Owner/operators across many industries face a common challenge: managing assets and infrastructure. Most struggle to keep the plant operations going while trying to maximise asset life. At the same time, they also need to ensure safe, secure and environmentally responsible operations. As a result, more and more are paying attention to asset integrity management (AIM).
What is AIM?
Integrity management is a key component for a successful asset management programme. The main objective of asset management initiatives is to ensure that assets perform their required functions throughout their lifetime. AIM has the same objective but emphasises health, safety and the environment. ARC defines AIM as “the software and services utilised in the systematic and coordinated activities to ensure the availability of critical assets and systems, while protecting health safety, and the environment.” AIM helps ensure that the appropriate people, systems, processes and resources are in place, in use, and will perform when required. When assets are managed and maintained properly, not only does it help drive their sustainable performance, but also lowers inspection, maintenance and repair costs, while improving plant reliability and operational safety.
Elements of AIM
As one wants the asset to perform its intended function throughout its lifecycle, it is beneficial to look at AIM in relation to the asset lifecycle. In its lifetime, an asset goes through various stages, starting from concept and then moving to construction, commissioning, operations, maintenance and finally decommissioning. Looking at this lifecycle, we can see where we need to focus in terms of integrity.
Assuring design integrity starts at the concept stage of any project, owner/operators should pay close attention to various integrity aspects. A solid design integrity focus will help provide a strong foundation for the AIM programme. During this phase, we want to confirm that the concept will not lead to any kind of intolerable risk. Owner/operators need to assure that the design complies with all technical and process safety standards. Details about the operation and maintenance routines must be defined and all safety critical elements also need to be identified at this phase.
At the construction and commissioning stage, owner/operators need to ensure technical integrity. Quality management should not be left only to the construction contractor. Owner/operators should participate actively and make sure audits and reviews are carried out properly and equipment is manufactured and installed as per code and standards. To ensure successful transition, operation staff should be actively involved in the start-up process.
Most assets spend most of their lifetime in the third phase, which consists of the operations, maintenance, and decommissioning stages. This phase is most important to many owner/operators since an asset may remain in operate and maintain stage for decades. Here, we need to ensure operational integrity. After start-up, operational integrity should be ensured by managing assets within operating limits. The operations team should implement integrity management strategies properly. These include reliability cantered maintenance (RCM); risk-based inspection (RBI); reliability analytics; reliability, availability and maintainability (RAM) modelling; non-destructive testing (NDT), and finite element analysis. Integrity strategies should be reviewed and updated at regular intervals and maintenance and inspection activities adjusted accordingly. Preventive, predictive and corrective maintenance tasks should be carried out routinely. The team should pay attention to proper reporting to make sure assets are performing as per the required performance standards.
Modification and upgrade cycle
Throughout an asset’s lifetime, as major upgrades and modifications may occur multiple times, an asset may have to go through concept, construction, commissioning and other lifecycle stages. When an asset goes through modification or upgrade, owner/operators should pay attention to design and technical integrity. For upgrades and modifications, owner/operators should also recognise that concept and decommissioning stages go together. Planning involves decisions about recycling and retiring assets and recycling involves decision related to planning about newer assets. Furthermore, at all stages, owner/operators should pay special attention to periodic audits and reviews for further confidence on asset integrity.
AIM supports effective asset management
The major drive behind AIM initiatives is to ensure assets perform efficiently and safely. AIM procedures and programmes, when properly planned, can not only help owner/operators ensure safety but also help reduce both capital and operational expenditures and maximise returns on investment (ROI) and assets (ROA). Establishing an effective AIM programme is key to a successful asset management. Owner/operators should follow a comprehensive process for assessing risks and developing AIM strategies.
To learn more, readers can review the Power Point presentations and videos of this, as well as of the many other asset management sessions at this year’s ARC Industry Forum in Orlando, www.tinyurl.com/y9rjvb99.
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