An Age of Limits

The information provided here is taken from the post An Age of Limits. Climate change is a topic that receives a lot of attention. It is also the focus of the articles and posts at this site. However, it is far from being the only predicament that we face. There are many other related issues, some of which are shown in the above sketch. Together they make up an ‘Age of Limits’. (Many other…

The IPCC and Its Reports

This blog is based on the post The IPCC and Its Reports. The IPCC Discussions to do with climate change frequently quote reports from the IPCC — the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC is a United Nations body that was formed in the year 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization WMO and United Nations Environment Programme. Its role is to provide policymakers with regular…

SEC Climate-Related Disclosures for Investors

This article is based on the post SEC Climate-Related Disclosures for Investors. Disclaimer The material provided at this site focuses on the application of technology to climate change challenges. The material provided does not offer legal or commercial advice. A theme of this site is that Net Zero leadership will be provided by businesses and industry. Indeed, they are already doing so.…

A Fourth Response to Climate Change

Choosing a fourth track The internet is awash in reports, web pages, blog posts and videos that explain the climate change crisis — often in great detail. These posts typically describe what the climate crisis is, what caused it, how it relates to other issues such as Peak Oil, and what the consequences are likely to be. However, few of these reports provide specific guidance as to what we…

Solar and Hydrogen: The Foundation

This article is based on the following post, Solar and Hydrogen: The Foundation. Our future oil wells. Credit: Unsplash The Hydrogen Economy The climate change world is complex and difficult to understand. There are so many factors, parameters and variables, all of which seem to affect each other in ways that we don’t understand, or that we can even identify. However, when we look at Net…

2022: A Net Zero Future

The Substack letter 2022: A Net Zero Future makes some forecasts (not really predictions) for the year 2022. The focus is on businesses and industries that are adopting Net Zero programs. Companies and businesses will increasingly lead the response to climate change — not because they want to “do good”, but because they want to be commercially successful. Governments will support but not lead…

An Energy Evaluation System

The full post is located at An Energy Evaluation System. At the heart of any Net Zero program lies the decision as to which alternative energy sources to adopt. We cannot continue to rely on hydrocarbon fuels — coal, natural gas and crude oil — because they generate greenhouse gases, and because they are being irreversibly depleted. The internet is awash in suggestions as to which alternative…

Solar and Wind

The material in this article is taken from the post Solar and Wind. Solar and wind energy lie at the heart of all Net Zero programs. Other sources of energy can play important roles, but none of them are as crucial as solar and wind.  In spite of their importance, solar and wind have four major drawbacks. They are intermittent; They are not dispatchable; They require a lot of…

Energy Evaluation: Properties

We are publishing a series of posts to do with evaluating alternative sources of energy. This article is based on the post Energy Evaluation: Properties describes a method by which different fuels and energy sources can be compared. The Properties category summarizes the technical features of each energy source. They are summarized in the structure shown in the Table, which provides values for…

Net Zero: The Business Opportunity

The post Net Zero: The Business Opportunity and the matching YouTube video introduce some of the themes of this site. Many companies are developing ‘Net Zero’ programs. They aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their organizations to zero by a specified date, often the year 2050. In  this series of letters and videos we  aim to provide realistic information for these business and…

Energy Storage

Credit: Unsplash The information provided here is taken from the post Energy Storage.  If we are to achieve the ‘Net Zero by 2050’ goal then wind and solar are going to make up a large fraction of the total energy supply mix. As discussed in the post Solar and Wind, attractive though these energy sources may be, they have important limitations. In particular, they have a low energy density…

Another Clunky Sentence

IPCC: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability This material is taken from the post Another Clunky Sentence.  The phrase ‘Net Zero by 2050’ comes from an IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2018 report. The pertinent paragraph reads as follows, In model pathways with no or limited overshoot of 1.5°C, global net anthropogenic CO2 emissions decline by about 45% from 2010…

