Structural integrity management (SIM) is one of the main pillars of asset integrity management (AIM) in the oil and gas sector. SIM focuses on ensuring the asset’s structural integrity and its continuous fitness-for-purpose, allowing owners to achieve their business objectives flexibly and to ensure operations sustainability. Maintaining structural integrity guarantees that different structures of the sector will have the ability to bear any loads, including their own weight. Therefore, enhancing the integrity of oil and gas structures represents a cornerstone for guaranteeing the success of the ongoing operations.

 Applying SIM in the Oil and Gas Sector

The oil and gas industry could be costly and risky when it is not handled properly. Therefore, there is a great need for applying SIM to help operators decrease failures, costs and downtime in any hydrocarbon process.

“SIM fitness for service is a critical part within the AIM system,” Mohamed ElHabbal, AIM Program Manager and Principal Offshore Structures Engineer, told Egypt Oil & Gas, adding that “SIM system has the same principals of other AIM pillars which sets an efficient management system for the assets in a way that ensures safety, preserves the environment, minimizes operational risks and optimizes operating expenditures (OPEX).”

Most of the facilities in the oil and gas sector are “mature assets on mature fields,” according to an article by Oil & Gas IQ on Structural Integrity Management. This is because most of the facilities around the world have a planned cycle of 20 years starting from commission, and an expected operational lifespan between 20 and 40 years. Therefore, SIM is used to make sure that “the people, systems, processes and resources that deliver integrity are in place, in use and will perform when required over the whole lifecycle of the structure,” according to Health and Safety Executive’s research report, entitled ‘Structural integrity management framework for fixed jacket structures’ definition of SIM’.

During structural evaluations, companies assess the structures’ current condition and compare it to the last assessment, taking into consideration other parameters that affect the integrity and risk levels and confirm if the acceptance criteria for structural integrity are met, according to the report.

Additionally, managing structural integrity can help maintain structures throughout different levels. “Properly implemented, SIM can provide structural integrity assurance from design to decommissioning,” stated Mohammad Nabavian of Wood Group PSN in article published by Offshore Engineer (OE Digital).

Therefore, SIM implementation becomes a necessity to guarantee the reliability of ever-aging infrastructure, coping with the demands of complex life extension projects, and providing safe and successful decommissioning, Nabavian said in the article.

Therefore, SIM is used by operators to ensure long term asset integrity considering decommissioning phases, life extension and operation of an asset. Moreover, SIM systems can ensure continued production, safety, environment protection, best practices and legislative compliance, according to the article.

BPM in SIM

In order to maintain efficient structural integrity, oil and gas operators can apply Business Process Management (BPM). BPM is “a discipline that leverages software and services to provide total visibility” in organizations. BPM has several goals including documenting, discovering, automating and continuously enhancing business processes with an aim to boost efficiency and decrease cost, according to Saurangshu Chakrabaty’s article entitled ‘BPM for Structural Integrity Management in Oil and Gas Industry’.

“Business process is the heart of any management system as long as such processes are smooth, clear and well defined, which will lead to an efficient integrity management system. Usually, when you design an integrity management system, part of the design is how to develop an efficient business process to enable asset stakeholders to execute, document, measure and control the system to meet the business objectives,” ElHabbal explained.

“SIM system is part of a whole, so, as long as business stakeholders are committed to designed business process, the integrity system will be sustained, and the strategic business goals will be achieved, translating the structural integrity philosophy into plan and actions, i.e. inspections, maintenance and repair (IMR) activities and documenting each single incident, action and activity in a way that builds the asset’s DNA, which will enhance the monitoring and control added to that decision making process, considering asset life extension, upgrades or even transferring the ownership of such assets,” ElHabbal added.

The oil and gas industry has a lot to do with the services provided for operators. It is important to use BPM in the industry as it is the responsibility of every company to ensure the orchestration of business process in order to deliver the business commitments and to operate safely, especially for a complex world that is mainly concerned with services, according to the article entitled ‘Is Business Process Management obsolete in a world of Everything as a Service?’ published by Accenture.

BPM mainly focuses on ensuring process efficiency, especially under the low oil process. Therefore, the sector needs to shift to a risk-focused management approach, where the efficiency and transactional aspects are indeed covered by the as-a-service concept, according to the article’s explanation on how BPM can develop to better serve the present oil and gas industry.

Additionally, BPM can be used in oil and gas industry in order to reach several aims. It is used in supporting the situations in which processes should adapt unpredictable new ways to work on certain tasks in the industry while keeping high-level structure with a defined goal, Chakrabaty’s article said.

Moreover, the BPM approach could be used in order to have a real-time decision as it enables oil and gas companies to achieve tangible benefits through opening unseen insights. It provides adaptive analytics to be used in self-learning. These analytics “can dynamically incorporate new information and insights and automatically apply them to the next applicable situation in the system,” according to the article.

Also, the BPM helps oil and gas operators to avoid disasters as it supports them with “timely alerts from predictive models which get built,” the article further stated.

