By Gregory Hale
Process plants must remain safe, but budgets are tight and getting tighter, so that means safety professionals have to learn to more with less people and money.
That is where three safety professionals come in and suggested ideas during their presentations at the 14th Global Congress on Process Safety at the 2018 AIChE Spring Meeting, Orlando, FL, to lower costs on various projects they worked on over the years.
In one case, inspecting pressure vessels can be expensive and dangerous, but Russ Davis, national AIMS MI COE manager at Mistras Group said there are instances where non-intrusive inspections (NII) in lieu of intrusive inspections could benefit a company.
Normally pressure vessels are inspected at one half of the remaining life based on corrosion rate or every 10 years. Intrusive inspection is very dangerous and expensive,” Davis said. “External inspections can eliminate the need for confined space inspection.”
It also eliminates the need for an empty and clean process, the need to degas, internal surface preparation and the requirement for personnel to enter the vessel.
For an external inspection, Davis said, there are very rigid requirements to assess the vessel which could ensure a safer operation.
Disadvantages to an external inspection include:
• Can’t inspect internal parts
• No visual records of internals
• May not detect small surface indicators
• External does not inspect 100 percent of vessel, but internal does not either
Integrity review, Davis said, is essential to gather and evaluate background data and documentation on equipment.
The following are part of the decision process to see if the user is eligible for NII:
• Should the vessel be considered for NII
• Confidence to predict damage of vessel; do you have data to predict damage
• Previous inspection effectiveness
• Security and rate of degradation
“The inspection plan looks at what needs to be done and where it needs to be done,” he said. “Also, you have to understand damage mechanisms. Once a plan has been created, it is then executed and once that is done there is an inspection analysis. We then can assess the outcome and address it.”
So, for project where a pressure vessel inspection is needed, there are options.
“NII in lieu of internal is an option over the traditional method,” Davis said. “There are significant benefits and it is cost effective and inherently safer for personnel.”
Along the lines of working on projects, Steven Maher principal engineer with RMP Corp. talked about optimizing a remote HazOp/LOPA.
“A quality process hazard analysis is fundamental,” Maher said. “You can’t have safety without knowing the hazard. PHA has been a fundamental element of safety for quite a while and it is constantly evolving. The team is expected to do more and there are more demands for some busy people.”
That is why he talked about the possibility of teleconferencing with large groups to iron out issues.
“There has been an evolution on HazOp/LOPA over the years, but the core applications have not changed much, but how we apply them has,” he said.
There are tools out there that can help, he said, but with some of the “flashy” technologies out there, they also present issues if you don’t know what you need.
While having everyone in one location is ideal, video conferencing tools can help in a global engagement.
There have been changes in capital projects including financial pressures to accelerate project schedules, the use of package vendors, understanding that time is money and making mistakes is not an option.
That also falls in line with geographic issues, the number of stakeholders changes the way we do projects and assembling large groups in one location is very costly.
Teleconferencing technology has evolved to where it is more cost effective to bring people together from remote locations. The catch is, though, planning becomes even more important.
The following are some tips, Maher suggested to prepare for a remote meeting:
• Adequate computers/displays
• IT support
• Verify room is available
• Make sure you have bandwidth
• Predefine and communicate causes
• Predefine and communicate questions
• Extra planning and preparation is required
• It can accelerate the progress of capital projects
• Aid in project control
• Enhance teamwork
• Result in tangible savings
• Technology advances will continue to make collaboration easier
“Process safety professionals have been able to embrace and adapt new ways of working together. Don’t let the flashy technologies blind you to the importance of HazOp/LOPA.”
Safety Severity Levels
Finding a new way to understand the severity of safety issues was something Humbert “Joe” Howard, global manager of Process Safety at SACHEM Inc. had to create.
“We needed to standardize our procedures and processes, Howard said during his presentation. “As our teams started working on process safety, they were generating action items and the system was starting to get stressed out. There were more action items than money to take of them.”
That is when senior management decided the company needed help to alleviate the stressed-out system.
“We needed to prioritize action items to get relief every month,” Howard said.
The company wanted to:
• Use the existing company global risk matrix
• Integrate an action management system
• Spend as little money as possible
At first the action items assigned only four levels: Low, medium, high, very high. There was no separation of action items with each level. That process worked with two plants, but Howard said they added new plants and there needed to be more context on the action items.
That is when they created risk scoring. The risk score equaled consequence times likelihood with scores between 1 and 36. While at first they thought that was the answer, but the issue was everything scored somewhere in the middle. There was not enough differentiation for incidents.
That is when they got an idea.
“We had to consider the chemical involved. If a plant had eight spills, it was marked as a spill, but what kind of spill was it? We had to consider the flammability and toxicity.”
As a result, they didn’t really reinvent the wheel, so they didn’t change the existing risk score, but “we added a multiplier on top of that to give a more informed action item score.”
An example he gave was ethylene glycol would have a risk score of 12, but with a multiplier of 2 based on toxicity and flammability the final score came in at 24. With epichlorohydrin, it received the same risk score of 12, but got a multiplier of 4 based on its toxicity and flammability which meant it was a larger safety issue and should be a higher priority.
“Using a two-part scoring system can help bring clarity to tough decisions a company must make about recommending a priority.”