Mechanical Integrity and API 510, 570, 653 Inspectors: Are Your Assets Safe to Operate?

It might sound a little over-the-top to say I help confirm the safety of workers and protect the environment every day, but it’s true. Braun Intertec American Petroleum Institute (API)-certified inspectors really do uphold the safety and mechanical integrity of oil and gas facilities every day from the oil fields in North Dakota all the way down to Texas. I’m one of them and am certified as an API 510, 570 and 653 inspector.

Mechanical Integrity of Oil and Gas Facilities

What does it mean to assess the mechanical integrity of oil and gas facilities? According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), mechanical integrity refers to the management of a business’ processing equipment to ensure it is sound and operating safely. And that’s exactly what Braun Intertec inspectors do when we provide regular inspections and testing to confirm every element of oil and gas facilities, including piping, vessels and above ground storage tanks, are fit for continued service. In fact, many of our clients comply with OSHA regulation 1910.119 because they have a process safety management (PSM) plan in place. Under the OSHA 1910.119 guidelines there are 14 elements pertaining to the PSM of highly hazardous chemicals with mechanical integrity being ninth on the list.

“…a routine day of inspections and testing can uncover issues that have gone unnoticed but because of the seriousness of the possible outcomes, these issues usually require immediate attention.”

API Inspections and Testing

In practice, a routine day of inspections and testing can uncover issues that have gone unnoticed but because of the seriousness of the possible outcomes, these issues usually require immediate attention. As a result of our API certifications, each Braun Intertec inspector is able to identify and rapidly correct issues revealed in our findings.

It wasn’t long ago when I encountered this kind of potentially serious issue. On that particular day, my testing and inspections had started uneventfully but during a routine review, I noticed something troubling. What I saw in my evaluation of the ultrasonic thickness testing (UTT) equipment and piping readings on a propane inspection sketch, was a piping system which had multiple pressures in addition to different schedules (i.e. thicknesses of pipe) on the same inspection sketch. As I was reviewing the UTT data, I also noticed there was a pressure control valve upstream that operated at a significantly higher pressure than the downstream pressure control valve. This created a significant pressure drop across the valve and indicated a potential problem.

“Our client had a severe problem which needed to be addressed immediately.”

Oil and Gas Facility Inspection Findings

I discovered technicians had taken UTT readings on each of the elbows upstream and downstream of the pressure control valve. Once again, as I was reviewing the UTT data I found the thicker schedule elbow was on the downstream (lower pressure) side of the pressure control valve and the thinner elbow was on the upstream (higher pressure) side of the pressure control valve. I went out to the field to confirm the UTT readings on each of the elbows and verify the flow direction with the piping and instrument diagram.

Our client had a severe problem which needed to be addressed immediately.

I immediately found the head of operations and asked him to check the pressures across the pressure control valve. I explained my findings that the piping system was backward and a potential hazard existed. As a result, the operations manager immediately shut down the piping system to correct the issue immediately. This course of action was essential because the piping system we were inspecting contained high-pressure propane and if a release were to occur, the results would be potentially serious.

“Inspections and testing uphold the safety and security for everyone working on site.”

Safety First

At the end of the day, the service we provide for our clients has everything to do with safety. However, safety isn’t only for the protection of clients. Inspections and testing uphold the safety and security for everyone working on site.

If there’s one thing to take away from this blog post, it’s this: keep safety at the forefront of everything you do whether you’re at home, the office or inspecting the mechanical integrity of oil and gas facilities.

Stuart Sipma Associate Principal, API Lead Inspector 510, 570, 653

P: 701.255.7180