Introduction to Mechanical Integrity

Mechanical integrity programs are implemented among heavy 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 assure fixed equipment maintains its operability and includes risk-mitigating actions to prevent loss of containment and asset failure.

Let’s take a look at what mechanical integrity is, what its limitations are, and how the future of asset integrity is a data-driven approach.

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 heavy process industries, the phrase “mechanical integrity” is commonly used to reference the approaches followed to prevent loss of containment.

According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Process Safety Management (PSM) regulation, mechanical integrity is one of the key 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 heavy processing industries. MI programs work to ensure fixed equipment maintains its operability and they include risk-mitigating actions to prevent loss of containment and asset failure.

These programs are comprised of activities necessary to ensure assets are designed, installed, operated, and maintained so that desired performance can be achieved safely and reliably. These activities include inspection and testing of equipment using recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices (RAGAGEP). MI programs encompass assets such as pressure vessels, storage tanks, piping systems, and associated hardware (valves, fittings, etc.), relief devices, and emergency shutdown/control systems. Risk-Based Inspection is a commonly implemented mechanical integrity approach that develops inspection strategies for prioritized risk-mitigation.

Mechanical Integrity Limitations – The Journey for Continuous Improvement

Oftentimes, many initiatives are put into place to efficiently achieve mechanical integrity excellence. However, these initiatives are frequently ineffective because they are not properly implemented, are worked on in siloes, and/or overlap one another, among other issues. Organizations suffering from these issues often suffer from unnecessary costs, uncontrolled documentation, poor communication, uninformed decisions, and wasted time and efforts.

Data-Driven Reliability: The Next Step in Mechanical Integrity

Mechanical integrity programs have helped asset intensive industries become safer and more reliable. However, major advancements in data acquisition, warehousing, modeling, and analytics are now providing the opportunity to take the next leap in reliability analysis, allowing us to improve upon current mechanical integrity approaches and optimizing total maintenance and inspection spend.

We believe this leap is being made possible through Quantitative Reliability Optimization (QRO). QRO is an approach to reliability modeling that connects every relevant reliability data point at a complex facility to one integrated model, allowing for near real-time complex decision making and simulated analysis.

QRO shines when it comes addressing maintenance and integrity aspects of asset management and can elevate mechanical integrity programs by allowing users to do things such as:

  • Understand near real-time condition of all assets.
  • Understand the impact of every inspection or maintenance activity performed.
  • Understand the impact of every piece of data that is currently being gathered or could possibly be gathered in the future.
  • Near 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

 

Learn more about Quantitative Reliability Optimization (QRO).

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