Protect the perimeter and the process

A visit to Honeywell's Geismar plant reminded Editor in Chief Mark Rosenzweig how to integrate security and control.

By Mark Rosenzweig

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The Studebaker National Museum, which just moved into an impressive new building in South Bend, Ind., provides an interesting perspective on that venerable automaker. Displays highlight a wide variety of Studebaker vehicles, ranging from horse-drawn carriages to prototypes of 1967 models that might have gone into production if the company had stayed in the car business. Yet, one of the displays I found most interesting isn’t about Studebaker. Rather, it is a car that Vincent Bendix, head of Bendix Corp., had built in 1934. According to museum archivist Andy Beckman, it served as a sales tool to showcase Bendix’s various automotive products, including brakes, axles, gear-shifters, carburetors and radios.

The power of putting components together so you can appreciate the breadth of a company’s line and how products work in concert applies equally well in the chemical industry — as I clearly saw on a recent visit to Honeywell’s Geismar, La., site.

Many people in the industry undoubtedly first think of Honeywell as a vendor of process control systems. However, it also is a major player in security and operates chemical plants. What the firm now has done is to tie all three elements together, making its Geismar plant a showcase for how process control and security can be integrated.

Security, of course, is a major concern now — with high-profile voluntary efforts like “Responsible Care” and a new, first-in-the-nation mandate by the state of New Jersey (CP, Jan., p. 17). The integration of security and process control is crucial, says Harry Sim, Honeywell vice president, to increase speed and efficiency of response to both physical and cyber threats. Geismar offers a “proof of concept” for such an integrated approach, he adds.

The facility is sizable. It covers more than 1,900 acres (with Honeywell sharing the site with four other companies) bordering the Mississippi River; Honeywell alone has about 275 staff there. It is the largest hydrofluoric acid plant in the country and is classified as a “Tier 1” site — that is, one with high potential for harm if a chemical release occurs.

The company received a grant of about $1 million from the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security and invested more than $2.5 million of its own funds for a security system and its integration with an in-place distributed control system.

Today, Geismar boasts sophisticated monitoring of its perimeter including radar tracking of vessels on the river; a system for identifying and controlling who can enter the site complete with readers that check hands instead of fingerprints; restricted, keypad access to sensitive areas such as control rooms; and the means to track the location of personnel and assets. Security and control staff have access to each other’s systems.

The approach offers a lot of benefits, says Bill Lessig, plant manager: “If there is ever an incident on site, everyone [security and process employees] knows about the incident in real-time. We are now able to get the right information out to the right people quickly and go into action immediately. This reduces risk, enhancing not only security, but safety.”

Honeywell will be integrating security and control at its other Tier 1 and Tier 2 sites. In addition, it expects contracts from multinational chemical companies in the U.S. and the Middle East by the end of the year to install security systems and integrate them with in-place control systems.


Mark Rosenzweig
Editor in Chief
mrosenzweig@putman.net

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