So are there are now pipeline RA approaches that are both better and cheaper than past practice?

Yes. RA that follows the Essential Elements* (EE) guidelines avoids the pitfalls that befall many older methods. Yet, we can still apply all of the data that was collected for the previous approaches. Pitfall avoidance, full transparency, and re-use of data makes the approach more efficient than other practices. Plus, the recommended approaches now generate the most meaningful measurements of risk that we know of.

However, one catch is that we have to overcome our resistance to the kinds of risk estimate values that are needed. When faced with a number such as 1.2E-4 failure/mile-year, many immediately react negatively, far beyond a healthy skepticism. Perhaps it is the scientific notation, or the probabilistic implication, the ‘illusion of knowledge’, or some other aspect that evokes such reactions. I find that such biases disappear very quickly, however, once an audience sees the utility of the numbers and makes the connection. Another catch is that rare events like pipeline failures have a large element of randomness, at least from our current technical perspective. That means that, no matter how good the modelling, some will still be disappointed by the high uncertainty that must accompany predictions on specific pipeline segments.