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Monday, August 29, 2016 @ 04:08 PM gHale

A CenterPoint Energy substation fire and explosion in northwest Harris County cut power to approximately 75,000 customers.

Authorities got the call just after 5 p.m. last Tuesday in Cypress, TX. As the fire became larger, those in the area heard one explosion and then another.

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Concerned about air quality because of the billowing smoke, officials called for a shelter-in-place and nearby Hamilton Middle School evacuated. For a period of time, firefighters watched the transformer burn as the initial 10,000 affected customers turned into 75,000.

“There was a large transformer that faulted and caught fire. Exactly how that happened, whether it will be an overload or something like that, we’re going to work with them (CenterPoint) to get that information,” said Capt. Dean Hensley, with the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office.

No one suffered an injury in the incident. The shelter-in-place lifted after the fire burned for three hours.

Crews worked through the night to reroute power and restore service.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 @ 12:08 PM gHale

An open valve in a containment tank led to a sulfuric acid spill in Mulberry Fork in Alabama, officials said.

Just about 900 gallons of sulfuric acid mixed with stormwater and released into the Mulberry Fork Wednesday at the American Proteins chicken rendering plant in Hanceville, AL.

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While an investigation is ongoing, Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) spokesman Jerome Hand said they believe they know how the spill happened.

“The release occurred when a supply line from one of their outside storage tanks leaked into, basically a tank containment system, and that failed because it had an open valve,” Hand said. “It’s early in the investigation, and I hate to say it was a one-time thing, but we think we know the reason.

“It’s still under investigation, that’s just what we’ve found out so far. We’ll continue to look into all aspects of the spill.”

Hand said the release happened around 4 p.m. Wednesday and the department received notification by American Proteins at 5:51 p.m. He said ADEM contacted the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which was investigating the effects on wildlife.

“We were out there that night taking samples and we’re still waiting for the results from the lab on those, so it’s still under investigation,” Hand said.

The Mulberry Fork and the Locust Fork converge to form the Black Warrior River at the Bankhead Reservoir.

The plant’s general manager Jason Spann told the Cullman Times newspaper the spilled material contained about 150 gallons of sulfuric acid, mixed with about 750 gallons of storm water.

He said the company was cooperating with ADEM and other state agencies in the investigation and would take steps to “ensure that this type of spill does not occur in the future.”

American Proteins is a poultry processing plant, rendering offal, organs or other parts of the chicken not desired for human consumption into pet food and high-protein livestock feed.

American Proteins is the largest such operation in the world and its 600-acre Hanceville plant employs 230 people and can process 36 million pounds of offal per week.

The release of that much sulfuric acid into a flowing river is very uncommon and leaves state agencies and environmental groups somewhat out of their element in determining the next steps.

“This is the first time I’ve heard of a spill of this since I’ve been at ADEM,” Hand said. “We’re concerned any time something gets in the water that shouldn’t.”

Hand referred questions about potential sulfuric acid health effects to the Alabama Department of Public Health.

According to a Centers for Disease Control fact sheet, sulfuric acid is highly corrosive to skin and eyes and can cause severe burns, blisters, redness or pain. The recommended treatment for exposure is to remove contaminated clothing, remove contact lenses in eyes, rinse skin thoroughly with clean water, and seek professional medical attention.

Sulfuric acid can also form harmful vapors during chemical reactions, though it’s unclear whether that is of concern in an outdoor environment. The CDC said sulfuric acid is harmful to aquatic organisms.

Monday, August 22, 2016 @ 04:08 PM gHale

After a malfunction in computer programming released 572,000 gallons of partially treated wastewater into the Kalamazoo River, the affected waterway is now clear of any issues.

The spill occurred from the city of Kalamazoo’s Water Reclamation Plant and hit a section of the Kalamazoo River. As a result of the Tuesday spill, a health advisory went into place immediately following the spill, but ended up canceled early Thursday afternoon.