Natural Gas in Transition

The material in this article is taken from the post ‘Natural Gas in Transition’, with the sub-title ‘A Net Zero Debating Point’. One of the on-going debates in the Net Zero world is whether or not natural gas can be used as a transition fuel. We need to transition from all fossil fuels (coal, oil and Natural gas) to renewables — particularly solar and wind. However, the role of natural gas as a…

An Energy Evaluation System: Part 6. Continuous Energy

Credit: Unsplash The material in this article is taken from post An Energy Evaluation System: Part 6 — Continuous Energy Sources. The post An Energy Evaluation System: Part 4 introduced the concept of the ‘Net Zero Energy Grid’. The post showed what an energy grid may look like in a Net Zero world — a world in which virtually all of our energy needs are met by renewable or “green” sources…

Net Zero by 2050 in the Energy and Process Industries

This article provides an introduction to the concept of Net Zero by 2050, and how it could affect the energy and process industries. IPCC The phrase ‘Net Zero by 2050’ comes from a report published by the IPCC — the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC is one of the world’s leading authorities on climate change trends. This organization <the IPCC> was founded in the year…

An Energy Evaluation System: Part 4

The material in this article is taken from the post An Energy Evaluation System: Part 4 — An Energy Grid. We continue our series of posts on how to evaluate and compare different energy sources. The first three posts in the series are: Part 1 — An Overview Part 2 — Properties Part 3 — HSE (Health, Safety and Environmental) The remaining elements in the framework are:…

Wanted: Imagination

This article is based on the post Wanted: Imagination. Following the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers the New York Times journalist Tom Friedman said that our failure was not lack of knowledge (we knew quite a lot about terrorist organizations). Our failure was lack of imagination — we simply could not imagine that people would voluntarily fly a commercial airplane directly into a building. I…

Net Zero Gradients

Credit: Bloomberg The following is taken from the post Net Zero Gradients.  On Tuesday of this week we learned that the ExxonMobil company has adopted Net Zero goals. ExxonMobil aims to achieve net-zero emissions from its operated assets by 2050 and is taking a comprehensive approach centered on developing detailed emission-reduction roadmaps for major operated assets. This ambition…

Lithium and Its Limits

The material here is a summary of the post Lithium and Its Limits. Supply and Demand Classical economics states that supply will always meet demand. If the demand for a resource or product increases then the price of that resource will probably go up, but it is taken for granted that the supply is always there. In other words, supply and demand are fundamentally a financial issue. One of the…

Industry Leadership

Ford F-150 Electric Vehicle Shown below is a summary of the post Industry Leadership. In the post Net Zero: The Business Opportunity we saw that many businesses have adopted a ‘Net Zero by 2050’ strategy. This means that these organizations intend to have ‘net zero’ emissions of greenhouse gases by the year 2050. One way — and by no means the only way — of achieving this goal is to develop…

What To Do?

Adam McKay The following material is extracted from the post What To Do? Adam McKay, director of the movie Don’t Look Up, has written an intriguing article in The Guardian as to how we, as individuals, can act in response to climate change. The title of the article is I directed Don’t Look Up. When it comes to the climate crisis, the ending is up to us. Here is part of what McKay says.…

The Future Has No Narrative

The following is a short summary of the full post, The Future Has No Narrative. In 2015 the author Wendell Berry said, So far as I am concerned, the future has no narrative. The future does not exist until it has become the past. To a very limited extent, prediction has worked. The sun, so far, has set and risen as we have expected it to do. And the world, I suppose, will predictably end, but…

“Dirty Coal”: The Problem Is Nitrogen

The full post for this topic is available here. The phrase “dirty coal” seems to have become one word. For example, the reports on the recent unsuccessful COP26 conference mostly dwelled on the fact that “phase out of coal” was change to “phase down of coal”. So why does coal have such a bad reputation? There are two ways at looking at its “dirtiness”. The first is that, being a solid, it…

Facing Climate Conditions

Letter to Richmond Times-Dispatch. Describes how conditions in Colorado (fires, heat, drought) show how the climate is changing. The recent Associated Press stories about the devastating winter grassland fire crisis in Colorado draw attention to a rough ride ahead. Who could have imagined a December wildfire where there is usually a foot of snow on the ground? As a high school student, it…

