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Energy Systems and Infrastructure Analysis

Assessing Risk: The Success Path Methodology

A focus on advancing safe and sustainable energy systems.

Many of Argonne’s novel analytical work focuses on equipment safety, process safety and equipment reliability directly applicable to industry standards and regulatory processes. Upstream Energy Analysis assesses component and system-level risks and identifies how different pieces of existing equipment or machinery that make up the system – often relating to or influencing other components – can contribute to overall system safety and operational reliability. This work has greatly enhanced the industry’s risk-informed decision-making framework.  

A key difference between the Success Path Methodology and probabilistic risk assessment methodologies is that the former focuses on what is truly needed for success, in terms of both hardware and human action, rather than focusing only on the many scenarios of what might go wrong with equipment. On a practical level, this is a more economical approach because establishing whether a system will work correctly requires far fewer steps and details than identifying the many ways in which a system can fail. Perhaps more importantly, the methodology contributes to a shift in thinking about system safety, placing a focus on success.

The Success Path Methodology is derived from traditional probabilistic risk assessment approaches routinely used by Argonne in other safety-focused industries, including civilian nuclear and aviation. It is enhanced through failure modes, effects and criticality analysis (FMECA) to complete risk analyses with in-depth component assessment, tying it back to the critical components necessary for the system’s success. This enables Argonne to advise the industry on the safest path to success.

An Approach that Gives Shape to Best Practices

Argonne’s Success Path Methodology led to development of the second revision of API RP16ST, a recommended practice applicable to a popular well intervention operation that involves the use of coiled tubing. The American Petroleum Institute (API) published the second revision of API RP 16ST in February 2021. Currently, Argonne is providing technical assistance in the risk assessment of two other well intervention technologies and operations: wireline and snubbing. This important work is the subject of two new recommended practices under consideration by the API. It will influence how the industry evolves to adopt new safety standards and may contribute to subsequent changes in regulatory processes.