The APGA Pipeline Engineer Competency System creates a framework for understanding competency and a means of assessing and documenting competency for pipeline engineers.

The competency standards at the core of the system have consistent elements and a standard format that enable a quick understanding of requirements in every stream of pipeline engineering. Each competency standard clearly identifies the knowledge, experience and expertise required to achieve competence and outlines the roles and responsibilities that a pipeline engineer will be able to undertake after achieving that competency.

The APGA Pipeline Engineer Competency System was developed by panels of industry experts and then published for wide consultation before being finalised. The system is now the responsibility of the Pipeline Engineering Competency System (PECS) Committee which has developed and implemented a program of review to ensure the system remains current and fit for purpose.

The best place to start exploring the competency standards is via the online searchable link on this page. This is available for members only.

Classification structure of the competency standards

The competencies have been developed within a classification structure with the following key elements:

  • Level of competency – core, elective and specialist. Core competencies should be held by all pipeline engineers and are fundamental to all other competencies. Elective competencies will generally relate to a particular stream of pipeline engineering and provide expertise necessary for many of the key decisions required by pipeline engineers. It is expected that a pipeline engineer will have a number of these, depending upon experience and training, but that a mature pipeline engineer may have 20 or more. Specialist competencies require a high level of expertise and may relate to specialised knowledge and understanding.
  • Streams – Design, Construction, Operations and General. The streams – design, construction and operations – reflect the main aspects of pipeline engineering. The “General” stream relates to competencies that either apply to all aspects of pipeline engineering or those of a more commercial or administrative nature. Competencies may be assigned to one or more streams depending upon where they are applied.
  • Competency Areas. The onshore competency areas reflect 21 main areas of expertise in which pipeline engineers operate and describe the natural groupings of competencies. They are as follows:
  1. General engineering
  2. Industry background
  3. Corrosion control
  4. Instruments and controls
  5. Safety management and risk assessment
  6. Commercial aspects
  7. Environment and heritage
  8. Easement management
  9. Design of onshore pipelines
  10. Design of facilities
  11. Route engineering and easement maintenance
  12. Construction engineering and management
  13. Pipelines project management
  14. Welding
  15. Hydrotest, commissioning and preparation for operation
  16. Asset management
  17. Pipeline operations
  18. Pipeline structural integrity
  19. Safety and operating plans
  20. Plastics pipe
  21. Composite Pipe

The offshore competency standards are grouped into the 12 competency areas below:

1. General engineering
2. Flow assurance and process engineering
3. Materials, welding and corrosion
4. Safety management and risk assessment
5. Environment and heritage
6. Design of offshore pipeline systems
7. Design of pipeline related structures
8. Design of risers (rigid, flexible, SCRs)
9. Construction engineering and management
10. Offshore pipeline project management
11. Pre-commissioning and commissioning
12. Pipeline asset management

Competency assessment

Competency assessment is the process of determining whether a pipeline engineer is competent. Effective competency assessment requires being clear about the objectives of competency assessment, the principles and tools available for effective application, and the process to be used.

Objectives of competency assessment

The principal objective of competency assessment is to enable an employer (or contracting organisation) to determine whether a pipeline engineer is competent, both generally and in particular competencies.

The secondary objective is to enable an engineer or employer to determine what is required for a pipeline engineer to become, and be recognised as, competent.

Principles of competency assessment

Competency can result from a mix of inputs. Any assessment of competency should consider the inputs (knowledge and experience) as well as outputs of demonstrated expertise and capability. Competency assessment requires evidence of knowledge, practical experience and expertise. While objective measures, such as completion of courses or having had a particular experience are essential, it is not possible, nor wise, to rely solely on them, and assessment will involve use of judgement. This will require range of information about a pipeline engineer.

Understanding the principles of competency assessment is essential to making sound assessments of competency. Engineers Australia has provided some useful discussion of competency standards and assessment in its document Australian Engineering Competency Standards – General Introduction and Stage 2 Competency Standards for Professional Engineers, Engineering Technologists and Engineering Associates. In particular, it notes:

The assessment methodology should say:

  • Show us what you have been able to achieve in engineering practice
  • Show us how you have achieved what you did, and why you chose to act in particular ways
  • Show us how you acquired the knowledge to enable you to do these things.

Inability to address any of these must cause concern that a claim to competency is not well founded.

Application

The APGA Pipeline Engineer Competency System can be applied in three ways:

  • General competency – demonstrating a general capability and expertise with respect to pipeline engineering across the range of pipeline engineering aspects.

This application focuses on whether a pipeline engineer has a broad range of competency in pipeline engineering. To meet this requirement, a pipeline engineer must have demonstrated competency in all core competencies, plus a minimum number of elective competencies.

  • Stream competency – demonstrating competency in one of the main aspects of pipeline engineering: design, construction or operations. This may involve a further degree of specialisation in a particular facet of one of these main aspects.

Stream competency builds on general competency and focuses on whether a pipeline engineer has an appropriate base of elective competencies in one of the three main streams of pipeline engineering. This will require demonstrated competency of a minimum number of elective competencies in a particular stream. The exact minimum will depend upon the stream and will be a matter for judgement of an employer.

  • Particular Competency – demonstrating a specific competency as part of the assessment of the of general or stream competency, or may relate to a particular aspect of pipeline engineering for which an employer will wish to be assured of important engineering decisions. This may also apply to specialist competencies as these are developed.

Assessment criteria

Clear criteria against which the engineer’s competency can be assessed are essential for effective competency assessment.

The assessment criteria for individual competencies are the requirements of competency set out in the competency standards in terms of knowledge, experience, expertise and capability.

The knowledge component of competency can be gained in a number of ways:

  1. through attendance at courses,
  2. through self-learning by research, and
  3. through experience, supported and supervised by a senior, competent engineer or specialist.

Experience, expertise and capability will be gained through employing the knowledge gained. Therefore, experience will serve to provide the inputs to competency as well as demonstrating the results of competency in the form of expertise and capability. As identified above it is almost impossible to become competent without experience, and it is certainly not possible to demonstrate it.

The foundational general engineering competencies rely on undergraduate degrees. In this case competency may rely only on the degree course with no experience being required.

These simple criteria provide for a wide spectrum of evidence from (i) significant course-based input plus a sufficient set of experiences through to (ii) fully experience-based development of competency.

For all competencies the completed course and the experience reports, the evidence needed, can be collected in the APGA Pipeline Engineer Competency Portfolio available via the resources below.