Realities: Nuclear Power

A theme of the posts at this site is that we are awash in good ideas, but many of these good ideas cannot be scaled up quickly enough to have a meaningful impact on the climate crisis. This post — Realities: Nuclear Power — illustrates this conundrum. Nuclear power is an established energy source. It has its detractors, but it is established and known to work. However, if nuclear is to provide…

The Net Zero Professional

When discussing Net Zero programs a question that people in the energy and process industries frequently ask is, “How will it affect my career? What do I need to do to stay employed?” Professionals in those industries are rightly concerned that their skills and experience will be uncalled for in a rapidly changing world, particularly in a world where oil companies have stated that they intend to…

The 300 Year Party

Published: August 2021 Imagine taking a magic carpet ride through northern Europe from east to west in Biblical. The area is circled on the map shown below — an area that Ugo Bardi rather unkindly refers to as a "vast regions of fog and swamps, inhabited by hairy Barbarians . . . the area we call today "Western Europe". You would fly from what is now western Russia, over the Ukraine,…

The Chemical Safety Board

The Chemical Safety Board (CSB) conducts investigations into serious incidents that occur in the chemical and process industries. The following quotation is taken from the web site of the United States Chemical Safety Board. The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the agency's board members are appointed…

The Shape of Net Zero (2): Alternative Energy

The good old days This post is the second in the series ‘The Shape of Net Zero’. The series is based on an understanding that we cannot simply switch out one source of energy (fossil fuels) with another (wind, solar, nuclear and others) and carry on with Business as Usual. We need to consider the following parameters to do with a switch in the basics of our energy supply. Fossil fuels,…

The Shape of Net Zero (1): No Substitute

As good as it gets This is the first article in a series to do the future of energy in a Net Zero world. In this article we look at fossil fuels, why they are so valuable, and the properties they have that will make them so difficult to replace. Many of the discussions in this series are based on the following sketch. We will review and analyze sections of this sketch in future discussions. For…

Global Warming of 1.5°C: IPCC Report

Dateline: July 2021 Update: September 2021 A Clunky Yet Memorable Sentence The report Global Warming of 1.5°C, published in the year 2018 by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), is important for two reasons. First, it provides a thorough summary of much of the research that had been carried out on climate change up until that time. Hence it has high credibility. The second…

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)

Published: June 2021 Updated: August 2021     The Organization There are many opinions to do with climate change — its causes, its effects, how quickly it is happening, and whether it is even happening at all. Therefore, the United Nations created the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in the year 1988 in order to provide world leaders with authoritative guidance. At its web…

The Shape of Net Zero (3): Refinery Operations

August 2021 This is the third post in the series ‘The Shape of Net Zero’. Nothing quite like it The first post was The Shape of Net Zero (1): No Substitute. Its theme was that is really no substitute for fossil fuels, particularly crude oil. Fossil fuels are economical, safe, environmentally clean (particularly as compared to nuclear), energy dense, always available (dispatchable) and…

BP Report: Three Emissions Scenarios

Published: July 2021   In September 2020 the company BP published their 2020 Energy Outlook. The report's Summary states, The Energy Outlook explores the forces shaping the global energy transition out to 2050 and the key uncertainties surrounding that transition. The company makes it clear that they are not predicting the future. The report’s purpose is to outline how energy consumption and…

Hard Times for These Times

Dateline: August 2021 Story-Telling Most of the people reading posts such as this are aware that earlier this month the IPCC issued an alarming report on climate change that should make society change its ways. Failure to do so could lead to catastrophe and a possible breakdown of civilization within just 20 years. Yet nothing happened; the report changed almost nothing. It was just a blip in…

Jevons' Paradox

Published: August 2021   William Stanley Jevons (1835-1882) It is wholly a confusion of ideas to suppose that the economical use of fuel is equivalent to a diminished consumption. The very contrary is the truth. ​William Stanley Jevons lived during the mid 19th century, at a time when Great Britain was rapidly industrializing. The energy resource of his time was coal (see The 300 Year…

The New PSM Normal (2) — Do Less With More

Dateline: June 2020 Update: August 2021 The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything. When more than 22 million people in the United States alone lose their jobs in just a few weeks we have entered a new and different world. There is no going back to an ‘Old Normal’. In the first post in this series, The New PSM Normal (1) — Deflation, I suggest that we are entering a time of deflation, which…

Principles of Process Safety Management

The material in this Article has been moved to Safety Moment #81: Principles of Process Safety Management. Copyright © Sutton Technical Books. All Rights Reserved. 2021.  

