I started posting at this site at the beginning of 2022. Since then I have published a post about five times a week. That’s a lot.
The original intent of the site was to evaluate the various technology options that have been proposed for “green energy”, and for addressing the climate challenge. The term “Net Zero by 2050” was in fashion, so I was particularly interested in what could be done in just 28 short years. After all, it took 300 years for the Industrial Revolution to bring us to where we are now; Net Zero advocates are proposing an equally profound change, but this time it would take just 30 years, not 300.
Then, in August 2022 OSHA and the EPA issued proposed updates to their Process Safety Management / Risk Management Program standards. Since process safety management is my background, I therefore shifted gears and started systematically evaluating the proposed updates. By the beginning of 2023 I was able to compile the posts to do with the OSHA standard into the book The OSHA Process Safety Standard — The 30-Year Update. I then started working through the proposed changes to the EPA Risk Management Program. You can see a summary of the posts so far at Updates to the EPA RMP Rule. (The latest post is The EPA Risk Management Program Update: Table of Contents. It provides structure to a proposal that is lengthy and hard to understand.)
Free and Paid Subscriptions
Through the year 2022 my posts were free. They drew a gratifying response. Many people signed up for a free subscription, and the number of “impressions” was high. Therefore, since it seemed as though I was providing material of value, I decided to switch to a paid subscription model. The subscription fee is $15/month or $99 annually. Most of the material that I have published regarding the EPA Risk Management Program is for paid subscribers.
I have not made any promises or commitments regarding the frequency of publication, but I aim to provide two posts a week for paid subscribers on Tuesday and Friday mornings. Although not a commitment, so far, it has not been too difficult to keep to that schedule. (I also continue to publish many free posts.)
Today’s post to do with the RMP update provides a Table of Contents for this difficult-to-follow and lengthy document.
Net Zero and Process Safety
As already mentioned, this site started out as a forum for evaluating the new technologies that may help mitigate the climate crisis. The specific goal became, “What technology can help us achieve Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050?”
In the meantime, I presented two papers that discussed how those of us in the process safety discipline can make a contribution to the climate response. The first paper was presented at the IChemE Hazards 32 conference in Harrogate, England, in October 2022. The title of the paper was The Process Safety Professional in a Net Zero World. Then, last week (March 2023), I presented a follow-on paper at the 19th Global Congress on Process Safety in Houston, Texas. The title of that paper was Process Safety in Net Zero Programs. (I am working on a third paper in this series; I will propose it for the Hazards 33 conference to be held in Birmingham, England in October, 2023.)
Developing the content for these papers showed me that the process safety community can indeed make a contribution in our response to the climate crisis. Our community is small, but we understand risk and “worst-case” scenarios. Moreover, most process safety professionals are good at systems thinking — a critical aspect of the overall ‘Age of Limits’ challenge.
Climate change issues are also starting to show up in process safety regulations. For example, both OSHA and the EPA have included “natural hazards” in their proposed updates (they do not provide much detail). This overlap between process safety and net zero challenges provides a natural path forward for this site.
The Climate Bow-Tie
As an example of what I am talking about, consider the Bow-Tie methodology. A Bow-Tie diagram consists of a Fault Tree followed by an Event Tree. On the left side of the bow-tie (the fault tree) we consider how a “Top Event” can take place. (The Top Event is always undesirable — it could be a large fire, a release of toxic materials, or a sudden loss of production.) This side of the bow-tie is all about preventative measures; how do we stop an event from taking place?
On the right side of the bow-tie we have the Event Tree. This assumes that the Top Event has occurred, and that we are now in damage control mode. Actions on this side of the bow-tie could include safety shutdown systems, and the use of emergency response procedures. This side of the bow-tie is to do with mitigation measures.
It is not much of an intellectual jump to apply this analytical technique to climate change. Process safety professionals can help us understand the effectiveness of preventative measures, such as the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier. These same professionals can also analyze mitigation measures, such as the need for more resilient systems. (The big difference is that most process safety events are more or less instantaneous, whereas climate change is a process that has already occurred, is occurring now, and will occur for years into the future.)
The Process Safety Professional
The process safety discipline is mature. This is a compliment to those of us who have worked in this area for so many years — we have made a lot of progress.
I already mentioned that I recently attended two process safety conferences. Both conferences went well, but most of the papers and discussions as these conferences were to do with the use of technology and analytical techniques. Yet process safety management is largely about working with people — often in stressful situations. Typical challenges that professionals face are:
How do we manage a HAZOP when critical team members don’t want to be there? (They want to get back to their “real work”.)
How does a process safety consultant sell his or her services to both internal and external clients?
How do we convey bad news to a senior manager?
How do we learn from incident reports?
How do we tell process safety stories?
With questions such as these in mind, I decided to work on a book with the working title The Process Safety Professional. The current Table of Contents (which is very much subject to change) is provided at the post Book: The Process Safety Professional.
We have already started releasing sections of the book, such as The Process Safety Professional. Knowledge and Skills, to our paid subscribers.
Like many other people, I have been intrigued by the potential for artificial intelligence in professional work. None of us know what impact this technology is going to have on the process safety discipline, but it is likely to be profound. For example, when I asked ChatGPT What Is the Most Important Element in Process Safety Management? its answer was right on the money. However, its response to the question regarding the definition of the word “change” when used as part of Management of Change — Words, Words, Words. ChatGPT: Defining Change in Management of Change — was disappointing.
None of us know where this new technology is taking us, but it is likely to have a profound impact on the process safety discipline. It is not hard to visualize an AI system reviewing a set of P&IDs, equipment data sheets, instrument loop diagrams, and operating procedures, and then coming up with a quality HAZOP report in just a few minutes.
Faith in a Changing Climate
As if all of the above is not enough to work on, I am also developing some thoughts on how the faith community may help address the climate crisis. I see many volunteer groups working hard on a wide variety of projects, but I suggest that we first need to develop a road-map or theology for these activities.
If you have an interest in this discussion, please feel free to visit the site Faith in a Changing Community. Our latest post is Theology Advances — One Funeral at a Time.
To receive new posts consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.