Introduction to Asset Integrity and Reliability


Asset integrity, the RBPS element that helps ensure that equipment is properly designed, installed in accordance with specifications, and remains fit for use until it is retired, is one of nine elements in the RBPS pillar of managing risk. This chapter describes the attributes of a risk-based management system for ensuring the integrity and reliability of critical equipment and safety systems. Section 12.2 describes the key principles and essential features of a management system for this element. Section 12.3 lists work activities that support these essential features, and presents a range of approaches that might be appropriate for each work activity, depending on perceived risk, resources, and organizational culture. Sections 12.4 through 12.6 include (1) ideas to improve the effectiveness of management systems and specific programs that support this element, (2) metrics that could be used to monitor this element, and (3) issues that may be appropriate for management review.

What Is It?

The asset integrity element is the systematic implementation of activities, such as inspections and tests necessary to ensure that important equipment will be suitable for its intended application throughout its life. Specifically, work activities related to this element focus on (1) preventing a catastrophic release of a hazardous material or a sudden release of energy and (2) ensuring high availability (or dependability) of
critical safety or utility systems that prevent or mitigate the effects of these types of events. 

Why Is It Important?

Designing and maintaining equipment that it is fit for its purpose and functions when needed is of paramount importance to process industries. Maintaining containment of hazardous materials and ensuring that safety systems work when needed are two of the primary responsibilities of any facility.

Where/When Is It Done?

Asset integrity activities range from technical meetings involving experts seeking to advance the state-of-the art in equipment design, inspection, testing, or reliability, to a plant operator on routine rounds spotting leaks, unusual noises or odors, or detecting other abnormal conditions. However, this element primarily involves (1) inspections, tests, preventive maintenance, predictive maintenance, and repair activities that are performed by maintenance and contractor personnel at operating facilities and (2) quality assurance processes, including procedures and training, that underpin these activities. Asset integrity element activities occur at many places and extend throughout the life of the facility.

Who Does It?

Asset integrity activities occur at several organizational levels. Industry sponsored technical committees and organizations are continuously working to advance the state of knowledge regarding proper design and inspection, test, and preventive maintenance (ITPM) practices to help ensure that equipment is fit for service at commissioning, and remains fit for service throughout its life. Companies (or business units) often establish centers of excellence in the asset integrity field, establish corporate standards, and promote efforts to continuously improve the safety and reliability of process equipment. At an operating facility, the asset integrity element activities are an integral part of day-to-day operation involving operators, maintenance employees, inspectors, contractors, engineers, and others involved in designing, specifying, installing, operating, or maintaining equipment.

What Are the Anticipated Work Products?

Asset integrity element work products include:

  • Reports and data from initial inspections, tests, and other activities to verify that equipment is fabricated and installed in accordance with design specifications and is fit for service at startup.
  • Results from ongoing ITPM tasks, performed by trained or certified personnel and based on written procedures that conform to generally accepted standards, that help ensure that equipment remains fit for service.
  • Controlled repairs and adjustments to equipment by trained personnel using appropriate written procedures and instructions.
  • A system to control maintenance work, repair parts, and maintenance materials needed for the work to help ensure that equipment remains fit for service.
  • A quality assurance program that helps prevent equipment failures that could result from (1) use of faulty parts/materials or (2) improper fabrication, installation, or repair methods (e.g., improperly supporting the engine as discussed at the start of this chapter).

The primary objective of the asset integrity element is to help ensure reliable performance of equipment designed to contain, prevent, or mitigate the consequences of a release of hazardous materials or energy. Although proper execution of work activities associated with this element requires a high level of human performance, the ultimate work product for this element is reliable and predictable equipment operation. 

How Is It Done?

An effective asset integrity program depends on management ensuring that:

  • Equipment and systems are properly designed, fabricated, and installed.
  • The unit is operated within the design limits of the equipment.
  • ITPM tasks are conducted by trained and qualified individuals using approved procedures and completed as scheduled.
  • Repair work conforms to design codes, engineering standards, and manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Appropriate actions are taken to address deficiencies, regardless of how they are discovered.