Insights on Environmental Health & Safety (EHS), Operational Risk and Product Stewardship

Operational Risk Management’s Digital Journey: Twenty Years in the Making

July 16th, 2019
Andy Bartlett
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After reading Sphera’s latest 2019 messaging on what Sphera’s Operational Risk Management solution has to offer. I looked back at how far the industry has progressed and especially the management of Process Safety Risk.

In 1998 I was heavily involved in an initiative called the “Vision Refinery.” I was a member of a team put together to conceptualize what a refinery would look like in the future. We engaged Jim Bandrowski as a coach. (He is the author of the book “Corporate Imagination Plus: Five Steps to Translating Innovative Strategies Into Action.”) He taught us to use his Creation Cycle with the “blue sky” approach where existing technology was not a barrier.

I had been dabbling in home computers since 1984, starting with Spectrum and Smalltalk coding, and became interested in information technology.

During this time, I was also assigned as team leader for the information technology team as we entered this new phase in the use of technology.

To put this into perspective, email was in its infancy then and would not gain serious momentum until AOL launched its email services in 1993, followed by Hotmail in 1996 Yahoo Mail in 1997.

Once the email revolution took hold and use of the internet to find and share information evolved, there was a leap in how we perceived possible work processes.

We progressed with our research and what best practices and technologies were available at the time.

The technology we were able to research using the world wide web was:

As we put together our vision, one of our mantras was:

“Any information, anywhere, any time!”

I still have the presentation we put together to show our project team when we introduced the vision concept to the refinery upgrade design.

We met with some resistance to change, which is not unusual when organizations are faced with the unknown.

Of course, we had to demonstrate to management the return on investment from these endeavours.

What was missing from our vision was the concept of “Operational Risk.”!

They were deemed dirty words at the time, but “Safety First” signs could be found almost everywhere. Today I find myself working for Sphera, a company that provides a solution that brings to life most of what we envisioned way back in 1998.