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The city of Kalamazoo’s Department of Public Services sampled the river between the Paterson Street Bridge and the D Avenue Bridge, and the results went to the Kalamazoo, MI, County Health and Community Services Department. The county health department approved the cancellation of the advisory.

The spill was not raw sewage, but partially treated wastewater that had been at the plant for 18 to 20 hours and had gone through most of the treatment process.

Excessive amounts of rain Monday night and Tuesday raised the city Water Reclamation Plant’s daily flow level to more than 47 million gallons of water, up from a normal amount of 26 million gallons, plant workers said.

A sensor failed to alert a third pump to kick on because of the large amount of water flowing into the plant. Workers caught the error during a routine inspection of the plant.

Thursday, August 18, 2016 @ 04:08 PM gHale

Four workers ended up rushed to hospitals and three flown via helicopter suffering from burns after a flash fire at the Sunoco refinery in Jefferson County, TX, Friday night.

Part of the investigation into Friday night’s fire will review whether the contractors followed safety practices, said Jeff Shields, a Sunoco spokesman.

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The workers ended up injured while doing some welding at the terminal according to the Marcus McLellan of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office. Officials from the company have not yet released any comments about the flash fire and the conditions of the employees.

“There is now no danger to the area around the plant”, the sheriff’s office said.

According to the company that owned the marine terminal, Sunoco Logistics, it appeared to involve a crude-oil pipeline connection.

The Nederland plant stores crude oil and other natural gases, with a storage capacity of approximately 24 million crude oil barrels, according to Sunoco’s website.

Friday night, L-Con contractors were working on a pipeline connection inside Sunoco Logistics, when a flash fire started.

“Usually vapor or there could be a liquid, it burns really rapid real fast,” said Deputy Marcus McLellan with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. “There’s no more accelerant no more left to burn so it’s just real fast, real quick and usually extinguishes itself.”

That fire injured seven workers with four of them critically injured after suffering burns. Three workers have been released from the hospital, according to a company spokesperson.

“Working in refinery is a dangerous job,” said McLellan. “You have hazardous very volatile chemicals that your around every day. Whenever there is an incident it’s usually on the severe side.”

Thursday, August 18, 2016 @ 04:08 PM gHale

A shelter in place lifted after workers contained a sulfuric acid leak Saturday at the Honeywell Plant in Geismar, LA, Iberville Parish Sheriff officials said.

The all clear came for thousands to open their windows and turn their AC back on after certification both on-site and off-site, said officials at the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

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The shelter in place call ended up issued Saturday night for Geismar, the Carville area, the St. Gabriel area, and everything south of Hwy. 74 in Ascension Parish. This area included two prisons in St. Gabriel.

Highways 74 (closed from Elayn Hunt Correctional Center to 3115), Highway 3115, and Highway 30 (from truck stop in St. Gabriel to Hwy. 73 in Ascension Parish) and Hwy. 75 (River Road) are now open.

There were no injuries in the incident.

A spokesperson with Honeywell released the following statement Saturday:

“Honeywell’s Geismar facility experienced a leak of sulfuric acid this evening. The facility’s emergency response team is working to mitigate and stop the leak. The plant has instructed employees of the site and two neighboring sites to shelter in place as a precaution. The facility also notified state police of the incident as per plant procedure.”

The following day, a spokesman released another statement:

The sulfuric acid leak at the Honeywell Geismar plant was stopped at approximately 11 p.m. Saturday evening and the shelter in place for employees of the site and neighboring sites was lifted soon after. Louisiana DEQ officials were on-site during the incident and the plant is cooperating with the DEQ and local authorities. The plant is conducting a thorough investigation of incident.

Friday, August 12, 2016 @ 03:08 PM gHale
Toshiba launched four new models of its IKS-WD6123 3MP mini-dome IP camera line.

Toshiba launched four new models of its IKS-WD6123 3MP mini-dome IP camera line.

Toshiba has four new models of its IKS-WD6123 3MP mini-dome IP camera line.

