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Industrial Processes

Support for requalification for engineering applications

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 and Snamprogetti.
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 system developers.
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 15 years.
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 countries.
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.



Project Title:  
Decision making for requalification of structures

Industrial and Materials Technologies (BRITE-EURAM/CRAFT/SMT)

Contract Reference: BE-5935

Cordis DatabaseFor more information on this project,
go to the CORDIS Database Record