The 2012 International Pipeline Conference is coming to an end. As usual there are about a dozen parallel tracks but I have spent almost the entire conference following the risk and reliability track (apart from a useful all-day tutorial on fracture mechanics, partly filling a long-standing omission in my undergraduate training).
Perhaps the most interesting observation on the risk topic is the great difference between the approaches used in Australia and the northern hemisphere:
- There is a difference of emphasis. Our SMS process is built around the design phase of a pipeline (but of course continues to apply while the pipeline is in operation). In the northern hemisphere risk assessment seems to be mainly centred around integrity management of existing pipelines; application at the design phase appears a bit novel. I suspect this different emphasis reflects each side’s perceptions of the greatest issues facing their pipelines.
- More strikingly (for me at least), there is a very strong focus on quantitative methods in the northern hemisphere. Or at least, almost all the presentations at IPC were very much about quantitative methods. And of course our SMS process uses a simple qualitative risk evaluation. SMS might appear almost amateurish and subjective in comparison to the dazzling sophistication of numerical modelling, except that it works and takes minimal effort in comparison.
As discussed previously, I am very uneasy about the quantitative approach to risk assessment. Since that earlier post I have had both stimulating off-line feedback and the benefit of immersion in risk issues here at IPC. My views on quantitative methods have if anything become more entrenched but for deeper philosophical reasons than discussed earlier. I will have a lot more to write about this when I get my thoughts properly in order.
Because I have been lurking in the in the IPC risk sessions (located in the remotest meeting room in the vast conference centre) I have hardly crossed paths with the other Australians here. However those I have spoken to report that presentations by Australian researchers from the Energy Pipelines CRC have been well received. And of course there are great benefits to both researchers and practising engineers in the networking opportunities available at such a well-attended conference.
IPC is a most valuable conference. I’ve been inspired, and expect to be back in 2014.