HxGN RadioPodcast

Safety at the Plant

Instrumentation is the ‘brain’ of the plant and as such plays a very important role in safety. We’ll discuss how we can analyze the systems and ensure they have the right protection level and functionality.

FJ: Thank you for joining us on the HxGN RADIO. I’m your host, Frank Joop. I’m looking forward to explore today’s topic with our expert guest, so let’s get started.

I’m here with Mike Scott, who is executive vice president of aeSolutions. In today’s episode, we will discuss the safety aspects at the plant. So welcome, Mike, and thanks for taking the time and joining us here.

I understand with owner operator, safety is one of the key things that they’re concerned at the plant, and I believe that implementation plays an important role in this whole safety aspect. I come from the engineering side myself, so when we build a plant, everything is fine, working fine, but over time, of course, things change, and there is a risk that maybe things are not so safe anymore. Is that where you come in and try to help the owners to retain that safety in their systems?

MS: Definitely. You think capital project, you start out designing something on paper, maybe it’s an EPC, multiple EPCs, and it lasts for several years, and you build this brand-new plant. You go out and you commission it, and you give the keys to the operator, and at that point in time, they’re off making sellable product, and things start to change as you go through in time. It might be de-bottlenecking a unit, it might be unit optimisation … You go all the way in the future for brownfield, it could be compressor train A and B, and compressor train B went down, and we made an economic decision not to bring that thing back in service. And through all of that, basically, you have changes to instrumentation and controls that again impact functional safety or process safety. And the important part is to make sure that the folks on the operations side of the fence know when they’re touching one of those important pieces of instrumentation, and that’s not always easy. There’s lots of siloed bits and pieces of information out there that’s often difficult to connect the dots on.

FJ: Right, so how do you do that? How do you capture the existing situation in order to manage it and make it better?

MS: So, I’m a voting member on the ISA S84 committee, I’m on the 61511 committee, and the interesting thing is most folks, whether it’s at the EPC or an end user, believe or think the safety life cycle is about making documents— I’m making safety requirement specs, I’m making cause and effects, I’m making functional test plans or SIL calcs— and it’s really not about making documents; it’s about executing design against assumption, making the documents, monitoring those assumptions in real time, and sustaining your business by identifying bad actors. So as I go forward, I’ve got toa be able to identify those bad actors and make changes at the facility to cost effectively remove risks from the business. That’s the heart and soul, that’s the most important piece, and I’ve got to make sure that capital project delivers something that’s easy for the end user to actually do that, and right now it’s difficult and hard.

FJ: Right. Do you have to walk down the plant or shelter to capture that information or …

MS: If it’s a brownfield and they haven’t done that, there is a lot of digging—

FJ:  Yeah, right, right, right.

MS: —to come up with that basis. If it’s a greenfield, it’s a matter of capturing what you already paid money for—

FJ: Yeah, exactly.

MS: —and just making sure it’s readily accessible and easy to get that.

FJ: Right, right. So now you have all the information, either from the brownfield or from the greenfield project. You do some analysis on that to determine if the system is in the safety limits?

MS: Yeah, and so I’ll give you an example.

FJ: Right.

MS: So I live in Alaska and I work with 14 different facilities, and they’re older brownfield, and so the frontline of defence for effects process safety is facility engineers. They’re two-to-four-year experience folks right out of school, they are the gatekeepers on that management of change paperwork, and they’re just learning the process unit; never mind the subtleties of instrumentation and controls, the subtleties of process engineering, the subtleties of safety instrument and system engineering. And if they don’t know what they don’t know and they don’t check the little box “effects process safety” on the MOC form, it all falls through the cracks.

FJ: Right.

MS: So I need to make process safety simple so that person who’s the gatekeeper can run a report and figure out that pressure transmitter PT100 is used in a SIL 2 safety function, guarding against primary loss and containment. And yes, “effects process safety” is checked as “yes,” because when I check the box, most of the facilities have a bunch of senior engineers who are going to come in and help and make sure that the right things are done at the right step and the right process and we maintain the integrity of those loops. If I don’t check that box, it all falls to the wayside and kind of … Systematic errors can occur …

Real-world example is I had a loop, a high temperature, closed a valve, and it was used six different places in the HAZOP. Civil engineering found it in five of them, which was all commercial only, so they decided it wasn’t a big deal, we can bypass it, we’ve got bypass for six months. They missed it in the sixth place of the SIL 2 safety function.

FJ: Oh, wow. Yeah.

MS: And so significant risk to the facility—

FJ: Yeah, that’s right.

MS: —because it’s difficult to get through that information.

FJ: Right. Well, you bring up HAZOP. So you play a role in the whole HAZOP study, going to see the cause and the consequences of all these instruments in the different systems?

