There is increasing pressure on the pipeline industry to be able to demonstrate that its asset management and engineering capability management are at a satisfactory level. This is needed to give policymakers, regulators and industry stakeholders confidence in the safety and environmental sustainability of petroleum pipelines.

Regulators, in particular, are seeking assurance from pipeline owner/operators that they have capable pipeline engineers designing, constructing, operating and maintaining petroleum pipelines. At present, there are no generally accepted approaches to recognising and developing pipeline engineering capability.

The paper will discuss three levels of capability recognition as: (1) registration – as pipeline engineers (not just in mechanical, civil or chemical engineers (overall standing level)) – (2) qualification (sub-discipline/job level) and (3) competency (task level). The most granular and useful of these is competency. This is because it is at the level that is most immediate: the task at hand.

Competency, the combination of knowledge and experience that leads to expertise, is increasingly seen as the best practice basis for learning, particularly for professionals. Significantly, once competencies have been defined in competency standards, they can become the building blocks used to define the requirements for both registration and qualification.

The Australian Pipelines and Gas Association (APGA) has developed a comprehensive competency system for both onshore and offshore sectors. There are 226 onshore competency standards and 57 offshore competency standards describing, in a succinct format, what is required to be competent.

The succinct format of the competency standards avoids the pitfalls of many other systems of competency description, providing enough information to be clear about what is required without unnecessary complexity. In addition to the detailed competency standards, the competency system has tools, resources and a progressive rating scale that make competency standards accessible and easily used. The competency system is characterised by such flexibility that, to date, APGA has identified 15 applications, all of which will add value to engineers and the companies that employ them.

The paper will explain, in detail, APGA’s Pipeline Engineer Competency System, how it works and how it can provide the building blocks for a wide range of tasks that support the training, development and recognition of pipeline engineers’ capabilities, including defining the requirements for registration and qualification.

The paper will provide case studies, based on the APGA Competency System, showing how it can be used to create requirements for qualifications and registration and to design in-house training and development plans.

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