#The Vision Refinery 1998Sphera 2019
1Collect all plant data in an accurate and timely manner for use in a decision-making process. At the time, expert systems were in their infancy, but we were convinced that was one of the technologies we needed to use to progress.A single, shared view of the operational reality. By looking at three simple screens, everyone from the boardroom to the frontline can see what’s happening, where it’s happening and what’s driving the risk– in real time.
2Massage raw operating data into useful information (we were dealing with basic distributed control systems [DCS] at the time).A major player in an installation of a digital plant implementation, which, by managing data to provide automated decision support, brings together disparate technologies and information from across the organization while simplifying and automating complex planning, operations, maintenance, engineering and Environmental Health & Safety processes.
3Improve handling of Alarm overload in the control room.Reduce Risk
• The ability to Focus on the important things such as Operating window deviation alarms, see and understand the health of the dynamic process safety barriers.
• Make MAH risk exposure visible, prominent and available – in real-time
• Connect PSM to Operations
• Ensure risk mitigation becomes an integral part of efficient and effective operations
• Increase EHS performance
4Support decision-making and financial planning while wondering if we could display live data and formulas to show pricing and sales with profits in real time? I visited a Powergen facility in Nottingham and watched the lunch time load Support decision-making and financial planning while wondering if we could display live data and formulas to show pricing and sales with profits in real time? I visited a Powergen facility in Nottingham and watched the lunch time load take place and its effect on profit margins and stock prices.Cut Costs by Better Planning
• Get increased visibility of each cost driver to realize annual frontline efficiency savings
• Reduced permit receiver wait time
• Reduction in crew wait time
• Reduction in supervisor wait time
• Reduction in annual downtime
• Ability to use library of pre-formed permits with risk assessments
• Reduce total operating costs through added efficiencies and less rework
• “Operationalize” the plan and improve plan attainment. Build an executable schedule that connects activity plans to the reality of operations
• Delivers integrated workflows to ensure safe and efficient work execution
5Visualize ongoing work by Installing additional control room screens as a video wall.Increase Productivity
Ongoing operational activities are visible by looking at three screens in three different views, bringing together data from multiple sources (e.g. systems, sensors, and human-derived activity) to uncover relationships previously unseen. New actionable insights and augmented decision support helps everyone make more informed risk based operational decisions.
The Map View
Within the solution all jobs being planned or taking place are visible on a map or plot pan of the facility giving Improved visibility of SIMOPS and better activity planning with:
•Integration of risk assessment, isolations management, and intelligent ePTW.
•SIMOPS textbook definition: “Two or more activities taking place at the same time, in close proximity of each other, and at least one of them has the potential to affect the safety of personnel or assets in the adjacent work site(s).”
The Gantt Chart View
• Showing work ongoing and planned and its effect on risk by shift.
• Look ahead facility to modify the time and date of planned activities, to reduce risk
• Improve end-to-end productivity across planning, maintenance and operations
• Deliver a real-time, 360-degree view of the operational reality to optimize the schedule against risk
• Improve prioritization of planned maintenance and operations activity
• Make maintenance more effective
• Improve asset reliability and availability
• Reduce unplanned shutdowns
The Risk View
• See and understand the health of the dynamic process safety barriers
• Make the IIoT operational by connecting the status of safety-critical equipment to
its impact on risk
• Automatically connect overdue maintenance, inspections, MoC data, safety-critical and environmental control system statuses to their cumulative risk impact
6Monitor/track employee locations using hand-held computers for operating rounds.Worker Mobility
Our Connected Industrial Worker Mobility App puts real-time context in the hands of field personnel is key to unlocking and monitoring real-time work execution and field safety. Enables teams to see and manage their work activities on-the-go:
• They’ll know what’s happening around them and have a better understanding of the job they’re about to do and know what they need to do next such as:
• Advancing a permit,
• Updating risk assessments
• Updating isolation points,
• Entering gas test readings,
• Reviewing the latest risk report,
• No need to travel back to a kiosk or workstation to capture data or know what work needs to be performed next.
• The app operates in both online and offline modes.
7Implement “just in time” training using hand-held computers.
8Install microphones with noise recognition software to listen for abnormalities before failure/incident occurrence.At one of our installations, we integrated an asset performance monitoring solution and can provide visibility via our barrier management screen of operating envelope excursions.
9Train all employees to be safety advocates and introduce hazard recognition training.With our comprehensively designed Risk Assessment Templates built on a hazard knowledge base accumulated over the past 25 years We cover nearly all activities and can quickly design new ones to match client requirements.
10Invest heavily in cameras at specific operating areas of the plant. (At the time, the only cameras were for security on the fence line and one pointing at the flare.)We were asked by one client to integrate with live camera feed and movement detectors with the fundamental barriers breach as an output.
11Make use of “intelligent” P&IDs as featured in Hydrocarbon Processing magazine article in December 1997, which discussed the then-latest advances in 3-D plant engineering software and a 3-D model to eliminate cost of physical model intelligent P&ID linked to all databases.We have tested this feature that will:
• Import P&IDs (one or more) from the source.
• Employ a system for use within the Operational Risk Management solution.
• Select P&ID based on equipment being isolated.
• Incorporate isolation plans that may link to one or more P&IDs.
• Navigate between linked P&IDs. (Multiple P&IDs).
12Improve Turnaround and Inspection (T&I) Planning linked to Primavera and figure out how to make use of Intelligent P&IDs linked to a 3-D model with selected actors.Sphera’s Operational Risk Management solution enables safe and efficient shutdowns, turnarounds and outages (STOs). The software solution was chosen to help plan and execute a major turnaround on one of the Middle East’s largest and most complex oil refineries. With Sphera’s software, the operator could ensure safety-critical work was undertaken in a safe, standardized and efficient manner.

I can’t leave this blog without mentioning something that was not in our vision back in 1998 but is available now: “Sphera’s Operational Risk Management, ROI calculator” visit this link to try it.


Andy Bartlett

Working with Sphera as a solution consultant for Operational Risk Management, Andy Bartlett brings with him more than 40 years of experience in the energy industry. He is responsible for helping organizations better integrate technology, people and processes to enable them to achieve Operational Excellence.

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