Summit: Safety System Lessons Learned

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 @ 07:06 PM gHale

By Gregory Hale
Chad Vicknair knows what it is like to go back and start all over again. That is because that is exactly what happened to him when he was working on installing a system in his DuPont Performance Polymers Pontchartrain Site in LaPlace, LA.

It was almost seven years ago, he said Wednesday during his 2013 Siemens Automation Summit session on “Process safety lessons learned for PCS 7 Failsafe system,” when a certified SIS requirement ended up introduced in the late stages of a major project.

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“We had to go back to the drawing board with that one,” Vicknair said during the New Orleans-based Summit.

They decided they had to go with the PCS 7 Safety Interlock system and that meant the company had to bring in new people to get this part of the project off the ground.

“We had to utilize other personnel like retirees and outside parties,” Vicknair said.

One of the problems they had to get their arms around was understanding the new standard and then when they did get the system up and running the ad hoc team was gone so they had to get staff up to speed on the system. That meant there was a steep learning curve to maintain and manage the PCS7 Failsafe system.

They also had an issue when they went in for offsite training. Since the training company utilized the latest software version, that didn’t jibe since Vicknair’s facility utilized an older version so some of the training was for naught.

But to get the system up and running, “all of the pieces of the process needed to work together,” he said.

To handle the issues, Vicknair said they came up with a solid approach.

“DuPont has a strategic alliance agreement with Siemens and we recognized the training was not working,” he said. “We took advantage of our alliance to create custom on-site training for our control and instrument group. We were able to get additional details on areas of concern.” On top of that, the cost for training eight people was about the same cost of sending two people to offsite training.

After everyone was up to speed with training, they realized their SIS was only providing SIL 2 protection even though their SIF rated for SIL 3. Vicknair consulted with internal resources to understand the intention of the standards around SIL 3 requirements and for additional requirements for shadowing SIFs in the BPCS.

He then went to Siemens and asked why they were only at SIL 2 when the design was for SIL 3. “Siemens said that was what we asked for.” After working internally, and with Siemens, they all ended up on the same page.

Hindsight is always 20-20 and Vicknair went back and was able to learn from the project.

He said during fast moving projects you need to make sure you ask the right questions and get the right answers and don’t rush to conclusions.

In addition, “when new standards are introduced, consult several subject matter experts,” he said. Make sure you are well informed. There may be issues to overcome, but it is better to work them out in the beginning than later on.

“As someone told me, ‘arguing with an engineer is like wrestling with a pig in the mud, eventually you understand they like it.’”

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