The new cameras use different focal lengths — 2.3mm, 3.6mm, 6mm and 12mm — to enable a wider variety of surveillance solutions requiring HD quality pictures at minimal bandwidth, ranging from super wide angle for large areas to telephoto angle for longer distance viewing.

With a profile height of only two inches, IKS-WD6123 Series cameras deliver video surveillance coverage without the overt appearance of larger cameras. The 3-axis angle adjustment permits fast mounting on walls or ceilings by automatically adjusting the factory-focused fixed lens to maintain a level image, reducing the time and cost of installations.

Each camera offers quad video streams individually configured using H.264 or MJPEG compression for live viewing or archiving. Different areas of the same scene can end up simultaneously viewed or recorded at resolutions as high as 2048 x 1536 by a single camera to help minimize bit rate and storage needs.

For improved visibility in variable lighting conditions, the cameras boast electronic day/night imaging, True Wide Dynamic Range, and a minimum illumination range down to 0.01 lux.

Friday, August 12, 2016 @ 12:08 PM gHale

An equipment malfunction caused a large fire that heavily damaged the Bostik Inc. plant in Greenville, SC, Tuesday night.

The company on Wednesday could not provide an estimate on when the manufacturing facility would reopen, spokeswoman Janet Smith said.

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An equipment malfunction caused the fire to break out about 8:45 p.m. Tuesday, the Pelham-Batesville Fire Department said. About 25 employees evacuated when a large tank ruptured, spilling liquid adhesives kept at a temperature of more than 500 degrees, said Assistant Fire Chief Carey Ballew.

More than 50 firefighters from various departments responded to the scene. Firefighters left the location about 2 a.m. Wednesday.

“We had a ton of smoke inside a very large structure,” he said. “That’s what kept us there that long, actually. The fire was under control a lot earlier than that, but we had to get the smoke out.”

Overnight, officials monitored the fire for hot spots.

Two firefighters ended up sent to the hospital for injuries. One suffered from heat exhaustion and another broke his ribs when he tripped and fell on his way out of the building, Ballew said.

Bostik develops construction and industrial adhesives, according to the company’s website.

The manufacturing portion of the facility had “a lot of damage,” Ballew said, although the building was not a total loss.

Additional cleanup will be necessary at the site, Smith said. The company will also conduct a complete investigation.

“In a situation like this, we want to really understand what happened,” Smith said.

Monday, August 8, 2016 @ 04:08 PM gHale

Golden Dragon Copper Inc., doing business as GD Copper USA Inc., is facing $196,900 in fines for 14 health and safety violations at its Pine Hill, AL, facility, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

OSHA investigators issued citations to GD Copper for two willful, one repeat, nine serious and two other-than-serious safety violations.

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The agency issued willful citations for exposing employees to slip, trip and fall hazards and allowing employees to work on equipment without following proper safety procedures to protect them from hazardous stored energy. One repeat violation relates to failing to provide training on hazardous energy sources and the methods available to secure the energy prior to performing maintenance on equipment.

The serious violations relate to:
• Exposing employees to unguarded machine parts and equipment
• Putting workers in danger of falls due to missing safety rails
• Failing to evaluate a permit required confined space prior to workers entering
• Not conducting annual audits of the energy control procedures
• Exposing workers to electric shock hazards

The other violations involve not ensuring employees were trained in first aid and failing to provide training on an emergency action plan and fire extinguishers.

“Our inspection has identified numerous serious safety hazards that put employees at risk of injury or death,” said Joseph Roesler, OSHA’s area director in Mobile. “GD Copper must be more proactive in identifying these hazards and taking action to correct them. Employers should not wait for an OSHA inspection or an incident to occur before they assess their workplace to ensure workers at protected.”

GD Copper manufactures tubing for heating and cooling systems, appliances, refrigeration and plumbing. Based in China, the company employs 390 workers in Pine Hill.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016 @ 03:08 PM gHale

By Gregory Hale
Cybersecurity is way too big for the manufacturing automation sector to handle on its own and that is why working with IT has so many benefits.

