Quicker Corrective Action at an Oil and Gas Plant

Dec. 7, 2012
Lisa Garrison, from human factors consultancy Acuite (www.acuite.com), reports that a major oil and gas company customer said the impetus for changing the operator interface designs there was the building of a new greenfield site: “We didn’t want to start off a new facility with 20-year-old interface design methods slapped onto a new system,” he said.

The customer continues: “Back when they designed the initial HMIs, such as the TDC2000, the vendors spent a lot of time trying to understand what the human perception limitations were and tried to design for them. Hence, we had group displays containing few parameters, but all information related to the points was available.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was the best they could do with the technology available.

“It seems that over time, technology improved but the vendors forgot about the operator and we have found ourselves where we are today. Vendors, contractors and EPCMs typically see interface design as ‘busy picture drawing,’ rather than an integral part of the system.  They often take their youngest engineer (or even summer student) with no plant experience to design the displays, because they don’t think that it is important and don’t appreciate the impact that display design has on plant performance and incident management.

“We had been implementing the same type of graphics for 20 years and were looking for something better for our new facility.  Acuite was the first time that we had actually seen the ASM principles applied properly.

“Before implementing Acuite’s concepts on our new facility, we tested them against our company’s latest interface design technology.  We asked Acuite to design displays for a portion of one of our refineries.  We then ran four scenarios with our operators, both experienced and inexperienced.  The results were impressive. 

“On the Acuite displays, the operators diagnosed and started taking corrective actions long before they noticed something on our standard displays.  In terms of ROI, we were convinced—ask yourself, what is the cost of missing an incident at your facility?”

>> Click here to read Automation World's complete coverage on operator interfaces, "Moving From Comfortable to Most Effective"

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