Honeywell > Case Studies > Suncor Achieves 95% Reduction in Operator Alarm Load at Fort Hills Oil Sands Mine

Suncor Achieves 95% Reduction in Operator Alarm Load at Fort Hills Oil Sands Mine

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 Suncor Achieves 95% Reduction in Operator Alarm Load at Fort Hills Oil Sands Mine - IoT ONE Case Study
Technology Category
  • Sensors - Environmental Sensors
Applicable Industries
  • Oil & Gas
  • Retail
Applicable Functions
  • Product Research & Development
Use Cases
  • Inventory Management
  • Perimeter Security & Access Control
  • System Integration
The Customer
About The Customer
Suncor is one of Canada’s largest integrated energy companies, specializing in the extraction of oil sand and its subsequent upgrading and refining into high-quality oil products. Headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Suncor markets finished products to industrial and commercial customers, along with retail customers through their network of more than 1,500 Petro-Canada gas stations. Suncor’s Fort Hills mine is an open-pit truck and shovel mine that was commissioned in 2018 and capable of extracting 154,000 tons of oil sands per hour, producing 194,000 barrels of bitumen per day.
The Challenge
Suncor, one of Canada’s largest integrated energy companies, faced a significant challenge at their Fort Hills mine. Upon completion of commissioning in 2018, the control room operators were dealing with alarm loads 30 times higher than those recommended by alarm management standards and best practices. These alarm loads, combined with frequent alarm floods caused by plant upsets, resulted in significant operator overload. This increased the risk of safety, environmental, and production-related incidents at the site. The alarm system was overactive, causing a high level of stress and potential for error among the operators. The challenge was to reduce the alarm load to manageable levels and ensure the safety and efficiency of the operations.
The Solution
To address the alarm overload, Suncor initiated an alarm system improvement initiative. They elected to follow a process in-line with standards, specifically ANSI/ISA-18.2-2016, Management of Alarm Systems for the Process Industries. The first stage of this process was to develop an Alarm Philosophy that documented the intended approach to alarm management for the Fort Hills site. The process of identifying alarms as immediate candidates for rationalization, along with the actual rationalization, detailed design, and implementation of alarm changes was enabled by a combination of formalized processes and supporting software tools - in this case, the Honeywell Forge Alarm Management suite. A multi-disciplinary team was formed, and daily meetings were held to identify the top five most frequently occurring alarms. As alarm system performance improved, meetings were reduced from daily, to twice weekly, and eventually to weekly. The use of the Honeywell Forge Alarm Management suite of products was central to this process, enabling the rapid identification, investigation, and subsequent rationalization and implementation of changes to reduce bad actors, alarm floods, stale alarms, and shelved alarms.
Operational Impact
  • The alarm system improvement initiative led to a significant reduction in alarm load. Within a month, the average alarms per operator (per 10 minutes) reduced from 30 to 12 (60%). This trend continued to only six (an 80% reduction) in the following month. Over a period of two years, the team has successfully achieved and sustained a 95% reduction in alarm load that is in-line with ISA 18.2 standards. The improvements achieved were significant, with alarm annunciations dropping from nearly 270,000 in May 2018 to 12,000 in April 2020. The top 5 bad actors contributing to the alarm system load also reduced from 40% to 15%. The use of Honeywell Forge Alarm Management was central to these improvements, helping to direct the team’s efforts to improve and sustain alarm system performance, reducing safety, environmental and production related risks while also increasing uptime.
Quantitative Benefit
  • 95% sustained reduction in alarm load
  • 80% reduction in alarm load within months
  • From 270k to 12k alarms per month

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