The Chemical Process and Oil and Gas industries (both on and offshore) have largely adopted Quantitative Risk Assessment (QRA) with open arms following its application in the nuclear industry. Currently, the methodology not only forms a core aspect of the risk management programs of numerous organizations who design, build, own, manage or operate high hazard facilities (refineries, LNG terminals etc.). It also occupies a central role in the legislative and regulatory framework in many jurisdictions across the world. It has become a tool of choice for both the regulators and the regulated parties.
As its application has become more widespread, it has been the subject of extensive critical inquiry, much of which has revolved around the primary product of the process, namely numerical estimates of risks to exposed people. Advocates highlight the utility and rationality such numbers offer in the often challenging decision making process associated with risk management. Critics make reference to the wide variability and uncertainty associated with such predictions as well as the implicit value judgments they embody. Less emphasis has been placed on the wealth of other insights (often latent) afforded by a well scoped out, executed and documented QRA.
The aim of the paper is to examine and explore the value of QRA over and beyond the well-known orthodox output of individual or societal risk estimates. It identifies and outlines what these added benefits are and elaborates on their significance - particularly in the context of achieving risk management objectives. It argues that such latent benefits should be considered to be equally or more important to the typical output and that more attention should be paid to these whilst conducting a QRA. A popular adage goes thus "sometimes, it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about the destination"; so it is with QRA.