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What is pipeline integrity management, really?

August 29, 2017 Leave a comment

A point of confusion…

Recently I had a conversation that went badly.  Examining it in hindsight it is clear that I was on a completely different wavelength regarding the definition of integrity management.  This is not the first time that the definition of integrity management has caused me to have a confusing conversation.

The confusion usually comes when I am speaking to an individual from the operations side of the business.  Most specifically, when I am speaking with a vendor who services the operations side of the business.

It’s not what you know…

Figure 2.2 from Mohitpour et al in Pipeline Operation and Maintenance – A Practical Approach (ASME)[ii] (crudely screen captured from the Google books preview) I think highlights the source of confusion:

Generic org chart for pipeline operating company.

Pipeline Control, Operations and everybody else

This chart shows a typical organizational model for a pipeline company.  My experience confirms that this structure is common.  All management functions have been combined into the single box at the top of the structure.  Below this box are the four primary concerns of operating a pipeline – operations, pipeline control, technical support, and corporate support.

The entire branch on the left side of this chart is the operations division.  Operations is a very visible concern for the pipeline company.  In contrast, the pipeline integrity group is merely a box in the technical support group.  Because this group is small, typically only a handful of engineers and technicians, many vendors do not encounter them.

It is not surprising that vendors who do not encounter IM would have a skewed perspective of its definition.  It is to be expected that they would be unaware of its concerns.  To these guys IM is about running pigs and doing DA, because this is where their customers’ concerns are.  “Their customers” being the operations group, not the integrity management group.

Convergent definitions…

Mohitpour et al [i] say that the integrity management and asset management functions of pipeline maintenance are often part of the technical support functional area which is “typically located in the head office of the pipeline company.”  This “support group caries out integrity management functions.”

Again, drawing from the book, the authors list the concerns of this group as:

  • Pipeline inspection
  • Pipe replacement
  • Establishing an overall maintenance strategy
  • Developing a maintenance program
  • Managing computerized maintenance management systems
  • Measuring performance of maintenance activities

This explanation seems consistent with the PHMSA definition of integrity management.  PHMSA prescribes a program consisting of regular inspections, risk assessments, and mitigation activities.  While PHMSA’s primary concern is minimizing the pipeline’s impact on people and the environment, the operator shares these concerns plus the concern of maximizing the pipeline’s useful life.  In either case, the activities described in the IM rules are very much aligned with the activities described by Mohitpour.

Both perspectives describe an integrity manager who is concerned about data and process. These are not the boots-on-the-ground guys.  They work in an office.  They ask the questions “what” and “where”.  They are less concerned about “who” and “when”.

My definition, my ambition…

So far, this is consistent with my definition of integrity management and with my understanding of the concerns of the integrity manager.  Not to dis the pigs, but they are not what is on my mind when I write about integrity management.

Definition: Pipeline integrity management is a continuous sequence of engineering analyses and subsequent assessments which combine to maximize the useful life of each individual pipeline asset.  This is very much about data.  It is very much about keeping a record of each analysis, assessment, and decision.  It is being able to support a decision when audited.

Ambition: The vision of the integrity manager is to orchestrate the IM process.  To see data flow smoothly from one step to the next.  To be able to visualize the past, present, and future of maintenance on the pipe.  To know who and why and when.  To initiate tasks across departments.  To have data that goes in clean and stays that way.  To continuously improve IM processes and to be able to demonstrate this improvement.  To do more with less.

I will go on later.  For now, I have clarified the definition of integrity management and have identified the core concerns of integrity managers.  In later installments I’ll explore these concerns in more detail.

Until next time,

-Craig


[i] Sec 2.4.3 p 39; Pipeline Operation and Maintenance – A Practical Approach (ASME); Mo Mohitpour, Jason Szabo, Thomas Van Hardeveld; (C) 2005 ASME, NY NY 10016; Link to cover on google-books.

[ii] fig 2.2 p 38; Pipeline Operation and Maintenance – A Practical Approach (ASME); Mo Mohitpour, Jason Szabo, Thomas Van Hardeveld; (C) 2005 ASME, NY NY 10016; Link to cover on google-books.

