by Ted Metcalfe
It may have been Einstein who famously said “The more I learn, the more I realise how much I don’t know.“
More simply put, “We don’t know what we don’t know”.
Gaining awareness of things which have not turned out well for others helps us to get better at what we do so that we don’t repeat mistakes others have made.
Industry codes and standards record the wisdom and experience accumulated by many engineers over many years for the benefit of all engineers, and these need to be updated regularly for various reasons including knowledge of things which have not turned out well.
In his book The Making of an Expert Engineer, Prof. James Trevelyan states at Page 57:
Technical standards have been created through the experience of other engineers and are carefully negotiated within each specialised engineering discipline, striking a balance between restrictions to promote safety and ease of use, while also avoiding constraints that would inhibit innovation and design freedom.
That’s an excellent description of what the engineers on our Standards committees do all the time.
In the Australian pipeline industry we have an excellent Standard (AS 2885) to work with because we revise it regularly to keep up to date with new information. Awareness of poor outcomes is one of the things that has informed the continued evolution of the Australian Standard in a way that pipeline engineers in other countries envy.
Here’s some examples of links between past events and the current Standard:
Part 1 Clause 13.2 (a) requires project design records include as-built data.
Example: Due to a contractual issue, the as-built survey data for an HDD was not provided to the client. A few years later, during third-party works near the HDD, the original design drawings were assumed to be accurate. They were not. The third-party works punctured the pipeline far below the surface, and the client ended up replacing the entire HDD string.
The AS2885 suite requires detailed attention to SCC and Fracture Control.
In 1982, a major rupture of the Moomba Sydney Pipeline over some distance prompted a lot of research and investigation associated with Stress Corrosion Cracking and the importance of Fracture Control to arrest running fractures. The outputs of the research and investigations have resulted in revisions to AS 2885 in several areas.
AIV and FIV (Vibration)
AS2885.1 now includes clear delineation between “linepipe” and “piping”, and makes specific reference to AIV and FIV as potential failure modes. The unexpected discovery of an integrity threat on a relatively new pipeline system, and the research associated with mitigation of that threat, have now been incorporated in to AS2885 as revisions in several areas including the vibration Appendix.
Knowledge of such events leads to a better understanding of the intent of the Standard, but sometimes the background for changes in the Standard is not widely known by those who use it.
Sharing of stories about things which have not turned out as planned is one way to increase awareness for better understanding of the intent of the Standard.
Sometimes that requires sharing stories with others about things that we ourselves have not done well, which can be embarrassing.
Despite the reluctance to share such stories, the AS2885.info team and others believe that we can and should get better at helping others learn through sharing stories.
If you are intrigued by the concept of sharing stories to help others better understand what went wrong and avoid making the same mistakes, please contact us.