Abstract

As the eastern blackout showed last summer, poor alarm management in industrial plants can lead to catastrophe. Oil and gas operations are no exception. This paper will describe an industry-leading methodology, and a proven technology widely in use, to reduce alarm showers and nuisances from DCS and SCADA systems to "bring out the signal lost in the noise". Rigorous, intelligent alarm-management technology quickly reduces excessive alarms, and brings operator clarity to day-to-day incidents. Typical oil &gas applications often begin by replacing the notorious alarm printer, quickly help producers and midstreamers gain control over excessive alarms, then steadily improve the confidence and understanding of plant operators of what's actually happening in the underlying process.

It is a chronic problem in industry that process alarms enabled during site commissioning are seldom touched after start-up, resulting in far too many alarms for operators to handle confidently. Our presentation will show how this technology intercepts streaming alarms, quickly separates valuable alarms from meaningless chaff in 4 predictable stages, and results in a 40–60% reduction in overall alarm count within a few weeks - resulting in:

  • Permanently improved operational control and safety

  • Improved environmental responsibility

  • New visibility into opportunities for increased profit

Introduction

Most plant personnel equate alarm management with reducing alarms; however, this is only one piece of the puzzle. The whole puzzle involves providing operations with enough information to prevent abnormal situations and to prevent the escalation of those abnormal situations that cannot be prevented.

Poor alarm management results in billions of dollars lost every year to accidents, equipment damage, unplanned plant or unit outages, off spec production, regulatory fines and huge intangible costs related to environmental and safety infractions. At the end of the day it is clear that alarm management is one of the best, and best understood, activities that can bring significant hard benefits to an industrial organization. This paper reviews the benefits of alarm management, the causes of alarm problems, and a description of a proven approach that many industry leaders have adopted to realize the benefits of good alarm management practices.

The objectives of this paper are to:

  1. Review alarm management benefits

  2. Provide a brief overview of the problem

  3. Review the phases needed to implement alarm management

  4. Review common approaches and tasks successfully used to realize results.

Alarm management is about safety, the environment, optimizing operations, and increasing profits

Alarm Management Benefits Often the return of an alarm management project is thought of as an insurance policy or as a hedge against the likelihood of costly process disturbances-rather than as a source of tangible financial benefits and direct ROI. But sound alarm management practices are becoming recognized as the cornerstone of regulatory compliance, improved operational integrity and productivity, and enterprise-wide business improvements that repay investment in such initiatives.

More and more, proper alarm management is becoming a precondition to extending a facilities operating license. Also, with health and safety regulatory bodies closely monitoring the way facilities operate, alarm management provides a concrete demonstration of a plant's commitment to safety, environmental and well being of the local community

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