A Dashboard for Pipeline Integrity

December 20, 2010 Leave a comment

A dashboard for pipeline integrity to aid in compliance with US rules for integrity management

“I want to log-on to my computer and be told the status of the system. Today, I have to ask a specific engineer that looks after the area I want to know about who says he will get back to me. Two days later I get an answer, usually with caveats because he doesn’t have all the up to date information.”

anonymous pipeline manager

Sections

  • Problem: a need for situational awareness and process control
  • Integrated data for situational awareness and process control
  • A pipeline information management system (PIMS)
  • Building an integrity dashboard on your existing IT infrastructure

 

Problem: a need for situational awareness

On March 31, 2009 the PODS organization hosted a meeting in Sugar Land, Texas called Mapping Our Pipeline Future.  Seventeen pipeline operating companies participated.  The intent of this meeting was to identify and prioritize operational needs that are not being met by the PODS committee or by vendors.

At this meeting four pipeline operators made short presentations describing their integration efforts to date.  Afterwards the meeting participants were divided into five groups for general discussion followed by specific discussion groups after lunch.

A prevalent thread at this meeting concerned leveraging integrated data.  Some of the wish list items generated along this vein include:

  • “Improved situational awareness and decision making” – Anadarko Midstream, operator presentation
  • “Data should be made to work for the [user] through more empowered processes” – general discussion groups, room 2
  • “Missing is a way to tie/connect business processes to the tasks” – specific discussion groups, key issues facing operators

In general these requests to leverage integrated data fell into one of two categories, requests for improved visibility and requests for better processes.  These two categories can be summarized as follows:

  1. Situational awareness – the need to know what is happening, what has happened, or what will happen
  2. Better processes – the need to orchestrate individual tasks once situational awareness has been achieved

This paper will present a lightweight approach for building pipeline dashboards for key players in the integrity process.  This approach leverages your data, regardless of where it resides, to achieve situational awareness.  This situational awareness in turn allows for better processes.

This approach is independent of your integration platform, PODS or other.  It leverages existing investments in IT infrastructure and gets stronger with each additional  investment.  What is needed to make this solution available to the industry is a set of vendor-neutral standards describing interfaces for data sensors and process actuators.

Integrated data for situational awareness and process control

The illustration below was taken from one of the operator presentations at the PODS mapping our pipeline future meeting.

This image serves to illustrate the hope that many operators have placed in integrated data.  Integrated data is the hub around which the various departments involved in integrity management interact.  With PODS in place, everything should go smoothly.

Ironically, integrated data can actually make situational awareness and control worse, not better.  The need for more people and more procedures means that there are more opportunities for things to go wrong.  Critical conditions can hide within a flood of “normal” data.  Instead of seeing an improvement, many operators are finding that their data is bad, their processes are broken, and integrated data is expensive to maintain.

Integrated data alone can never provide the awareness and control that is needed.  PODS and other data standards simply describe how to store and exchange information.  Data standards are concerned with data, not people or processes.  They do not describe how data is gathered, verified, and inserted into the database.  They only describe where to put it and what format to use.

While integrated data is necessary for better situational awareness and control, integrated data is just a first step.  The illustration above would be more accurate if the central puzzle piece showed a software application instead of a database like PODS.

Software which orchestrates the data, people, processes, and events of integrity management is the next step.  A dashboard which lets you see a summary of the system and to drill into and examine details from a single location would be a big help.  If this dashboard enabled you to respond to this summary information and to alter the process you would have the situational awareness and process control you seek.

A pipeline information management system (PIMS)

Both ASME B31.8S and the integrity rules hint at a global information system which integrates the people, processes, and data associated with maintaining a pipeline.  The intent of this theoretical system is to provide the integrity manager with the situational awareness and control required to orchestrate the integrity process.

These software systems are called pipeline information management systems (PIMS). In a PIMS the integrity manager…

  • has global visibility into past, present, and future activity on every asset.
  • is able to quickly define, deploy, and modify procedures for compliance.
  • sets up alerts which trigger action when warranted.

On its face a PIMS is a dashboard application for the integrity process. In the business world, “the dashboard is the CEO’s killer app, making the gritty details of a business that are often buried deep within a large organization accessible at a glance to senior executives. So powerful are the programs that they’re beginning to change the nature of management, from an intuitive art into more of a science.”

