Have you evaluated your pipeline integrity program lately? What criteria do you use to determine how solid it is?
- Do you feel that it is very effective because you’ve had no known incidents?
- Do you think it’s acceptable because your staff tell you that they are good at following procedures?
- Do you think it’s excellent because you have not been audited by the regulators? (Even passing an audit does not mean that your program is great. It just means that the areas that the auditors reviewed passed their criteria.)
The Illusion of “Above Average"
If you surveyed enough car drivers to get a statistically valid sample, the majority would tell you that they are above-average drivers – they don’t take risks; they take extreme care when driving, etc. Yet we all know that not everyone is an above-average driver 100 percent of the time. Distractions such as phone calls, kids in the backseat, conversations with others in the car often sap away concentration.
Applying the same reasoning to pipeline integrity programs, we realize not all pipeline integrity programs are great or even above-average. Most likely, your pipeline integrity program is somewhere in between having somewhat-acceptable integrity to having world-class integrity.
The Problem of Substandard Pipeline Integrity Programs
Having a somewhat-acceptable, mostly-in-compliance pipeline integrity program is risky. In most cases, compliance does not equal safety or efficient performance. Eventually the lack of suitable focus will catch up with you as you juggle your budget and operational priorities with your integrity programs. Let’s face it – there is only so much time each day to address all the problems we encounter. Short-term priorities supersede long-term integrity objectives every time.
Is your daily attention so focused on resolving small problems that you have not developed a truly great pipeline integrity program? Are you trying to do it all yourself and finding yourself bogged down with the minutiae so that your overall pipeline integrity programs are barely adequate?
My Experience With Pipeline Integrity Programs
Years ago, I asked my engineering staff to develop a risk ranking of our pipelines. Even though my staff diligently worked to try to address my questions, I could not get a straight answer. Finally, I decided to get the answer myself. What I found was that my engineers spent their time struggling to correct the pipeline centerlines in our ARCGIS database rather than focus on the risk of our pipeline network. In other words, they were focused on trying to learn how to use the tool rather than using the tool to provide them with the answers I was seeking.
I resolved that dilemma by hiring an ARCGIS expert who quickly corrected the centerlines and added the missing risk data, and soon we could produce the relative risk profiles of the pipeline network and begin to mitigate unacceptable risks.
We began developing metrics for our pipeline integrity programs, measuring ourselves to improve our pipeline integrity. Additional experts assisted with further developing our integrity program. My observation illustrates a common challenge when dealing with a pipeline integrity program, and it’s the focus of the resources on non-value added activities due to the program deficiencies, derails them from focusing on managing risk and integrity of the assets.
Questions to ask:
Now, how is your program structured?
- Do you have the right foundation of people, programs, budgets, software and metrics in place?
- Are you trying to do it all yourself without relying on experts who have the maps on how to get the integrity program you should have?
Conclusion: Check With an Expert
Employing experts in the fields of ARCGIS, risk, in-line inspections (ILI), corrosion, etc. should not be seen as a personal weakness but rather a method to accelerate your integrity program because no one knows everything.
Experts should provide that laser-like focus on the areas in need and optimize greatly your pipeline integrity programs. And at the end, you will have gained not only time, but your program will be closer to being in full compliance, minimizing risks while increasing safety and throughput.
Allowing the experts to resolve the program deficiencies will free up your team’s time to focus on the execution and assessment of results from the program, in turn prioritizing on keeping the pipeline operating safely.
If you want to ask an expert a question about your pipeline integrity program today, please contact us.