Until recently, the processes in the chemical industry were more or less fully developed: maximum efficiency, stable process management, known hazards and associated measures for a controlled process and, occasionally, some incremental improvements. The way in which we look at process-related hazards is also more or less fully developed: a HAZOP analysis carried out by a multidisciplinary group of experts with an emphasis on safe, stable operations. In case of changes, the Management of Change process. A cyclic risk assessment once every five years. All of this supported by static calculations of risk contours.
However, the processes of the future are far from fully developed. The systems around it will also be less focused on stable business operations. Think of an intermittent electricity supply, the varying quality of raw materials and circular water use that, in addition to safety, also imposes other requirements on water, heat and waste management. In other words: for processes of the future, more dynamic business operations – anticipating and dealing with changes – may be beneficial and even necessary. Until now, a more limited dynamic determines how often you have to check whether there is a threat and whether something needs to be adjusted. Think of the speed with which current processes change, such as batch processes or cleaning/decoking.
It is clear that the mentioned development towards more frequent variations of a ‘weekly or even daily dynamic’ in traditional business operations can easily lead to unsustainable situations, such as sharply increased security efforts every day, or the finding that it is impossible to keep up with international developments for flexibility. However, a more dynamic operational management requires a new approach to safety. An approach in which technical adjustments in both hardware and process safety, process safety measures and process control (e.g. through the use of further digitization) and integral process safety aspects are reintegrated. The methodologies that need to be developed for this purpose are summarized here under the name of ‘dynamic methods’.
Besides the fact that future processes are less oriented towards stable performance there are more reasons to consider more dynamic methods. The shortage of experts will only increase in the future. Incorporating expert knowledge into more dynamic (control) systems will become crucial for good business operations.
Finally, this also concerns changes in the context of the chemical industry. System transitions are underway that also affect the chemical industry. A transition in which everything is intertwined and in which we have to find out together what works and what doesn’t work. What are barriers, opportunities, interactions, feedbacks in and between systems?
The starting point for future designs is Safe by Design (SbD). Full SbD is pursued first. An analysis of expected dynamics (the external dynamics coming from the outside) and the desired internal process dynamics (the ambition, the way in which a process should deal with this), forms the basis for both SbD and the then remaining process safety measures. This ‘IPDSA’ (Integral Process Dynamics Safety Analysis) can be seen as a renewednsafety approach that enables, for example, Demand Side Response for energy (DSR).
During and after the transition, it is necessary to continuously monitor and adjust the many aspects that play a role in the chemical industry, such as: raw materials, available electricity, availability of experts, social acceptance, changing legislation, changing norms and values and much more. We will have to get used to continuous change. This applies to both our existing factories in new situations and for new factories.
Do you have questions regarding to this subject, do you want to con-tribute to this program, or do you want to make use of our services? Please get in touch with Esta de Goede, manager of this program line. We are looking forward to meeting you!