New Regulations Drive Expanded SCADA Curriculum

By Russel Treat & Artis Bartle | September 2009 Vol. 236 No. 9
Buyer's Guide

Alarm Management
SCADA alarms are an integral part of the controller’s toolkit to understand and manage pipelines. Alarm management practices have dramatically and competently matured in the first decade of the 21st century. Best practices have been identified by the Engineering Equipment and Materials Users Association (EEMUA), the International Society of Automation (ISA 18) and the American Petroleum Institute (API 1167). These practices include:

  • An improved ability to identify abnormal situations and operations
  • Proper design and use of alarms
  • Adequate operator situation management information and documentation
  • The design of appropriate and informative controller SCADA screen displays

SCADA alarm systems must recognize and accommodate the following:

  • Remote locations of controllers: Controllers are removed from pipelines and associated heavy equipment, thus preventing easy personal physical inspection and on-the-site adjustments and modifications to equipment.
  • Uneven nature of data communications: The expectation of correct, uninterrupted information and rapid enforcement of control action cannot be expected due to the dispersed locations of equipment and control stations and the need to use various nodes of telecommunications equipment for data communication and control modifications.
  • Lengthy delay for field responses and adjustments: Almost all hands-on evaluations and repairs and adjustments will be significantly delayed with respect to the ability of the controls equipment to identify and then convey potential problems to controllers.
  • Increased number of system status alarms: The increased use of smart field devices, fieldbus architecture, equipment and networks has produced a vast number of additional alarms.

The design and operation of alarm systems will be required to follow established good practices, including the following regular reviews:

  • Level One: On a weekly basis, operators must review pipeline operations and the alarms and events that have been received.
  • Level Two: On an annual basis, operators must undertake a detailed review of alarm configuration and management to consider the number of alarms, potential systemic issues related to field equipment or the SCADA System, including potential systemic issues resulting in excessive or unusual alarms, unnecessary alarms, changes in controller performance in response to alarms and setpoint values.

SCADA Security
SCADA, DCS (Distributed Controls Systems), EMS (Energy Management Systems) and PCN (Process Control Network) environments require different management and security considerations than a traditional enterprise environment. At one time, SCADA systems were stand-alone environments, making it easy to manage the security of a system. The merging of industrial networks with IP-based networks created the need to balance reliability with security. Control-system environments and organizations are not only challenged with becoming or remaining secure, they are now required to comply with a growing number of ambiguous security standards and guidelines available throughout the industry.

Covering these complexities is essential to SCADA fundamentals certification: