Imagine that your car changed behavior overnight so that the next morning when driving to work you notice that the location of the brake pedal has changed. Would you feel confused and unconfident? It is easy to understand the importance of introducing modification to the control room and changes to the process in a planned and controlled manner, when considering the car scenario. All operational personnel should be kept updated about coming changes. The most important personnel with respect to these kinds of changes are the control room operators.
The modification work normally follows an MoC (Management of Change) process where the initial stages of appraisal will consist of narrowing down from a number of potential solutions to one that will be further engineered into a solution. Securing a tight dialog with control room operators along the way will cover the operability of the solution being selected. Tapping into the operational knowledge of the plant at an early stage can ensure better solutions, fewer reworks, and more easily maintainable solutions.
It is a fact that the cost of adjusting or correcting changes becomes more expensive if done later in the process.
Early changes = OK
Late changes = Expensive
Major changes planned to the control rooms should be subject to ensure operational feedback, thus include operational personnel in the design process. A best practice is documented in the standard: ISO 11064: Ergonomic design of control centers. Some companies are even specialized in the design and engineering of control rooms, for example: Eldor AS and User Centred Design Services.
The forum for Human Factors in Control Systems, HFC Forum has developed the CRIOP (short for Crisis Intervention and Operability analysis), which is the leading methodology to verify and validate the ability of a control center to safely and effectively handle all modes of operation, including start up, normal operation, maintenance and revision maintenance, process disturbances, safety critical situations, and shut downs.
The introduction of major modifications to the control room operators require a planned process, where the modification and the operational impact needs to be documented and introduced in a controlled manner. It involves updating the operational procedures, updating the Operator Training Simulator (OTS) and hands-on training using the OTS, if available. A schedule covering all operators (shifts) need to be planned and Safe Job Analysis (SJA) performed.
The best solution for testing the planned modification is to use the operators’ training simulator(OTS) and run scenarios involving the changed part of the plant. For major modifications, the operational procedures may be tested on the simulator covering the different operational modes that will be affected. This might be start-up of the process being modified, as well as normal, irregular, turndown, and emergency operations. Various fault modes should also be covered for the operator to be prepared. These training sessions can capture the control room operator’s expertise and be valuable to increase the quality of the implementation planning and SJA, prior to starting the actual work offshore. If there is no OTS available for the plant, the alternative will be to perform much of the same procedures using desktop sessions. Instead of operating using the control systems user interface, it is important to see how the new graphics will look and how to operate.
There are different forms of minor modifications frequently required to any asset, ranging from setpoint changes to changes where engineering documents are involved. Again, the nature of the changes determines how strict the MoC should be, and if the control room operators should be a part of planning the modifications.
Use the HAZOP (or CHAZOP) report
Based on the classification of a change documented in the company’s safety management system, there might be a requirement to perform a Re-HAZOP of the systems (NODES) involved. A HAZard and OPerability study of a system is a qualitative technique used to identify hazards in a process, so that associated risks to personnel or equipment can be evaluated and prevented. HAZOP studies are conducted via the use of structured and systematic workshops. The control room operators are normally represented in these multi-disciplinary workshops and it is important to share the HAZOP report findings to all operators. Hence, the HAZOP report is a good source to prepare for the changes, and might be used to identify important scenarios for training sessions on the OTS or similar.
A CHAZOP is a HAZOP study of the control system and has similar value as the HAZOP, but is even more relevant for the Control Room Operators operating the control system.
Control room operators often works in rotations to support 24/7 operation. Consequently, it is vital for them to know which changes and modifications have been introduced to the plant systems since last time the operator was working. The shift handover process is therefore a very important work-process to capture changes and learnings between shifts.
In cases of larger modifications, tight cooperation and communication between the project team involved with the modifications and the control room operators operating the plant is required during the modifications work. There is a formal handover process to follow covering the handover and acceptance by operations ensuring adequate testing has been done and that documentation is available from the modification project team.