These same benefits apply to asset management and to integrity compliance.

A dashboard application is a console into which gauges and controls that are of interest to an individual user are chosen from a library of prebuilt tools.  These tools are added to individual dashboards and are configured based on individual responsibility.  We’ll call these tools “widgets”.

Each widget needs software to make it work.  To build a widget, a software developer combines the capabilities of software “sensors” and “actuators”.  Sensors monitor data, dates, and events.  Actuators enable changes to a procedure or to data.  This simple concept can provide tremendous value for relatively low cost.  As you improve your underlying IT infrastructure you are able to build better and more useful widgets.

A dashboard doesn’t replace existing IT investments, it leverages them.  The better your underlying IT infrastructure the stronger your dashboard system can be.  If your data is integrated, you can create sensors which monitor this central location.  If you install messaging between your asset data and your work management system, you can take advantage of this new infrastructure to track, or even alter work once it has been scheduled.  If you install a workflow system, you can use your dashboard as an access point to adjust individual task steps as needed.

There is a non-linear return on your investment.  Invest in one widget and you realize a benefit of 1.  Two widgets give you a benefit of 4.  Invest in exactly the right number, and the benefits are immeasurable.  By putting the right information into the right hands a dashboard can have a tremendous impact on reducing operating costs.

Building an integrity dashboard for domestic use

While dashboards for pipeline integrity exist, they are usually custom affairs.  The few commercial solutions available are targeted at international operators who are not affected by the PHMSA rules.  What is needed is an affordable, off the shelf system that has been designed specifically for compliance with the US integrity rules.  What this looks like is a set of dashboard widgets which are generally useful to US pipeline operators and which can be deployed into common IT environments.

Off the shelf solutions are available from other industries and can be adapted to meet our needs. Since the 1970s banks and other information-intensive industries have been integrating their computer systems and processes in a quest for better situational awareness and process control.  They have tried and studied workflow systems, business process re-engineering, and dozens of other techniques.  It is not a simple problem, but recent efforts have been very successful.

Gartner Research says that the most recent round of developments, business process management systems (BPMS), “gives companies visibility into processes that are key to cost management.  BPM is a lifeline in this troubled economy.  It helps companies find and avoid hidden costs – to keep companies in business.”

While this sounds like a major rework of your IT infrastructure, it isn’t.  BPMS encompasses most of the common solutions that get your IT folks excited – integrated data, workflow management, SOA, web 2.0 and many, many more.  The better your IT infrastructure, the better your dashboard can be.

What your IT team needs is some guidance regarding where to make their next major investment.  To do this it would be helpful if you could tell them the kinds of widgets that would provide you with the most benefit in terms of your own situational awareness and control.  Some examples to consider:

  • on-the-fly alignment sheets that follow map view
  • Live flowcharts which enable you to intervene in tasks like data scrubbing
  • project builder/selector or a project budgeter/scheduler

Sure you need lots of help, but where can you get the most help for the least money? To explore this problem, I would like to set up some formal research. After some initial comparison research between pipeline processes and business processes we would develop a series of test software installations with the objective of determining:

  • a protocol for measuring the benefits of dashboard widgets
  • a series of benchmark measurements for return on investment
  • a baseline set of widgets arranged from largest to smallest benefit and from most cost to least cost

 

What is pipeline integrity management, really?

December 10, 2009 Leave a comment

A point of confusion…

Recently I had a conversation that went badly.  Examining it in hindsight it is clear that I was on a completely different wavelength regarding the definition of integrity management.  This is not the first time that the definition of integrity management has caused me to have a confusing conversation.

The confusion usually comes when I am speaking to an individual from the operations side of the business.  Most specifically, when I am speaking with a vendor who services the operations side of the business.

It’s not what you know…

Figure 2.2 from Mohitpour et al in Pipeline Operation and Maintenance – A Practical Approach (ASME)[ii] (crudely screen captured from the Google books preview) I think highlights the source of confusion:

Generic org chart for pipeline operating company.

Pipeline Control, Operations and everybody else

This chart shows a typical organizational model for a pipeline company.  My experience confirms that this structure is common.  All management functions have been combined into the single box at the top of the structure.  Below this box are the four primary concerns of operating a pipeline – operations, pipeline control, technical support, and corporate support.

