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Don't fail to prepare

A famous quote by United States Founding Father Benjamin Franklin states: “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.”  It is an expression used in military strategy, within sports teams and in associations and societies such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). 

Instead of just turning up on the day, a much more reliable strategy for success is to test theories, practise and prepare in advance for the task. This can be applied to bolted flanged joints by considering the risk each joint presents and the controls required to safely execute the tasks we carry out on those joints - a process we at Hydratight refer to as 'Criticality Assessment'. 

A risk-based assessment process ensures you are preparing for the worst and is a proven method for managing the maintenance and inspection on every bolted joint through the course of its expected lifespan.  These assessments take into account both the likelihood and consequence of a leak occurring as it relates to safety, production and the environment and then inspection and process controls are established based on the rating of the joint.

Within Hydratight, each connection within our scope will be given a Criticality Rating. This determines the subsequent actions engineering teams take, including the competence of personnel required to work on the connection, inspection points to be checked during breakout, assembly and tightening as well as the tightening method recommended to be used. 

These assessments are the preparations all companies with responsibility for bolted joints and their integrity must take in order not to fail.  Ultimately, they save time and money, and history has delivered warnings of worst case scenarios.

No joint should be ignored. All joints should be assessed on the basis of being mission critical, even those not normally required for day to day production. This will include flanges that are difficult to access, out of sight, or may only be required to function on an occasional basis; every joint has a purpose such as part of a safety or back-up system and any joint failure will carry an economic cost at the very least. As an example, a North Sea operator shut in three interconnected installations and as a result of one overlooked seawater joint, a leak caused a power failure through overheating at a cost of $6 million.

It is the role of Hydratight joint integrity engineers (JIEs) to conduct gap analysis covering planning and control measures, traceability and data management procedures, criticality and classification methods, tagging and reporting processes, competency and training, record keeping, and technical performance and compliance.

Leak-free start-up and production can only be achieved with the constant and thorough hard work by asset owners, contractors and suppliers.  With the best processes and documentation in place, engineers can plan for overall project success rather than simply making sure it does not fail.  Franklin would be proud.