Asset integrity management

Paul Boughton

Almost all of us have heard of Asset Integrity Management (AIM) but probably none of us would agree on what it is and what it is not. This lack of clarity still exists throughout the oil, gas, refining and petrochemical industries in both operators and service providers. Frequent reference to Process Safety management (PSM), AIM’s close cousin, further clouds the issue.

AIM has its roots in mechanical integrity programme which was practiced in the above industries long before the terminology AIM was used. These programmes included things like inspections, corrosion monitoring, chemical treatments and testing of process protective devices. However, the Cullen Report, which summarised findings of the 1987 terrible Piper alpha disaster, clearly showed factors beyond mechanical integrity were also involved. Root causes included not only the physical plant but also people and the processes they used. Review of other lesser major accidents showed similarities. In that plant, people and process deficiencies contributed.

Based on the above it was concluded that in order to prevent major accidents and ensure safe/reliable operations, people and process integrity management was eventually adopted to describe this more comprehensive approach.  


In order to effectively manage anything, a systematic approach is needed.  Following what was done for safety and environmental programs, most operators have arranged their AIM efforts based on the ISO 9000 series approach. This uses the familiar 'Plan, Do, Measure and Improve' Cycle.


By now, most major and even smaller operators in the oil, gas, pipeline, petrochemical and refining industries have established internal standards or recommended practices for AIM. In all cases I have seen these involve people, process and plant aspects as noted above. The number of elements of AIM requirements vary based on company from eight in the simplest version to 16.  Most are closely aligned to API Recommended Practice RP-750, Management of Process Hazards, also referred to as PSM. In essence the difference between AIM and PSM is that PSM only looks at process hazards whereas AIM will consider non process too, things like logistics, transportation, weather, third party damage etc.
Using a very simple example the following are generally covered in AIM standards and practices:
People  - Leadership and competency requirements 

Hazard & Risk Management - Identifying hazards, risk ranking and defining risk reduction and control measures   

Facilities & Protective Systems  - Design, construction and QA/QC requirements, Inspection, testing and corrosion management. Fitness for service and defect correction.   

Operational Integrity  - Plant operations within design.  Operating and maintenance procedures. Permit to Work.   

Management of Change - Use of a system to evaluate people, process and plant changes to prevent new risks   

Incident Investigation - Systematic approach to understanding incident causes and implementing corrective measures   

Emergency Response  - Development and drilling of plans to minimize consequences of a major incident   

Assurance and Audit - Development and use of AIM KPI’s and audit schemes, both to help drive improvement

Based on these requirements it is evident that partnering with experience in this field can significantly help the plant operator achieve his AIM goals for safe and reliable operations. Engineering features prominently in the 'Plan and Measure' phases of AIM with implementation more important in the 'Do and Improve' phases.

Specifically you should look for major contributions in the following areas:

* Risk assessments, HAZOPS, SIL and studies and RBI
* Development and management of AIM programs
* RCM and QRA studies
* Fitness for service studies
* Pipeline Integrity programs
* QA/QC programs, including vendor inspections
* Specialised engineering manpower supply
* Inspection planning and implementation
* Equipment certification
* AIM Audits

These types of jobs are essential for safe operation of any facility and are generally entrusted to external consultants, the urgency to get AIM in place has increased latterly due to several major oil industry incidents.  For this reason, AIM will increasingly be a strong growth business area.

Dr Stephen Ciaraldi is Senior Integrity Management specialist. Applus Velosi
Houston, USA

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