The entire branch on the left side of this chart is the operations division.  Operations is a very visible concern for the pipeline company.  In contrast, the pipeline integrity group is merely a box in the technical support group.  Because this group is small, typically only a handful of engineers and technicians, many vendors do not encounter them.

It is not surprising that vendors who do not encounter IM would have a skewed perspective of its definition.  It is to be expected that they would be unaware of its concerns.  To these guys IM is about running pigs and doing DA, because this is where their customers’ concerns are.  “Their customers” being the operations group, not the integrity management group.

Convergent definitions…

Mohitpour et al [i] say that the integrity management and asset management functions of pipeline maintenance are often part of the technical support functional area which is “typically located in the head office of the pipeline company.”  This “support group caries out integrity management functions.”

Again, drawing from the book, the authors list the concerns of this group as:

  • Pipeline inspection
  • Pipe replacement
  • Establishing an overall maintenance strategy
  • Developing a maintenance program
  • Managing computerized maintenance management systems
  • Measuring performance of maintenance activities

This explanation seems consistent with the PHMSA definition of integrity management.  PHMSA prescribes a program consisting of regular inspections, risk assessments, and mitigation activities.  While PHMSA’s primary concern is minimizing the pipeline’s impact on people and the environment, the operator shares these concerns plus the concern of maximizing the pipeline’s useful life.  In either case, the activities described in the IM rules are very much aligned with the activities described by Mohitpour.

Both perspectives describe an integrity manager who is concerned about data and process. These are not the boots-on-the-ground guys.  They work in an office.  They ask the questions “what” and “where”.  They are less concerned about “who” and “when”.

My definition, my ambition…

So far, this is consistent with my definition of integrity management and with my understanding of the concerns of the integrity manager.  Not to dis the pigs, but they are not what is on my mind when I write about integrity management.

Definition: Pipeline integrity management is a continuous sequence of engineering analyses and subsequent assessments which combine to maximize the useful life of each individual pipeline asset.  This is very much about data.  It is very much about keeping a record of each analysis, assessment, and decision.  It is being able to support a decision when audited.

Ambition: The vision of the integrity manager is to orchestrate the IM process.  To see data flow smoothly from one step to the next.  To be able to visualize the past, present, and future of maintenance on the pipe.  To know who and why and when.  To initiate tasks across departments.  To have data that goes in clean and stays that way.  To continuously improve IM processes and to be able to demonstrate this improvement.  To do more with less.

I will go on later.  For now, I have clarified the definition of integrity management and have identified the core concerns of integrity managers.  In later installments I’ll explore these concerns in more detail.

Until next time,

-Craig


[i] Sec 2.4.3 p 39; Pipeline Operation and Maintenance – A Practical Approach (ASME); Mo Mohitpour, Jason Szabo, Thomas Van Hardeveld; (C) 2005 ASME, NY NY 10016; Link to cover on google-books.

[ii] fig 2.2 p 38; Pipeline Operation and Maintenance – A Practical Approach (ASME); Mo Mohitpour, Jason Szabo, Thomas Van Hardeveld; (C) 2005 ASME, NY NY 10016; Link to cover on google-books.

integrity of chocolate cake

November 25, 2009 Leave a comment

In trying to get at the definition of integrity management, I started thinking outside the world of pipelines.  Ultimately, integrity management is the act of keeping a thing together.  How “together” we keep that thing is a matter of taste.

Measures of “togetherness” or “integrity” range from “good-enough” to “can-not-fail”.  A pickup truck which is used to shuttle employees around a junkyard merely needs gas and enough essential fluids that the engine doesn’t seize up.  A breathing system on the shuttle better have frequent inspections and safety checks so that it never goes down.  In the pipeline world, independent of what PHMSA says, we try to avoid negative press coverage.

In all of these cases integrity management means keeping your thing from degrading to the point where it no longer meets your measure of integrity.  The truck can fall apart around us.  We’re good as long as the engine keeps running.  We might be able to tolerate a little dirt on the outside of our breathing system.  Any degradation beyond that might be cause for taking some mitigating action.  In the pipeline world…  Well, you know…

An interesting question comes to mind, how would the PHMSA rules for integrity apply to any random integrity management problem? Would PHMSA’s general approach work for something that is near and dear to my heart?  Can I come up with an integrity plan to protect my chocolate cake?  If PHMSA did a good job with the integrity rule, it should be applicable to things other than pipelines.  Right?

