June 4, 2020
The Insanity We Call Process Safety
Stewart Behie*, Syeda Zohra Halim and Noor Quddus, Mary Kay O'Connor Process Safety Center, Texas A & M Univ.
The overall number of incidents in petrochemical industry in USA has varied over the years, but the coverage gained by a number of incidents in 2019 alone has been significant. A large number of these significant incidents have been in Texas, especially in and around the oil and gas hub near Houston. These incidents have involved fatalities and injuries, large fires, and some with explosions or long plume hovering over the city of Houston. In one occasion, the emergency response was extended for several days. As one incident made it to the news, the next incident had raised more questions and concerns among regulatory authorities as well as the public. Analysis of the recurrence of such major incidents in the recent years may indicate a deficiency in the underlying process safety measures across the industry. Process safety encompasses the safety triad: prevention, mitigation and response. Understanding of what causes incidents and taking proactive measures is important to prevent them in the first place. Many companies have good safety programs in place to prevent incidents, however the incidents keep on happening. It is essential to identify how to build a stronger safety triad and take proactive measures against the issues to reduce the incidents. The current paper looks at the factors at play that significantly contribute to the failure behind the incidents and proposes measures to address these factors. From the analysis of the factors, it is evident that both short term and long-term planning and implementation is required by companies in collaboration with regulatory agencies and academic institutions.