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Play it safe

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,


The natural gas and oil industry is continuously working to enhance safety and operational integrity across all operations. This includes efforts to prevent workplace events, especially those that cause harm to its greatest asset, its workforce. The American Petroleum Institute (API) has recognised this and has been developing standards and programmes to help its members and the broader industry achieve safer and more efficient operations.

A new initiative

As such, in 2011, API, along with the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), evaluated incident rates of process safety events across the industry as a result of learnings from specific incidents. Consequently, API and AFPM created the Advancing Process Safety Initiative, a suite of activities specifically designed to help industry mitigate and prevent process safety events. Historical injury and illness rates can be seen in Figure 1.


Figure 1. Refining and petrochemical injury and illness rates (1988 – 2017).1

From 2009 to 2011, event rates in the refining sector were low compared to the safety records of other sectors, as depicted in Figure 2. In this time frame, refineries experienced less than one quarter of the incident rates of US manufacturing. Still, US refiners strive to reach the goal of zero incidents and seek to bring these numbers down with the Advancing Process Safety Initiative.


Figure 2. Petroleum refining injury and illness rates compared to US manufacturing.2

The initiative is comprised of several distinct work streams, all aimed at combating the causes of process safety incidents, through data collection and harnessing opportunities to share experiences and knowledge across the industry. These work streams include efforts to create process safety regional networks, facilitate industry learning and outreach, hazard identification, practice sharing, mechanical integrity, human reliability, and a programme focused on the tracing of energy flows in a system. The final of these work streams is the Process Safety Site Assessment Program (PSSAP®), administered by API.

Programme in action

Launched in 2012, API has been assisting downstream and petrochemical operators to assess their process safety programmes through PSSAP. The programme involves the assessment of a site’s process safety systems by independent, credible, third party teams of industry-qualified process safety expert assessors. As part of the initiative, the assessment process enables sites to benchmark their programmes against other operators and promotes the sharing of good practices across the industry through assessors who observe those practices in the field. PSSAP not only serves to spread good practices and benchmarking, it also provides a final report for each participating operator that details findings and areas for improvement. The assessment programme is nimble and can focus on an entire operation or certain components that an operator would like to assess. An assessment can include any of the areas outlined in Figure 3.

PSSAP continues to provide assessments worldwide – to date, 125 assessments have been completed across the globe – and good practices are shared across industry. API expects to see upward trends in benchmarking performance over the life of the programme, and assessments have resulted in clear improvement in certain focus areas.

Written by Colin Frazier, American Petroleum Institute (API).

This article was originally published in the October 2020 issue of Hydrocarbon Engineering. To read the full article, view the full issue here. The issue also includes articles on water treatment, sulfur, LNG, simulation, and methods to optimise refinery hydrogen production on steam methane reformers.

You can also register to receive a free regular copy of the magazine here.

Read the article online at: https://www.hydrocarbonengineering.com/special-reports/01102020/play-it-safe/

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