On paper, at least, it seemed like sufficient redundancy. Global chemicals company SABIC, headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has a Saudi Arabian affiliate that produces industrial gases for a large number of SABIC businesses and other companies in the region. To avoid the wide-ranging impacts that unplanned downtime would have on customers, the affiliate has a backup power feed and eight production units operating in parallel.
“We have all kinds of redundancies; it looked very robust,” says John Bruijnooge, director of technical services at SABIC. The affiliate hadn’t suffered a major outage in its 30 years of production, and there was a “high level of confidence” in its ability to stay online, come what may, Bruijnooge says.
But then in May 2017, what came was a major electrical storm. Lightning struck the main power feed; the feed went out. Within a second, another strike hit the backup feed. “And then it became dark,” Bruijnooge says.