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Asset-intensive businesses managing Health, Safety, and Environmental (HSE) objectives allocate budgets specifically to prevent events from occurring. These funds are typically designated as CAPEX (Capital Expenditures) and OPEX (Operational Expenditures).

CAPEX is usually incurred during the equipment or processes' design and modification phase. At the same time, OPEX is dedicated to the ongoing maintenance of the equipment to ensure it remains fit for purpose. Given the sheer volume of equipment to maintain - often numbering in the tens of thousands - the key challenge for asset owners is determining where to direct their limited funds to uphold HSE objectives best.

The Barrier Management Solution

The starting place for asset owners to understand is the type, state, and effectiveness of the "barriers" (some refer to these as "safeguards" or “controls”) that are put in place to avoid the HSE event. The idea being there are many barriers to avoiding the event when control is lost over the event. However, no barrier is fullproof, so a series of barriers are implemented. This assumes each Barrier will have limitations, and the next Barrier in the chain will arrest the event before the consequence occurs. This is known as the "Swiss Cheese Model."

In the various process industries (chemical, oil, and gas, etc.), examples of this include:

  • The vessel wall contains liquid, gas, or solid.

  • A relief device to avoid over-pressurization.

  • An instrumented system to arrest the process if unacceptable conditions exist.

  • An operator who can manually shut down the process.

  • Finally, a diked area to contain the event if indeed it occurs.

The barriers are further broken categorized into Preventive or Mitigative. In contrast, the preventative Barrier is put in place to avoid the event, and the mitigative Barrier is put in place if the event occurs. A visual of this arrangement, including the triggers, events, and consequences, can be represented in a traditional "Bow-Tie" diagram below.

In conclusion, bringing it all together with the Barrier.

Prioritizing these expenditures to maintain the barriers is not an easy task. The CAPEX and OPEX could sometimes exceed millions of dollars per year.

Most organizations categorize the expenditures into:

  • Safety and environmental factors determine the barriers.

  • Asset Integrity maintains the physical asset.

  • Instrumented Systems are automated systems to monitor and control events.

  • Operations are used to monitor the process manually.

  • Maintenance team sparing methodology for scheduled maintenance, repairs, MOCs, and one-time changes.

Traditionally, the various departments and disciplines involved with managing the barriers are compartmentalized in their budgets and objectives. With the growing emphasis on digitalization objectives, budgets are rising, software and work processes are being reimaged to facilitate a holistic and transparent view of all the barriers vs. just one discipline and one Barrier, allowing asset owners to make strategic and tactical decisions with CAPEX and OPEX budgets to achieve corporate HSE objectives.

If you have any questions or suggestions regarding the topic, please feel free to leave a comment and let me know. Your feedback is greatly appreciated and will help me determine which areas to cover in my upcoming blog series. Thank you for your support!
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