July/August 2010

New standards project 'keeping it real' for users

By Ellen Fussell Policastro

When experts come together to develop a new standard, the atmosphere is thick with creativity and experience. Last month, leaders of the newly chartered ISA106 committee, which deals with procedural automation for process operations, hosted 25-30 volunteers from across the process and discrete industries in Sugar Land, Tex., to discuss the needs, benefits, and strategies for developing standards, recommended practices, and technical reports on the life cycle of automated procedures for continuous process operations.

ISA106 Managing Director Maurice Wilkins, vice president at Yokogawa in Dallas, said the committee "should be able to accelerate this standard from work that's already been done. The batch guys are experts in modernization, but we need to let the continuous guys have their say; they have a lot to add."

"We need to come up with more reliable design methods for continuous process-focusing on operation and operators," added Yahya Nazer, associate consultant at Dow Chemical in Lake Jackson, Tex., and co-chair of ISA106.

Keep it real for users

"The key thing is how owner/operators are going to use [the standard]," said David Emerson of Yokogawa, the committee's vice-chair and editor. "There has to be an owner/operator statement on unit-based control-a manual of proper procedures." Emerson added one of the ways to do this is to get input from end users in continuous process applications on what is required to help those processes. But as with all volunteer groups, involvement is the key, he said.

Jim Huff, vice president of technology at PAS in Houston, has worked with ISA88, Batch Control Systems, as well as with ISA95, Enterprise-Control System Integration. He is looking for consistency with other standards already out there. He is concerned with the consideration of relay systems and workflows, as well as functions-procedural control, safety, and quality-and all systems related to them. "What's important is to focus on the bigger picture-keeping the standard real for end users," he said.

Agree on terminology

Terry Hoffman with Dow said understanding and agreement on terminology, whether it is the same with batch or not, are the important issues to consider when writing the standards. "We need to agree and look at how we document applications and choose a standard way of communicating what we're trying to do," Hoffman said. "And we need to understand the value of what we're proposing. Why would a user want to use this? We also need to have flexibility, but we don't want to get overly complicated."

Janet Ridewell with Dow said she believes the committee should agree on terminology, document standards clearly, and facilitate that communication between facilitators and system integrators. "We need to focus on what we want the application to do and not how we want to do it. We want consistent terminology that's reflected in existing standards," she said.

Capture knowledge

"The supervisors and operating staffs are getting older in industry, and we need procedural automation to capture what the older operators have and transfer knowledge to new operators," said Marty King, staff engineer in process automation at Chevron Energy Technology Company in Houston and the other ISA106 co-chair. "How do we start up plants and transfer from one state to another within the plant and do it efficiently and the same way every time? I'm excited about being involved. I'm a chemical engineer by background. My focus and history has been in process control applications. How can we design a plant and also control it correctly? That's what this group needs to come up with."

Bob Zapata of ConocoPhillips is also concerned most about how to capture the knowledge people have in processes "so we can eliminate abnormal situations. A lot of it is terminology, that's the key driver to get to some standard in a short period of time," he said.

Don't let batch drive

Henry Salomons with Dow believes the standard needs to be focused on "degradation control, exception handling, which is not handled well in other standards," he said. "It needs to integrate much of the information from ANSI/ISA-18.2-2009, Management of Alarm Systems for the Process Industries. It has to work with that standard and be cohesive. I know batch well, and I'd like to see that batch doesn't drive this standard. Batch has a lot to learn from what this standard could provide, especially in the area of degradation control and exception handling."

"Most of my production experience has been with continuous processes," said Lynn Craig, a pioneer of ISA88 and ISA95. "ISA88 was a brand new approach with trying to standardize something," he said. "Yes, we need to make the standard more inclusive. We don't want to be a batch or continuous standard. We want to be a production standard. We all know how to deal with a continuous state … in batch processes. The advantages in exception handling, in safety, in being able to incorporate procedures in continuous process are enormous."

Randy Dwiggins of NNE Pharmaplan has worked for chemical companies and consulting companies-in batch and continuous operations, but with greater emphasis on batch. As chair of the ISA88 committee, one of the main things he would like to see is leveraging the work being done with what is been done in other groups, such as ISA88 and ISA95. He wants to make sure there is a "clear understanding of what the group is about and where it's headed. There seems to be a great diversity of ideas about what this group is supposed to entail-expectations that need to be clarified before it can make significant progress," he said. "We've heard a lot from batch people and not much from continuous people, particularly end users, which is what this is supposed to be about."

Near the end of the two-day meeting, Wilkins offered a synopsis of conversations that included much of what the group would focus on during the development of the standard. "We'll focus on continuous processes as a start," Wilkins said, "but we won't exclude future applications to batch or discrete, such as storage, distribution, waste treatment, transportation centers. The proposal is also to focus on [Safety Instrumented Systems, or] SIS, and basic process control systems as well as automated procedures, which may have manual and semi-automated components," he said. "Testing logic with simulation would be a candidate for inclusion as a recommended practice."


Ellen Fussell Policastro (efussell@isa.org) is an ISA Standards administrator.