Most accidents and failures in pipeline compression stations are not caused by a single incident of equipment malfunction or operator failure but are generally a result of a chain of events and errors that interact and/or accumulate to lead to a catastrophic failure. These failure events are extremely difficult to predict using the common single-degree-offreedom analysis as they are caused by multiple factors and events that are systematically related to each other. This paper describes the development of methods and processes, similar to those commonly employed by the nuclear power and aerospace industries, to compute the risk, reliability, and failure modes within pipeline compressor and pump station related systems. The use of this type of analysis by design engineers, station operators, and risk assessment personnel is discussed. Analysis of actual pipeline compressor and pump stations has been performed and the results are presented.


Risk is inherent to all industries, but is particularly evident within the oil and gas pipeline industry. In terms of economic impact, reliability, and safety, risks must be regularly assessed and mitigated. How effectively these risks are addressed determines the efficiency, profitability, and safety of a particular operation. Risk is broadly defined here to include economic, reliability, and safety factors. Economic risks include the costs associated with transferring risk through insurance, operational efficiency, and future planning. Risk associated with reliability is closely related to economic risk such that an unreliable system will not operate efficiently and therefore impact the profitability of the operation. There are several factors which affect reliability including system design, maintenance, logistics, and training. Reliability is a balance between the efficiency or profitability of an operation and the cost associated with maintaining a particular level of efficiency. Not allocating the necessary resources to properly maintain a system can have grave consequences not only in economic terms but in terms of safety as well. Providing a safe work environment for employees is of utmost importance in most organizations. Failure to provide a safe environment or adequate training can have tragic consequences. The costs associated with inadequate safety directly impacts profitability in terms of lost revenue and degraded efficiency as well as exacting a human toll. All of these risks are clearly interdependent and significantly impact pipeline operations. In order to manage risk you must first understand the risks and have some method of evaluating the relative risks. Over the past forty years the nuclear power and aerospace industries have developed methods and tools for quantitatively evaluating risks. These same methods and tools have been adapted for use within the oil and gas pipeline industry and are presented in the following sections. Furthermore, this analysis is crucial to understanding the significant factors related to complex interrelated systems.

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