Plato's Allegory of the Cave

API 1165 Update: Advancing Controller Understanding and Pipeline Safety

The long-awaited update to API 1165 is expected in the second or third quarter of 2019. After a few years of input from industry and healthy discussions among stakeholders, the updated recommended practice for pipeline SCADA displays is nearly complete.

Why has there been so much emphasis on updating API 1165? Long-time pipeline management consultant Charles Alday relayed a brilliant analogy about the experience for controllers as it relates to safety and understanding. [Listen to my recent Pipeliners Podcast episode on this topic.]

In the analogy pulled from Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, Mr. Alday illustrated the idea that pipeline controllers are only able to see a reflection of what’s happening in the field. In other words, the information pulled from the SCADA system and shown on their HMI displays is a representation of the actual events.

The update to API 1165 is designed to incorporate new technology into the recommended practice. Pipeline operators will then be encouraged to update their systems to provide more contextualized information that creates a deeper level of understanding for controllers.

Continuing Plato’s analogy, controllers will be brought out of their cave to see the actual source of information instead of a reflection or representation.

How Does the API 1165 Update Correlate to Safety?

An increased commitment to pipeline safety is an industry-wide goal every year. This year, however, there is an elevated focus on pipeline safety through the attention placed on Pipeline SMS (Safety Management Systems).

The update to API 1165 aligns with the emphasis on Pipeline SMS by providing controllers with tools to make safety-driven decisions.

  • Controllers will be more readily equipped to execute the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle.
  • Controllers will be able to see what actually is happening vs. what they think is happening.
  • Controllers will more easily achieve situational awareness in abnormal or emergency operating conditions.

Essentially, controllers will have more vigilance time, more headspace to perform critical tasks, and access to more accurate information to make real-time decisions. The result is reduced risk of pipeline incidents.

API 1165 Update Will Also Impact Graphics

One of the underlying reasons why the update to API 1165 is critical is because the current graphical examples do not reflect the current technology.

Pipeline operators, control room managers, and SCADA/IT managers oftentimes prefer the graphics they have been using versus making changes. However, computer display technology has significantly advanced since the first edition of API 1165 was published in 2007.

The updated examples will not only provide guidance for what controllers should see and whether they can rely on what they’re seeing, the examples will also outline how SCADA developers, pipeline controllers, and other personnel should talk about SCADA display design.

The best way to advance the quality and effectiveness of graphics is to arm controllers with more reliable tools.

Currently, a pipeline controller is making interpretations based on what they “think” they are seeing on the screen, then trying to communicate their interpretation to stakeholders and field personnel. However, what they’re viewing on the HMI might not be a comprehensive view of the operating reality. This can have a potentially negative impact on pipeline safety when making a recommendation based on incomplete information.

For controllers to effectively perform their tasks, there needs to be a connection between the reality of what’s happening beyond what a pipeline controller sees on their displays. It has to become real. And, controllers need to be able to communicate that reality. API 1165 will certainly aim to achieve that goal.

An Updated Style Guide for the Updated API 1165

Once the updated version of API 1165 is finalized and introduced to industry, one of the big steps for the pipeline control room will be updating the HMI Style Guide.

The HMI Style Guide defines the graphical elements, system behaviors, and animations used in HMI displays.

The new language of API 1165 will provide guidance on how to update the style guide to reflect new technology that provides more contextualized information for controllers.

EnerSys Corporation is prepared to help pipeline operators and control room personnel update their systems to reflect the new version of API 1165.

Within our POEMS software is the Intelligent Operator Console (IOC) that supports high-performance pipeline control. Through the use of a standardized set of graphical elements, animations, and pipeline-specific system behaviors, the POEMS IOC software fulfills the requirement for high-performance HMI.

The process of implementing POEMS IOC complies with the current and new version of API 1165 by providing an HMI philosophy, style guide, and design guide.

We would like to schedule an educational demo of the software with your team. We can also discuss how the software will support your operation as you incorporate the latest best practices in API 1165.

To discuss POEMS IOC for your operation, contact us one of three ways. Complete our Contact form, email us directly at, or call us at 281-598-7100 to talk to a knowledgeable member of our team.