The ability to combine operations experience and engineering solutions in a way that brings technology, proven processes, and the management skills that deliver the right people behavior can provide operators with solutions that span the design phase of a project through asset decommissioning.

Asset integrity management (AIM) is a common term in the oil and gas industry, but what it actually means is not obvious because it can have different meanings depending on context. Universally, AIM is regarded as any activity necessary to assure industrial assets complete the life cycle for which they were designed.

In design terms, AIM refers to the assurance that specified materials, joining technologies, and inspection protocols and frequencies are fit-for-purpose. In operations terms, AIM can refer to how design philosophies are followed in the field by quantifying risks and the process for managing timely interventions to safely operate the asset and reduce the possibility of major accidents. AIM also is used to describe the process for managing static equipment such as structures, pipelines, and process pipe work.

In short, AIM is managing the cracks in the facility’s protective barriers to prevent holes from appearing.

An expanded view of the dashboard report produced by the web-based tool shows warning lights on the lagging indicators section that indicate asset integrity status. These are equivalent to holes in the protective barriers that prevent major accidents on the facility. The dial represents cracks in the same barriers and is represented as an automobile tachometer. When the pointer is in the orange or red sectors, a change of gear is required to prevent damage to the engine. This indicator can be set to signal when a management intervention is required. (Images courtesy of Wood Group)

AIM in action

For Wood Group Integrity Management, AIM begins at the design phase of a project, using custom technology and software to design and recommend asset inspection, monitoring, and risk assessment activity. Using software technology to minimize life cycle costs and add value to assets early on, the group has developed a system called Nexus. Nexus acts as a central data repository for inspection and corrosion management. It includes comprehensive risk-based inspection routines for pipe work and other pressure-related equipment and provides a preconfigured system compliant with API 581(2008).

Nexus delivers a formal, standardized, auditable inspection and corrosion monitoring and management system by tracking and comparing equipment anomalies over time. This enables operators to capture and manage asset life cycle data effectively in a globally accessible software system to perform risk assessments and identify risk rank- ings and manage safety and production-critical status inspection frequency. The system also allows access to plans to manage inspection and corrosion consistently.

This entire facility life cycle integrity management software tool enables engineers to track the design and condition of any asset from the design phase through decommissioning. Information from this type of all-inclusive information management tools allows operators and duty holders to make informed AIM decisions.

For instance, using this technology, an operator would have access to piping and instrumentation drawings as well as the latest inspection results compared to baseline surveys. The data are critical in evaluating operational risk and the developing inspection and mitigation strategies.

The life-of-field vision approach supports operators in building AIM into long-term operations plans. Complementary to this, Wood Group PSN has developed an approach to AIM that operators can apply to multiple assets to understand a facility’s vulnerability status.

A web-based tool is used to generate a number called the Vulnerability Index. This index collates the impact of events against a wide range of parameters that are selected because they are detrimental to asset integrity. It provides a simple and direct measure for understanding if a facility has achieved asset integrity status.

The tool is designed to provide all levels of management within an organization with information that allows meaningful interventions to prevent major accidents.

Principles of construction

Ten key principles were applied in developing this process and, subsequently, the tool: 1. Asset integrity is a state; a facility either has it or does not have it. 2. Asset integrity is achieved when the barriers in place to prevent a major accident match or exceed the potential for a major accident at any time over the entire life of an asset. 3. The original facility design, construction, and organization provide barriers of a particular strength that are a combination of density and thickness of the barrier. 4. The thickness of the barrier fluctuates over time because the facility process, inventory, equipment, organization, and people change. 5. A facility’s vulnerability depends on the gap between the potential for a major accident and the strength of the barriers. 6. Asset integrity is dependent on the current strength and condition of the barriers. 7. Four categories of technical barriers are used to prevent a major accident – engineering; production and maintenance; processes/procedures, systems, and competence; and behavior. 8. Human error can render the technical barriers worthless. 9. Lagging indicators show holes in barriers; leading indicators show cracks in barriers. 10.AIM assesses priorities and proactively acts to stop cracks from becoming holes. The principles used in the tool are transferable and can be used in applications such as brownfield engineering and for use where process safety management based on API 75 and SEMS is the primary management framework to achieve asset integrity. The process is designed to be adaptable so it can be scaled to suit a wide range of types and sizes of facilities.

Four categories of technical barriers are used to prevent a major accident – engineering; production and maintenance; processes/ procedures, systems, and competence; and behavior.

Applying the technology

By combining the use of a life cycle integrity management knowledge-sharing tool with a Vulnerability Index tool for monitoring static integrity to make interventions possible and reduce the potential for major accidents, operators gain the necessary engineering and operations insight into the integrity of their assets to ensure safe operations over the expected life span of the facility.

This tool has been in development for more than four years and is used across a wide range of asset types – oil and gas, offshore production, onshore terminals, fixed platforms, FPSOs – and on new and mature facilities.

It currently is being introduced and tailored to international locations with different legislative regimes.