On March 23, 2005, the hydrogen isomerization unit at what was then the BP refinery in Texas City, Texas, was rocked by a series of explosions and a fire that took the lives of fifteen workers. One of the causes of the incident was the failure of the safety instrumented shut off valves on the system. According to the surviving plant operators and maintenance staff, the valves had passed partial stroke testing “recently.”
Nobody really knows how recently, and nobody knows how well the tests were conducted. The Chemical Safety Board released a long report and an animated video of the disaster, but we don’t need to look at it to see a glaring major failure. Even if the valves had been stroke-tested, they still failed, and they failed catastrophically. They failed along with the level control switches, and many other safety devices. They failed because of stupid mistakes by the operators that those safety systems were intended to protect the plant from.
Why did they fail? They failed because nobody was making sure they worked. They all assumed they worked because they had done the same startup evolution for years, and nothing bad had happened. Fifteen workers died because of that bad assumption. BP’s Texas City plant was shut down for years, with no production. Somebody made a foolish decision to skimp on valve monitoring and valve maintenance, and it caused BP to have to sell the entire refinery to Marathon at pennies on the dollar.
Of course, in 2005, it would have been very expensive to instrument those valves to provide continuous valve monitoring. Depending on the manufacturer, it might have been impossible without major revisions. You might have needed to install additional sensors, which would have required additional wiring runs in marshalling cabinets that were already at capacity. You might have to have installed new CMMS software to try to determine when the valves were going to fail.
But in 2023, there is no excuse for not implementing continuous valve monitoring. You can use the toolset that has been developed by a company that has both extensive field experience and unparalleled expertise in expert systems and artificial intelligence.
That toolset is UReason’s Control Valve App—a simple, stand-alone app that will take the data you already have and use it in an AI-based analysis engine to tell you which control valves will fail soon and when they fail. This allows you to provide inexpensive “valve life insurance” by making it possible to perform prescriptive maintenance on the control valves in your plant.
UReason has extensive expertise in valves, actuators, and the relevant processes. They’ve compiled a huge library of valves, compressors, motors, drives, fans, turbines and other devices and their failure modes. Using the library’s data, and the data from the valves themselves, the Control Valve App uses intelligent models that combine domain knowledge and artificial intelligence (AI) to provide immediate detailed analysis of the process and recommendations for control valves.
In the basic app, a PDF report is the output, while the premium version can have an online dashboard and provide job orders, based on the valve monitoring results, in the maintenance management system of the plant. You can use UReason’s intelligence in a single application, like the Control Valve App, or in an enterprise version, UReason’s platform APM Studio can be used to manage all of your processes and all your varied types of assets.
The Control Valve App will allow you to switch from reactive maintenance to data-driven prescriptive maintenance. It will reduce unplanned repairs, and even better, it will help you postpone significant replacements, based on the actual remaining useful lifetime of the valve or actuator.
And if the control valves in your plant do not fail catastrophically, you have saved the lives of many of the people who work at your plant.
Download Control Valve App brochure
If you want to see how the CVA works, and how you can best use it, you can download a brochure here.