Access Pipeline Achieves Alarm Improvements Through Rationalization

By Allen Bauman, November 18, 2013

Access Pipeline’s project demonstrated the positive results of a comprehensive alarm rationalization effort. After completing a thorough rationalization, alarm systems can be expected to provide significantly less activation and fewer nuisance alarms .”

Access Pipeline Inc. is owned by Devon NEC Corporation and MEG Energy Corporation, each with an undivided 50 percent working interest in the operation. Headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, it was established to construct, operate and manage the two corporations’ joint pipeline system assets. 

The Access Pipeline system accommodates two steam-assisted, gravity drainage, heavy oil-producing facilities in the Christina Lake area of northeastern Alberta, where two heavy oil batteries are connected to the pipeline. Pipeline field operations are based out of the Sturgeon Terminal, 13 kilometers east of Gibbons, Alberta. Additional resources are located in the Conklin area to assist with northern operations. Pipeline and facilities are monitored and controlled remotely via a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system. Local and remote computer systems provide necessary safeguards to operate the pipeline in accordance with Alberta Regulatory requirements.

Access Pipeline’s alarm rationalization program has helped reduce configured alarms and improve the alarm rate at its Christina Lake, Alberta site. The company’s alarm rationalization effort was initiated at the operational level and developed into a wider initiative supported by upper management. The work addressed the SCADA alarm system and controllers, ensuring ownership of the alarm problem at the operational level. During this project, strategies were developed to minimize the rationalization effort, maximize the use of participants’ time, and still deliver expected results.

Benefits 

Rationalization is a key stage in the alarm management lifecycle defined in ISA-18.2, which forms the basis for implementing an alarm configuration and optimizing the performance of the alarm system. Access Pipeline’s project demonstrated the positive results of a comprehensive alarm rationalization effort. After completing a thorough rationalization, alarm systems can be expected to provide significantly less activation and fewer nuisance alarms. Furthermore, operator response to alarms will be faster and effective because alarms are more trusted, prioritized for correct action sequence, and free from clutter. 

Access Pipeline’s initial alarm rationalization effort produced noteworthy results. Overall, rationalization reduced configured alarms by 65.7 percent. This included reductions in configured high-priority alarms by 26.2 percent and configured medium-priority alarms by 35.2 percent. At the same time, configured low-priority alarms increased by 26.25 percent. 

Access Pipeline also gained many valuable insights from its work with Honeywell on alarm rationalization. For example, the company found that the success of alarm rationalization projects

depends on detailed preparation, careful evaluation of the alarm system, and implementation of the right process pertaining to its business. Creating buy-in is essential, too, as it requires open discussions with alarm rationalization professionals and listening to all feedback. 

In addition, Access Pipeline’s experience demonstrated the importance of involving the right people on the project team. Specific learning included: Don’t have people in the room who aren’t positively contributing (if you attend, you participate), don’t expect engineers to provide input all the time (accumulate questions and