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The Aghorn Operating Waterflood Station based in Odessa, Texas, extracts oil from underground reservoirs in West Texas.

On 26 October 2019, a fatal toxic gas release happened at the facility. During extraction, the oil came out of the ground with some water, which contained toxic gas. The waterflood station’s control system sent out an oil level alarm on a pump.

An Aghorn pumper was notified, drove to the waterflood station, and attempted to isolate the pump from the process but failed. As a result, water with the toxic gas escaped into the pump house, fatally injuring the pumper.

Alarm management is about the processes and practices for determining, documenting, designing, monitoring, and maintaining alarm messages from alarm sensors. The key here is it is a process rather than a point solution. An alarm system is effective only when the complete process can be operated, tracked, and managed correctly.

The Overview

The oil and gas industry includes the global processes and practices of exploration, extraction, refining, transporting (often by oil tankers and pipelines), and marketing oil and gas products.

The industry, if not being properly managed, can pose dangers in daily operations, risks for the environment, and a safety hazard to the public. Leaks and spills are expensive and can damage ecosystems drastically. Hence an effective alarm system is a key part of a safe and reliable process.

An effective alarm system makes finding a solution for any issue much faster. Quicker act of solutions helps ensure the operations, employees, and public remain safe, and maintain standards for protecting the environment.

The oil and gas industry is comprised of the upstream, midstream, and downstream market segments. Upstream activities include exploration, drilling, and extraction. Upstream is followed by midstream (transportation of crude oil) and downstream (refining and distribution) phases. Today many large oil companies are integrated in that they maintain upstream, midstream, and downstream units together.

Upstream

The upstream segment of the oil and gas industry contains exploration activities, including creating site surveys and obtaining land rights and production activities, including onshore and offshore drilling.

As oil and gas exploration and drilling become ever more complicated and technologies are constantly evolving, upstream safety challenges pose a high risk to the people working in the industry and to the communities living in areas nearby.

Safety alarm applications, for example, for upstream may include Breathing Air Systems, Gas Monitoring and Detection, Mobile Gas Protection, etc.

Based on some recent statistics,

  • Since 2010, there have been 3,978 hazardous liquid pipeline incidents, including 10 deaths, 26 injuries, 2,482 people evacuated, 120 fires, 15 explosions.
  • The above has caused over $2.8 billion in property damage.

DCP Midstream

Midstream

Midstream activities include the storage, processing, and transportation of oil and gas products. These may consist of companies specializing in operating tanker ships, pipelines, or storage facilities.

The U.S. midstream oil and gas sector employs a lot of people who collectively manage millions of miles of pipelines, countless terminals, and a vast array of hardware, software, and data management and communication tools.

Transportation incidents, oil spills, cybercriminals, terrorists, shadow foreign government actors, and other threat actors can pose significant risks to this sector. Tight cybersecurity, accurate alarm systems, and rapid mitigation processes thus become critical.

Based on some recent statistics and data:

  • Data from ITOPF shows that six oil spills over 7 tons were recorded from tanker incidents in 2021, which is a slight increase in 2020.
  • It is estimated that cleanup costs for a medium-large oil spill could be between $2.4 billion and 9.4 billion dollars. Cleanup costs for an oil spill could be between $2.4 billion and 9.4 billion dollars.

Downstream

Downstream operations are the processes involved in converting oil and gas into the finished product. These include refining crude oil into gasoline, natural gas liquids, diesel, and various other energy sources.

For energy companies in the downstream sector of oil & gas, targeted, malicious attempts to infiltrate their business data and systems in the downstream sector of oil & gas are a norm. However, with operations across such downstream areas as plant sites, refineries, tank farms, distribution, and retail—such oil and gas providers can no longer overlook the increasing complexity of risks their operations face.

Hence, they must transition from a ‘run the equipment until it breaks’ mantra to proactively scheduling proper security and alarm upgrades and using a digital, predictive services approach to maintain the integrity of their critical infrastructures.

The hazardous environments found in the downstream oil and gas sector often result in unique strict fire and life safety measures. Effective fire and gas detection, suppression, extinguishing, evacuation, and mass notification systems should be equipped to address those needs.

Based on some recent statistics and data:

  • Natural gas distribution lines account for most injuries (79%), deaths (73%), evacuees (62%), fires (71%), and explosions (78%).
  • Consider that a loss of a single day of operations for a 100,000 barrel-per-day refinery could reduce revenue by over $5.5 million and profit by $1.4 million.

In a nutshell, it’s high time to beef up alarm management as part of overall safety measures for the oil and gas industry. If you would like to learn more about it, please contact us.