That convergence between IT and OT is becoming clearer at events like the traditionally IT-centric Black Hat USA 2016 in Las Vegas. OT can learn from the advances IT has made in security over the past few decades.

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One of the areas OT is learning to pick up on is the idea of speed.

“Speed is an important factor for security,” said Jeff Moss, a computer researcher and founder of Black Hat and DEF CON security conferences, during the kick off to Black Hat USA 2016 in Las Vegas Wednesday. “Speed can be measured. Time it takes to remediate. How long to cleanup a breach. Speed is a key metric.”

In fact, he said, when he ended up invited to give a talk at a chief executive roundtable, the top concern these leaders talked about was speed. They talked about speed to market; speed to react. The more secure an organization is, the more they are willing to push the envelope because a company feels confident in protection. “As we allow computers to take more risk, (you can gain a) speed advantage through confidence in your security.”

Dan Kaminsky, well known security researcher and chief scientist of White Ops which specializes in detecting malware activity via JavaScript, started off his keynote address by agreeing with Moss.

“Speed has totally changed how we have to learn and adapt from our experiences,” he said.

Kaminsky’s keynote focused mainly on advanced technologies years away from OT, but in reality OT could learn from; if not the technology, just the idea of thinking differently.

One topic focused on a micro-sandboxing system that uses small virtual machines (VMs) to carry out sensitive tasks, limiting their ability to infect other parts of the system.

This idea limits the ability of the code running in the VM to communicate, and monitor what is going on inside to make sure there are no unexplained requests.

Another idea was a “magic browser,” which could allow web designers to build webpages that allow functions in a known safe state.

“People are afraid of going on the Internet because they fear a security incident of some type,” he said.

Lack of Confidence
That fear is also leading to a lack of confidence in advances in technology.

“With IoT, people are assuming it is insecure out of the gate,” Kaminsky said. “Usually an industry has time to get their act together. Those days are over. We are not taking all the lessons we have learned and then doing something about it.”

Kaminsky talked about instead of keeping security a secret, users should release information.

“You are not competing on security,” he said. “We should release code so it is out there. Don’t be afraid of taking the knowledge exchange and make it more accessible to other people.”

Sharing security information is something the OT industry can learn and work to advance.

Protecting Supply Chain
At the Codenomicon event Tuesday night, they had a talk that had an OT angle to it entitled “Mitigating Software Supply Chain Risks – Gaining Trust of Software in Cyber Assets.”

Schneider Electric’s Director of Cyber Security and Architecture Paul Forney talked about the supply chain and ensuring its security. One way of ensuring a secure supply chain, he said, was having an organization committed to a secure development lifecycle.

Schneider Electric ended up certified for its Security Development Lifecycle certification based on IEC 62443-4-1.

The first industry certificate for SDL applies to Schneider Electric’s Process Automation business product development centers in Foxboro, MA, Worthing, UK, and Hyderabad, India.

Traditionally, IT and OT has not been a strong relationship. But it is getting better – and stronger. For a secure manufacturing enterprise in the IIoT environment, IT and OT will have to work together.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016 @ 01:07 PM gHale

A shelter in place order lifted Monday night for the Galena Park, TX, area after a chemical release at a Pasadena plant Monday afternoon.

A power failure and some CO2 emissions at the Pasadena Refining Systems Inc. (PSRI) in Pasadena caused a temporary shutdown of operations to the Washburn Tunnel, the Houston Ship Channel in addition to the shelter in place, officials said.

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The Pasadena Refining System flared off product, including sulfur dioxide, at their plant in the 1100 block of Red Bluff, said Pasadena Fire Marshal Dave Brannon said.

“Due to the weather we had (Monday) afternoon, they (PRSI) had a partial power outage so they were operating at about half-power,” Brannon said.

As a result, the plant had to flare off some product, including sulfur dioxide, and with the wind direction moving the heavy black smoke toward Galena Park, authorities issued a temporary precautionary shelter in place and the partial shutdown of the Washburn Tunnel and the Houston Ship Channel.

Thick smoke and small particles could be seen in the air.