SCADA for pipeline

Do You Have the Right SCADA System to Comply with the CRM Rule?

Your SCADA system is the backbone of pipeline operations to ensure safe operation through supervisory control and data acquisition. Because SCADA is integral to operations, PHMSA provided guidelines for proper SCADA use through the CRM Rule and the incorporation of API RP 1165 (currently under revision).

Now, with technology advancing quickly, it may be time to evaluate the capabilities of your SCADA system to ensure that you are not only adhering to the CRM Rule but also operating efficiently and safely.

The challenge for small-to-medium-sized pipeliners who are operating on a tight budget is knowing whether to keep your current SCADA system or switch to a new system without incurring excessive costs.

A Checklist for Evaluating Your SCADA for Pipeline Operations

Consider taking inventory of your current SCADA system to evaluate whether each area is compliant with the CRM Rule and contributes to operational efficiency and safety.

Item #1: Situational Awareness for Controllers

One of the most critical aspects of SCADA for pipeline operations is ensuring that controllers achieve situational awareness (SA).

The key question to ask yourself is: Can my controllers see things happening in the pipeline before they happen?

PHMSA makes it clear in the CRM Rule FAQs that situational awareness is a critical skill for controllers in order to recognize and respond to normal, abnormal, and emergency situations.

Unfortunately, many SCADA systems were built without the controller in mind. If your controllers are routinely unable to achieve SA because of limitations in the system displays, they could miss an operating condition potentially in unsafe, inefficient, or non-compliant operations.

Checklist Review: Situational Awareness

  • Can the controller “see” current and near-future operating state?
  • Are you CRM Rule compliant?
  • Are you operationally efficient and safe?

Item #2: Provide Adequate Information

The CRM Rule requires that operators provide controllers with “adequate information” to properly react in each operating condition. This is fleshed out in point-to-point verification, where controllers must be able to verify all safety-related points are properly configured in the SCADA system.

In the CRM Rule FAQs, PHMSA lists 17 examples of points that may be considered safety related that require verification. Consider some of the primary examples to authenticate in your system:

  • Status of main line valves
  • Pressures and flow rates
  • Leak Detection
  • Remote device communication and monitoring
  • Security monitoring
  • Emergency Shutdown Status

Review whether controllers are unable to consistently and accurately verify these safety-related points because of the limitations of your SCADA system.

Specifically, according to the PHMSA FAQs: “the process should verify the actual physical location and sequence among other devices and equipment at the location.” Without consistency in the process, you could be at risk of non-compliance and unsafe operations.

Checklist Review: Adequate Information

  • Accurate data?
  • CRM Rule compliant?
  • Operationally efficient and safe?

Item #3: Does Your SCADA System Support Alarm Management?

There are many implications surrounding alarm management in your SCADA system. If you have an older SCADA system or have separate software for alarming and SCADA, you periodically need to verify the accuracy of the alarms used in your operation.

There are two chief concerns: (a) not being able to generate accurate safety-related alarms in a timely manner and (b) producing false alarms.

– Regarding safety-related alarms, PHMSA expects operators to “designate safety-related alarms, and to train its controllers to understand which alarms are safety-related along with their individual implications to safety.”

– Regarding false alarms, PHMSA says that “any alarm that is presented to the controller that did not accurately reflect the actual operational parameter or condition, or an alarm that can mislead a controller to believe a condition exists, but that does not exist, is considered a false alarm.”

In both situations, controllers need to receive adequate support for what PHMSA considers “general activity” such as handling SCADA alarms. Without proper support from the SCADA system, your controllers could miss safety-related alarms and react incorrectly to false alarms, leading to non-compliance and safety concerns.

Checklist Review: Alarm Management

  • Effective alarms?
  • CRM Rule compliant?
  • Operationally efficient and safe?

Item #4: How’s Your SCADA Data?

Verifying your supervisory control capabilities is one half of the battle. You also need to focus on the data acquisition capabilities in your SCADA system.

– One of the primary roles of a controller monitoring the SCADA system is to “initiate corrective actions.” This task requires accurate and timely data to support what they see on the screen. Otherwise, your controllers will be challenged to take the appropriate action.

– When controllers perform point-to-point verification, they need to be able to verify the data in the system. According to the CRM Rule FAQs, the process should “verify (that) the data, information, and any control or alarm functions to/from the point are being accurately represented on all SCADA displays on which it resides.”

– Data reliability is a significant consideration, especially during emergency situations. PHMSA recommends that pipeline operators routinely perform situational drills to support controllers and ensure safety. These exercises will ensure effective communication during an emergency that involves “the loss of all SCADA system functions or other systems relying on SCADA data, such as leak detection.”

Checklist Review: SCADA Data

  • CRM Rule compliant?
  • Operationally efficient and safe?

EnerSys is Prepared to Discuss Your Current SCADA System

EnerSys understands the challenges of working with an older SCADA system or weighing whether to upgrade to a new system. The amount of time required for an upgrade or replacement, the budgetary costs, and the amount of training needed to achieve CRM Rule compliance seems daunting.

To make the process easier, EnerSys developed the POEMS software suite to help small to medium-sized pipeline operators confidently and safely operate a high-performance pipeline using the latest technology.

POEMS captures your entire pipeline operations to systematically implement the latest technology and significantly reduce the total cost of ownership. Additionally, because our off-the-shelf software is SCADA agnostic, we can integrate with your existing software or support a new SCADA system.

Our team would like to discuss your current SCADA system. Through this conversation, we can evaluate whether you are complying with the PHMSA CRM Rule and operating safely and efficiently. To get started, please complete our contact form, email our team at, or call us directly at 281-598-7100.