Access Pipeline Achieves Alarm Improvements Through Rationalization

By Allen Bauman, November 18, 2013

bring them in for specific reasons), and don’t combine project team functions (a strong facilitator is needed to maintain productive discussions, and the designated scribe must have excellent spreadsheet and typing skills). 

Other “lessons learned” in developing the Access Pipeline’s alarm rationalization process:

  • Don’t overlook the alignment of SCADA and HMI philosophies with alarm strategy 
  • Evaluate alarm descriptions and create a standard format providing sufficient detail for operators 
  • Avoid manual creation of alarm rationalization spreadsheets 
  • Use Honeywell’s automated alarm management software package to generate required alarm rationalization forms (two initial sites were manually prepared and rationalized in approx. 260 hours; all 37 remaining sites were completed in approx. 300 hours after purchasing alarm management software) 


At modern industrial sites, poor performing alarm systems can overwhelm operators with alarm floods and hinder their ability to effectively manage process upsets. Experience has shown that time is the most critical factor in dealing with abnormal situations. Personnel must be able to take action within seconds in order to safely mitigate the impact of an upset. 

Most pipeline operating companies equate alarm management with reducing alarms, however, this is only one piece of the puzzle. Operations staff needs enough information to prevent abnormal situations – and prohibit the escalation of situations that cannot be avoided. 

Alarm management is a comprehensive process by which alarms are engineered, monitored, and managed to ensure safe and reliable operations. Industrial facilities focus on rationalizing alarm systems so control room personnel can effectively manage the process and not just respond to alarms during their shift. Alarm rationalization involves reconciling individual alarms against the principles and requirements of the alarm philosophy. Relevant data for each alarm is documented to support other stages of the lifecycle. 

Unique metrics can be used to measure alarm system performance in a process industry facility.

Typical key performance indicators (KPIs) include: 

  • Total Alarms Generated by the System; 
  • Total Alarms Presented to the Controller;
  • Chattering Alarm Occurrences; 
  • Total Alarms Configured on the System; 
  • Alarms Not in Service (disabled or inhibited); 
  • Duplicate Alarms. 


In 2008, Access Pipeline’s automation team and control centre operators identified the need to better control and manage 11,000+ control system alarms. Several small and successful initiatives were undertaken during the following year. This included introducing alarm masking to reduce alarm flooding, adding first-in first-out (FIFO) sequence of events (SOE) routines to increase accuracy of the time stamp and cause of the SD, and eliminating latched alarms that didn’t activate an automated SD. 

In October 2010, Access Pipeline decided to build upon its previous alarm project by incorporating a comprehensive alarm rationalization process. Honeywell was engaged to perform an analysis comparing existing alarm performance with alarm management best practices. The project team determined that the Matrikon solution would be used to achieve its alarm management objectives. 

The alarm analysis, conducted based on KPIs identified in relevant industry standards (e.g., EEMUA 191: Alarm Systems – a Guide to Design, Management and Procurement, and ISA 18.2: Management of Alarm Systems for the Process Industries),