There are countless risks associated with power plant operations. For example, the risk of equipment failure is present in virtually every power plant system. In some cases, the risk is very low and could even be inconsequential. In others, it’s much higher and could be catastrophic, not only to plant operation, but also to the health and safety of workers. Understanding where the greatest risks lie and acting to reduce the likelihood of an unwanted incident should be high on every plant manager’s to-do list.

Digital technology has made the task of managing risk much easier. Tools are available today that can organize data and help users evaluate where the most probable and/or consequential failures are likely to occur. For example, risk-based asset integrity management (AIM) software, which often uses data imported from a plant historian or other legacy software systems, can sort and prioritize data to identify areas of concern and provide insight for decision-makers.

There are several companies that offer AIM products. One is Antea, a company founded in Italy 32 years ago. Antea’s platform features a number of different modules that can be configured to meet the needs of clients in the oil & gas, power generation, and chemical process industries. Among the most important of these modules is IDMS (inspection data management system).

“IDMS is the key,” Floyd Baker, vice president for Antea North America, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. Baker explained that inspection data, such as from ultrasonic, radiographic, or other testing, can be collected and stored in the IDMS. This allows users to do a number of things, such as monitor and trend corrosion, schedule follow-up inspections, and perhaps most importantly, plan repairs. “We can forecast the useful life of that asset so that one can either make repairs beforehand or plan replacements,” said Baker.

Antea’s platform also includes an RBI (risk-based inspection) module. The company claims the most effective way to prevent unplanned downtime is with RBI. With RBI, inspection frequency is determined according to an asset’s individual risk level, which can dramatically reduce spending and focus resources on the most critical equipment.

Baker explained: “You wouldn’t want to be spending millions of maintenance dollars out inspecting a water tank, when in fact those dollars could be focused more on say, high-pressure piping or something that could cause a real catastrophic event. So, this methodology takes into account the real risk—how it’s going to affect them from a safety perspective, from a financial perspective, even from an environmental perspective—takes all of this stuff into several algorithms and calculates the risk that you assume on any given asset. When you look at that risk, say on a matrix, then you can actually figure out where you need to focus your maintenance dollars in order to reduce that risk.”

Risk is assessed in multiple ways. In some cases, including at some power plants, it’s done using a qualitative risk assessment model. “The end user—the plant operators—would actually provide input on what risk looks like to them,” Baker said. In other cases, such as at many refineries and chemical plants, risk is assessed quantitatively. That’s done using recommendations developed by the American Petroleum Institute (API), and published in its “Risk-based Inspection” API Recommended Practice (RP) 580 and “Risk-Based Inspection Methodology” API RP 581.

One of the benefits of utilizing digital technology is the transparency these tools provide. “It creates total transparency, especially for the C-suite level,” Baker said. “Using a platform like this actually creates the transparency that all people—up, down, and across the organization—can actually have access to key performance indicators and dashboards to understand better where that risk is at and what their teams are doing to mitigate that risk.”

To hear the full interview, which includes additional discussion about determining risk, digital twins, 2D and 3D visualization tools, mobility options, ways the system helps standardize information obtained from multiple inspectors, and more, listen to The POWER Podcast. Click on the SoundCloud player below to listen in your browser now or use the following links to reach the show page on your favorite podcast platform:

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Aaron Larson is POWER’s executive editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine).