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Safety Interlocking in Extreme Environments

12 March 2015

The processing and transportation of oil and gas presents many safety challenges. While pipelines are the most viable means of transport over long distances, measures are always necessary to eliminate any possibility of error – either accidental or through deliberate sabotage.

The oil and gas industries generally have a disciplined approach to pipeline design and operating practice, governed by international standards and enforced by regulators and certification authorities. While good practice begins with good design, both are inevitably hostage to the ‘human factor’. It is estimated that up to 70% of reported incidents in the oil and gas industry worldwide are attributable to human error and account for in excess of 90% of the financial loss to the industry.

The contracting out of key functions inevitably increases the risk of accidents through human error. Reliance on written safety procedures is an act of faith in the alertness and goodwill of the worker. Accident prevention and violation reduction requires physical systems that compel compliance.

Human Factors Engineering (HFE) is the design of work processes and systems to ensure the safe and efficient functioning of workers by taking into account human capabilities, limitations and requirements. Mechanical interlocks play a role in HFE by adding an additional safety element to the process.

Mechanical key interlocks
Key interlock systems are single or dual-keyed mechanical locking devices which operate on a ‘key transfer’ principle, controlling the sequence in which process equipment is operated. Interlocks are now widely accepted as an effective safety management tool and used by every major operating company across the world to adhere to HFE.

Typically they are applied to valves, closures, switches or any form of equipment which is operated by human intervention. The ‘open’ or ‘closed’ status of an interlocked valve, or the ‘on’ or ‘off’ status of an interlocked switch can only be changed by inserting a unique coded key; inserting the key unlocks the operating mechanism (e.g. handwheel or push-button) enabling operation of the valve or switch.

The interlocking process starts with the use of an initiating key, which unlocks the equipment. When the operation is complete, a secondary (previously trapped) key may then be released, locking the equipment in the new position. This secondary key will be coded to operate the next interlock in the sequence, and so on. Using this extremely simple coded-key transfer principle, a ‘mechanical logic’ system is created which minimises the risk of operator error and ensures safe plant operation.

Mechanical key interlock systems are ideally suited for integration with Permit-to-Work (PtW) procedures; indeed, the Cullen Report on the public inquiry into the Piper Alpha offshore rig disaster (1990) strongly recommends the use of locking systems integrated with PtW procedures, especially where routine procedures cannot be accomplished in the time-scale of a single work shift.

Whether a pipeline or process module is of simple design, with basic functions controlled by manually-operated valves, or of complex design controlled by sophisticated mainframe Distributed Logic Control (DLC) systems, key interlocks can provide a totally reliable mechanical assurance of safe operating practice in which the operator’s scope for error is eliminated.

Extreme Environments
Much of the world’s hydrocarbon reserves are situated in or under some of the most inhospitable regions, including deserts, the Arctic, tropical jungles and oceans. Finding, accessing and extracting these reserves takes a monumental effort and is a multi-trillion dollar industry.

Ensuring the safety of plant and personnel in these conditions can be a real challenge for operators. Extreme weather or physical conditions not only contribute to the wear and tear of pipelines and process equipment – they also make the maintenance and operation of valves and interlocks much more challenging.

Working in extremely hot, humid or cold environments each presents its own challenges, but they can all make the work tiring and stressful. In the Persian Gulf, for example, where temperatures can reach 50°C, workers are exposed to constant heat while undertaking dangerous, repetitive tasks that often require intensive labour. In extreme cold environments such as Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, where temperatures can reach the opposite extreme of -50°C, the challenges are different but just as demanding. Workers may need to wear bulky clothing and gloves, for example, making the operation of equipment more difficult. Contractual staffing arrangements in most projects, combined with hazardous working conditions, can also result in an increased risk of accidents.

In these and other extreme environments, valve systems must be designed for safety rather than placing sole responsibility on the operator. Simple blunders can lead the operator to make catastrophic errors, so simply relying on operator adherence is not enough – safety must be built into the process itself. The focus then becomes accident prevention, not accident management.

The principles of HFE can easily be applied to the physical operation of valves in extreme environments. Some valves can require over a hundred turns using excessive, sustained force by several operators at once. Under these circumstances, portable valve actuators can reduce the stress on workers and improve productivity, especially with valves that require a high number of turns or are otherwise difficult to operate because of high torque. With the tool, one operator can efficiently work banks of valves, dramatically reducing fatigue and the risk of injury.

Valves may also be located in dangerous or inaccessible areas but still require permanent access. In these circumstances operators may have difficulty ensuring valves are properly open or closed. Remote valve operating systems are the common sense approach to these valves, ensuring that operators are kept at a safe distance while valves are actuated efficiently. Remote valve operating systems can pass through walls and floors and operate valves at some distance away. In this way they allow workers to stay in safe, designated areas while critical valves are operated remotely.

Case Study – Ichthys LNG Project, Australia
The Ichthys LNG Project, currently under construction 220 kilometres off the coast of Western Australia, is one of the most significant oil and gas projects in the world, involving some of the largest offshore facilities in the industry, a state-of-the-art onshore processing facility and an 889 km pipeline uniting them. The project’s onshore processing facility is located in Darwin, the capital of Australia’s Northern Territory, where daytime temperatures rarely fall below 30°C, with high humidity.

The project owners place great emphasis on the safety and wellbeing of its operators, adhering to best practice HFE principles to ensure quality, safety and fit for purpose equipment and facilities. HFE includes all those considerations that enhance or improve human performance in the workplace and minimise the possibility of human error. Consideration is given to all work processes and systems, ensuring the safe and efficient functioning of workers by taking into account human capabilities, limitations and requirements.

Smith Flow Control’s interlocks are used throughout the facility to provide protection for over-pressurisation of vessels and other valves across the plant. A twin or multiple relief system enables a relief valve to be removed for service without the need to shut-down the system. Interlocks guarantee an open path to pressure relief is maintained at all times during maintenance or other work exercises on process equipment, removing the possibility of both or all relief valves being simultaneously isolated. A simple mechanical valve interlock system ensures that no relief valve can be isolated until the spare relief valve has been brought on-stream. A spare relief capacity enables continuous production while maintenance procedures take place, eliminating the need to isolate and shut down the whole process, maintaining efficiencies at all times. In total, over 2,500 interlocks were supplied to the Ichthys onshore processing facilities.

As an additional layer of safety, interlocks were specified on the facility’s main pig trap, serving the main line from offshore. The vessel closure interlock was fitted to a 42” pig trap receiver, connecting to the large subsea pipeline.

Pig traps are launching and receiving stations that allow operators to insert and remove pigs (pipeline tools) without interruption to the pipeline product flow. The greatest danger occurs when opening the pig launcher or receiver door; during this part of the process, the launcher/receiver vessel can be under pressure if there is nothing to prove its status. Opening the vessel without correctly isolating, venting and draining can cause the trap door to fly open and the pig to shoot out at high speed, with potentially fatal consequences. Key interlocks negate this risk by mechanically proving the ‘closed and isolated’ status that enables venting and draining of pig trap vessels before loading or unloading operations.

Over 1,000 of Smith Flow Control’s EasiDrive portable valve actuators were also supplied to the Ichthys project to help ease valve operating problems.

Conclusion
Many routine pipeline operations are potentially dangerous if executed incorrectly or in unsafe conditions and this is exacerbated in extreme environments. By taking simple steps to integrate safety into valve operating systems, workers are protected and operations proceed in a designated, safe way. Interlocks are versatile building blocks that can be configured to meet almost any simple or complex procedure. In addition, portable or remote valve drive systems are cost-effective ways to operate difficult to open and/or hard to reach valves, protecting personnel while increasing efficiency.

For more information, contact Ms. Louise Cracknell at +44 (0) 1376 517901, Email: l.cracknell@smithflowcontrol.com, or sales@smithflowcontrol.com ; or visit www.smithflowcontrol.com

About Smith Flow Control
Smith Flow Control Ltd is a British company specialising in mechanical valve control equipment. This includes procedural control using mechanical valve Interlocks and activity management systems, EasiDrive portable valve actuators, and FlexiDrive mechanical valve linkage systems for remote and/or simultaneous valve operation.

Fire Fighting Enterprises becomes FFE

13 February 2015

Rebrand announced at Intersec 2015

On January 18, 2015 Fire Fighting Enterprises officially became FFE. Known the world over as a specialist in smoke and flame detection through its Fireray and Talentum product brands, FFE is using Intersec Dubai as the platform to announce its rebrand.

FFE rebrand

“We are delighted to be making this key announcement at Intersec. Changing our name and updating our image marks an important milestone for our company and our customers,” commented FFE’s managing director Mark Osborne. “We’re putting more focus on our two world-renowned product brands – the Fireray optical beam smoke detector and the Talentum flame detector. We welcomed many visitors to our booth number 4-G37 at Intersec to discuss how we can work with them to deliver world-class fire safety.”

FFE has always been driven by innovation, from the introduction of the first Fireray optical beam smoke detector over thirty years ago to the integration of the Talentum flame detector range in 2013. These products are relied on to protect some of the most iconic buildings in the world, including the White House, Buckingham Palace, Dubai Airport and the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, as well as countless industrial installations worldwide. Talentum flame detectors have also been selected to protect the Bloodhound supersonic car, set to break the world land-speed record later this year.

Over 8% of all FFE’s revenues are re-invested back into R&D, developing the technologies that are at the core of Fireray and Talentum and helping to bring about new technological breakthroughs. Through this ongoing research, FFE is not only providing quality today, but developing world-leading technologies for tomorrow.

“Underpinning everything we do is our most valuable asset, our people,” says sales and marketing director Tracy Kirk. “We couldn’t do what we do without our R&D team of highly qualified engineers, a dynamic and truly customer-focussed sales and marketing team, and a UK-based manufacturing facility covering production, testing and calibration.

“Added to that is our purpose-built, on-site training space, where we offer training courses not only on the products we supply, but also on the fundamental principles of smoke and flame detection.”

FFE has offices in the UK, USA, Dubai, India and China and a global network of distributors and channel partners. Continuous growth now sees the company’s products protecting lives in over 90 countries round the world – and this growth is set to continue.

Held between 18-20 January, Intersec is the world’s largest and most comprehensive trade and networking exhibition for the security and safety industries. It offers a unique spectrum of products from the fields of Commercial Security, Information Security, Fire & Rescue, Safety & Health, Homeland Security and Policing.

For more details, please contact India Business Manager, Mr. Sasi Kumar on T: +91 98869 41982 or E-mail: SKumar@ffeuk.com.

About FFE
FFE is a UK-based, global design and manufacturing business, dedicated to supplying specialist detection products to the fire industry. The company’s two leading brands are the Fireray optical beam smoke detector, with over half a million units installed worldwide, and the Talentum flame detector, one of the world’s most respected flame detector brands. FFE also leads the global market in providing fire extinguishers for aviation use and produces a range of vibration switches for industrial applications. FFE is a Halma Company.

Advanced Panels Protect the Eighth Wonder of the World

6 February 2015

Hagia Sofia in Istanbul, built almost 1,500 years ago and a landmark of global importance is being protected with an Advanced fire system.

Advanced protects hagia sofia

Built on the orders of Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian in 537 in what was then Constantinople, it was the world’s largest cathedral and a cornerstone of Christianity for nearly 1,000 years. It then became the city’s most important mosque for almost 500 years and is now a world famous museum and a crown jewel in the history and skyline of Istanbul. As far back as the 6th Century it was called ‘the eighth wonder of the world’. It welcomes millions of visitors every year and became Turkey’s most visited tourist attraction in 2012.

