Almost every process safety incident can be traced back to a complex interplay of these four elements, and a multiplying impact of shortcomings or simple errors in one or more of these areas. I like to point people to a few interesting videos that summarize the chains of events leading up to a few of the more major of these incidents (Richmond Refinery and Texas City). The reason I find these so compelling and important is that (a) almost always, the causative issues were avoidable, (b) there is often a systematic underinvestment in the correct monitoring and analysis tools that would help operators and engineers forecast and prevent the issues; or another way to put it is that the latest tools are often not in use in these situations, leading to jury-rigged approaches, and (c) the issues are very complex. There are interplays of different process events with consequences.
Degradation of systems and materials seems to be at the heart of a lot of weak points in process systems from a safety point of view. The ideal designs work fine, but what about the consequences of emergency blowdowns and the like? Can we effectively design those in, and on an ongoing basis, reevaluate integrity?
This has in fact been done using the new Blowdown models within AspenTech's process simulation tools [see video].
Another issue is the adequacy of the sizing of process safety systems. Sometimes this re-analysis is not performed frequently enough or without visibility across the entire impacted process system.
This is where, again, software technology innovation can be instrumental in making it easy enough to perform these re-analyses more frequently, and more importantly, make it economically advantageous to do so. By doing these re-analyses with the latest rigorous tools and integrated methods, not only can regulatory imperatives be met but additionally significant capital savings are usually identified.
TECHNOLOGY COMBINED WITH METHODOLOGY
An interesting webinar, jointly produced by AspenTech and InProcess, a leading expert company in this area, talks about how to effectively use these new technologies, in conjunction with the appropriate methodologies, to both achieve safer plants and save sizeable CAPEX. A summary of the points covered in the webinar is also recorded in a brief video.
Innovative technologies can help to make the design and re-analysis of process safety systems more convenient, more rigorous, and more accessible.
COMBINING THEM ALL
Innovative technologies can help to make the design and re-analysis of process safety systems more convenient, more rigorous, and more accessible. Combining these technologies with broader general-purpose simulation tools (such as Aspen HYSYS) can drive engineers towards more rigorously and systematically looking at the overall process systems. The correct methodologies, and training and dedication to use of these methodologies, is an essential underpinning.
But beyond that, it is people who make all of these effectively work together to achieve process safety. The approach, training and dedication of engineers. The motivation and ethics of company and plant managers. The training and culture within the plant.
Watch the on-demand webinar below to learn more about applying technology and methodology towards better process safety that is also economically advantageous.