The goal of pipeline integrity management is to reduce risks associated with pipeline failures to the lowest level possible within given budgetary constraints. A traditional method of deciding where to allocate resources most effectively begins with the assessment of risks for all pipelines within the system. The pipelines are then ranked in order of risk to decide which pipelines should be given attention first. This “worst-first” approach has many benefits but it requires a large quantity of accurate data to rank the pipelines in the correct order, and it does not readily reveal the integrity maintenance activities that are required first by the pipelines at the top of the list.
A new approach is presented that focuses on prioritizing integrity management activities rather than ranking pipelines. This is more straightforward because it is only the activities that can be directly controlled by integrity managers. The new approach also involves a change in purpose. Instead of assessing risks to find the “worst” pipelines, the new approach helps integrity managers to design a well-balanced program with uniform system-wide integrity.
System-wide rules are used that consider pipeline systems as a collection of many different integrity components such as pipe walls, pipe coatings, cathodic protection systems, chemical inhibition systems, signs, and fences rather than a collection of pipelines. Each different integrity component has its own specialized inspection, maintenance and repair activities that keep it in good operating condition. The new method schedules these integrity activities for each individual component of each pipeline in the system. It also provides a practical way to minimize the amount of data that is required to successfully administer the integrity program.
After integrity activities have been scheduled and implemented, the new approach can be used to manage them effectively. A new concept of exposure rather than risk is proposed. It provides clear and measurable statement of goals for integrity management. It is useful for prioritizing activities and for deciding which projects can be postponed in order to stay within budgetary limitations.