Article

Identifying Gains with Alarm Management

Mining

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Project Data

Alarm management aims to create a reliable alarm system for the operators of a plant, displaying at each moment only the information necessary to take the actions to keep the process running smoothly.

The most common types of alarms are to indicate that the process is experiencing some disturbance, and for protection or equipment malfunction announcement. Thus, it is clear that the effective action of the operator helps the quality of the process, its continuity and the protection of the company's assets, but how can we quantify these benefits?

One way to measure the return that alarm management brings to a plant is to identify situations where it has not been possible to maintain the quality or continuity of the process, checking whether they could be avoided by an action of the operation and whether these actions were not taken due to problems in the alarm system. To exemplify this process of seeking gains, let's see the real case in a plant in the mining sector.

Cross-referencing process and alarm data, it was identified that a belt conveyor operated with a mass flow rate above the alarm limit for more than one hour, a fact followed by an abrupt plant shutdown. Adding the data from the plant stoppage system to the analysis, it was verified that the stoppage was caused by clogging in the kick at the end of this conveyor, corroborating its relation with the excess material being transported.

Figure 1: Mass flow in the belt conveyor over time. The red line represents the high flow alarm limit.

In the analyzed period, the high flow alarm on the belt (which was already well configured) was emitted 12 times, and the operator should have reduced the number of process feeders, but this action was not performed since another 36 alarms, many of them with inadequate configurations, were activated in the same period, exceeding the operator's ability to manage the process state and causing him to lose important information.

Figure 2: Mass flow in the belt conveyor and indication of the number of feeders connected over time.

Context and Challenges

Because it was at the end of the process, the shutdown of this belt conveyor impacted the entire screening area of the plant, resulting in the loss of production of 625 tons of ore. Expanding the analysis time it was possible to identify that process stoppages related to this same alarm happened constantly, causing the loss of 2,300 tons per year.

In this same plant it was possible to verify that, among others, the alarms of high torque in the thickener, overload in the plant feed and excessive consumption of reagents were emitted but were not perceived by the operator due to an overloaded alarm system, generating loss of product quality and production stoppages. In this way, alarm management can bring gains to companies by creating a robust system, where relevant information is displayed at the correct time for operation and losses are avoided.

Solutions Used and Equipment Provided

Experts

Process Engineer

Filipe Werneck

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Identifying Gains with Alarm Management

March 20, 2020

published by

Filipe Werneck

Process Engineer

Alarm management aims to create a reliable alarm system for the operators of a plant, displaying at each moment only the information necessary to take the actions to keep the process running smoothly.

The most common types of alarms are to indicate that the process is experiencing some disturbance, and for protection or equipment malfunction announcement. Thus, it is clear that the effective action of the operator helps the quality of the process, its continuity and the protection of the company's assets, but how can we quantify these benefits?

One way to measure the return that alarm management brings to a plant is to identify situations where it has not been possible to maintain the quality or continuity of the process, checking whether they could be avoided by an action of the operation and whether these actions were not taken due to problems in the alarm system. To exemplify this process of seeking gains, let's see the real case in a plant in the mining sector.

Cross-referencing process and alarm data, it was identified that a belt conveyor operated with a mass flow rate above the alarm limit for more than one hour, a fact followed by an abrupt plant shutdown. Adding the data from the plant stoppage system to the analysis, it was verified that the stoppage was caused by clogging in the kick at the end of this conveyor, corroborating its relation with the excess material being transported.

Figure 1: Mass flow in the belt conveyor over time. The red line represents the high flow alarm limit.

In the analyzed period, the high flow alarm on the belt (which was already well configured) was emitted 12 times, and the operator should have reduced the number of process feeders, but this action was not performed since another 36 alarms, many of them with inadequate configurations, were activated in the same period, exceeding the operator's ability to manage the process state and causing him to lose important information.

Figure 2: Mass flow in the belt conveyor and indication of the number of feeders connected over time.

Because it was at the end of the process, the shutdown of this belt conveyor impacted the entire screening area of the plant, resulting in the loss of production of 625 tons of ore. Expanding the analysis time it was possible to identify that process stoppages related to this same alarm happened constantly, causing the loss of 2,300 tons per year.

In this same plant it was possible to verify that, among others, the alarms of high torque in the thickener, overload in the plant feed and excessive consumption of reagents were emitted but were not perceived by the operator due to an overloaded alarm system, generating loss of product quality and production stoppages. In this way, alarm management can bring gains to companies by creating a robust system, where relevant information is displayed at the correct time for operation and losses are avoided.

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