Convince other groups of the true value of the pipeline control room

Pipeline SMS: Use Control Room Lessons Learned to Support Zero Incidents

Pipeline control room managers and supervisors have a unique perspective on pipeline safety that can be utilized across the operation. Specifically, how your control room has used technology to operate safely and in compliance with regulations and best practices.

The lessons that have been learned on how to optimize the pipeline control room can be utilized by other groups in the operation to help achieve business objectives. The primary benefit for the entire operation is a clear path forward to reach zero incidents as part of the industry-wide focus on pipeline safety through Pipeline SMS programs.

For control room managers, take some time to evaluate how technology has transformed the control room. Then, convey these important lessons learned to other groups and the entire operation to help produce positive outcomes.

Transformative Nature of Technology in the Control Room

Consider the ways that the pipeline control room uses technology to support the overall pipeline operation in the following areas:

  • Pipeline safety
  • Operations effectiveness
  • Field support
  • Efficiency
  • Compliance efforts

1. Pipeline Safety

Alarm Management is a critical component of how the control room supports pipeline safety in the overall operation. For many control room managers, this required a significant advancement from basic alarm rationalization to a complete Alarm Management program.

Technology was likely the driving force that allowed you to put together an entire plan around rationalization, alarm philosophy, alarm set points, filtering out bad actors, and ensuring that the program is aligned with the information displayed on HMI screens for controllers to achieve situational awareness.

Helping controllers better identify and respond to alarms in each operating condition is a significant achievement supporting pipeline safety. Consider the lessons learned in this area. Then, think through how to communicate this information to other pipeline groups that may need to undertake a similar effort with their team to support pipeline safety.

2. Operations Effectiveness

Historically, pipeline control room managers have been challenged to support shift handover between controllers, log critical actions in the control room, produce reports, and validate activity when audited. Technology has made it simpler to achieve operations effectiveness.

If your pipeline assets are under federal oversight, then the introduction of the PHMSA Control Room Rule (CRM Rule) created a sense of urgency to achieve these efficiencies to promote safety and to satisfy requests from a PHMSA inspector to pass the audit.

Technology has made it easier to structure and streamline the shift handover process, create electronic logs that eliminate paper records, produce accurate and detailed reports, and align internal policies and procedures with external PHMSA regulations and industry best practices.

The ability to use technology to support real-time activity and then gather documentation to validate this activity is a valuable lesson that can be shared with other groups so that they can enhance their commitment to safety and then satisfy an audit when prompted.

3. Field Support

There are many different elements involved in supporting field activity from the control room. Whether it’s performing a point checkout, storing results of a point verification, or remotely managing field devices, the pipeline control room has a significant responsibility to use technology to support the overall safety of the operation.

For many control room managers, technology has transformed the way that you gather and retain the results of point-to-point verification to avoid a “lost record” problem. Technology has also allowed the control room to communicate with field technicians and SCADA technicians to perform a point checkout in compliance with the CRM Rule. Then, all of these records are gathered in one place so that you can validate activity during an audit.

Other groups can learn from how the control room has used technology to manage remote processes and created accurate records to satisfy an audit.

4. Efficiency

Technology has improved the way the control room functions by automating certain processes, replacing paper recordkeeping, and organizing documents that were previously scattered across consoles and computers. It’s about efficiency.

For example, controllers and support personnel can easily access the latest Control Room Management Plan (CRMP) in a centralized location to make key decisions instead of wasting valuable time chasing down the latest version of the CRMP. Then, they can confidently perform their tasks without wondering whether they are missing a vital piece of information.

This transformation can help other groups in pipeline operations understand the importance of centralizing their documents, such as standard operating procedures, and taking steps to eliminate manual processes that are prone to error and take away from pipeline safety efforts.

5. Compliance Efforts

One of the key components of the CRM Rule is fatigue mitigation. Technology has allowed control room managers to mitigate pipeline safety risks associated with fatigue through Workload Analysis and Hours of Service scheduling tools. This way, managers can track workload for each controller, analyze workload by shifts, and proactively take steps to prevent fatigue from affecting performance.

Using technology, managers have the information they need to make informed decisions that directly impact pipeline safety. Specifically, how to evenly distribute workload, create schedules that take into account travel time and sleep for each controller, ensure adequate vigilance time by controller and by shift, and how to integrate training and development into each controller’s schedule.

Managers can then produce records that enhance compliance with the CRM Rule and other related regulations to support compliance efforts. Additionally, managers can share these lessons learned around fatigue management to help other groups support fatigue mitigation efforts for their personnel. This will help the overall operation by understanding how to operate safer and support compliance.

Gather Lessons Learned About Using Technology

Think through how technology has transformed specific areas of your control room. Walk through before and after scenarios that capture how technology has allowed your control room to operate safer.

As you go through this exercise, think through how these lessons learned can be applied to the overall pipeline operation to support safety. Working together, your operation can implement these lessons learned across the board to enhance efforts to reach zero incidents.

We would appreciate the opportunity to help walk you through this process of reviewing how technology has elevated your control room. Or, perhaps doing this exercise will help you see gaps in specific areas. We can work with you to help close these gaps through the use of our industry-leading software tools in the POEMS Control Room Management Suite (CRM Suite).

No matter where you are on your journey to helping the operation achieve zero incidents, we are available to help. To find support, contact us today through our website form, call 281-598-7100, or email