The Abnormal Situations Management Consortium

The comments made last week about the operator interface for the more complex control systems now available led to information about an interesting user group that have studied this problem since 1994, the Abnormal Situations Management Consortium, http://www.asmconsortium.net. This consortium has a membership that includes Shell, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, BP, Petronas, Sasol as users, UCLA and Nanyang University, and suppliers like Honeywell, UOP, Human Centred Solutions (a consultancy in human-centered design methodologies) and the Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center at Texas A+M.

The ASM Consortium has invested in research and development to create knowledge, tools and products designed to prevent, detect and mitigate abnormal situations that affect process safety in the control operations environment. Large plant explosions are an extreme in a gamut of minor to major process disruptions, collectively referred to as abnormal situations. On the average, a petrochemical plant will have a major incident every three years. Most abnormal situations do not result in explosions and fires but are costly nevertheless, resulting in poor product quality, schedule delays, equipment damage, and other significant costs. ASM Consortium site studies suggest that operations practices can lead to costs of 3-8 per cent of plant capacity due to unexpected events, which means the cost of lost production due to abnormal situations is at least USD10 billion annually in US petrochemical plants alone.

The research program objective is to conduct investigations and share experiences on factors contributing to the successful reduction of abnormal situations in chemical processes. A primary part of this is the exchange of information within the membership, and as appropriate, externally in the public domain to influence the global adoption of ASM solution concepts. The website allows access to some interesting papers presented at Consortium meetings, as well as relevant and topical news items.

As the major control systems supplier involved, the Honeywell contribution is to capture the knowledge represented in and developed by the Consortium and to return it to customers in the form of products and services that can be successfully deployed. An associated release from Honeywell this week advises that they have acquired rights to technology developed by Shell Global Solutions for gathering field data, helping industrial plants to safely increase production and reduce operating costs. The Operational and Technical Task for Efficient Rounds (OTTER) technology is currently used in more than 25 sites to help guide field operators as they execute key field surveillance tasks that keep assets running within safe operating limits and at optimum performance. It also delivers best practices to all field operators; provides decision support capabilities; improves regulatory reporting; and facilitates communication between groups to address problems immediately. Honeywell see this as an integrated solution for the mobile field worker, fitting well with their OneWireless network and Dolphin mobile computer devices.

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