Risk-based technique to extend inspection intervals at French refinery

A Bureau Veritas-Ipedex consortium has secured a 15-month contract to develop a risk-based inspection (RBI) program for the Elf Antar France refinery at Grandpuits. Under this contract, inspection plans based on investigation of the critical nature of equipment will be developed, aiming at obtaining a 1-year postponement of shutdown for maintenance of most of the refinery units.


A Bureau Veritas-Ipedex consortium has secured a 15-month contract to develop a risk-based inspection (RBI) program for the Elf Antar France refinery at Grandpuits. Under this contract, inspection plans based on investigation of the critical nature of equipment will be developed, aiming at obtaining a 1-year postponement of shutdown for maintenance of most of the refinery units.

Current regulations require internal inspection of pressure equipment at least every 5 years, but newly developed RBI techniques are expected to extend that. "Our aim is to obtain permission from the French Regional Industry, Research, and Environmental Division to defer shutdown of the refinery [for maintenance] from 2001 to 2002," said Christophe Grenet, head of the inspection service group at the refinery and the RBI pilot project for Elf.

"Risk-based inspection and reliability-centered maintenance techniques are set to revolutionize the way in which process industries control and maintain plants," said Philip Lanternier, head of Bureau Veritas's energy and process division. Used properly, these techniques raise safety levels and cut costs by focusing effort on critical areas.

The new system for Grandpuits is built on the principles of the RBI approach adopted by the American Petroleum Institute. These principles have been incorporated into the RBI guide published by the French Union of Petroleum Industries and should be accepted very soon by the French administration as a basis for allowing a 6-year interval between inspections.

The Bureau Veritas-Ipedex contract comprises assistance to Elf in drawing up an RBI program, gathering the data needed for application of the method, and establishing risk-based inspection plans. These plans will have to show proof that deferment of shutdown of the refinery for a year will have no negative impact on safety.

Bureau Veritas joined with Ipedex, a firm dedicated to the construction, startup, maintenance, and operation of oil installations, in order to secure the contract. Bureau Veritas and Elf are developing a computer application to support this approach and will share ownership in the software.

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