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Risk Based Inspection Application on Refinery and Processing

Ren-Rong Chang1*, Chi-Min Shu1, Ming-Kuen Chang1 and Kung-Nan Lin2

Department of Safety, Health and Environmental Engineering, National Yunlin University of

Science and Technology, 123, University Road, Section 3, Touliu, Yunlin, Taiwan 640, ROC

Department of Marine Engineering, National Taiwan Ocean University, 2, Pei-Ning Road,

Keelung, Taiwan 20224, ROC

The complex and extensive amount of piping in refineries and processing plants poses
considerable difficulty in inspection planning. Under-inspection or over-inspection might occur due to
either the lack of jurisdictional requirements on the inspection interval and on the method for piping, or
the inspection interval being only based on piping service classifications in the existing regulations,
such as API 570. This could result not only in much loss of resources, but also unacceptable risks.
To alleviate the piping risk level, more and more companies, since the last decade, have adopted
risk based inspection (RBI) methodology to reduce risk and to improve cost benefits. This study
applied RBI methodology to optimize the inspection strategy of the piping in a refinery and
petrochemical plants. Two cases with quantitative RBI methodology were corroborated better in terms
of risk and lost reductions than that without the methodology.
Keywords: Piping risk level; Risk based inspection; Inspection strategy; Quantitative RBI

Corresponding author: rr2017@ms24.hinet.net (Ren-Rong Chang)

Tel.: +886-7-223-4179 ext. 100; fax: +886-7-223-4169


Statistical results [1] have shown that piping accounts for most of the equipment in refineries and
petrochemical plants, primarily because an enormous amount is involved and of greater complexity
than other types of equipment. However, the effective implementation of piping inspection relies
highly on skilled inspectors who are familiar with working environments.

For a long time, a common problem in these industries has been the lack of regulatory
requirements on piping safety and the inspection interval.

Because of both complex operational

environments and expensive inspection costs, this study aimed at determining how to appropriately
identify high-risk piping for inspection planning reference. According to existing codes, all piping is
categorized into three classes [2]. The frequency of inspection and scheme for simplified piping
classification are established on the basis of fluid content in piping, or the former is selected according
to the half remaining life. However, the actual conditions and possible risk distribution of the piping
are generally not considered.

Internationally, equipment inspection tends to be directed toward risk based inspection (RBI) [3].
The optimal inspection frequency is determined according to risk exposure, which can be used to avoid
any unacceptable risks from under-inspection of some items or from over-inspection of the majority of
items. The main objective of RBI is to exploit the limited resources in coping with the significant risks.
In many practices, 80% of the risk exposure usually lies in only 20% of equipment items [4]. In the
1990s, the industrial goal was to control risk at reasonable cost.

This article, through two case studies, attempts to incorporate the concepts of RBI with the
corrosion loop concept [5] and optimal next inspection [6], both of which are based on the risk results.

RBI concept on processing piping

1. Establishment of database. The integrated information for piping inspection should at least consist
of the following data but not be limited to it. It should be adjusted based upon real plant situations,
such as:

Basic data: design and operating data, such as diameter, thickness, material, thermal insulation,
inventory, design/operating temperature, design/operating pressure, Maximum Allowable Working
Pressure (MAWP), stream density, start-up date, machining and welding relevant information, etc.
Process descriptions: Block Flow Diagram (BFD), Process Flow Diagram (PFD) and Piping and
Instrumentation Diagram (P&ID) should include streams, piping identification numbers,
design/operating conditions, isolations, and so on.
Inspection histories: corrosion control and monitoring system of piping and inspection histories that

should be reviewed whenever necessary.

The data also need verifying and updating regularly, as the required inspection, repair and process
or installation change.

2. Creation of corrosion loop and adoption of RBI. A corrosion loop is defined as a grouping of the
piping which has been exposed to similar corrosion mechanisms, operating conditions and material
group [7, 8], as delineated in Figure 1. It may be directly applied to similar internal fluid streams with
material combinations to track the damaged mechanisms. The corrosion loop is also a useful feature
for inspection planning to determine the potential and existing corrosion types.

Then, effective

inspection and corrosion rate evaluation can be implemented based on the defined corrosion loop. By
means of the corrosion loop, an inspector can understand the corrosion mechanisms of piping more
clearly. In practice, this will enhance inspection efficiency as well as plant safety.

RBI is a systematic analysis that establishes and ranks the risk levels associated with the operation
of each of the piping [3]. Accordingly, RBI identifies the 10 to 20% of items that carry 80 to 95% of
the risk exposure of the equipment [9]. If the target of inspection is reasonably low, the total risk can
be markedly reduced, with its applicability and cost reduction being enhanced.

In theory, the risk in RBI is defined as the likelihood of failure (LOF) times the consequence of
failure (COF). Therefore, the essential element of RBI methodology, as demonstrated in Figure 2, is
an assessment of the LOF and the COF on piping, i.e., hazardous, environmental and production loss.
There are various approaches to RBI analysis; basically, there are three analytical levels: qualitative,
semi-quantitative and detailed quantitative.

