The primary objective of effective asset integrity management (AIM), which is also known as process safety, is to maintain the asset in a fit-to-serve condition, while extending its life in the most reliable, safe and cost-effective manner.
The asset integrity process provides end-to-end support to an enterprise, covering the life of an asset – planning and designing, construction, commissioning, operations and maintenance (O&M), and decommissioning. At the initial stage, AIM ensures that facilities are designed and built in accordance with the standards and meet the specified operational requirements. At a later stage of the asset life cycle, it ensures that appropriate work processes are followed for asset maintenance and inspection. Various hardware- and software-driven practices are used by the managers of enterprises for taking timely decisions regarding the asset’s integrity across its life cycle. These include conducting periodic surveys to assess the operations of the asset, mapping the entire asset network of an enterprise using technologies like the geographic information system (GIS), monitoring the functioning of the asset using computer-based systems like supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and the outage management system, and other practices depending on the needs of the enterprise.
AIM for CGD entities
The functioning of physical assets is one of the major factors determining the operational success of utilities in the city gas distribution (CGD) segment. For instance, on an average, building the pipeline network alone constitutes around 60 per cent of the total project cost incurred by a CGD operator. Moreover, since most of the assets involve high investments and have a long life cycle, it becomes imperative for operators to adopt a holistic approach towards asset integ-rity. AIM helps operators in ensuring high returns on assets, optimising infrastructure investments and minimising the costs incurred on asset maintenance while adhering to the standards related to health, safety and the environment.
While asset integrity is typically maintained till its commissioning, the focus on this aspect tends to generally decline thereafter due to several other factors. These include ageing of the asset, turnover of skilled staff, change in process conditions, inadequate O&M practices and the need to reduce operational expenditure.
The effective implementation of AIM solutions involves the incorporation of six components:
- Integrity management: This includes identifying the weaker sections of an asset, collection of required data, risk assessment, and an action plan to mitigate risks.
- Performance management: Under performance management, key leading and lagging indicators are identified. Leading indicators help an organisation to take adequate measures in time to avoid operational issues in the future. On the other hand, while lagging indicators cannot influence future performance, they provide key lessons that help an organisation to take a different course of action in the future.
- Management of change: An asset undergoes several changes during its life cycle. Therefore, an appropriate plan is needed to manage the potential risks that may emerge due to such changes.
- Quality control: It includes adhering to quality control standards to ensure safety and security.
- Communication: Under the communication plan, it is ensured that all actions taken by the organisation are communicated to the various stakeholders.
- Resource management: The resource management plan ensures that the resources used in AIM solutions are adequate and competent.
While the importance of AIM is widely acknowledged, greater awareness needs to be created among various industry stakeholders. The downstream regulator, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board, has issued notifications with regard to asset integrity for pipeline operators and CGD entities.
Critical aspects in successful implementation of AIM
Asset integrity manages the entire asset base and ensures efficiency in operations, which allows CGD operators to focus on their business goals. However, the success of AIM critically depends on certain aspects. First, it is imperative that the objectives of AIM are clearly communicated. Similarly, the flow of integrity information and decisions needs to be understood.
The development of an effective AIM model requires investments in capital-intensive technologies. Therefore, in order to ensure adequate return on these investments, it is essential for CGD operators to train their workforce. Further, monitoring and reviewing asset integrity performance are as important as developing and implementing integrity plans and systems. This involves the evaluation of key performance indicators (KPIs) like instances of gas leakages and network damage, gas supply failure, and the number of incidents linked to the failure of instrumentation of alarms or other internal failures. An analysis of KPIs helps in evaluating the asset integrity performance against the goals of the operator. Finally, in order to improve future performance, plans should be consistently formulated with specified deadlines.
Using AIM is crucial for the O&M of pipelines as CGD assets are exposed to various unforeseen damages resulting from internal risks like pipeline leakages and failure of pressure valves or gas flow regulators as well as external risks like natural calamities and ground digging. AIM allows operators to support decisions regarding the functioning of their network. Moreover, successful implementation of AIM solutions provides a higher standard of health and safety for people who are likely to be affected by
CGD operations and helps in preventing operational failures.