Apologies for the long silence. After a couple of weeks away visiting family I spent last week in San Francisco at the Joint Technical Meeting of the international pipeline industry. I feel that it’s important to report on this event, even though reading about a conference you didn’t attend is perhaps a bit dry. You really need to be there to appreciate the buzz of interacting with like-minded people from around the world, and to recognise both the similarities and the differences in the pipeline industry in different parts of the globe.
To start at the beginning … there is a tripartite agreement between PRCI (Pipeline Research Council International, mainly North American), EPRG (European Pipeline Research Group) and APIA RSC (Research and Standards Committee). The parties collaborate on research, share research results, and hold a Joint Technical Meeting (JTM) every two years. PRCI and EPRG have been cooperating for over 30 years while Australia joined in only about six years ago, but we are pulling our weight or more.
The format of the meeting is evolving and becoming more truly collaborative. Proceedings used to consists almost entirely of presentations of research results with only informal and unstructured discussions on research cooperation. But in 2009 workshop sessions were introduced so that delegates could jointly identify and agree on the areas in which research priority is highest. That pattern continued this year.
The San Francisco program comprised 30 technical presentations and eight workshops. The scope of both technical sessions and workshops was broad:
- Mechanical damage
- Offshore/subsea design and integrity
- SCC sizing and assessment
- Human factors, workforce development and knowledge retention
- Advanced design
- Girth weld properties, performance and assessment
- Corrosion protection, assessment and management
- Pipeline integrity
The technical sessions are not streamed so all delegates can learn about developments in all areas. However the workshops were grouped in two sessions of four concurrent topics, since it is appropriate for workshop discussions to take place in smaller groups of people with special interests.
On the last morning the workshop chairs reported back with their group’s recommendations for the next round of research. Each workshop had 3-4 recommendations, and for each recommendation there was a nominated organisation and individual to be the “champion” to carry it forward into development of a full research proposal.
Because the research is confidential to members of the participating organisations it isn’t appropriate for me to list either the current projects or those that have been recommended. However there will be a brief report on the JTM at the Pipeline Research Forum in Wollongong on Tuesday 7 June.
On the subject of greatest interest to me (the organisational aspects of pipeline safety) it was gratifying that there was a strong attendance at the workshop on “Human Factors, Workforce Development and Knowledge Retention”. The session was capably chaired by Jan Hayes, EPCRC lead researcher in this area. An interesting diversity of views was expressed with some people fully appreciating the importance of safety culture while others didn’t grasp why just having rules and procedures is not necessarily sufficient. There was also important discussion of the training and development of pipeline engineers (another topic in which the Australian industry has been making its mark as described recently in this blog).
Three really interesting new research projects were recommended by this workshop. In line with the JTM confidentiality requirements I’m not going to list them here, but suffice to say that all of them are topics of great interest to the Australian industry and we are probably leading the other members of the tripartite in at least two of them.
All in all it was a great meeting, rewarding both personally and for the industry as a whole. The next JTM will be in Sydney in 2013 – worth making the effort to be there!