A recent upgrade to its fire system, installed by Advanced’s partner, D Sistem, saw an Advanced MxPro 4 fire system installed, supporting optical smoke and air sampling detection, with a range of input and output devices.

MxPro offers customers a choice of two panel ranges, four detector protocols and a completely open installer network that enjoys free complete training and support. MxPro panels can be used in single loop, single panel format or easily configured into high speed, multi-loop panels in 200 node networks covering huge areas. Advanced’s legendary ease of installation and configuration and wide peripheral range make it customisable to almost any application.

MxPro 4 is Advanced’s benchmark panel and is EN54 2 & 4 approved, offering users high quality and performance and the knowledge that its fire system can be easily upgraded in future. Its partner Advanced’s MxPro 5 is EN54 2, 4 & 13 approved and is backward compatible with the MxPro 4.

Gerda Koberidze Özkan, spokesperson for D Sistem Ltd said “The improvements to this historic building have involved bringing the fire detection system up to date, ensuring that the building has the best quality fire alarm system and meets the highest standards in fire safety. We have used Advanced panels for several projects in the past as they are highly reliable, adaptable and can be upgraded in the future.”

Etienne Ricoux, Advanced’s Export Sales Manager for Europe, commented: “The Hagia Sofia is the latest landmark building to be protected by Advanced panels. It’s probably the oldest building we’ve ever protected and beautifully illustrates the power and quality of Advanced’s fire systems. On the one hand we protect one of Europe’s oldest landmarks and the other its current tallest building, The Shard in London.

“We believe that MxPro ticks all the boxes, combining proven reliability with innovation and ease-of-use. It also delivers a future-proof solution, with the capability to be easily upgraded and supplemented in future.”

For more details contact Reji Mathews, India Business Manager, M: +91 98802 80326, E-mail: rmathew@advancedco.com

About Advanced
Advanced is a world leader in the development and manufacture of intelligent fire systems. Its legendary performance, quality and ease-of-use sees its products used in locations all over the world, from single panel installations to large multi-site networks. Advanced’s products include complete fire detection systems, multi-protocol fire panels, extinguishing control and fire paging systems. More details can be found on the website at www.advancedco.com.

Smart+ Combines Mechanical Interlocks with Process Safety Sensors

6 February 2015

SmartTrap+ ensures process vessels and pipework are safe to open

In the process industry, mechanical interlocks guarantee strict adherence to procedures and help avoid human error. They are particularly useful for highly dangerous operations such as pigging and valve changeover procedures.

While interlocks ensure extremely high safety levels, they usually function as stand-alone safety systems. New digital technologies are now emerging that enable traditional interlocking to be combined with digital process control and instrumentation systems.

Smith Flow Control is the first company to combine these mutually beneficial technologies in the development of the SmartTrap+, which incorporates signals from sensors into the interlocking sequence.

During a pigging operation certain safety conditions need to be met: the vessel pressure should be at a safe level and all dangerous gases and residue must be removed before opening the pig door. Mechanical interlocking guarantees that all required valve operations are performed, but cannot guarantee the outcomes of these operations.

For example, opening and closing a vent valve does not give real time information that the vessel pressure has actually reached a safe level; while opening and closing a drain valve does not guarantee that all residue has been removed.

By incorporating signals from other field devices like pressure or H2S/CO2 sensors into the interlocking sequence, the SmartTrap+ ensures interlock keys can only be released if particular process conditions have been met. So, for example, this could mean that the key for opening the vessel closure door will only be released when the pressure inside the vessel is acceptable and no dangerous gases or residue are detected.

SmartTrap+ incorporates permissive signals and a door lock proximity switch (4-20mA) as standard. The signals can include (but are not limited to) pressure detection, gas detection, flow/ level and pig detection.

