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Asset Management: a safety risk perspective for the Water sector

Partha Guha's picture
Director, Consulting - Energy, Resources, Utilities Tata Consultancy Services

Partha is a senior Management Consultant working with the Consulting Practice of Tata Consultancy Services in the UK & Europe region. He has over 20 years of experience in engineering and...

  • Member since 2021
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  • Jan 4, 2021
  • 649 views

The recent incident of explosion in a biosolids silo at a wastewater treatment plant in the UK has shocked us all.

The water sector in general has a robust culture and a strong commitment towards safety. All companies today have procedures, systems, protocols and training to look after the safety and wellbeing of their workforce, as well as the community and the environment they serve. However, unfortunate accidents like this still happen which is extremely saddening.

While we anticipate that investigations will reveal a unique and unforeseeable reason behind the current incident, it might be worth for the water industry to refer to some good practices that exist in other industry sectors, e.g. – oil and gas, where perceptions and procedures around risks and hazards of similar nature are managed using commensurate approach and technology.

Reference 1: Bow Tie

A common practice in such operations, for example, is to have a BowTie[i] / barrier-based approach towards Risk Management. BowTie is an effective visualisation and tracing mechanism where risk events are mitigated by setting up ‘Threat’ or ‘Consequence’ barriers, and risk monitoring processes evaluate healths of such barriers. A simple example of a threat type of barrier (possibility of event happening) is similar to having a smart braking system in a car to prevent the chances of an accident. On the other hand, a consequence type of barrier (limiting impact of event if it happens) can be visualised to be the presence of an airbag to contain the impact in case of a collision.

Reference 2: Loss of Containment

Another page from the book of asset integrity management for oil and gas sector that may be borrowed is the recognition of Loss of Containment as a failure mode. Unless already included in the risk assessment procedures for managing handling of hazardous substances and chemicals, this should be considered as an important failure mode to be analysed, and appropriate barriers (threats and consequences) may be set up to monitor the same. From a technology standpoint, online or offline measurement indicators (temperature, pressure, chemical concentration etc.) could be deployed to monitor asset and/ or process health which will indicate the effectiveness of containment measures. With increasing focus on recycling wastewater and corresponding increase in biosolids (and other wastes) handling, the focus on containment is deemed as significant.

Reference 3: Asset Performance Management (APM)

Finally, all of the above approaches could be implemented on a technology platform which is founded on the realm of Asset Performance Management (APM). Utilities, in general, and the water sector being included in it, do not yet have a significant footprint of industry standard APM solutions, unlike its prevalence in the oil and gas sector. While the EAM (Enterprise Asset Management) and Work Management processes and solutions have matured considerably vide the implementation of off-the-shelf CMMS and Field Services solutions, the uptake of APM solutions which embed the principles of Reliability and Integrity driven asset management practices, are not witnessed to that extent. There have been some ad-hoc implementations where the capabilities of EAM systems have been stretched (customised) to set up performance indicators and inspection/ maintenance actions on the back of it. However, such approaches lack the rigour of true reliability/ integrity strategies that are driven top-down starting with proven practices of FMECA, backed by appropriate risk and barrier analysis, resulting in mitigation strategies which use measurable indicators of performance to drive preventive and/ or corrective actions.

In the context of the recent event, we expect that the industry might have some alternative thoughts around existing asset management practices to factor in a more robust and reliable regime of APM, in the interest of safety, reliability and integrity of the asset estate.

 


[i] BowTie: a visual tool to keep an overview of risk management practices - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Partha Guha's picture
Thank Partha for the Post!
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