Now Why Would They Do That?

Project Practitioners > Now Why Would They Do That?
By Morley Selver, P.Eng IPMA B


 At a recent workshop one of the attendees had a question about pipe specifications. The majority of facilities have company specific pipe specifications and this engineer worked for a large oil company. Apparently a consultant working on one of his projects wanted the facility to have a company engineer stamp the pipe specifications.  This was an unusual request as the pipe specifications are not pulled out of thin air.

Within the oil companies there are typically a group of engineers who oversee the pipe specifications for the company worldwide and update the specifications as needed. This process is typical for a lot of the specifications and standards used by the oil companies. In this case the pipe specifications came from the ASME boiler code and past experience with them. A lot of engineering effort goes into them to make sure they are current and applicable to all situations 

What To Do?

My suggestion to him was to go back to the engineering firm asking for the pipe specifications to be stamped and find out what the problem was. I have been involved in cases where the facility had been using the wrong material specification and this could be the case. We had a metallurgist on staff and for non-standard cases we would always ran material specifications through him. On one project the facility had purchased exchanger tubes with the wrong material specification, had to cancel the order, and purchase the correct ones. This could be the case. If the engineering firm did not know how to get around a wrong pipe specification they could be trying to pass the buck back to the facility by having an engineer stamp the pipe specifications. Then, if something goes wrong they could always say, “Well we used what you asked for”.

You Need To Find These People.

There is a process to follow for cases where one wants to use a material or procedure that does meet the specifications. The facilities will have a Spec Deviation Process. Within the company or particular facility there should be Reliability Engineers. There are Reliability Engineers covering all disciplines and they are responsible for ensuring installations meet the company specifications and standards. Also, within the company or facility there is an Engineering Authority who has the last say on whether you can or can not do what you want to do.

If you need to use or do something that does not meet the specifications then this needs to be discussed with the appropriate Reliability Engineer and the Engineering Authority. Once you get their buy-in for using something that does not meet specification you will need to fill out a Spec Deviation form. This form needs to be signed off by the Reliability Engineer, plus others, with the final signature being the Engineering Authority.  This is an important document that has to be kept in your files and archived at the end of the project. I know this sounds simple but it can be a long drawn out process that could take several months, so be prepared.

It Affects Procedures As Well

The above discussed material specifications and as I mentioned a Spec Deviation can also cover procedures. On one project we had to demolish small bore cooling water lines in an operating Boilerhouse. The lines did not have isolation valves. There were three ways to isolate the lines, with one being to shut down the Boilerhouse (and the refinery) which was out of the question. The other two procedures fell outside of the refinery procedures. They were 1) crimp the lines and 2) freeze the lines. The refinery had used both procedures previously but management was never comfortable with doing them. 

Fortunately, the project was demolition and there was no schedule issue driving it. It took us several months to resolve which procedure to use. We ended up freezing the lines as the refinery did not want to use the crimp method. In fact this was the last project where the refinery allowed either of those procedures to be considered. Everything went okay, however at the end of the day if isolation valves had been installed there would have been no problem. I’m sure during the deign process someone figured they could save $50.00 by not putting in isolation valves. At the end of the day, when working in facilities, be aware of the Spec Deviation process and always use isolation valves because you never know.

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