For my current best audience, US Operators of gas transmission pipelines, PHMSA’s description of the rule would be the best place to start:  (Other IM rules are similar.  See for yourself: liquid IM, proposed distribution rule)

Briefly put, the Gas IM Rule specifies how pipeline operators must identify, prioritize, assess, evaluate, repair and validate – through comprehensive analyses – the integrity of gas transmission pipelines that, in the event of a leak or failure, could affect High Consequence Areas (HCAs) within the United States.

Considering how much time the folks at PHMSA probably spent honing this definition, we can examine it a bit closer.  Specifically, take a look at the actions I underlined, “identify, prioritize, assess, evaluate, repair, and validate”.

  1. Identify – identify threats to integrity
  2. Prioritize – rank by risk
  3. Assess – examine each asset for threat occurrences
  4. Evaluate – for each occurrence, determine severity
  5. Repair – repair or monitor each occurrence, based on severity
  6. Validate – vet the program, demonstrate improvement

Depending on where you go on PHMSA’s site, these steps may be worded differently but conceptually they remain consistent from gas to liquid to facilities to the new distribution rules.

Rewording in terms a cake-eater like me can understand we have:

  1. Figure out what could go wrong
  2. What’s the worst combination of events?
  3. Look for places where it is happening
  4. Where is it happening worst?
  5. Fix the really bad spots, watch the rest
  6. Learn from your mistakes

So, I maintain that if this list is a good generic process I should be able to protect my chocolate cake.  What follows is an outline of the integrity program for my cake.

Program Elements:

Affected Assets:

Asset ID: Chocolate cake, 42
Asset Type: Point
Positioning: Kitchen counter
Coating: Frosted chocolate w/ sprinkles
Seam type: Pudding
Last Inspection/type: 15 minutes ago/ visual inspection

1) Threat Identification

  • Third party:
    • Spousal encroachment
    • Theft by progeny
  • Environmental:
    • Water fight at nearby sink
    • Seismic door slam
  • Operational:
    • Transporting cake
    • Lighting candles

2) Risk Ranking (likelihood, consequence)

  1. Ops: Transporting cake (high, extreme)
  2. TP: Theft by progeny (high, high)
  3. Ops: Lighting candles (high, med)
  4. TP: Spousal encroachment (med, med)
  5. Ops: Lighting candles (high, low)
  6. Env: Water fight at nearby sink (low, med)

3) Assess for threats, by descending risk

Worst threat is transporting the cake.  For transporting the cake only we’ll perform a visual inspection of the transport path and identify real threats in the area. (We would have a similar set of assessments for each identified risk.  You can see how the complexity of the program balloons in scale as we get closer to the details…)

One question we might ask is does a visual inspection address any other threats?  If we look for spouse or progeny in the area, and confirm that there are none nearby, we can address all third party threats with the same inspection. (But for how long are we safe?)

Visual inspection: Chocolate cake, 42
Threats addressed: Ops: transport, TP: Progeny, TP: Spouse
Inspection results:

  1. Water on the floor
  2. Complex system of plates, trays, and wrapping
  3. Giggling kid just outside the door
  4. Tuna sandwich on table, cat on patrol

4) Evaluate threats and determine severity

  1. Water on floor – monitor
  2. Complex system of plates, trays, and wrapping – mitigate
  3. Giggling kid – mitigate immediately
  4. Tuna sandwich/cat situation – monitor

5) Repair per evaluation

  1. Assess the water situation again in 5 minutes
  2. Before transport, remove all but one plate
  3. Bribe giggling kid
  4. Assess the sandwich and cat during transport

6) Validate

  1. Slipped in water – should have cleaned it up
  2. Cardboard plate folded during transport
  3. Bribed kid with hotdog – not interested, went for discarded wrapping
  4. Startled cat jumped on counter, bumping transporter’s arm who slipped on water and dropped cake on kid

Program evaluation:

Cupcakes distribute the risk more evenly.  Next time, do cupcakes.

Happy Thanksgiving!

See ya next time!

– Craig