What is Mechanical Integrity?
Mechanical Integrity (MI) refers to the management of process equipment to ensure it is correctly designed and installed, properly maintained, and effectively operable. Across process industries, the phrase “mechanical integrity” is commonly used to reference the approaches followed to prevent loss of containment.
According to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Process Safety Management (PSM) regulation of Mechanical Integrity (MI) is one of the critical requirements for preventing or minimizing the consequences of catastrophic releases of toxic, reactive, flammable, or explosive chemicals. The regulation requires process facilities with hazardous fluids to have documented plans addressing the assets containing these highly hazardous chemicals. Specifically, the PSM plans must help facilities understand, identify, manage, and reduce the risks associated with operating.
To comply with this regulation, mechanical integrity programs are implemented across processing facilities handling toxic, flammable, reactive chemicals and products in gas or liquid form. MI programs strive to ensure fixed equipment maintains its integrity, including risk management and mitigation actions to prevent loss of containment/asset failure.
These programs are comprised of activities necessary to ensure assets are designed, installed, operated, and maintained to achieve desired performance safely and reliably. These activities include inspecting and testing equipment using recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices (RAGAGEP). MI programs include pressure vessels, storage tanks, piping systems, associated hardware (valves, fittings, etc.), relief devices, and emergency shutdown/control systems. In addition to Integrity Operating Windows (IOWs) and Corrosion Control Documents (CCDs), Risk-Based Inspection (RBI) is a commonly implemented mechanical integrity approach that develops inspection strategies for prioritized risk mitigation.
Why is Mechanical Integrity Valuable?
Mechanical Integrity programs are implemented among processing industries to ensure assets are not only designed and installed correctly but also capable of operating seamlessly to prevent plant failures, incidents, or hazards. In other words, mechanical integrity management practices work to ensure fixed equipment maintains its integrity and includes risk-mitigating actions to prevent loss of containment/asset failure.
Mechanical Integrity Limitations – The Journey for Continuous Improvement
Frequently, many initiatives are put into place to achieve MI efficiently. However, these initiatives are frequently ineffective because they are not properly implemented, maintained, rely on static data, and/or overlap with one another. Organizations suffering from these issues often are subject to unnecessary costs, uncontrolled documentation, poor communication, uninformed decisions, and wasted time and effort. All these issues combined prevent the MI efforts from reaching their intended value.
Data-Driven Reliability: The Next Step in Mechanical Integrity
Mechanical Integrity programs have helped asset-intensive industries become safer and more reliable. However, significant advancements in data acquisition, warehousing, modeling, and analytics are now allowing us to take the next leap in reliability analysis, allowing us to improve upon current MI approaches and optimize total maintenance and inspection spend.
Quantitative Reliability Optimization (QRO) is an approach developed to bridge the gap between reliability and mechanical integrity modeling through one integrated model which connects every relevant data point at a facility, allowing for real-time strategic decision-making and simulated analysis.
QRO shines when it comes to addressing maintenance and integrity aspects of asset management and can elevate mechanical integrity programs by enabling users to do things the following:
- Understand the real-time condition of all assets.
- Know that the data being collected provides the program with the best value.
- Understand the impact of every inspection or maintenance activity before it is performed.
- Real-time scenario modeling, including the implications of deferring a turnaround, feedstock changes, or introducing various capital projects.
- Drive effective decisions in the event of integrity or reliability-based operating excursions.