Roger Stokes, Principal Engineer at BakerRisk, will present at Hazardex Live 2024 on managing abnormal situations in process industries which occur when conditions deviate from their normal state or operating range, such that basic process control systems are unable to restore normal conditions.

A team from BakerRisk, led by CCPS and in association with Abnormal Situation Management Consortium (ASMC), prepared a new book entitled Guidelines for Managing Abnormal Situations, published in January 2023.

Abnormal situations in the process industries occur when conditions deviate from their normal state or operating range, such that basic process control systems are unable to restore normal conditions. The consequences of a failure to provide the right intervention during an abnormal situation could ultimately lead to a major disaster such as a fire, explosion, toxic release, environmental damage and/or loss of life. Often there are opportunities for early identification, allowing corrective action to be taken before the abnormal situation escalates.

Many adverse events have occurred in industry and elsewhere, due to abnormal situations that took place, or developed, but were either not recognised in time or were not managed in a way that could have prevented the incident. Newer technologies, including Advanced Process Control, connected devices, machine learning, and artificial intelligence can add to the safe and reliable operation of a process. However, they can also cause confusion for operating teams dealing with an abnormal situation, as the systems may have inherent, unknown modes and patterns of failure. The design of the Human Machine Interface (HMI) is crucial to ensure that operators maintain Situation Awareness during complex deviations from normal operations. Furthermore, increasingly sophisticated systems and lack of specific training can lead to operators losing hands-on experience of managing the process during upsets, and unless these are practiced (e.g., using a process simulator), their skills and competencies are reduced, and they may not immediately understand what is going on.

By carefully considering how these abnormal situations might occur and by developing methods to identify, respond, and manage them, the consequences that can arise from them might be either prevented entirely or at least mitigated. The book examines such methodologies and management systems and provides a valuable resource for operations and maintenance staff to be able to effectively troubleshoot and handle abnormal events, as well as reduce the frequency and magnitude of process safety events.

This talk provides an overview of some of the principles and practices for managing abnormal situations, and some of the case studies that are detailed in the book.

About the author:

Roger Stokes graduated from UMIST (Manchester, UK) as a Chemical Engineer and spent 10 years at ICI in various technical roles, leading to a position in plant management. He then spent 23 years in the insurance industry investigating incidents on chemical and petrochemical plants, joining Baker Risk in 2015. He works out of the UK office as part of the Process Safety Group, and focusses on incident investigations, insurance risk engineering, PSM and PHA. He has provided training on incident investigation and on process safety to undergraduates and to process safety conferences.