Autopro Blog

Aligning Alarm Management programs with Process Safety

February 05, 2016

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January's webinar, Basics of Alarm Management, resulted in some excellent questions being asked by participants. Here's one that we thought would be especially informative for many of you.

Question

I have found significant traction in aligning Alarm Management Program with Process Safety, which is typically more mature. Have you seen benefits from other clients with this alignment or alignment with other programs?

Answer

There are definite advantages to aligning alarm management with a process safety management program; I’d argue that alarm management must be an important pillar in any PSM program. You can have a world-class SIS / shutdown system, but without putting that same amount of thoughtful design into process alarms, your plant is going to trip out – a lot! Your operators will just be trying to keep it between the ditches…

That being said, we have seen clients align their alarm management efforts with other ‘big initiative’ programs. Notable ones include:

Operational Excellence

The fundamental driving factor behind OpEx programs is to squeeze more production and profitability out of the existing installed process capacity. Effectively this means working to drive more throughput / yield / efficiency / production with less capital / raw materials / people. There are hard-dollar financial benefits to be gained from putting in good alarm management practices, and they almost all fall into this OpEx regime of ‘doing more with less’.

Regulatory Compliance

This was particularly important a couple years ago for any pipeline company operating assets in the US. New regulations from PHMSA in 2009 made alarm management practices a requirement under 49 CFR 192 and 195. These new regulations applied to any control room from which controllers operate PHMSA-regulated pipeline assets; this includes pipelines operated by Canadian companies with control rooms located in Canada. Further, we’ve seen many examples over the years where new legislation that’s created in one jurisdiction has been quickly adopted in other jurisdictions. Sometime in the next few years, I expect Canada’s NEB to seriously examine the PHMSA regulations and consider similar regulations.

Responsible Care

On the flip side of regulatory compliance we find voluntary efforts to improve performance in environmental protection, plant safety and product stewardship . This just boils down to good operations management with strong executive commitment to operate the plant as safely as possible for the benefit of workers and the surrounding community, independent from legal requirement. Alarm management is all about managing risks and reducing costs.

Energy Efficiency

Energy costs are a huge part the operating costs for most plants. Having good alarm management practices means your plant will experience fewer trips, meaning you’ll spend less time and energy re-starting a unit or wider area. It also means that operators will be able to run their units closer to the limits, resulting in greater process yield and energy efficiency. (See OpEx above.)

Autopro offers a complete range of Alarm Management services. Please contact us if you would like help doing a rapid assessment of potential savings for your plant.