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Forget the Out of Date P&IDs and As-built Drawings – Remember SCADA

Author: Colin Sheldon

Existing mine sites with long histories that have experienced a change of owners/operators, as well as those who received poor project handover, all experience difficulty with keeping drawings and related documents up-to-date.

Even those sites with the best document management/drawing management systems and change management processes can struggle with keeping their drawings, Process Flow Diagrams and P&IDs current. This can cause a lack of confidence during engineering reviews.

However, one reference that is typically overlooked when seeking current information is the SCADA system – the living representation of the process system that is updated at more regular interval than any soft copy drawing.

Bluefield recently undertook an asset criticality and integrity review for a mining client. This project meant it was necessary to determine whether the equipment/infrastructure could potentially contribute to serious health and safety outcomes for its personnel, damage to the environment, or significant production loss and business financial impact.

To complete this exercise, the team needed accurate information as to the process flow, redundancy in the production streams, as well as dimensions and arrangement.

This site had been through multiple owners, many different drawing and document management systems (DMS) and multiple people had come and gone through the mine’s lifetime. We were given free rein in the DMS – the team sifted through multiple hand drawn scans, pre-construction drawings and other documents.

Site visits were then undertaken to ensure what was represented on the drawings reflected the actual “as-builts”. Multiple site engagements and workshops were held, where those site personnel who had a long history at the site could provide extra information and context. These site personnel had full time roles in execution and maintenance which required their full attention – it was certainly difficult to get the right people in the room at one time which was prolonging the process.

With the pending project deadline and increasing difficulty to gain access to the knowledgeable people as our requests were becoming more detailed and specific, it was suggested we look at the SCADA system for the plant to understand the process flow more easily.

Once gaining access to this system, it was much easier for the team to compare against drawings and identify redundancy (i.e. duty standby pump arrangements), decommissioned assets and understand the criticality of different equipment. Following the logic of the SCADA, the team were able to determine what impact the stop would have on total production.

Change management is typically well-managed in the SCADA system and can be a means to support engineering drawings, site photos and other relevant documentation. Additionally, the SCADA system typically records downtime events, which assisted the team in determining reasonable values for potential production loss in downtime.

The SCADA system is imperative to the safe and productive operation of many different processes and industries. It is a worthwhile lesson to learn that this system is a very valuable resource for engineering reviews.