This is a concept that might be hard to agree with. Especially since engineers are generally tasked with preventing failure.
What we’re trying to address here is the idea that engineers should consider failure is ‘normal’, so that then we do everything we can to prevent it.
The email sent by APGA on Monday 16 May included dates for the bridge failures which weren’t quite correct. (“the Quebec Bridge in 1915 and the West Gate Bridge the late 1960s“).
Mea culpa, the ad copy I sent was an incoherent hybridised version of the dates … which was just confusing, for those paying attention.
Here’s the real story:
The Quebec Bridge actually failed twice during construction, first in 1907… and then again in 1916 when they were trying to rebuild it!
The West Gate Bridge was of the innovative box girder design, and in the time period 1969 to 1973, there were at least four failures of box girder bridges during construction around the world. The design was so innovative that the bridges were failing faster than the design engineers could improve the design!
Tune in on June 15 to learn more about why building bridges is a challenge and what lessons we can still learn today from those events. And, how the failure themes on these bridges might apply to pipeline engineering, or, just being a conscientious professional engineer in whatever work you are doing.
There was a recent query about the requirements of AS 2885.1 for venting below-ground structures such as valve pits. It turns out the Standard is incomplete, because an editorial change in 1997 inadvertently omitted a key sentence and no-one noticed until 25 years later. Subsequent revisions of the Standard had applied the “ain’t broke, don’t fix it” principle and failed to notice the broken bit.
On the one hand the fact that no-one noticed could be interpreted as meaning that the relevant clause is in fact not very relevant at all. On the other hand, just because a requirement is not referred to very often doesn’t mean the Standard should ignore it. If and when you are designing a large below-ground pipeline structure the sealing or ventilation of it could be critically important to safety. In any case, others have possibly noticed the anomaly but had no easy way of raising the issue to get it fixed. AS2885.info provides an avenue for any user of the Standard to raise issues such as this.
So what was the problem? Clause 6.5.3 of AS 2885.1-2018 specifies that below-ground structures of less than 6 m3 volume may be sealed or vented, but is silent on larger structures. It turns out that AS 2885-1987 (note the year!) included a sentence that “Any other structure shall be ventilated.” (i.e. must not be sealed). However that sentence was lost from all subsequent revisions. More detail here.
The take-home message is that no matter how hard committees try to get AS 2885 exactly right there are things that slip through, but if you find anything that you think is incomplete, wrong, ambiguous, etc then send an email to email@example.com. And if you have to design a big pit, make sure it is ventilated in accordance with Part 1 Clause 6.5.2(d).
The previous post gathered a number of helpful responses from experienced industry people. But before getting to the technical responses there is an interesting sub-text to this topic, relevant to everyone in the pipeline industry. None of the following is intended to be critical of the current operator, quite the contrary – they have recognised a problem from the past and are working to resolve it.
It seems likely that somewhere in the 30 year history of this pipeline there has been a loss of important documentation (i.e. details of the lining, appropriate procedures for pigging). Like many pipelines it may have been through several ownership/management changes over its life and would not be the only pipeline to have lost records.
I once came across a pipeline for which the new owner’s bean-counters had decided not to incur the storage cost for any documents older than 7 years (the tax office rule). But the as-built documentation was older than that …
Of course the importance of keeping construction and maintenance documentation should be blindingly obvious, until it isn’t and something like this happens.
To the technical nitty-gritty about pigging a lined pipe:
There was a general consensus that wire brush pigging a lined pipe is not a good idea (no surprise there).
Lining damage may be indicated by epoxy flakes or dust found in debris from past pig runs, if there are relevant records or access to people who were involved at the time.
Whether lining damage matters depends on the purpose of the lining, which we don’t know. Lining is most commonly provided to reduce friction factor (increase flow and/or reduce pump/compressor cost). A flow lining which has been badly scratched is probably ineffective.
Flow analysis may permit back-calculation of friction factor and hence internal roughness of the pipe; there would be a lot of subtleties in the analysis, it would have to use transient flow modelling (unless the flow is perfectly steady), and may or may not be sufficiently precise to reach a clear conclusion.
Finally (and pedantically) to be strictly correct the lining is most unlikely to be FBE (Fusion Bonded Epoxy) – almost certainly liquid-applied epoxy.
