Who is needed to perform a RAM Study?

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In the last post, we discussed what is needed to perform a RAM analysis. Today’s post will try to answer – Who is needed to perform a RAM Study?

Just as with our previous post as the asset stage changes, the requirements of the people involved will change. During the design-phase, we will typically rely on documentation and try to extract the most information from it. Sensitivity analysis will cover for the lack of information that we have. During the operational-phase, we will have more information which will allow to extend the RAM model and transforms it to a truly Asset Performance Management.

As a minimum requirement, the following roles should be consulted and/or actively take part of the process of building up a RAM model:

  • Reliability Engineer
  • Process Engineer
  • Process Safety and Risk Engineer
  • Production Engineer

During the operational-phase, the following roles could provide further information to develop an APM model:

  • Maintenance Engineer
  • Integrity Engineer
  • Operations Representative
  • Risk Advisor

Plant - Who is needed to perform a RAM Study - roles

Required Roles to Perform a RAM analysis

It is important to note that certain team members may be required to participate in small parts of the process, as the information required is limited. Some members might actually have the required skills and knowledge of a specific discipline, outside her/his current scope, which will free other resources e.g. a former maintenance engineer who has recently been moved to the reliability role.

The following section will summarise the roles required to perform a RAM study. We will start by looking at roles needed during the design-phase and move to those needed during the operational-phase:

The Roles

The Roles: Reliability Engineer

The Reliability engineer is a core team member and his/her job is to ensure the successful implementation of RAM analysis. This role is fundamental to the process, ensuring all information is captured and handled with quality. This includes managing and treating reliability data which is one of the most important steps in the whole process. It is also expected to have a deep-understanding of how the overall reliability of a plant can be affected by the impact of operating conditions and maintainability strategies

The reliability engineer will also act as an interpreter – translating from methods from other disciplines to reliability methods e.g. from a Process Flow Diagrams to Reliability Block Diagram. Another important part of this role is constantly teaching reliability concepts to non-reliability practitioners. The importance of the latter cannot be stress enough. Most of the studies I’ve participated, I’ve noticed a gap on the understanding of what a reliability analysis is; this gap must be closed as early as possible so everybody can benefit from the RAM study.

The reliability engineer has an active role throughout all phase of the asset’s life.

The Roles: Process engineer

The Process Engineer is also fundamental to a RAM study. The knowledge around how the process would react to potential events is central to RAM studies that incorporate flow modelling.

The information gathered by the process engineer should include variations in process conditions due to normal operating events (e.g. start-ups and shutdowns) but also abnormal occurrences such as shutdowns, slow-downs and so on. In addition, potential changes should be highlighted to cover future operating conditions (e.g. upstream: introduction of new wells, increased water cut, increased GOR, souring of reservoir, etc. downstream: change of crude oil supplier, inclusion/exclusion of products for sale). It is important to remember that RAM models are typically aiming at forecasting the performance so understand future conditions is vital.

The process engineer will also contribute with data around the composition and variability of all process fluids/gases as well as their toxicity and flammability. With this information both the reliability and risk engineer can discuss/assess/evaluate the risk of failures in specific systems of the process plant.

The process engineer has an active role throughout all phases of the asset’s life.

The Roles: Production engineer

The involvement of the production engineer will be less intensive when compared to other roles. However, the information provided is extremely valuable for a RAM model which integrates flow modelling. The production engineer will typically be responsible for monitoring and evaluate the production and efficiency of the plant. In simple lines, the production engineer knows how much production is expected from the plant thus essential to our RAM study.

The main information gathered should be Reservoir data and Production Target, for upstream operations; and Crude oil supplier and Production Target for several streams, for downstream operations.

The Roles: Process Safety and Risk engineer

In the context of a RAM study, this role will actively engage on describing the impact on safety for specific events. Some failure events will not cause the production to shut down but they might lead to unsafe operations. With this information, the team will be able to capture safety-critical events and translate it into production-critical events. For example, a failure in the firefighting water system does not cause a direct impact to production but it will require the system to shut down because of the unsafe condition to operate.

Whenever a question related to the safety arises, the process safety and risk engineer should be consulted.

Some roles will be more active during operations-phase:

The Roles: Maintenance Engineer

During the design-phase, there is little information available regarding the maintenance strategy. As a minimum prerequisite, it is expected that an initial idea of the required resources is implemented in the RAM model. This would yield to an early assessment of the potential bottlenecks.

As the asset moves into the operational-phase, the maintenance engineer can contribute by:

  • Assisting on the implementation of the designed maintenance strategies to the model;
  • Providing the existing plan for Planned Maintenance work
  • Providing information on how the maintenance team would respond to equipment faults;
  • Providing information related to operational expenditure (OpEx) per resource so the RAM model can help with the prediction of maintenance budget

As one will notice, the role of the maintenance engineer starts small but grows as the asset gets into the operational-phase. That said, after defining the maintenance strategy, the information required would only refer to updating existing assumptions.

The Roles: Inspection engineer

The inspection engineer will empower the analysis to evolve and account for condition-based maintenance strategy. The inspection engineer will be gathering data on the condition of equipment in the study. It is important to note that condition data should include both design condition and current condition. This allows the team to understand how the integrity of plant is developing.

This starts to go beyond the traditional RAM model and typically requires an Asset Integrity Management System to control the extra information such as Synergi Plant. An Integrity Management system will allow the RAM model to incorporate inspection plan derived from, for example, Risk-Based Inspection and Reliability-Centred Maintenance studies.

The benefit of adding this extra information relates to prioritising inspection tasks that would yield more return on investment. This can be easily identified by balancing the cost of a failure to the cost of performing inspections.

Similarly to the maintenance engineer, the inspection engineer involvement will star small but grow as the asset gets into the operational-phase.

The Roles: Operations Representative

The Operations Representative is a core team member with effect during the operational-phase. This role typically brings to the table vast knowledge about the plant operations. This includes providing information on occurrences when the process deviated from the limits of the process condition and what was the impact – remember that reliability is a function of the manner a system is operated. If the process allows for multiple routes of production (e.g. refineries), the operations representative should be able to identify what is the new operation condition. Another expected contribution from the operations representative is to assess the consequence scenarios for failure modes under consideration so they are credible i.e. speak of how the plant will actually react.

For example, for revamping studies, the operations representative needs to consulted to advise on the impact of changes to process or equipment modifications;

Furthermore, the operations representative could also bring some real-life experience to the table by, for example, providing input with respect to shut down impacts of equipment (i.e. system shutdown, plant shutdown, etc.); and,

This list is not extensive and I would love hear comments on your experience when dealing with RAM studies.

Finally, you can see that as part of ever-green process of updating data, the resources required are lesser. Some of this process can be automated which will free resources to focus on what they need to – making informed decisions.

Big thanks to Daragh Stokes for reviewing this text!

Author: Victor Borges

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