project phases

On several occasions in the past I thought about open standards like an effective counter-measure against field accidents or community-contractor-owner conflicts of interests.

One of them is a burst of pressure vessels working under 72 Bars. Luckily nobody was hurt. Since commissioning these vessels had never been tested because the ASME/API/AS standards for pressurized equipment inspection are not applied to water industry. Ditto all the desalination plants in operation.

Conflict of interests is not less dramatic. Example is a war waged against Poseidon by Carlsbad and Huntington Beach communities. To kill both plants and the whole idea of large-scale desalination in California they have found ingenious solution.

It reminds me of Elias Howe - the inventor of sewing machine – sophisticated mechanism by that time. In 1846 he was awarded a patent, the core of it being eye-pointed needle. No modern machine can do without it.

These non-technical communities succeeded in lobbying the technical requirement for seawater intakes. It sets the intake grid openings 1 mm wide. If implemented with existing technologies, this requirement would skyrocket the operating expenses and decimate desalination profitability. It would not have happened if water industry had had open global standards to count with.

But where open standards would work hard is in court; owners suing contractors for not meeting the project objectives is commonplace today. Recent case is Ashdod desalination plant in Israel with a lawsuit over US$ 190 million. Both sides - Mekorot and Sadyt - are top-notch experts in desalination. For court to find an independent expert more clever than each side is next to impossible without legal and regulatory framework such as open standards.

To initiate the work on open standards, water industry does not need to invent a wheel - enough to learn the experience of modern oil and gas industry.

Today it’s hard to imagine this industry without framework of API standards(surpassing 600 since 1923). Its impact on the industry is tremendous.

  1. It is a language of communications between manufacturers, clients, engineering services providers, consultants, representatives of government agencies, and academia.
  2. It is a source of the hard-earned knowledge, the industry’s “lessons learned”, and best work practices covering manufacturing, testing, operation and maintenance. It makes the company specifications redundant in most part.
  3. It is a catalyst of reusability practices enforcing interchangeability of equipment and materials.
  4. It is a collaboration platform for industry experts to share experience, ideas, problems and opportunities. Or to find a knowledgeable individuals, make important industry contacts.
  5. It is an example of openness and transparency.
  6. It is a powerful learning-curve accelerator for start-ups in moving from prototyping to marketing of full-scale products.
  7. It regulates the industry interactions with government agencies making individual companies more prepared to changes in government requirements and regulations. (API is a powerful lobby, having spent over $3 million on lobbying in 2018.)
  8. It is a reference base for government agencies and public organizations.
  9. It ensure fairness in the marketplace for manufacturers striving for quality, not for the lowest prices.
  10. It enhances the industry safety operations and mitigate risks in equipment failure.
  11. It protects clients from low-quality products by setting the base-line requirements for design and testing

Can International Desalination Association (IDA) and its affiliate - AMTA create replica of API standards framework in water industry? The answer is negative as IDA has different purposes, its focus being on research and education in the field of desalination and water sciences, scholarships, workshops and conferences.

One may get a feeling of the IDA perspective on the global water industry from the program of the coming Water Congress. Its list of priorities starts from the success formula - "1. Foundations for Success - Policy, Finance and Market Challenges". Prolonged stagnation in global water industry illustrates how this formula worked in the past. On Earth we talk about digital transformation and innovations prioritized as Number 10 by the IDA program.

How to build open standards framework from scratch without IDA-like paid membership and at low budget?  Again we can refer to the API history which started with a small practical step - a standard for drill pipe threads (1924).

Today we may use powerful web technologies to turn a small step into a leap. One of them is SPECMAN under development by for online specifications editing, browsing, sharing, and referencing. Its core is data streaming described in "Engineering Information Streaming".

Through SPECMAN Crenger plans to contribute to desalination community over 50 specifications and engineering guidelines targeting big projects free of charge.

To get some insight into SPECMAN, just watch this video.

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