The major outcomes of the project
are engineering procedures and sets of pre-commercial engineering
tools for decision support in requalification processes. These include
the evaluation of different models for uncertainty, the merging of
existing methodologies into a multi-criteria decision making methodology
and decision support system 'tool box'. The key technical results
emerging from the project have been achieved in interaction with the
requirements of the three target fields of engineering applications:
offshore, bridges and power plants.
The specific problem addressed by this project
was decision-making related to the requalification of 'older' structures
in the offshore, bridges and power plant sectors. Companies and
administrative units in these three sectors share a number of problems.
They all need to requalify older structures as a result of natural
degradation, accidents, damaged conditions and behaviour or modified
design conditions. They are also all under pressure to improve productivity,
reduce costs and risks and standardise decision making processes.
These shared interests first became evident to the offshore sector
as a result of work undertaken in BE project 1270. Between 1990
and 1993 a group of well known companies was formed, each involved
in several aspects related to engineering decision making.
Strategic issues in requalification
Requalification processes raise a number of strategic questions.
How should the results of reliability analysis be used to quantify
the safety of a re-qualified structure? What are the safety levels
demanded by requalification processes? How can project decision
making accommodate a broad spectrum of factors ranging from initial
and operational costs, maintenance policies and inspection results
to the strategic importance of the structure and environmental impacts
and other external risks? How should expert opinion be incorporated
into decisions based on probabilistic analysis of structural integrity?
The partners focused on all of these aspects, taking into account
the fact that whilst structural or mechanical integrity is the governing
criterion in requalification processes, other aspects relating,
for example, to environment or corporate image, may also be important
for the decision making.
Key technological results
The major outcomes of the project are engineering procedures and
sets of pre-commercial engineering tools for decision support in
requalification processes. The tools include both modelling of uncertainties
by the use of fuzzy and Bayesian methods as well as multi-criteria
decision making methodologies. For special applications, an integrated
intelligent decision support system has been developed. The methodologies
have been developed and customised in interaction with the requirements
of the three target fields of engineering applications: offshore,
bridges and power plants.
The decision support takes advantage of the modelling of uncertainty
and the preference of the decision maker. According to the partners,
the decision support represents a progressive development, applicable
in virtually all areas of engineering and, ultimately, other branches
of industry. The methodologies have already been used in several
European companies - including some outside of the project.
A highly effective partnership
The consortium comprised partners from Germany, Italy, Norway,
Denmark and the UK, with sponsors in Germany, Finland and Belgium.
MPA, a German institute active for more than a century in the area
of material science and testing, provided input data and knowledge
related to power plant applications, organised testing and validation
in the power plant domain, and helped develop the MCDM approach
and the decision support system tool box. German partner, MIT, customised
the development of the multicriteria decision methodologies for
structural engineering problems.
The Italian partner AGIP, a major oil and gas producer, has been
involved in the application of structural reliability techniques
since the early 1980s. Its prime role in this project was coordination
of the offshore activities with two other Italian partners: D'Appolonia
Norwegian partner DNV is at the forefront of developments in statistical
tools for structural reliability. Its role was to work on Bayesian
probabilistic methods and software engineering for the decision
support tool box.
Danish partner COWI and UK partner WS Atkins are both major international
engineering consultancies with a wide experience of the design,
construction and maintenance of engineering structures and expertise
in structural reliability methods. COWI and WS Atkins participated
in the development of methodologies and were establishing real case
examples for the applications of methodologies for bridges.
Commercialisation of results and potential markets
Commercialisation of the tools is targeted at a range of end users
including designers, decision analysts, plant operators, licensing
bodies, bridge management and engineering consultancies and knowledge-based
Market opportunities in the offshore sector are substantial. Of
the 2,700 platforms currently in existence, 2,000 are located in
the Gulf of Mexico and 200 in Europe. Built over the last four decades,
approximately 1,500 platforms have now been operating for more than
Many European railway bridges are nearly 100 years old. In addition,
many motorway bridges, built in the 1960s and 1970s, need maintenance.
Therefore, the cost of maintenance and safety inspections is continuing
to grow in all EU countries. Forecasts put the market for bridge
requalification in Europe at approximately 100MECU per year. Potential
markets exist around the world in developed as well as developing
In the global power plant domain, opportunities exist for customisation
of tools for specific types of plants. The main markets for the
decision support software systems for power and process plants are
in Europe and the US. Key targets are power plants in Eastern Europe
and those subjected to increasingly strict environmental regulations.
Value of collaboration
All the partners agree that collaboration has brought important
advances and rewards. The project has proved that solutions to difficult
practical engineering problems can be found by applying high level
science. Probably one of the most important aspects has been the
comparison of different methodologies for inspection and maintenance.
This comparison lead to integration of methodologies, and bridges
the gap between the industries.
The Brite-Euram framework has proved invaluable and support from
sponsors was also crucial.