Nine Pounds of Gold and Peak Oil

What this NOAA article is saying is that it is not the absolute amount of a resource that matters — it is our ability to extract it economically. In the case of gold, it is highly unlikely that it will ever make sense to extract if from the sea. It is simply too dilute. So much for this “get rich quick” scheme. With regard to gold, it really doesn’t matter how much the extraction process costs…

The Renewable Energy Paradox

Renewable Energy. M.C. Escher's Waterfall (1961) The Paradox Renewables are growing faster than other sources of energy. The fraction of energy provided by renewals is declining. The Net Zero Commitment At the heart of most ‘Net Zero’ programs lies a commitment to transferring our primary energy sources from finite fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) to renewables, which, in…

Net Zero by 2050: Scale Up

Although Net Zero goals are commendable and deserve our support it is vital that they be evaluated realistically. This article is one in a series to do with difficulties that might be encountered as companies implement these programs. Other articles on this theme are: Net Zero by 2050: The Reality This article shows how greenhouse gas emissions have risen over the course of the last seven…

Greenhouse Gas Emission Scopes

The matching YouTube for this article is located at the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Scopes video. Many companies in the energy and process industries have committed to a Net Zero program. Their aim is to cease net emissions of greenhouse gases by a specific year, often 2050. In order to properly define their goal these companies need to identify the emissions for which they are responsible. The U…

Alice, the Red Queen and ERoEI

Faster! Faster! Faster! Faster! In Lewis Carroll’s famous story Through the Looking-Glass the protagonist, Alice, meets the Red Queen. Suddenly they start running. Alice never could quite make out, in thinking it over afterwards, how it was that they began: all she remembers is, that they were running hand in hand, and the Queen went so fast that it was all she could do to keep up with her…

A Kodak Moment for the Oil Companies

The term “Kodak Moment” originally referred to a rare or special occasion that was captured on (Kodak) film. The term has also come to describe a situation in which a company fails to foresee structural changes in its industry such that the company eventually falls into bankruptcy. The Kodak company was a world leader in film photography. Management of the company understood that digital…

The Hubbert Curve

When the historians of some future civilization write about the times we are living in now it is possible that two phrases will be frequently quoted. They are ‘Hubbert Curve’ and ‘Limits to Growth’. They will use these terms to illustrate how the people of our time were well informed as to the predicaments that were heading their way, but they chose not to take action. In this article we provide…

Net Zero by 2050: The Reality

Slogans such as 'Net Zero by 2050' are being adopted with remarkable alacrity by many organizations, including companies in the energy and oil businesses. As a reminder, the term ‘Net Zero’ means that the organization in question intends to organize its operations such that it will have no net emissions of greenhouse gases by a specified date. The word ‘net’ is used because the organization is…

Report: “Net zero 2050”: A dangerous illusion

                                           Credit: National Centre for Climate Restoration Net zero targets are very ambitious and require some of the world’s largest companies to radically and quickly change their basic culture and company profile. It would be imprudent to assume that they are going to make the necessary commitments or achieve the targets that they have set for themselves. …

Two Too Many Common Causes

The contents of this article have been moved to Safety Moment #58: Fukushima-Daiichi - Two Too Many Common Causes. Copyright © Ian Sutton. 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Fault Tree Analysis

The content of this Article has been moved to Safety Moment #94: Fault Tree Analysis. Details to do with the application and use of this technique are provided in the book Process Risk and Reliability Management and in the ebook Frequency Analysis. Copyright © Ian Sutton. 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Lockout Tagout

