A Fresh Approach To Control Room Management And Related Best Practices

By Russel Treat, EnerSys Corporation, Houston | June 2011 Vol. 238 No. 6

A control room with analog consoles.

Buyer's Guide

This article summarizes a SCADA implementer’s perspective regarding the intent of the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) Control Room Management (CRM) rule. In addition, it intends to provide a fresh approach to CRM, describing why companies should use the CRM process to go beyond compliance requirements and implement operating best practices that would significantly enhance operations reliability and pipeline safety.

Control Room Regulations Background
What is the CRM rule? More importantly, what is PHMSA’s intent with this rule? One of PHMSA’s roles is to study pipeline incidents and make policy recommendations for improving pipeline safety.

PHMSA has identified “people” as a critical element in pipeline safety. People are often involved in preventing pipeline events – sometimes causing them, sometimes worsening them and always striving to mitigate their adverse effects.

In investigating incidents, PHMSA has found that a pipeline controller (controller as used herein is defined as the person seated in the chair facing the control system) may be qualified but is not always successful in managing abnormal situations or events. In fact, the controller’s ability to manage abnormal situations may be influenced by ineffective procedures, fatigue or even limitations in the SCADA system itself. To provide a balance between systems, implementation and procedures that help controllers be more successful, PHMSA offers the strategy “Prevention through People.”

There are two parts to the rule: 1) Part 192 (gas) and 2) Part 195 (liquids). The rule passed in December 2009 and became effective Feb. 1, 2010. To satisfy this rule, owners and operators with pipeline systems managed by controllers using a SCADA system must have a compliance plan completed by Aug. 1, 2011 and implemented by Feb. 1, 2013. However, a newly proposed rule would accelerate the implementation date to Aug. 1, 2011 for most items with a full implementation by Aug. 1, 2012. At the time this article was written, the accelerated rule was still under consideration.

there are two parts to the rule.png

A Performance-based Rule
The CRM rule is primarily a performance-based standard. In general, the rule identifies what is required but not how to meet the requirement. To comply, pipeline operators must: 1) provide effective operating and maintenance procedures, including specific requirements for training; 2) match the control room environment and equipment (including software, displays, alarm processing, furniture, lighting, noise, etc.) to human capability; and 3) provide controllers with warnings and guidance when abnormal operations occur.

This last requirement presents one of the greatest challenges to pipeline operators – demanding solutions and systems that differ significantly from anything they have in their control rooms today.

To meet the performance-based requirement of the rule, the operator should create written policies and procedures around control room operations. These written procedures must define exactly what controllers do in normal, abnormal and emergency operating conditions. The rule also requires controllers to have a formal and auditable mechanism for control hand-off during shift changes. Shifts should be organized to deal with fatigue, and both controllers and the people who work with them require training about fatigue and how it is mitigated.