SIM for Offshore Facilities

Oil and gas is a high-risk industry, especially in its offshore operations. When failures happen in marine structures, they might lead to property loss, fatalities or pollution, according to Torgeir Moan’s article entitled ‘Life Cycle Structural Integrity Management of Offshore Structures’.

“Structural integrity of offshore facilities is more important due to the high risks accompanied by lack of integrity in the offshore fields, which add to the high costs of IMR activities,” ElHabbal said.

“Structures supported on the seafloor can experience failure of the structure, foundation or soil, while buoyant structures can experience capsizing or sinking, hull or mooring system failure,” Moan’s noted. Hence, maintaining the integrity of offshore structure comes among the top priorities of oil and gas leaders.

Henceforth, the American Petroleum Institute (API) issued its first SIM standard for fixed offshore platforms in December 2014, Francis Guédé’s said in the article entitled ‘Risk-based Structural Integrity Management for Offshore Jacket Platforms’. The API standard highlights the importance of using risk-based approach in the development of an effective inspection strategy. The standard provides guidelines that help operators develop strategies and programs for risk-based inspection. “However, only general guidelines are given for the risk assessment and for the pre-selection of survey locations,” the article said.

Moreover, the API standard assesses platform risks based on the exposure category, which is “defined with respect to life safety exposure and consequence of failure including the environmental and the economic impact;” and based on the likelihood of failure, in which the API standards “allow qualitative, semi-quantitative, or fully quantitative methods to be used” to assess its levels, according to the article.

API uses risk-based inspection strategy, which is related to the underwater inspections routine. Yet, it needs a baseline inspection to be conducted “and it should use findings from the above-water inspections and the eventual post-event inspections,” Guédé noted in the article.

“Operators can ensure structural integrity by developing within its organization an integrity team or even rely on service providers to develop such system,” ElHabbal noted, adding that “the objective of such system is to minimize the costs of periodic inspections and repairs in a way that never compromises the safety of the offshore facility and preserve environmental resources to the maximum. Not to mention, relying on technology and digital solutions may enhance the efficiency of managing the integrity system and ensure its sustainability.”

“It is recommended that operators shall plan for integrity during early design stages of the new offshore assets which will eventually have a huge positive impact on operators welfare,” ElHabbal pointed out.

However, the oil and gas offshore industry bases initial designs on uncertainties, which leaves a room for failure and risks. Therefore, SIM further requires reassessment of the design during operation phases. “Basically, the reassessment involves the same assessments as carried out during initial design. However, depending upon the inherent damage tolerance ensured by the initial design, the measures that have to be implemented to improve the strength of an existing structure may be much more expensive than for a new structure. This fact commonly justifies using more advanced methods than those applied in the initial design,” Moan’s article explained.

RCM for Refineries and Processing Plant

As countries extend their use of refineries and processing plants, operators have to force shutdown periods. In many countries, the excessive use of refineries can lead to “tremendous strain on most equipment and also on the reliability assurance of these equipment,” according to the article entitled ‘A New Model For Reliability Centered Maintenance In Petroleum Refineries,’ published by the International Journal of Scientific & Technology Research.

Hence, it is not enough to use normal reliability assurance methods, such as predictive maintenance, preventive maintenance and condition based maintenance. Instead, operators choose to implement the reliability centered maintenance (RCM), the article proposed.

A simplified approach of RCM implementation was put forth. The Streamlined RCM (SRCM) “consists of identifying the failure mode that each existing maintenance task is supposed to be preventing and then work forward again through the last three steps of the RCM decision process to re-examine the consequences of each failure and identify a more cost-effective failure management policy,” John Moubray said in the article ‘the Case Against Streamlined RCM ‘.

Moreover, RCM is used in optimizing the assets of any projects. Hence, “RCM is the best method to use for optimizing the operational reliability of plant equipment,” Drew Troyer said in the article entitled ‘Optimizing your Assets through Reliability-centered Maintenance’.

The RCM process helps operators optimize reliability, as well as associated maintenance tactics, while keeping in mind the operational requirements, Troyer explained, adding that the primary objective of any RCM process is the “economic optimization of machine reliability relative to organizational goals.”

RCM could be used in batch manufacturing plant, where the process usually includes huge parts of predictive maintenance and proactive maintenance. Yet, the oil analysis technician handling the RCM process should have some technical precisions in the lubricant-specific failure mode, effects and criticality analysis (FMECA); the deployment of proactive lubrication management measures; and the effective utilization of predictive oil analysis techniques, according to Troyer.

It is of great importance for operators to study any project over the design phase and while operating in order to decide on the most suitable integrity maintenance approach and to ensure the integrity of this project.

“RCM usually relates to rotating equipment while risk-based approaches are more convenient when dealing with structures. Risk Based Inspection intervals lead to exquisite cost savings when dealing with structures especially offshore structures,” ElHabbal explained. Hence, referring to risk-based inspection like the API standards helps operators maintain the integrity of the structure of any oil and gas project.