The content of this Article has moved to Safety Moment #91: Lockout Tagout Copyright © Ian Sutton. 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Fire Types

The material in this Article has moved to Safety Moment #98: Types of Fire. Copyright © Ian Sutton. 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Safety Signs

The contents of this Article has been moved to Safety Moment #96: Safety Signs.   Copyright © Ian Sutton. 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Stairways and Ladders

The material in this Article has been transferred to https://iansutton.com/safety-moments/safety-moment-97-stairways-laddershttps://iansutton.com/safety-moments/safety-moment-97-stairways-ladders.   Copyright © Ian Sutton. 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Flammable and Combustible Materials

The material in this article is extracted from Chapter 1 of the 2nd edition of the book Plant Design and Operations and in the ebook 52 Process Safety Moments. A hazard that is of great concern to virtually all process facilities is fire — most of the materials being processed, stored or transported are flammable and/or explosive. Therefore, when designing a process facility, the prevention and…

Safety and Environmental Management Systems (SEMS)

Overview Following the Deepwater Horizon/Macondo catastrophe in the year 2010 it became clear that substantial improvements were needed to offshore safety management in the United States. The framework of a new rule was already available as API RP 75 - Development of a Safety and Environmental Management Program for Offshore Operations and Facilities (SEMP). This standard was used as the basis…

Lowest Level of Risk (BSEE)

Overview (BSEE Risk) As part of its Well Control Rule BSEE appears to have made a major change in the manner in which offshore risk is to be managed. Section 250.107(a)(3) states, [y]ou must protect health, safety, property and the environment by utilizing recognized engineering practices that reduce risks to the lowest level practicable when conducting design, fabrication, installation,…

The Case for Safety Cases

The Deepwater Horizon/Macondo catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) in the year 2010 demonstrated the need for new safety management regulations. The draft regulations went through various iterations, and the name of the responsible government agency changed twice. In the end, the SEMS (Safety and Environmental Management System) regulation became a requirement for offshore oil and gas…

Hyperloop Generic Safety Study

In Safety Moment #8: “But We’re Different, You Know” we show that risk analysis techniques have much in common across different parts of the process and energy industries. Lessons can be shared across industries such as oil refining, chemicals manufacture, pipeline operations and offshore oil and gas production. But, given that the first word in the phrase Process Safety Management (PSM) is…

The Cruise Ship’s Galley

A process safety expert and his wife went on a cruise. Part of the cruise included a tour of the ship’s impressive galley and food-serving facilities. The tour was led by one of the ship’s sous chefs. The process safety expert realized that he was looking at a small chemical plant. In front of him were processes that involved chemical reactions, heat exchange and moderately high pressures. So he…

White Whales and Black Swans: the Revised BSEE Drilling Rules

This article from the online journal The Hill makes some pointed criticisms to do with BSEE’s rolling back of regulations that were introduced following the Deepwater Horizon/Macondo explosion and fire. It states, The Deepwater Horizon disaster laid bare the unfortunate reality of decades of insufficient oversight. Multiple investigations pointed to a deficient safety culture and an atmosphere…

The New PSM Normal (4) — Automation

If you fly over the offshore platform of the future in a helicopter and look down you will see just two living beings: an operator and a dog. The operator’s job is to feed the dog; the dog’s job is to make sure that the operator doesn’t touch anything. This is the fourth post in our series to do with the ‘New Normal’ as it applies to industrial safety. The series is written on the assumption…

The New PSM Normal (1) — Deflation

The last few weeks have changed everything. How long the COVID-19 pandemic will last, how many people will fall ill and how many will die all remain a matter of speculation. Nor do we know the duration of this crisis, but it is probably going to be longer than most people expect. An article in The Atlantic magazine — Our Pandemic Summer — quotes Devi Sridhar, “Everyone wants to know when this…

The New PSM Normal (3) — Peak Oil

This post is the third in a series in which we consider how our approach to industrial safety, and process safety in particular, may change in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is early days — no one knows what the ultimate health and economic effects of this frightening event will be. But it seems likely that we are entering a ‘New Normal’. So much has happened so quickly that it is hard to…