On the basis of available information, we can’t say whether or not the existing lining has been damaged, but if the original reasons for lining the pipeline are still relevant and additional pigging runs are now needed, then the use of nylon brushes seems justified.
One of the difficult things about being an engineer (…besides everything you’ve just thought of…) is being able to recognise your own competency.
Knowing your own competency is essential, especially in high-risk industries like pipelines and other potentially hazardous industries. Similarly, knowing the competency of the others around you is essential too.
Not often contemplated is that there are two kinds of competencies: knowledge, and behavioural competencies.
A person can be very competent in knowledge, but behave terribly: unethically and without principles. That makes the knowledge, while useful, perhaps less value. On the other hand, you can have an ethical, principled person who keeps making mistakes. Neither is a good situation.
The contents of pipelines are, more often than not, flowing under pressure. A factor in the design and operation of pipelines, is whether it is designed to operate at “high” pressure or “low” pressure. The lines into our houses operate at a very low pressure. The cross-country transmission lines flow at a high pressure.
Those of us who work with pipelines are also, often, under pressure. Sometimes low pressure, and sometimes high pressure. There are budgets, schedules, compliance, and safety issues to face.
It’s a pressure we are proud to bear: we are serving society and responding to customer needs. But often we’re faced with difficult situation and scenarios, that test our principles, test our ability to handle the pressure.
There’s now a reference resource to help. The Australian Pipeline and Gas Association (APGA), in conjunction with the Future Fuels Cooperative Research Centre (FFCRC), have published a guidance document to help with the scenarios we face. It was put together by a group of industry leaders – many of whom are part of this AS2885.info wiki and blog.
Many years ago, when I had been working as a pipeline engineer for about 10 years, I started asking the question of people around me, “just what is a pipeline engineer?”.
In asking the question, I wanted to understand what was meant when they asked for a pipeline engineer… what were the expectations?
I wasn’t really sure if I really was one, even if my business card gave me that title.
Not because I didn’t know what I was doing, but because I was doing so many different tasks and roles on so many (pipeline) projects.
Pipeline engineering isn’t an established engineering discipline, not like the traditional disciplines such as civil or mechanical engineering.
Pipeline engineering is a combination of all the engineering disciplines, as well as land management, environmental studies, sociology, and economics. The most ambiguous statement you can make is, “I need a pipeline engineer for this”. You’ll need to be more specific than that.
And then there are the project engineers who are (sometimes) working on a long-distance, large-diameter pipeline project. It’s not a full time gig as a pipeline engineer, but suddenly you’re a project engineer on a pipeline project, and there’s a need to know all kinds of things about cross-country pipelines … even if your last project was a wind farm, or an offshore platform, or the process piping in a fenced-off industrial plant. Is being a project engineer on a few pipeline projects enough to make you a pipeline engineer? Do you need to “be” a pipeline engineer to work on a pipeline project? What’s the minimum a project engineer on a pipeline project needs to know?
All good questions.
So, at the moment, never mind: welcome to the pipeline engineers here, and the project engineers working on a pipeline project, and the land agents and the environmental managers, and the corrosion specialists and the designers and the operators and cost estimators and the construction engineers. Maybe we’re all just pipeliners in the end.
This blog, and the associated wiki (AS2885.info) are here to make the journey a little easier, especially when it comes to using and interpreting the masterpiece that is AS2885 (laying it on a little thick maybe).
By the way, you might be a pipeliner if you:
– know the difference between piping and a pipeline
– have a sticker that announces “I heart pipelines”
– have stood in a paddock looking around and towards the horizon
– know what the dope gang, pig launcher/receiver, scraper station, and joints are
– have a picture on your phone of a really steep slope. Bonus points if there’s a sideboom in the photo too
– miss the heady days of the expansion of 2010-2015 (that one’s Australia-specific)
– can’t help but notice the “Danger- Pipeline” signs when you’re out driving
– know there’s more to pipelines than you’ll ever know
Working with pipelines
Those of us who work with pipelines, pipeline engineer or not, understand that those pipelines go through other people’s backyards, public places, and where most of the population doesn’t know they are there.
The ‘people’ working with pipelines could be engineers, technicians, lawyers, construction workers, administrative staff, and so on. We, the pipeline people, have responsibilities to the public.
Other people’s backyard: that means the public. The ‘innocent bystander’.
They don’t do a hazard analysis or risk assessment before stepping out their front door to walk the dog.
