Yokogawa’s Alarm Management Solution Installed Across a Vast Network at one of Europe’s Largest Gas Fields

Introduction

In Europe, a large fully-automated facility extracting gas from several geographically dispersed well heads and tank farms was in need of an alarm management solution. Each well head or tank farm is linked to a central control and monitoring center to form one of the largest distributed control systems in the world. 

The challenge was that the facility (with over 750,000 potential alarms) required an alarm management solution that promoted safe, effective and efficient operation at one of the world’s most important gas fields. It was also important that the alarm management solution could be utilized by all plant personnel including operators, engineers and managers.

After careful design and implementation, Yokogawa delivered a solution that conformed to industry standards and guidelines and helped keep operator workload to a minimum.

This project delivered an efficient and effective alarm rationalization solution, developed in parallel with the company’s strategic objective of a continual improvement program that will be effective for many years to come.

Project Scope

The company provided a set of specifications that needed to be addressed within the delivered solution. The resulting alarm management solution was commissioned to fulfill the following criteria:

  • A master alarm database to manage alarm setpoints and attributes
  • Performance dashboards to support monthly routine maintenance
  • Performance shift end reports to support shift handovers
  • Weekly and monthly summary performance reports to support planning meetings
  • Drill down capability to support root cause analysis (RCA) by maintenance engineers
  • Provision of a unified portal to provide a single access point to all systems thereby creating a seamless user experience across all locations
  • A benchmarking system to measure alarm system performance gain

Implementation

This project required Yokogawa to work closely with the customer to deliver a solution that matched their specific needs. Yokogawa listened to the requirements and specifications, and considered how best to deliver this solution. A number of existing applications were utilized, however, due to the project demands and requirements a number of additional features and enhancements needed to be developed.

Single Unified Portal

Providing a single unified portal was an important consideration in this project as the alarm management solution would be used by all plant staff including engineers, operators and managers.

This requirement presented a challenge because storage of the alarm data is spread across several disparate historians, with each historian responsible for storing the alarms from multiple locations (See Figure 4 System Architecture).

Single Top Level Point

In order to move seamlessly between locations, and to make the underlying architecture invisible to the user, a single top level entry point was implemented. This top level web page takes the form of a map, marked with the geographic locations of each well head or tank farm (Figure 1 Unified Web Portal Home Page). From this entry point, the user can access the web pages from the seven underlying web servers to provide a gateway to the data held in each historian.

FIGURE 1: UNIFIED WEB PORTAL HOME PAGE

Each point on the map can be selected resulting in a menu being displayed that navigates the user to the selected Alarm Management function.

There are three Alarm Management functions in this solution: the Master Alarm Database provided by Exaquantum/AMD, Alarm Reporting and Analysis provided by Exaquantum/ARA, and Sequence of Events Recorder provided by Exaquantum/SER.

Cross Site Collaboration

This scheme is particularly relevant to any project that requires collaboration across several sites, where a web based interface at a remote site can be exposed across a secure internet connection.

In this solution, the customer can administer setpoints and alarm attributes for all locations using a single Master Alarm Database (provided by Exaquantum/AMD), making it easy to apply standard design changes from a central location.

Maintenance Dashboard

The company required performance dashboards to provide key performance health indicators to support monthly routine maintenance. The system was designed to require minimum intervention; therefore any significant period of alarm activity is an indication that an area is under-performing.

In close collaboration with the company, dashboards were created to provide an ‘at a glance’ historical view of alarm activity (See Figure 2).

 
 Figure 2: Example Alarm Reporting and Analysis (Exaquantum/ARA) Dashboard

Figure 2: Example Alarm Reporting and Analysis (Exaquantum/ARA) Dashboard

 

This dashboard has proved very successful and has been incorporated into the latest release of the Exaquantum Alarm Management Suite (R3.01).

The dashboard also supports drill-down capability, so clicking one of the colored discs in the heat map might take the user, for example, to the chattering alarms report, pre-filtered for the day of interest. The user can further continue to drill down until ultimately the raw alarm and events are displayed, which can be used to perform root cause analysis (RCA) in the Sequence of Events Recorder function (Exaquantum/SER). The Exaquantum/SER function allows the user to see filtered events before, during and after an alarm incident.

Shift Handover Reports

The customer required a report to be generated at the end of each shift to provide the following information:

Figure 3: Example of Shift Summary Report

  • Standing alarms at the end of a shift
  • Top 10 alarms by number of occurrences during the shift
  • Alarms that are suppressed by the Operator at the end of the shift
  • Alarms that are in calibration at the end of the shift
  • Mean alarm rate for the shift
  • Alarm rate distribution by the clock hour

The report is automatically saved to a file-share in pdf format after each shift (See Figure 3). This report, as with all other reports, can be emailed to multiple recipients.

Similarly, weekly and monthly summary reports are available for management and planning meetings.

It was recognized that these reports would be useful to many other customers and have therefore been incorporated into the Exaquantum Alarm Reporting and Analysis (Exaquantum/ARA) product.

System Architecture

Alarms from all the locations (well heads or tank farms) are aggregated into a number of Exaquantum historians as shown below.

 

Figure 4: System Architecture

 

Solution Benefits

Improved Operator Efficiency: The site operates an ‘Eyes On, Hands Off’ policy, where alarm-free operation during start-up and varying throughput is expected. In a system with over 750,000 annunciable alarms, the potential for operator overload is enormous.

Yokogawa developed, designed and implemented an alarm management solution where operator workload is kept to a minimum, reducing wasted time and improving efficiency.

Unified and Accessible Environment: The reporting and analysis of operational performance across all sites is available from a single unified portal, which is utilized by operators, engineers and management. The system analyses and measures performance against what was designed, to provide an effective alarm process.

Conforms to Industry Standards and Guidelines: Alarm rationalization that meets the ISA 18.2 standard requirements was fundamental to the project and an important part of the continual improvement process.

 

Figure 5: Alarm Management Workflow - derived from ANSI/ISA 18.2

 

 

Alarm Rationalization - Reduces Volume of Alarms: Alarm reporting and analysis helps to identify and eliminate faulty and incorrectly configured alarms to reduce the number of alarms presented to an operator. Because of the plant size and scale, this is vitally important as operators must work efficiently and be able to concentrate on those alarms that need to be prioritized and actioned.

Effective Alarm Auditing: Effective auditing of the alarm configuration is made more efficient as all changes (proposed and actual) are contained in the master alarm database, including other pertinent data such as design decisions, rationalization statuses and documentation. Having all this information available in one location greatly enhances an alarm configuration audit trail.

Enables Measurement of Progress: As part of their ongoing and continual improvement processes, the customer is provided with the tools to understand, show and measure performance. Measurement of progress and benchmarking is achieved by storing all reports alongside the design data contained in the master alarm database. This provides quick and easy access to important information to better understand their plant performance. 

Key Takeaways

Single Portal: With such a large installation, the sheer number of alarms and geographic locations, providing a single portal for alarm management was a vital requirement of the project.

Bespoke Customer Reports: Working closely with the customer to fully understand their needs and requirements from the early stages of development allowed Yokogawa to integrate specific reports into their solution. This is a truly customer focused solution, that delivers tangible benefits.

Customer Collaboration: Close collaboration allowed Yokogawa to design and create new functionality which was incorporated into the product. This new performance dashboard is a great feature of the product, providing an ‘at a glance’ historical view of the alarm activity. This clarity and convenience is of significant value to operators, engineers and managers.

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