Use of Safety Moments

You are welcome to use our Safety Moments in your workplace. However please note the following restrictions: The material is copyright Ian Sutton. Normal copyright and fair use restrictions apply. Inform the audience that you received the Safety Moment from the Sutton Technical Books site. You cannot sell the Safety Moment or use it for commercial purposes. After you have presented the…

SEMS Audits

BSEE (the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement) has issued a summary of its audit findings for offshore facilities and the SEMS rule. (SEMS — the Safety and Environmental Management System rule for offshore safety in U.S waters — is the offshore equivalent of PSM.) It is Safety Alert No. 381 at https://lnkd.in/eGRunKt.

The New PSM Normal (4) — Automation

If you fly over the offshore platform of the future in a helicopter and look down you will see just two living beings: an operator and a dog. The operator’s job is to feed the dog; the dog’s job is to make sure that the operator doesn’t touch anything. This is the fourth post in our series to do with the ‘New Normal’ as it applies to industrial safety. The series is written on the assumption…

The New PSM Normal (5) — Standards

2020-05-20 In this post I would like to consider how those of us who work in industrial and process safety can help the community at large? The subject came to mind when I was discussing the eventual return of people to church services with a colleague. Our Episcopal diocese has organized a four-phase program for the re-opening of the churches (we are currently in Phase One). Phases Two and…

The New PSM Normal (7) — Things Feel Different

2020-06-03 In the post SEMS and Risk in 2020 (SEMS if the offshore equivalent of process safety management as applied to U.S. deepwater operations — mostly the Gulf of Mexico), Mick Will, says, The speed with which drastic change has come over our industry is what is so different from past events. While oil price volatility has been something I have dealt with for 42 years, I do not remember…

The New PSM Normal (6) — Alternative Energy Reality Check

2020-05-27 I would like to take a break from talking about this virus this week. (Wouldn’t we all?) Instead, let’s take another long-range look as to where the process industries may be going, and how safety management programs may have to adapt. There is much talk in the oil industry to do with the current low oil prices and how the loss of revenue will lead to a cutback in investment,…

Pig Launching and Retrieving

This article provides guidance to do with the launching and retrieving of pipeline pigs (also known as scrapers or tools). Pig Launching Below is a schematic of a launcher. In normal operation the fluid (liquid or gas) moves along the line from left to right through the open Main Line valve. The kicker and isolation valves are both closed hence the barrel of the pig launcher is isolated from…

Standard Examples

We have developed a set of process safety management standard examples that are used to illustrate some of the concepts and ideas developed in our publications.  Example 1 - Facility Design A process consists of four operating units and a utilities section. A schematic of the system is shown in Figure 1.   Figure 1 - Facility Design Example 2 - Process Flow Figure 2 shows part of Unit 100…

Process Safety and Railroads

One of the themes of these Safety Moments is that different industries have much in common. Therefore, a safety program that works for one industry is likely to be useful and relevant in another. Certainly, each industry has its own specific issues that are not shared with others (some of these are described in Safety Moment #8: “But We’re Different, You Know”). But, as a generalization,…

History of Safety Management in the Process Industries

Video History Safety Management: we have published a 30 minute video package that shows how safety management systems in the process and energy industries have developed during the course of the last 300 years. The YouTube video shown at the end of this page provides a short extract. Historical Sequence We can look at the development of the history of industrial safety programs using the 12…

Equipment Isolation Methods

Isolation Methods Positive isolation methods are those which remain effective even if there is equipment failure or operator error. These techniques apply not only to vessels, piping and tanks but also to pneumatic and hydraulic equipment. The sketch shows some of the various isolation techniques that can be used to protect workers in the process industries. The process containing toxic or…

Event Tree Analysis

Overview Event Tree Analysis (ETA) uses the same logical and mathematical techniques as Fault Tree Analysis. However, whereas a fault tree analyzes how an undesirable top event may occur, an event tree considers the impact of the failure of a particular component or item in the system, and works out the effect such a failure will have on the overall system risk or reliability. Event trees use an…