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Managing the Environment with Smart Plant Innovations

Jerry O'Brien, PDC Corporation, 903-D Medical Center Drive, Arlington, TX 76012

This paper will assess the benefits of “Smart Plant” technologies and approaches with respect to managing environmental compliance programs at industrial plants.

“Smart Plants” are, by definition, sustainable and efficient due to the implementation of effective instrumentation and controls, work processes, and management systems. Compliance assurance can benefit from each of these areas. Instrumentation and controls, including field instruments, networks, and process historians, can help companies to detect both non-compliance events and trends that could lead to future regulatory issues. Work processes that channel human effort effectively in testing, monitoring, reporting, and recording compliance data, must be established to enable the timely completion of critical tasks. Finally, management systems are necessary to manage the work process and systems used to assure compliance efficiently. Both work processes and management systems may be involved in meeting a single objective, such as maintaining work practices commensurate with the current requirements of regulations and permits, taking into account changes to plant processes as well as amendments to applicable rules.

It is important to recognize that even a “smart plant” cannot guarantee compliance. The nature of the manufacturing process does not allow such certainty. However, “smart plant” innovations can increase the likelihood that requirements are met and that compliance can be verified through credible documentation. From this perspective, “compliance assurance” refers more to reducing the risk of undetected non-compliance than to literally assuring that compliance requirements are met 100% of the time. “Smart plant” technologies can make this job easier and enable feedback loops to keep managers informed of progress and opportunities for improvement.