MS: Yeah, so to make the safety life cycle simple, we created a tool called aeShield, and it starts with the HAZOP and the layer protection analysis, the safety requirement spec, SIL calculation engine, cause and effects, functional test plans, anything in the safety life cycle, managing safety functions or critical protection layers is in the tool, one-stop shopping, making functional safety simple.

FJ: Perfect. So as you know, we had Hexagon PPM, we have smart PIDs and smart instrumentation. So if a plan has been built or has that information in those systems, can you see that that can be leveraged in your solution? Can that be one and one is three?

MS: Yeah, 100%. The whole concept, one of the key fundamentals that we’ve got in the tool is that one of the patented features is called Real World Model, and the instrument tag in there is a specific tag-unique entity. So if somebody types that in, Smart Plant Instrumentation, PT100, why retype that in other tools to make an SRS, to make a cause and effect, to make a SIL calculation? And that’s what you’ve got at the moment. You’ve got disparate tools, whether they’re Microsoft or third-party packages, and people putting the same information in multiple places.

FJ: Right.

MS: Right now, if you type PT100 in one place, in the Smart Plant Instrumentation side of the fence, I can pull that stuff in, and that is an intelligent device. And let’s say that pressure transmitter—and that’s used in three different safety functions. Later on in life, you had an intrinsically safe barrier. Well, because of the object-oriented side of the fence on my side, update that in one place, the other two calculations auto update, as do all the other deliverables.

FJ: Yeah, yeah.

MS: So, yeah, there’s a definite synergy. I’m a consultant doing safety life cycle services, but my passion is making that front-end safety instrument of system engineering, reducing the man hours on that so an end user can focus on the monitor and sustain peace.

FJ: Right.

MS: That’s the heart and soul of the standard. I need to make that simple so they can remove risks from the business.

FJ: Exactly. I totally agree with you. We need to find the “I” in data. Yeah, no, it’s not a spelling error, but it’s the information in data. What I mean is that you can have data, data, data, but the data need to be in context to make it information for the guy to make the right decision. So once you do collect it — you have now collected all the data, you did your analysis — now you have to make this information available to the plan people to allow them to make the right decisions in their operation of tasks.

MS: And so our tool has a key performance indicator dashboard

that brings that together, basically stitches all that together such that I can get leading indicators at your fingertips. I can give you a functional safety index, which is an overall measure of how safe is your facility. And my end goal is that eventually somebody in management is bonused to make production of x, but do it safely, because I can bypass every interlock, I can ignore all testing, I can ignore all demands, I can ignore all failures and make a ton of production.

FJ: Right.

MS: But I’m very, very unsafe. I’m driving the car down the highway—

FJ: Yeah, with your eyes closed.

MS: —in the middle of rush-hour traffic, with the kids in the back seat, with no air bags and no brakes and no nothing. I got from point A to B, but it was very unsafe to do so. So if I can make it easy and obvious to know am I operating the facility safely, then we can make the world a safer place.

FJ: Yeah, yeah. That’s great, that’s great. So do you have anything else that you want to maybe add that I didn’t ask?

MS: My whole thing is cost-effective, removing risks from the business.

FJ: Yeah, yeah.

MS: And there wasn’t a tool in the market that did that, and so that’s why we created the tool and put it together to try to make this … instead of a concept in academia, make it something that happens in reality.

FJ: Yeah, but I think you hit on the key points, like this needs to be easy, and it needs to be easily accessible in a format to make the right decision.

MS: That facility engineer is … that started out two to four years, they don’t know the subtleties of SIL calculations and all the math.

FJ: Yeah, yeah.

MS: They may not be a process-safety guru. They may not have the INC background to know, what if I add an intrinsically safe barrier, what documentation needs to be updated. All that’s got to be simple to make it sustainable in the real world, because they can’t add a whole new discipline at these plants—

FJ: No, no.

MS: —and even if they wanted to, the expertise in the marketplace for a certified functional safety expert or TUV functional safety engineers, there’s not enough humans to fill that, to put that knowledge set at every facility. So I’ve got to have a tool that allows select knowledgeable individuals at the facilities, maybe even at the corporate level, making libraries, and the libraries can be instantiated by normal humans that are those two—to-four-year-experienced folks.

FJ: Yeah, because the two-year-experience folk may need to make a decision about the plant running or not running, or safely or not safely running. So, yeah, we need to aid them in that. Okay, great, very interesting.

I appreciate your time today and thanks for being our guest. To our listeners, you can learn about the safety of the plant at Mike’s aeSolution website. Be sure to tune in for more episodes on, or iTunes, SoundCloud, or Stitcher Radio. Thanks for listening.