Qualitative analysis [3] can be performed by using a simple workbook to audit the LOF as well as
the COF. In practice, the LOF is evaluated from the influencing factors, such as amount of equipment,
possible damaged mechanisms, effectiveness of inspection, current equipment conditions, the nature of
the process, and equipment design. Damaged mechanisms include general corrosion, fatigue cracking,
low temperature exposure, and high temperature degradation and so on.

In determining the

consequence category, RBI considers two major potential hazards: fire/explosion risk and toxic risk.
Here, fire/explosion risk is related to the chemical and physical properties of the chemicals, leakage,
discharge amount and type, protection measures, etc. Toxic risk is associated with the quantity and
toxicity, dispersion range, population density and the like. The risk level of each piping can be
identified by the likelihood category and the consequence category. The risk results can be used to
locate areas of potential concern and to decide which portions of the process unit require the most
inspection attention or other methods of risk reduction. It can also be executed to determine whether a
full quantitative study is justified or not.

In addition to the qualitative RBI method, the semi-quantitative method takes into account the
inspection results, such as corrosion rate, historical records, and maintenance information and so on.
Under certain circumstances, the method can lessen, in a risk assessment, the discrepancies induced by
a persons subjective judgments.

According to the potential losses, the quantitative method could be used to determine risk levels.
The LOF, which is the generic failure frequency (GFF) for the specific equipment type, is based on a
compilation of available equipment failure histories from various industries, multiplied by an
equipment modification factor and management system evaluation factor. The COF can be assessed
with the losses, i.e., hazard, environment, impact on business interruption and maintenance expenses,
etc. Figure 3 depicts the risk calculation concept. In a word, the quantitative risk can directly assist the
inspector on the risk exposure.

3. Determination on the optimal inspection frequency. According to API 570, the inspection
frequency should be scheduled at the half remaining life or be established on the basis of fluid content
as suggested in Table 1 [3], whichever is shorter.

However, determining the inspection frequency may possibly not only lead to under-inspection of
some high-risk items, but may also waste resources on many low-level risk items. Therefore, the most
prudent inspection interval should be dictated by combining the piping risk level with inspection
effectiveness. The confidence rating is given as less than 0.5 for high-level risk items, and more than
0.5 for low-level risk items [5]. Inspection effectiveness means the possibility and veracity of the
inspection method, which relates to the inspectors personal capability and fitness for the selected
inspection method. The highest inspection effectiveness is always defined as 1.0. Accordingly, the
inspection interval can be expressed as Equation (1) as follows:


NID - next inspection date (year)
C - confidence rating (value range 0-1, based on the risk ranking)

- inspection effectiveness ratio (value range 0-1)

Two cases study with RBI methodology on processing piping

In fact, most risk occurs in a small amount of equipment, which is mostly based on full plant
practice results. That means the possible risk distribution of the piping is generally not considered. To
elucidate the difference between full plant and piping on RBI results, two case studies for piping
quantitative RBI were conducted in this article.
summarized as follows:

The information on the two plants could be

Plant arrangements:
RBI study for fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) unit in the refinery plant, a thirty years
service life with 585 piping for analysis.
RBI study for propane unit in the chemical plant, a 14 years service life with 208
piping for analysis.
Estimate steps:
Data collection Site survey Data confirmed Piping history reviewed
Define corrosion loop Define plant information Quantitative RBI analysis
Final ranking results.
Estimate software:
With DNV ORBIT [10] Onshore software for quantitative RBI methodology.

This study evaluated the risk of two units based on the probability of failure of the piping that
could result in a leak and hence cause safety and financial consequences. It also took into account the
current confidence in the condition based on the nature of the inspections previously performed and
their ability to characterise the extent and the rate of the different damage mechanisms.

This is

achieved through application of the DNV/API RBI methodology [3] using the software [10] version
2.3.14 for analysis. The risk overview is presented at Table 2 and Figure 4 and 5. Figure 4 shows 20%
piping carried 75% risk, for the FCC unit, and Figure 5 illustrates 10% piping shared 95% risk for the
propane unit.

Based on the two cases studies, certain significant results could be summarized as follows: (1)
piping also had similar risk distribution, compared with the full plant. That means most of the risk was
allocated among the less amount of facility as piping. (2) It shows the risk in the refinery was higher
than that of the chemical plant, as it had more complex operations, contents and higher potential
corrosion mechanism. (3) Due to lack of inspection history for most of the piping, an unexpected
failure occurred when degradation happened faster than expected; that was one of the reasons for the
existence of the higher risk. And (4), risk information can provide a guideline for inspection planning.

