A Different Plant Appears on the Horizon

Advances in a variety of areas will transform processing.

By Seán Ottewell, Editor at Large

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“The open protocols required for improved efficiencies in field automation carry their own risks, as do the movement away from proprietary legacy protocols such as Fieldbus in favor of Ethernet-based standards. And the ongoing convergence between physical and cyber security requires a high degree of information protection. These imperatives and more point to the increasing requirement for a robust cyber security posture addressing current and future threats,” he cautions.

Safety also demands robust measures, stresses the European Process Safety Centre (EPSC), Rugby, U.K., an organization that promotes best practices for both prevention and mitigation of chemical accident hazards.

“The fundamental safety challenge to confront the major hazards industries is to drive down the rate of process safety incidents such as leaks and spills caused by loss of containment,” says Lee Allford, manager — EPSC operations. “It sounds simple but, in fact, although there is evidence to suggest that there are fewer year-on-year incidents those that do occur tend to be more deadly, cause more damage and grab more headlines.”

However, Allford believes that in the wake of the BP Texas City disaster (http://www.ChemicalProcessing.com/articles/2006/055.html) industry now generally accepts the need to put in place an early warning system for such accidents — including a full monitoring program of loss-of-control events such as tank overfills and breaches of layers of protection that must be considered as potentially serious incidents.

“Action is not easy and requires dedicated and reforming leadership. Of course, of equal importance is to ensure that senior management set the right tone at the top for safety, provide resourcing, and drive safety issues to satisfactory resolution. Collectively, high hazards organizations will need to network, share learning experiences on incidents — the ‘know why’ as well as the ‘know how’ — in order to advance in the journey to zero accidents,” he concludes.

Seán Ottewell is Chemical Processing's Editor at Large. You can e-mail him at sottewell@putman.net.
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