Control systems are an integral part of almost all chemical processes, regardless of size or complexity. As the demands for performance and safety increase, control systems will only proliferate. With automation comes the ability to develop more complex and interrelated processes, and to respond more rapidly to disturbances. However, increased reliance on control systems, both discrete and continuous, requires increased diligence with respect to their development and testing, as well as the implementation of independent layers of protection.
A control system that provides optimal product for typical feed conditions may behave poorly during abnormal conditions. Similarly, automated functions involved in standard operation may be incapable of quickly responding to an upset in order to prevent escalation, and independent control systems charged with safety instrumented functions may never be called upon to act until they become necessary to prevent or mitigate an emergency situation.
Presented here is a brief overview of the hazards associated with control systems. Finally, case studies are used to highlight the need for considering the potential hazards associated with control systems, from the design stage, through startup, operation and turnarounds.