Process Safety and Energy Efficienc Workshops on Process Safety and Energy Efficiency Kick of PMA 2012

Editor: Dominik Stephan

Forewarned is forearmed, goes the saying. At this year’s Process Management Academy in Antwerpen, Belgium, the issue of Process Safety was addressed in a special workshop. Top-class speakers gave ideas how we could make processes and procedures more safe and secure, despite the fact that today we still have more problems than solutions.

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PMA Lobby, here is where the experts meet for networking. (Picture: PROCESS WORLDWIDE)
PMA Lobby, here is where the experts meet for networking. (Picture: PROCESS WORLDWIDE)

Antwerp/Belgium - Accidents happen where you least expect it - but experience tells that a lot of accidents can actually be attributed to operational errors. Modern process control systems sometimes give a dangerous illusions of total security and control, when in the end missing information, wrong interpretation, false indication or simply an information overload can lead to dangerous wrong decisions. A workshop of the Process Management Academy (PMA) in Antwerpen, Belgium, today tackled the issues of process security, where there are perhaps more problems than solutions, the participants learned.

More Automation - Less Awareness?

"More automation can lead to less awareness of how a process works," explained Dr. Andrew Lichnoswski, Chairman of the EEMUA's Instrumentation and Control Comitee. Unfortunately, Lichnowski pointed out, accidents happen where we think they just could not - therefore an in-deep understanding of a chemical plant or process is inevitable for safe and secure operations, he explained. That a single incident can put a whole company at stake was drastically underlined by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon offshore rig, that caused dramatic impacts on the local environment and cost BP roughly US $ 40 billion.

Safety First - Lessons to Be Learned

With these big financial and safety concerns, is it possible to avoid accidents upfront? A second statement by Luc de Wilde of French oil and petrochemical company total gave examples of how this question is answered elsewhere - in aviations or nuclear power engineering. He pointed out those investigations on the cause of accidents pointed out that 80 percent of these have reasons within the organisation. Also 80 percent are related to the behavior of the operating personnel, de Wilde explained. Both causes are deeply rooted within a company's structure and culture, he further pointed out. Could procedures and safety measures from adopted from aviation like checklists or the assignment of more than one person with a critical task bring a change? - In the end, the human brain is, as de Wilde said, only able to do one task at a time.

Developing Safety Indicators

Is it a lack of discipline that causes accidents? asked Sjoerd Nanninga, CEO of iBanx HSE, asked provocatively. Perhaps, but the true cause lies on a deeper level: Nanninga explained how concentration and self disciplines can be worn of and expires. After spending our discipline and self-restrain on less important task we tend to make lazy decisions, he explained. Lazy in Nanninga's terms means looking at just one aspect of a situation - omitting all the other potentially dangerous bits and pieces.

He called upon the industry to develop what leading indicators, that means indicators that can point out that an accident is likely to happen or possible. Common indicators mostly indicate what already happens in a process - a situation that Nanninga compared with the rear view mirror of a car. Just as nobody would drive a car only looking at the rear mirror, Nanninga explained, process operators need leading indicators that take a look at the situation ahead.

Forewarned is Forearmed

All these measures call for a profound understanding of what happens in a process, speakers and audience agreed. David Humphrey of ARC, who accompanied the workshop as a moderator, brought up the question of knowledge transfer. Especially European companies are currently facing a situation where experienced operators retire and young personnel has to be brought into the companies. How can the experience that elder workers gather within years of work and training be gathered before its lost? A hands on training or advanced simulators? More automation or less?

Process Safety, this workshops showed has several aspects. Some technical, some human and a lot of organisational. Investing in safety, all participants agreed pays back in many ways and can help to save huge costs, health and integrity of staff and local inhabitants and prevent dangerous impacts on the environment - even if today we still have more problems than solutions.

Energy Efficiency Workshop at the PMA

Have we eaten all the low hanging fruits? - That was the starting question of today's fourth workshop on Energy Efficiency at the PMA. Moderator Florian Güldner, ARC, underlined this problem with impressive figures that of rising energy costs of recent times. Are all the easy ways in terms of energy consumption already taken?

Güldner pointed out the difference between active (process related) and passive (supply related) optimiziation methods - for both kinds, the workshop had experts at hand to give a short presentation from their point of technical background. Frank Knafla, Master Specialist Energy Efficiency of Phoenix Contact Electronics, explained the importance of gathering and displaying information from a process to indicate if the key performance indicators show a successful processes or not. This approach, Kafna explained, eliminates the need for additional data collection systems.

Energy Integration for Batch Processes

Pinch analysis, measuring the hot and cold streams and building up a heat exchanger network - batch processes have their own requirements that can be completely unlike the ones of continuous reactions. While heating and cooling are mostly continuous, especially biochemical or food processes often employ batch reactions. Changing processes, availability of devices or changing recipes make it more complicated in these kind of processes to safe energy by energy integration.

Torsten Hellenkamp, Head of Inosim Consulting, explained how to save thermal energy input by means of energy storage - but does this method of energy integration also work for more complex plants as well? Challenges are the simulation tools and the appropriate heat storage technology, he explained. But the potential gains are big: Depending on the process, existing heat levels and available storage technology, simulation tools can identify the potentials and speed up the realization

Working Together for Better Energy Efficiency

Expert Dr. Herbert Maier, Head of Global Competence center at Clariant, described the 'Clariant Way' of saving energy, 'Energy 2010' and 'eWatch', to name two company wide programs. He pointed out how to operate and optimize our assets and plants and answered the question how to ensure that to achieve business objectives." But, Maier said, it is just as important to take a look at the behavior of staff. "How our employees act, think and feel in the workplace," has become an important question at Clariant, he showed. As he explained, also the energy management at Clariant is done with a sophisticated visualisation tool, that illustrates the energy consumption and increases the awareness of energy related topics in the daily plant live.