant and equipment, reduce the number of injuries to the workforce, and reduce the impact of operations on the environment. The global economic downturn poses another challenge for owners and operators of assets. With budgets being cut, there is a danger that maintenance and rejuvenation of assets are cost items that get deferred. It is important, however, to understand that working in a safe and environmentally responsible manner is critical to company’s sustainability. A systematic risk management process can significantly reduce the chance of a major incident and can limit the consequences.

Asset Integrity: what is it?
In simple terms, an asset has integrity when it is operated and maintained in such a way that the likelihood of failure or a major health, safety and environmental incident is within acceptable levels. The related management activities allow planning for the challenges associated with the ageing of assets including wear and tear, obsolescence, and structural and mechanical damage.  This translates into ensuring that the people, systems, processes and resources that deliver the integrity are not only in place, but also in operation and performing as intended, over the life cycle of the asset.

Why it’s necessary
An effective asset integrity management programme allows older assets to be maintained beyond their original design lives so unnecessary capital investment can be avoided. T&T needs 1.5 trillion cubic feet of gas to meet its current energy related commitments. The Government has set a target of 100 per cent reserves replacement which translates to approximately half a billion US dollars in capital expenditure every year. Meeting these requirements means not only new exploration activity but, just as important, extending the life of existing assets to meet production demands through effective asset integrity management programmes.

The aim of any asset integrity management programme is essentially to ensure that assets maintain their integrity by meeting design performance standards and by having effective barriers to control risk. Additionally, asset integrity should be subject to the continuous improvement model associated with management systems, ie plan, do, check, and act. Planning is an important step in any asset integrity programme. Owners and operators of the assets must consider and plan for the deterioration of and damage to the asset, the hazards that can arise from these scenarios, and the barriers to control the hazards. An asset integrity programme must be extended beyond the mechanical equipment to include the processes that are critical to safety.

Ageing assets require effective process safety management and major hazard risk controls need to be in place. In general, the industry needs to take a holistic approach to asset integrity. Key considerations for ageing assets are: deterioration, changes in process conditions, modifications to assets, obsolescence which may lead to the unavailability of replacement parts, advances in knowledge and technology which lead to new standards, and organisational issues such as changes in personnel and changes in ownership of assets.
Such an approach, together with an effective inspection regime, will increase the chances of predicting, detecting and assessing what may go wrong with the asset.

For new assets, the planning starts at the design stage where things such as materials and corrosion control options are considered. Subsequent to this system, is the need for ongoing monitoring of integrity including process monitoring and inspection, reporting and analysis and corrective action. The asset integrity strategy should also be supported by a range of policies covering process safety, maintenance and inspection, renewal and competence.

The UK Experience
Driven by concern about a general decline in the condition of some offshore installations, the UK Health and Safety Commission’s (HSC) Aberdeen based Offshore Division investigated the safety and integrity of offshore installations and equipment. Under the Key Programme 3 (KP3) as it was called, close to 100 installations were inspected between the years 2004 to 2007. The KP3 report highlighted that companies needed to have effective process safety systems to ensure plant and equipment was properly maintained and functioning. The report also highlighted that significant improvements could be achieved “without major capital expenditure but through better planning, improved training and clear statements of performance standards in testing and maintenance routines”.

All in all the reported noted while significant improvement had been made more needed to be done. Since the KP3 report, the industry has spent more than £3 billion in the area of asset maintenance. There has also been a move to highlight and shift the focus to process safety and asset integrity management. In an update on asset integrity management in July 2009, the HSE noted evidence of “considerably raised awareness” of the need for effective process safety management and major hazard risk controls.

Back at Home
After over 100 years of oil production, T&T continues to be an active player in the oil and gas industry, yet no such wide ranging survey has been done to determine the integrity of assets in the energy sector. In 2003, Petrotrin engaged the services of international consultants to assist with developing and implementing a business improvement plan, with particular emphasis on asset integrity and reliability for its refinery at Pointe-a-Pierre. The company consistently ranked poorly in benchmarking studies in many areas including the reliability of refinery assets.

The main improvement initiatives identified through the intervention focus on maintenance. These include documentation of standards and procedures, use of techniques to optimise maintenance at the required standards and the use of preventative maintenance. The integrity status of assets owned and operated by other companies in the country is not readily publicly available. The energy chamber expects to get updates on investment and initiatives in asset integrity at this year’s Energy Conference which will be held on February 7 and 8. In keeping with this year’s theme “Energy and Investment,” the chamber will invite leaders in T&T’s energy industry to put forward their thoughts on and give an update on asset integrity and investment in the energy sector. The issue of asset integrity will be a major talking point in the “investing in safety” panel at the conference.

To register for the conference visit:


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