MEMBER NEWS: Reliability Engineering: The backbone of success, not an added luxury

July 8, 2021
MEMBER NEWS: Reliability Engineering: The backbone of success, not an added luxury

Colin Scully, operational performance engineer at Xodus, has outlined the importance of reliability engineering in renewable energy systems in Energy Voice.

In the journey towards net zero emissions and further future reliance on renewable energy, there are important lessons to be learnt from the many years of experience in applying reliability engineering techniques in the oil and gas sector. Many of these techniques were developed earlier in the defence and aerospace industries.

Owners of renewable energy systems can learn from the mistakes made in the oil and gas sector and avoid “retrospective reliability” – i.e. trying to influence the reliability of a system when it’s too late to do so most efficiently. By adopting a reliability focused culture early in the design process, it ensures that assets are geared up for successful, reliable operation from day one. Appropriate levels of equipment redundancy, reliability centred maintenance strategy and designing for maintainability are some examples of areas that can provide benefit. Uptime is key in renewable energy operations, so maximising it is essential.

Despite well-known standards, principles and methods, reliability, availability and maintainability (RAM) engineering is often perceived as a bit of a dark art, or at worst a check box exercise.

However, an effective RAM strategy and management is a philosophy and culture that, at its heart, seeks to identify the means to operate an asset or system as efficiently as possible without sacrificing safety. Higher reliability means less corrective maintenance activities, which in turn leads to improved efficiency, safety and ultimately financial savings.

Reliability is critical to the design, operation, maintenance, and performance assessment and improvement of any given system throughout its life. I have learned and applied a diverse range of skills in my 12 years as a RAM consultant across both the energy sector and in the transportation industry – mainly in rail. I therefore can confirm that although there are clear nuances between different industries, the skills and principles of optimising RAM performance remain similar across the board, and in my opinion are critical to driving an efficient energy future.

A common grievance of mine is that owners / operators will often seek to improve RAM performance of their systems when it’s already too late. For instance, if you have designed and already operated a system with many single points of failure, you are unlikely to be able to maintain high system availability due to a lack of flexibility for switching to standby units for maintenance. A decision may then be taken to do a programme of RAM improvement somewhere down the line – as I mentioned above, I call this retrospective reliability. While some targeted improvements could still be made at this stage, it’s far more effective to adopt RAM culture as early as possible during the design of a system and minimise reliability bottlenecks by design.

In summary, consider reliability early and set up for maximum uptime and safer operations.

Read the article on the Energy Voice website here.

Get in touch

AREG is the original energy transition organisation, working on behalf of members to empower the energy supply chain and champion its expertise. Please get in touch if you have any questions or would like to find out more about membership.

AREG has played an important role in the growth of Scotland’s renewable energy sector, engaging the supply chain and developing the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre. However, we are only at the very beginning of the transition that AREG was established to both lead and support so there are still opportunities for companies to get into the constantly evolving renewables supply chain. We look forward to continuing our work together as renewables builds on its place as Scotland’s main source of power, and as we seek to deliver real change in the crucial areas of heat and transport.

Scottish Renewables

Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce has worked closely with AREG since its formation. The recent progress in the developments of offshore wind projects by Equinor and Vattenfall are as a result of the work of the group over many years. The north-east is known as the oil and gas capital of Europe. At the Chamber, we believe the region must evolve its position to being recognised as the energy capital. Whilst hydrocarbons will continue to be essential in driving our economy for years to come, the generation of renewable resources will play an increasingly important role in providing cost-effective power, innovative development and economic growth.

Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce

The enthusiasm and dedication of the early group that would become AREG was fundamental in us choosing to launch All-Energy in Aberdeen. The first tiny show was held in 2001, and AREG’s Chairman at the time, Jeremy Cresswell, played such an active role that I often describe him in terms such as All-Energy’s ‘midwife’. All-Energy is now the UK’s largest renewable and low carbon energy exhibition and conference in terms of number of attendees, space booked, and number of exhibiting companies. As AREG became firmly established, their presence and support for the event grew spectacularly over the years. We thank them most sincerely for their invaluable input.


Vattenfall has forged a strong working relationship with AREG through the development of the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre. AREG has worked tirelessly on behalf of the North East and it can take enormous credit for the growth of sustainable energy in the region and the path it has cleared for the region to capture further investment.


Aberdeen City and Shire is emerging as a key location for renewables by successfully transferring its world-class oil and gas expertise into the sector and AREG has done much to advance this through a broad range of initiatives. It has acted as a catalyst in driving further investment in the local economy by engaging with companies, Government, public bodies and existing projects and we have been pleased to support their efforts. Scottish Enterprise will continue to engage with AREG as we increase Scotland’s use of renewable energy.

Scottish Enterprise