American Petroleum Institute

You may wonder what the juxtaposition of the two photographs below has in common. I have just returned from the Spring Refining and Equipment Standards Meeting of The American Petroleum Institute (API), which was this year held in Las Vegas.

API represents all segments of America’s technology-driven oil & gas industry. It has over 600 members and includes large integrated companies, exploration and production, refining, marketing, pipeline and marine businesses, which provide most of the energy in North America. The service and supply firms that enable the operation of the oil & gas companies function by contracting vital services contributed by members. The industry supports 9.8 million US jobs and has invested over $2 trillion since 2000 to advance all forms of energy, including alternatives.

API provides standards, training, certification and research for all segments of the petroleum industry. Segments of API are devoted to the upstream, midstream and downstream sectors. The upstream sector includes searching for potential underground or underwater crude oil and natural gas fields, drilling exploratory wells and subsequently drilling and operating the wells that recover and bring the crude oil and/or raw natural gas to the surface.

In its simplest terms, the midstream industry can be described as the part of the process that involves the shipping and storage of the oil. Midstream is all about taking the crude oil retrieved in the upstream sector and getting it to the downstream processing facilities so that it can be turned into the various finished products used in consumers’ daily lives.

The downstream sector involves the refining of petroleum crude oil and the processing of raw natural gas. It includes the selling and distribution of processed natural gas and the products derived from petroleum crude oil, such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), gasoline (or petrol), jet fuel, diesel oil, other fuel oils, petroleum asphalt and petroleum coke. The downstream sector includes petroleum refineries, petroleum product distribution, retail outlets and natural gas distribution companies.

The refining companies are designated ‘owner operators’, the service contractors are considered ‘service providers’ and, together with equipment manufacturers, they provide technical input and revisions to existing standards and contribute to new standards. Owner operators (oil and gas refiners) are represented by their senior inspection managers and provide an opportunity for service providers to meet in a mutually-cooperative forum to share experience and knowledge.

Owner operators and service providers mutually contribute to inspection-related standards, which are addressed, reviewed and/or edited and discussed. These include inspection standards for pressure vessels, piping, boilers and heaters, tanks, pressure relieving, material verification, fitness for service, risk-based inspection, welding, detection of damage mechanisms and corrosion.

In addition, API has a programme for individual certification. API offers the following individual certifications: Pressure Vessel Inspector, Piping Inspector, Above-Ground Tank Inspector, Refractory Inspector, Tank Entry Supervisor, Pipeline Construction Inspector, Ultrasonic Testing Examiner (Phased Array), Ultrasonic Testing Examiner (Sizing) and Ultrasonic Testing Examiner (Detection).

This committee is working on additions to the programme to include Ultrasonic Thickness Measurement, Non-Destructive Testing of Exchangers, Phased Array Sizing and TOFD.

API also promotes joint industry projects (JIPs) to evaluate and advance inspection and detection methods for damage mechanisms for which there are no effective methods at present, such as high-temperature hydrogen attack.

These meetings left little time for sampling the diversions provided by Las Vegas, although my Scottish heritage provides sufficient resistance to betting against the house!

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