Some of the factors contributing to pipeline pigging incidents include:
• Lack of training or complacency
• Lack of hazard awareness
• False sense of security and reliance only on pressure gauges

SmartTrap+ effectively deals with these factors, making pigging a safer operation and grants full traceability in real time.

The process industry’s standard preventive actions include:
• Hazard identification and risk assessment including management of changes
• Awareness, training and competencies of personnel
• Procedures that address normal and upset conditions

SmartTrap+ reinforces these actions and implements genuine physical control on any pigging operation.

For operators needing to ensure higher levels of process safety, the SmartTrap+ is an ideal solution. By incorporating the best of traditional mechanical interlocking with process sensor information to ensure all vessels are safe to access, it will help to reduce accidents and reduce downtime.

For more information, contact Ms. Louise Cracknell at +44 (0) 1376 517901, Email: l.cracknell@smithflowcontrol.com, or sales@smithflowcontrol.com ; or visit www.smithflowcontrol.com

About Smith Flow Control
Smith Flow Control (SFC) is a British company specialising in mechanical valve control equipment. This includes procedural control using mechanical valve interlocks and activity management systems: EasiDrive portable valve actuators, FlexiDrive mechanical valve linkage systems for remote and/or simultaneous valve operation and TorkDrive, a torque limiting device. SFC is a subsidiary of Halma plc.

Halma India announces opening of new branch office in Vadodara

15 November 2014

Halma India’s Managing Director, Mr. Prasenjit Datta inaugurated the Vadodara branch office on November 6, 2014. The office locate on the 4th floor of Atlantis Heights in the busy commercial area of Vikram Sarabhai Marg in the city of Vadodara, marks the first expansion of Halma India outside Mumbai where the main office of Halma in India is located. Prasenjit announced, “Halma is looking at India to fuel the growth of Halma companies as well as tap into its vast and experienced pool of skilled engineers in setting up knowledge and development centres. The Vadodara office will help Halma companies be closer to its customers who are located in Gujarat.”

Prasenjit Datta cutting the ribbon to open the Vadodara office of Halma India

The Vadodara office spread over more than 1100 sq.ft. will currently serve as base for Nitul Sanghvi, the Area Sales Manager for South East Asia and his team for Netherlocks range of products. Netherlocks is a leading supplier of safety and valve control systems for major industrial operations as well as smaller firms. Netherlocks main customers are oil & petrochem firms and consultants.

Vadodara Office Interior

For more information about Halma and its companies, please contact Mr. Sunil Balan, Marketing Manager of Halma India on Mobile: 077381 61211 or Tel.: 022 6708 0400 or Email: halmaindia@halma.com. You could also visit our global website www.halma.com. The Baroda office can be reached on Tel.: 0265 234 1134

Halma appoints Prasenjit Datta as Managing Director of Halma India.

13 August 2014

Halma, the leading safety, health and environmental technology group is pleased to announce the appointment of Mr. Prasenjit Datta as Managing Director of Halma India.

Mr.Prasenjit Data, Managing Director of Halma India.

Before joining Halma, Prasenjit was Managing Director of Brady India. Previously he has worked in Senior Management as well as Sales & Marketing roles at 3M, Smithkline Beecham and Blue Star. He has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur and an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

Halma plc (www.halma.com) is an international market leader in safety, health and sensor technology. It is a public company listed on the London Stock Exchange and has over 4000 employees in 40 subsidiaries worldwide. Halma’s subsidiaries make products that protect lives and improve the quality of life for people through innovation in market leading products which make its customers safer, more competitive and more profitable. These subsidiaries are assisting India’s economy in areas such as energy, manufacturing, healthcare, water and waste treatment, construction and transport. Halma has a hub office in Mumbai.

Press contact in India:

Sunil Balan
Marketing Manager
Halma India
B-1, Boomerang, Chandivali,
Andheri (East), Mumbai – 400 072, India.
Board : +91 22 6708 0400
Mobile: +91 77381 61211