The Chemical Processing Industries (CPI) have witnessed growth in mechanical integrity (MI) programs, which have become more mature as they have evolved from standards-based compliance, to continuous improvement programs on to risk-based programs. For instance, operators (i.e., manufacturers) have redesigned corporate standards, plant-level procedures and field practices to keep pace with incident learnings and published best practices, such as those produced by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ (AIChE) Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS). Furthermore, the property insurance industry has duly taken note of this MI evolution, giving rise to a significantly greater focus on MI programs during insurance surveys and inspections. Meanwhile, incident investigators remain in heavy demand as catastrophic scale incidents with MI-related causes continue to occur in the CPI. This apparent disconnect naturally raises questions in regards to subjects such as “risk based inspection (RBI)”, “reliability centered maintenance (RCM)”, “inspection frequency”, “industry best practice” and “inspection, testing and preventive maintenance (ITPM)”.
Mechanical Integrity programs play a vastly important role in the process safety lifecycle of equipment. The engineering design phase of a project may be on the order of just days, up to several years for a complete plant. Procurement and construction typically follow a similar timeline commensurate with the engineering design phase. However, once a facility becomes fully operational, the length of time devoted towards operation and maintenance will normally far out-weigh the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) period, and may last for many decades. As such, the process safety equipment lifecycle (PSEL) is typically dominated by the MI program, relative to other lifecycle phases such as the EPC period or decommissioning and retirement.
The process safety equipment lifecycle is explained in this article, with an in-depth examination of the requisite elements which should be espoused by a comprehensive Mechanical Integrity program. While the article clearly demonstrates the breadth and depth of mechanical integrity, it fittingly proposes an innovative approach towards the management system that must form the foundation of a robust MI program. The proposed framework leverages the common “Onion Skin” diagram in the context of the equipment lifecycle to create an intuitive approach to MI management. This unique management system framework is comprehensive, cogent, and yet practical for implementation at facilities of most any size.