We have a deep ethical requirement to consider public safety in our work. The goal every day is that ‘nothing happens’.
Our pipelines are safe and are basically invisible to the public. And they should stay that way.
Pipelines are buried out of sight and out of mind.
They crisscross our cities and farmlands and deserts. They carry energy or water or slurries or other liquids and gases from source to destination.
Pipelines transporting energy have had a stellar century, with millions of kilometers of pipelines now installed all over the world. While this may be a time of uncertainty, those millions of kilometers still need to be operated safely for the foreseeable future.
Designing, building, or operating a pipeline should be straightforward: dig a trench and put the pipe in it and let the contents flow, right? And yet it is much more complex than that.
The Pipeline Engineering Competency System (PECS) has been developed by industry volunteers, for new and even not-so-new players in the industry. The system describes about 240 competencies that a pipeline engineer might want to have. The details are available on the APGA website.
Here on the AS2885 blog, it is a great opportunity to introduce some of the more important competencies, and also to show the links between the competency and the parts or clauses of AS2885 where the knowledge is used. And even better – tie the knowledge buried in the competencies to stories and experiences and lessons learnt by others.
Stay tuned for the next little while and learn something new, or remind yourself about something you thought you knew…
A minor but important correction to the post on Use of alternative Standards: Towards the end of the second-last paragraph a vital “not” was left out. The affected sentence should read “Similarly ASME IX is written to meet the requirements of various standards including ASME B31.3 but does not meet all of the requirements of AS 2885.1.”
The omission has now been fixed on the website but this extra post is for those of you who read the blog via email.
A recent addition to AS885.info answered a question about weld procedure qualification using other Standards. This provides a nice opportunity to address a broader issue that is perhaps under-appreciated.
A general principle is that it is not appropriate to pick and choose from a mix of different Standards covering the same subject. Rather a single Standard must be chosen and used in its entirety. Certainly in the pipeline industry there is a range of Standards available for both pipeline systems as a whole (AS 2885, ASME B31 series, etc) and piping fabrication (AS 2885, AS 4041, ASME B31 series, ASME BPVC, etc).
In practice in Australia the choice of Standard is not usually a problem because AS 2885 is mandated in most States. Nevertheless AS 2885 does permit use of other Standards in some situations, particularly piping fabrication. The overall principle for use of other Standards is governed by Clause 1.6.3 of Part 0, which expresses the intent that the other Standard be used in full (you are familiar with Part 0, aren’t you?).
The reason for using a single Standard in its entirety is is to avoid the possibility of inconsistencies or omissions which might occur if requirements are taken from different Standards.
A lightly edited version of the AS2885.info post is copied below. Even if the specific details are not relevant to you it nicely illustrates the principle of not picking and choosing between Standards.
Versions of AS 2885.2 prior to 2020 allowed weld procedure qualification of AS 2885.1 pipeline assemblies to alternative standards (such as ASME IX). Is this still allowed? If not, what is the reason?
The qualification requirements for pipeline assemblies were tightened in the 2020 version of AS 2885.2. If the pipeline assembly is designed to AS 2885.1 then it must be welded using a procedure qualified to AS 2885.2. If it is designed to an alternative standard such as AS 4041 or ASME 31.3, then it can be welded using a procedure qualified to AS 3992 or ASME IX respectively, as long as the fracture testing requirements are met, material yield strength < 450 MPa and the WPS is approved by a Welding Engineer. The detailed requirements can be found in section 6.4.3.
When standards are written in parts, each of the parts needs to be used in conjunction with the other parts. This is the case with the AS 2885 series. In particular, Part 2 is written specifically considering the requirements of Part 1. ASME B31.3 has different design approaches, material requirements, NDT requirements etc. compared to AS 2885. Similarly ASME IX is written to meet the requirements of various standards including ASME B31.3 but does not meet all of the requirements of AS 2885.1. Therefore it is not appropriate to mix these standards
Previous to the 2020 version of AS 2885.2, qualification to alternative standards was allowed, such as ASME IX. This created many issues such as fracture control, NDT acceptance criteria, NDT methods, qualification ranges etc. and with improper application could result in welded joints that are not fit for purpose.
A new section has been added to AS2885.info to cover questions about welding, with five entries already (scroll down towards the bottom of the home page). Most topics relate to Part 2 but there are already a couple of questions arising from in-service welding and inspection under Part 3.