Blog Post

TBT: Part 1 - Too Much of a Good Thing? Alarm Management Experience in BP Oil

Katherine Persac

In 1996, ProSys presented Dynamic Configuration Software (DCS), one of our first dynamic alarm management software solutions, to BP. BP was looking into alarm management well before many recognized that alarm management was a problem and that you could do something about it. BP employees Donald Campbell-Brown, a Process Control Engineer with the BP Oil Technology Network, and Manus O’Donnell, a Process Systems Technician at BP Oil Grangemouth Refinery, put together a paper from the research and work done at several BP sites. The paper is very insightful as many of the items they discuss were eventually added to alarm management guidelines and standards such as EEMUA 191 and ISA 18.2. After the presentation, ProSys went on to do alarm management projects at the Grangemouth Refinery and many other sites in Europe long before most companies in the U.S. realized the need for alarm management. 

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Part 1: Generic Problems with DCS Alarm Systems

Donald Campbell Brown and Manus O’Donnell


This paper brings together BP's current views on what constitutes an effective DCS alarm system, and the barriers that must be overcome before the alarm system can make a fall contribution to supporting the task of the process operator. A summary is presented of the role of the alarm system within the operator interface, together with definitions of typical event-driven information. The generic problems that prevent alarm systems from being effective are reviewed, including practical and fundamental limitations, poor implementation and misuse of the available alarm features. The typical symptoms of poor alarm systems (alarm flood, standing alarms etc.) are described, and a number of tools and techniques are listed which have been used by BP to bring about improvements. This paper draws heavily from work carried out on a range of BP sites, and from the work of the ASM Consortium.

View Whitepaper