Asset management in the tunnel industry – comparison with practices in the oil & gas industry

What best practices, knowledge, competences and technology could be implemented to achieve safe, sustainable and efficient Asset Management practices in the tunnel industry?

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Bilde: PhD-student Syed Taha
Syed Taha. Foto: Apply AS.


PhD Fellow: Syed Taha

Supervisor: Ove Njå

Co-supervisor: Jawad Raza

About the project

This is an industrial PhD project, which is a cooperation between Apply AS, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration and University of Stavanger (UiS) and it is funded by the Research Council of Norway. The project started in April 2020 and is planned to continue for three years. The candidate, Syed Taha, is an employee of Apply AS where he joined the company as Commissioning Engineer in September 2019 after completing his master’s degree in engineering design from the The Arctic University of Norway (UiT). He is supervised by Professor Ove Njå at UiS and Jawad Raza, business manager at Apply AS.

The aim of this project is to test and share knowledge, experiences and practices between the two Norwegian industries which hold great potential. The Norwegian Oil & Gas industry began operating in the late 1960s. Since then, the involvement with international players and encountering of unwanted incidents lead to continuous improvement within health, safety and environment (HSE) and operations. This learning has developed into a mature industry which is operating in a safe and efficient manner. The tunnel industry has had a different path and developed their less formal practices regarding asset management. We can say that the offshore oil & gas industry was complex from the initiation, while the tunnels have grown into complex systems, and are becoming even more complex as digitalization and sustainability requirements are enforced. Using this as a starting point we will explore how the tunnel industry can utilize and adopt the best practices for managing their assets.

A collaboration was made with Statens Vegvesen (SVV) in May 2020, which have agreed in providing data and relevant information for six tunnels in different regions of Norway. In this way, this PhD project is working on actual challenges encountered by SVV and aim to further develop a strong bond between academics and the industry by solving such problems. Another collaboration has been established with NTNU in Trondheim, where seven PhD projects will be initiated with SVV in September 2020. The possibilities of sharing ideas and knowledge with these PhD projects will further expand the learning circle. Tunnel safety related to equipment and emergency situations is one of the emphasized domains. Equipment procurement, maintenance, and operating procedures from safety and efficiency perspective will be analyzed.

Research questions:

  • How actively and broadly is Asset Management currently practiced within the Norwegian Tunneling industry? Are all elements of AM covered? To what extent?
  • What is the set criteria for procuring equipment? Is smartness, sustainability, energy efficiency and overall cost (initial and maintenance) taken into consideration?
  • When and on what basis are the tunnel equipment maintained/replaced? What modifications can be made in order to optimize current maintenance practices?   
  • What role plays standardization in the tunnel industry in terms of work processes, procedures and practices for various tunnel designs? To what extent is the repetitive work done and how can this be reduced?
  • What measures could be taken to enhance current safety practices and eliminate accidents? Are the current emergency response systems sufficient to limit consequences? 
  • Where are the spare parts stored relative to tunnel location and how are they managed? How are the logistics made sufficiently robust?

The expected outcome of this PhD project is a complete solution to tunnel owners in terms of identifying, measuring and solving the least focused or underperforming asset. Once established, the industrial partners must be able to implement and continuously improve the Asset Management practices within their company.