Capital Preservation, Businesses’ Life Blood

If They Were Called ‘Instrumented Capital Preservation Systems’ Instead of Safety Instrumented Systems, Every CEO Would Insist the Company Invest in Them

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This “revolutionary” capital preservation method really isn’t all that new or revolutionary. What’s being suggested is that companies apply the principles described in the recently published book, Guidelines for Safe and Reliable Instrumented Protective Systems (IPS) (© 2007, Wiley) to reduce risk and thereby preserve capital investments.

This Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS) guideline book explains the decision-making processes necessary to ensure safe and reliable operation. The authors establish a framework for a protective management system, including the elements necessary for a top-to-bottom corporate safety culture. The CCPS IPS Book expands upon IEC and ISA work processes for the design and management of IPSs frequently used to address safety, environmental and asset risks.

Using practical, real-world examples, the reader is guided through the IPS’s life cycle in a way that ensures a better appreciation of the intent of ANSI/ISA 84.00.01 (IEC 61511). With specific focus on the roles of management, engineering, maintenance and operations readers gain a greater understanding of individual roles, responsibilities and duties. The book serves as a useful primer, practical reference and ready resource manual that helps companies preserve capital investments. Examples are used extensively to explain “real-world” applications. This new book is a companion publication to the 1993 book published by CCPS, Guidelines for Safe Automation of Chemical Processes.

But before you begin convincing an audience of executives and/or shareholders, you must first come to the same conclusion as Dallas Green of Rohm and Haas Chemical LLC, Dave Deibert of Air Products, George Schultz of The Dow Chemical Company, Richard Dunn of Dupont, Jan Windhorst of NOVA Chemicals, just to name a few, who are already convinced and on record as saying that a meaningful safety culture represents good business.

Dallas Green, for example, says that he believes that this book includes the latest information and understanding on how to successfully apply instrumented technology to the protection of people, and for the first time ever, extends those systems, processes and concepts to include the protection of corporate assets and our shared environment. Green goes on to say that with its focus on "what to do," users can learn not only what the ANSI/ISA 84.00.01 (IEC 61511) standard says, but, equally important,, what organizations need to do and how to do it.

It is for everyone

A safety culture does not rely on balance sheet improvements to justify protection systems. It understands that the potential for incidents is an inherent part of the process design and that, without focused effort, incidents invariably will occur and reoccur.

During a recent AIChE Global Conference, several very important observations related to capital preservation became evident.

One of the most enlightening came from Kevin Klein of Solutia (www.solutia.com/pages/corporate/).

Klein shared that Solutia’s senior management views its continued commitment to environmental, safety and health as a key element to its successful recovery from bankruptcy. Klein went on to say that every company wants to avoid incidents that result in injuries or fatalities and the public scrutiny that follows. However, when a company like Solutia is reorganizing under bankruptcy protection, it is absolutely essential that everything be done to preserve capital, including strict adherence to the design, implementation, operation and maintenance of instrumented protection systems, Klien explained.

Klein’s message to the audience was loud and clear: Environmental safety and health are critical to a business success.

A second revelation at the conference was that an increasing number of people tasked with process safety management responsibilities were quite young or not yet born when the incidents of Flixborough, Seveso, Mexico City and Bhopal occurred. Some have not even heard these names. Many of the young people that have read about these historical incidents did not read them with the intent of learning from history to prevent future repeats. Furthermore, many people, including many senior managers, innocently believe the lessons and best practice recommendations that resulted from these incidents are being followed when they’re not.

These misconceptions must change. It’s time to dust off those reports and use them to educate these newer minds. Those who ignore (or aren’t aware of) history, tend to repeat it.

Lastly, conference participants shared that the gap between companies that have achieved even a rudimentary level of standards conformance and those who have not begun is growing, not shrinking. That too must change.

Among conference attendees admitting their companies have barely or not yet begun applying the standards, most are smaller companies. On first blush this is understandable; unlike the Dows and Duponts of the world, small companies don’t have the resources to establish departments that focus each and every day on ensuring process safety. However, small companies are far less likely to recover from a major accident, such as that experienced by BP. Thus when presented as “capital preservation” systems, it makes sense for small companies to design and implement instrumented protective systems in accordance with international standards.

So what’s the hold up?

Ready, fire, aim

One conference attendee shared that his company is waiting for the standards to stabilize—that is to stop changing. The problem with that argument is that by definition “best practices” are a work in progress that should be changed when better practices and/or improved technologies become available. Certainly best practices shouldn’t change too frequently—that’s why ANSI/ISA 84.00.01 (IEC 61511) undergoes five-year reviews—but changes are inevitable.

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