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Terminal News

Using artificial intelligence to improve safety

Using artificial intelligence to improve safety
Robert Nuttal, principal engineer at Petronas talks about how the company uses innovative strategies to maximise storage safety and efficiency in the Middle East

What is your advice for terminal and operations managers to utilise risk-based inspection to monitor tanks' conditions?

RBI provides opportunities to rationalise corrosion integrity management programmes by adopting a proactive approach that satisfies regulatory requirements and rationalises the extent of monitoring and inspection.

The implementation should maintain safety and reduce the risk of unpredicted leakage. Personnel should trained in the use and application of the system.

What would the practical applications be when applying major safety standards and managing risks to reduce the chances of oil spills?

The move from prescriptive to risk-based integrity management requires the identification and rationalisation of monitoring and inspection programmes to address the risks. Assuming sufficient and correct monitoring/inspection data the application of RBI may enable extended operating windows. It becomes important to consider probability of detection with regards to operating conditions, monitoring, inspection and maintenance.

How can terminal managers protect their storage tanks further against corrosion?

Given service life requirements are often greater than 25 years a tank becomes a critical item. Corrosion control and management requirements from conception to abandonment must be identified and fulfilled. All specifications must be fully adhered to (foundations, drainage, materials, fabrication/welding, coatings, CP, etc.) and any impact or potential impact on the planned corrosion mitigation identified. A lack of redundancy makes unplanned loss of containment totally unacceptable. Required standards must be achieved and maintained.

What are your views on the importance of conducting detailed terminal auditing and inspection?

If a dead leg or small-bore fitting is not known to exist and/or operating/environmental conditions have changed it is not possible to manage any potential corrosion threat. Therefore, although demanding in both time and resources detailed auditing is a critical feature of an integrity management programme. Internal audits also facilitate transfer of knowledge and development. There is also a requirement to validate/demonstrate the initial risk assessment is correct and justified.

How can overall business operations be impacted with artificial intelligence in inspection and maintenance assets for tanks?

The application of AI potentially opens the inspection window by removing requirements for human entry / close human proximity to a tank. However, distortion of the tank bottom (rippling), disbondment of internal coatings, the location/attachment of sacrificial anodes and/or the presence of sediments/debris etc., may result in challenges and introduce unacceptable measurement errors – planning is required and personnel require training in the application of AI tools, operating requirements, interpretation of data and limitations.

What is your best advice for tanks and terminal managers to comply to inter tank spacing and scheduled maintenance?

In my opinion inter tank spacing is predominantly a health and safety issue. Generally it would not be expected to affect requirements for corrosion management, corrosion monitoring or corrosion rates. The value gained from scheduled maintenance practices should be reviewed in the light of inspection and monitoring records and rationalised based on risk.

Nuttal will be speaking at Tanks and Terminals 2019: Operations, Maintenance and Integrity on March 18-20 2019 in Dubai. Visit for more information.