Solving the Process Safety Puzzle

Integrated Safety Systems Offer One Solution, but No One-Size-Fits-All Fix Exists

By Nancy Bartels

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Chris O'Brien, partner at safety and security consultancy exida, also points to corporate culture as a big issue in process safety, and warns of the danger of looking at compliance as the total answer to safety or developing a "check-the-box" mentality. He cites the case of a facility where the feeling was "If we just use the TÜV data, we can get away with it."

O'Brien adds, "I was shocked. Just having the certificate is not enough. If the data isn't realistic, no matter what the certificate says, it's not right. That's not exercising engineering. They're not thinking it through."

The attitude that process industries are dangerous and accidents happen, so deal with it, also is finding less and less toleration.

Johan School, a product manager for Honeywell Safety Solutions points out. "In North America and Europe, there's a lot of regulation, and everyone needs to comply. There's a lot of incentive to enforce a safety culture. In those countries where there's regulation, there's a sense of not going around the system."

But perhaps as big a driver as legal liability is a shift in the outside culture.

"People are increasingly intolerant of industries that have accidents, especially if those accidents appear to be due to poor management of the associated risks," said Ben van Bourdon, executive vice president of Shell Chemicals Ltd., at the launch event for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Corporate Governance for Process Safety Initiative in Paris last June.

"Companies are ready to move on from the cost versus risk thing," adds O'Brien. "We don't want to be the guy who polluted the Gulf of Mexico. It comes down to awareness and internalization."

ARC's Young sees this shift in thinking in the market numbers. "What we're seeing is that the process safety system market is growing faster than the DCS replacement market. It's because of high-profile accidents. The C-suite is now paying attention and instituting corporate-wide safety initiatives. Safety has to start at the top."

The Role of Integrated Systems

For at least two decades, the major process automation vendors have been integrating parts of their safety systems with the rest of operations. This trend toward integration is increasing.

"There's a continued move toward greater integration with the control system," says Young. "The systems are integrated, but separate. There's a separate DCS controller and a separate safety system controller, but a common operator terminal and maintenance terminal for both. There are substantial savings from this approach, right from upfront engineering to end of system life."

Aslo Read: Plant Safety

Among the advantages of an integrated safety system are the cost reductions that come from not needing two completely separate systems; a reduction in the number of PCs necessary in a control room; visibility into what's happening on the safety side on the same HMI the operator is using for control; and easier installation and training.

Blue Skies for Bluewater

Bluewater Energy Services B.V. of Hoofddorp, the Netherlands, learned of the advantages of this kind of integration when it upgraded the integrated control and safety system (ICSS) on a floating production, storage and off-loading (FPSO) ship named the Glas Dowr (Figure 1). Bluewater was  refurbishing the Glas Dowr for work in the Kitan oilfield about  500 km off the coast of Australia in the Timor Sea.

The new ICSS system involved the upgrade and replacement of all obsolete control and safety systems on the Glas Dowr, including hardware and application migration. Invensys provided project management, detailed system engineering and design, supervision of installation, FAT and SAT testing, commissioning and training. The fully integrated solution included a Foxboro DCS, Trident and Tricon safety systems, Foxboro instrumentation, including level, pressure, flow and temperature sensors, and a Wonderware historian.

The communication infrastructure was replaced with a new one based on a redundant, fault-tolerant switched fiber-optic network to help ensure high system reliability.

The existing emergency shutdown and existing Triconex Tricon fire and gas system were upgraded with new I/O firmware to comply with IEC 61508 regulations. The Tricon system also got new main processors, cards and communication modules. The existing addressable fire detection system was replaced with a new central fire system and detectors, new Tricon fault-tolerant safety controllers and Trident triple modular redundant safety controllers.

That was a massive job, but getting it done on time, no matter the complexity, was absolutely essential. Crucial to the success of Bluewater's business of off-shore drilling is achieving "First Oil." Any delays around that deadline can result in costly penalties and lost production.

"To Bluewater, achieving First Oil on time is critical because income starts being generated for us at this time. Any delays here will have a direct effect on our income," says Ernest Hofstee, senior project manager at Bluewater.

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