Reliability, Availability and Maintainability (RAM) models were first developed in Enbridge Liquids Pipelines in 2006 and in the last 3 years have contributed over $200 Million in capital cost avoidance while maintaining or improving the reliable design and operation of the pipeline system. These models constitute a very effective, factual and dependable tool to assess the throughput performance of a pipeline system over its entire life cycle or a specified time of interest. In addition, the RAM model cost is a small fraction of the overall monetary benefit, in the order of 1%, hence making RAM models a highly leveraged activity.
The concept of a RAM model stems from Reliability Block Diagram methods (also known as Dependent Diagrams). Interaction of large, complex and multi layered systems can then be analyzed using the Monte Carlo simulation methods (or Stochastic Discrete Event Simulation) hence quantifying the output of the entire system with greater accuracy than other estimating tools or methods. Over 10 years, Enbridge Liquids Pipelines has developed its own failure database for equipment and operational events consequently almost all model inputs are based on in-house data rather than industry generic data, making the model output more robust, accurate and appropriate for internal use.
Initially, in Enbridge Liquids Pipelines, RAM models were mainly built to assess and confirm the design capabilities of future pipelines designs and assist in the optimal selection of specific design options. Because of the effectiveness of the tool combined with the current cost constrained business environment, the company is moving towards building RAM models for assets already in operation in order to optimize their performance. This is proving to be an extremely cost effective addition to internal decision making processes. The approach has been used in risk based budgeting, asset maintenance, design modifications and throughput optimization initiatives.
In various industries including Oil and Gas, RAM models have proven their worth over time as an effective cost avoidance tool. This approach has now been successfully deployed in the Pipeline Industry at Enbridge. As an example, a RAM model conducted during the design phase of a pipeline project saved $28 million in capital by proving that an additional storage tank and significant new infrastructure was not required.
Another benefit of RAM models has been their ability to confirm or counter stated assumptions by internal stakeholders. Equipment upgrades and equipment sparing decisions are often seriously debated and costly decisions may not always be based on complete economical foundations but rather on avoiding past negative experiences or by following basic guidelines that are less than optimal. When a project or operational team needs to find an alternative, a RAM model is a tool of choice to evaluate, and justify the best option.
Because of its proven value, RAM models are now an integral part of Enbridge Liquids Pipelines Design Standards and are used on all large projects. Models recently built for operational pipelines delivered similar value so in the near future the work will be expanded to encompass the entire existing network of integrated pipelines to improve on performance and operational costs.