An inspection program can affect the value of the LOF, not the consequence. No matter how much
inspection is performed the consequence is unchanged. Therefore, where a high-risk item is driven by
the consequence value, other actions may be considered, such as more precise analysis, quantitative
risk assessment (QRA), upgrading of mitigation system, and modifying fossil emergency response
plan. Furthermore, we assume that highly efficient inspection be performed on the higher risk items.
Table 3 displays the calculated results for the risk distribution in both cases.

Based on qualitative RBI results, we found 77% risk reduction of the FCC unit in the refinery plant
of interest after performing an efficiency inspection, and the risk cost decreased from USD 254,396,123
to USD 59,207,499. Meanwhile, another propane unit in the chemical plant also had 19% risk
reduction, together with the risk cost down from USD 12,110,875 to USD 10,264,074.


It is essential that high-level risk piping be properly managed, and that sufficient resources,
manpower and budget, be allocated to this effort. The RBI methodology includes a ranking process for
piping LOF and COF. It also consists of the corrosion loop concept, which points out the potential
corrosion mechanism for guiding the selection of inspection method. Since there is a very large variety
and quantity of piping, and limited resources for inspectors (time, budget and manpower), a powerful
management system should be implemented for establishing data, schedule planning, keeping a history,
conducting life analysis and sharing information.

Currently, a general piping inspection strategy only focuses on the control of piping risk to
proactively ensure safe operations and production efficiency.

An integral, sound inspection

methodology on piping should consist of not only an efficient inspection strategy and reasonable
inspection planning, but also reliable inspection methods, professional analysis and continuous
improvements of the piping inspection management system.

In sum, it should consider safety,

efficiency, quality, even better management and cost control. We aim at when, where and how to
inspect properly. It follows then that an optimal inspection strategy and tactics for piping, founded on
the ideal inspection philosophy, is imperative.
[1] Mahoney, D., Large Property Damage Losses in the Hydrocarbon Chemical Industries - A
Thirty Years Review, 17th edn. J&H Marsh & McLennan, USA, 1998.
[2] American Petroleum Institute, API Standard 570, Inspection, Repair, Alteration, and Rerating
of In-Service Piping System, Supplement 2. Washington, D.C., USA, December 1997.
[3] American Petroleum Institute, API Publication 581, Base Resource Documentation for Risk
Based Inspection, 1st edn. Washington, D.C., USA, May 2000.
[4] SIEP 98-5214, Maintenance Management Guideline: Risk Based Inspection in Explorations
and Production, Shell International Exploration and Production, B.V.

Amsterdam, The

Netherlands, USA, 1998.

[5] Chang, R. R. & Chen, J. J., Risk Management Application on Refinery Piping Inspection, The
17th Annual Conference of Asia Pacific Occupational Safety and Health Organization. Taipei,
Taiwan, ROC, pp. 404-414, 2001.
[6] Chang, R. R., et al. Remaining Life Prediction of Error Caused by Temperature Effects in
Ultrasonic Thickness Measurement, 12th Annual Conference of Non-Destructive Testing,

Section 4C-A18, Taiwan, ROC, April, 2004.

[7] Festen, M. M. & Ravedtein, M. H., Guideline for Risk Based Inspection, Shell Research and
Technical Service, Hague, The Netherlands, 1997.
[8] Jansen, H. J. M., Fasten, M. M. & Pots, B. F. M., Piping Risk Based Inspection and Outline of
Methodology, Shell International Exploration and Production, B.V., Amsterdam, The
Netherlands, 1998.
[9] Lee, C. G. & Teo, Y. S., Det Norske Veritas, RBI Study for the Ammonia Storage Plant,
Taiwan Fertilizer Kaohsiung Ammonia Terminal, Taiwan, ROC, 2001.
[10] Det Norske Veritas, ORBIT RBI Onshore, Version 2. 3. 14., UK, 2001.


Corrosion 50 mpy



CUI Corrosion 50 mpy

Corrosion 40 mpy




Figure 1 Schematic example of corrosion loop.



Corrosion loop and

type determination



Risk priority and


Risk reduction

Piping inspection

Figure 2 RBI methodology for a typical piping system.



Generic Failure

Likelihood of Failure

Consequence of
Failure (COF)

Injury ($)
Likelihood factor

mechanisms and


Item repair
($) +X

Adjacent repair ($)


Figure 3 A concept of quantitative RBI.

Figure 4 Risk distribution of 585 piping in the FCC unit.

Figure 5 Risk distribution of 208 piping in the propane unit.


Table 1 Recommended maximum inspection interval [2]

Type of circuit

Thickness measurements

Visual external

Class 1

5 years

5 years

Class 2

10 years

5 years

Class 3

10 years

10 years

Injection points

3 years

By piping class

Soil-to-air interfaces


By piping class

NA Not Applicable.

Table 2 Two cases of RBI study results

Chemical plant

Refinery plant

(Propane unit)

(FCC unit)




Risk ranking






















Table 3 Risk ranking distribution after highly efficiency inspection

Chemical plant
Risk ranking

Refinery plant

(Propane unit)
Numbers of



(FCC unit)
Numbers of