Over the last three years, with the support of the APIA Research and Standards Committee and the Energy Pipelines CRC, I have been running a project to benchmark the AS 2885 safety management study process against other recognised methods of pipeline risk assessment. The alternative methods were quantitative risk assessment (QRA) which is required by planning authorities in some states, and reliability based analysis (RBA) which is a relatively new technique developed by C-FER in Canada and included as in option in the Canadian pipeline standard CSA Z662.
SMS compared very well – it produced results no less conservative (and possibly slightly more conservative) than the alternative methods. I think is a very important outcome. If there is a serious pipeline failure resulting in multiple fatalities then any subsequent enquiry may well decide to look very closely at the basis of the risk assessment used to justify the pipeline design and operation, which means that the AS 2885 SMS process itself may come under close scrutiny. This benchmarking study has shown that it should stand up well, in that alternative approaches to risk assessment are unlikely to result in different decisions about whether the risk is tolerable or not.
Notwithstanding that the results of the comparison are similar in terms of deciding what risks are tolerable, the SMS process seems altogether superior as a practical method for use by pipeline engineers. There are a number of reasons for that:
- SMS does not require any specialist input but can be implemented by pipeline engineers in the normal course of their work
- Threat mitigation is an integral part of the process and in fact most mitigation is identified (and threats eliminated) before any risk assessment is necessary
- Threats identified as presenting an intolerable risk are the obvious targets for measures to reduce risk (in contrast with QRA which provides negligible guidance on what action is necessary if the risk is intolerable)
I presented the results of the benchmarking study at the APIA seminar in Brisbane last week. A PDF of the presentation is available here. The full report on the comparison study is titled “RP6.4-01 AS2885 SMS Benchmarking – Final Report” and is available on request to the EPCRC, but only to member companies of the Research and Standards Committee.