14 - 16 March 2023 | Rotterdam Ahoy

Early HSE Warning System by Information Theory

When I visit a terminal’s control room I often observe that there is a whiteboard on the wall where, for example, information about needed repairs such as faulty valves, the phone on jetty 5 doesn’t work, rain water of floating roof tanks due to blocked roof drains or equipment out of operation, etcetera are recorded.

Deepwater Horizon; when you watch the movie you’ll notice that various equipment was not functioning. That information was ignored, the rest is history.

Shore tanks at the Cilacap Refinery, Indonesia were on fire this week. I worked there and understand that information deficit due to poor maintenance could have been the cause.

Information theory and cybernetics prove that information is physical. Bits of information are the fundamental building blocks of reality. Understanding what can be done by these amazing, but overlooked sciences is crucial for the longevity, continuity safety and sustainability of tank storage and refining operations.

Marine Storage Terminals and Refineries that fail to effectively implement information process and internal control systems are likely to face an information deficit at some stage resulting in degraded performance. Understanding how information deficits result in entropy or disorder is critical if you want to operate an effective and safe business.

We apply 3 universal laws of physics and cybernetics;

  1. Information is preserved and can’t be divorced nor erased from our physical reality.
  2. Information Deficit (shortage) ≙Entropy (disorder)  ( ≙per definition).
  3. A system’s functionality (the terminal) depends on the quality and quantity of information used. (The Law of Requisite Variety)

Terminal Managers and Supervisors are often not aware and try to break these laws of physics which can’t be broken without increased risk in the form of entropy (disorder). Terminal management and operations are dynamic and need information feedback in real time to be steered and maximally controlled. This can’t be regulated or automated because of the physics of uncertainty and the reality of living and working in non linear universe, but can be ‘steered’ by information feedback

We designed an early warning system which measures potential information deficit (shortage) to predict vulnerability. What we offer to do is to access the quantity and quality of information in  organisations to verify the potential level of exposure to risk by scientific method.

Research Results: We have tested this warning methodology worldwide with great success. A survey of 100 Marine Storage Terminals confirmed that a learning gap exists because 10 basic technical and operational questions could not be answered adequately.

Terminal Managers, Supervisors and staff can be instructed and trained how they can work with this systemic approach by information theory to detect possible learning gaps by applying the Law of Requisite Variety a.k.a.  Ashby’s Law: As follows:

  • A situation can only be controlled if the variety of the controller matches the variety of the situation to be controlled. (Variety being information).
  • A storage terminal generates tremendous variety and tries to control it in its own way through checklists, regulations and laws.
  • If variety is not matched, systems will spin out of control (entropy).
  • It is impossible to control for every variable so most variety is absorbed through relationships with other systems.
  • It means that in Risk Management, only enough variety, i.e. information in a system can absorb, or control risks originating from outside variety.
  • By using feedback, this information is fed into the system to allow the system to adjust and learn constantly.
  • It is impossible to control all risks as systems fluctuate by information from constant changing variety in a non linear environment.  Information reduces uncertainty.
  • Human variety, environmental variety, social variety, regulatory variety change all the time thus can only be governed by the use of real time feedback (information).
  • This means to have the people with the combined knowledge, experience, expertise, influence, equipment, tools, etc. to do so, using all relevant information as attenuators, to damp variety and variety generators to build variety.
  • Health and Safety improvement is created by adding variety in the form of PPE, Personal Protective Equipment, Gas detectors and so on.
  • Ethics and CSR are requisites that work as information feedback loops and are risk attenuators.

Our world-wide training experience and feedback from customers gives us a great insight about the risk of  information deficit resulting in knowledge gaps, which made the terminals vulnerable.

I realise this may be mind-boggling, but the research to back this up can be found on our website www.sustenance4all.com . Is this the next step of terminal performance optimisation? We know it is. The potential applications of this early warning system are endless: operational excellence, HSEQ  control and sustainability, profitability and trust depend on the quality and quantity of information. Controlling living systems (the terminal and refinery) can be copied from nature. Easy! But first people must understand and thus can be taught how nature and physics protect us.

TTT offers a unique training program on this subject which you can download here: https://www.tankterminaltraining.com/risk-prevention

Source: tankterminaltraining.com

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