Building the Foundations of Process Safety in Design
- Adam Wilson (JPT Special Publications Editor)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- August 2015
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 116 - 118
- 2015. Society of Petroleum Engineers
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- 50 since 2007
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This article, written by Special Publications Editor Adam Wilson, contains highlights of paper SPE 170442, “Building the Foundations of Process Safety in Design,” by James Jessup, SPE, Julian Barlow, Damian Peake, and Manoj Pillai, Shell Global Solutions, prepared for the 2014 SPE Middle East Health, Safety, Environment, and Sustainable Development Conference and Exhibition, Doha, Qatar, 22–24 September. The paper has not been peer reviewed.
The maximum level of process-safety performance an operational asset can attain is set indelibly in the early stages of a project. This is why it is crucial to lay a solid foundation for process safety during design. Before embarking on front-end engineering design (FEED) of the Al Karaana petrochemical project, a behavior-based process-safety program was created with the aim of entrenching process safety in the hearts and minds of design engineers and positively influencing behaviors. The nine foundations of projects process safety form the cornerstone of the program.
Dangers Concealed in Design
Over the past several decades, industry attentiveness to asset integrity and process safety has progressed. The advancement of industry codes and standards and governmental regulations improving the prescriptive minimum requirements in facility design has served to elevate the general level of asset process-safety performance.
On an industrywide basis, during the 20th century, process-safety improvement was influenced initially by fundamental regulations and subsequently by technology, management-system implementation, and more-refined codes and regulations, which have served to improve the performance of process safety.
However, little comfort can be taken from this general improvement; the continued occurrence of catastrophic incidents is a stark reminder that further strides need to be made.
What should give engineers and designers pause for thought is that many of these catastrophic incidents in the operational phase have root causes in design and could have been avoided with proper attention.
The contribution of errors in design is significant. Of accidents reported to the EU Major Accident Reporting System, statistical analysis shows that design inadequacies are present in approximately 70% of them.
The company has compiled data from recent capital projects on items or issues that could have adverse effects on safety, production, quality, or costs and could subsequently affect successful commissioning, startup, and first-cycle operation of new facilities. Of these flaws experienced in projects, it has been suggested that nearly half have their origins in design stages (Fig. 1). These have resulted in, among other consequences, process-safety incidents that could have been avoided with effective consideration in design.
A minor error or oversight in a design document can often be the source of a future process-safety incident. If the root cause of most incidents can be traced back to design, it is evident that a focus on the activities that take place in an engineering design office is imperative for delivery of a safe performing asset.
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