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Are your facilities exposed to high risk? An HF Alkylation Case Study

Written by Risk Alive

July 6, 2020

Many processing facilities are unaware that their PHA may not capture the correct risks comprehensively. At the end of the day, the money and effort spent on a PHA still may not obtain an effective risk reduction in their facilities.

Process Hazards Analysis (PHA) studies like HAZOP are subjective and the discovery of threats is based on the experience of the team in the room. Everyone who participates in PHA does the best they can to do a complete and comprehensive analysis however their contributions can be limited and biased based on their human knowledge and experience. This can lead to inconsistencies in risk discovery even in facilities/ units of the same type which are more alike than they are different. Much can be done to help combat this challenge, bringing in experienced facilitators and PHA participants, reviewing incidents from industry and best practices from industry groups like API however gaps still remain.

We have seen this happen numerous times across many industries and is a very common issue that many people don’t realize can be solved. No matter if you are an engineer, manager or SME, if you experience the same type of headache, Risk Alive® can help you save time and improve the efficiency of reducing the risk at your facility through improving PHA completeness.


Experience Bias is common in PHA where, based on the observations and experience of the team, if an incident has never manifested at a given site they may discount the scenario and not consider it credible. It may just be that it hasn’t happened in the timeline and experience of the group in the study but it is a credible threat. 

REMEMBER: Money you invested on Risk Reduction ≠ Effectiveness on Risk Reduction. To properly solve the issue, you will want to investigate if the correct risks have been captured.

With experienced operations personnel and engineers from the baby boomer generation retiring and general turn over that happens in industry it is increasingly difficult to assemble experienced PHA teams. Some companies generate lists of pre-defined scenarios with corresponding risk rankings to support PHA study groups however based on the experience of Risk Alive data engineers, even those lists are often disregarded or don’t capture the full picture of all relevant credible scenarios.

Why Does the Issue Occur?

There are a few major types of incorrect capture in a PHA, including:

  • Over analyzing a risk, which may cost you thousands of dollars on lower value PHA recommendations and time and efforts on unnecessary safeguards maintenance
  • Under analyzing or missing a risk, which may result in your facility being exposed to an unknown risk and could cause severe consequences in the future if not properly mitigated. This is an outcome that no one wants, since people can be severely injured, and the reputation of your company will be damaged as well

The good news is – Risk Alive® has a solution and can help you on this issue.

Hydroflouric Alkylation Case Study

In a recent study of six HF alky units used in refinery applications, all owned by the same company it was found that the average PHA ‘missed’ approximately 30% of the threats in their site. To clarify, when the word ‘missed’ is used a more accurate explanation is that they either failed to document the scenario, or they did in fact miss a credible threat.

How did you perform on Risk Discovery, compared to other similar facilities from a high-level?

  • Risk Discovery is a measure of how much risk your facility has identified and analyzed – this is the top Performance Indicator 
  • Risk Alive® summarizes all the risks your facility and other similar facilities have analyzed from across your company and around the world in industry
  • All the risks are visualized into a Pie Chart, which is a high-level summary of your facility’s Risk Discovery. This shows scenarios your facility has analyzed (blue) and risks that other facilities have analyzed but you have not (orange), eliminating the noise of scenarios that are not relevant to your facility (grey) and showcasing potential room for improvement in terms of Risk Discovery.
  • Here is a set of pie charts showing the Risk Discovery for HF Alkylation units for one client:

To help explain the above pie charts using pie chart 1 as an example:

  • Facility 1 only captured 23% of the total risks for all six facilities (Blue)
  • 41% from the total risks for all six facilities do not apply to Facility 1 due to design difference (Grey)
  • Facility 1 potential missed 36% of the total risks for all six facilities. These risks were analyzed by other facilities in comparison (Orange)
  • These three added up to 100% (23%+41%+36%), representing total amount of risks for all six facilities

All six sites were assessed using the same risk matrix with the same corporate guidance (PHA standard, PHA templates, PHA software, etc). The company also provided a list of common scenarios, relevant to the technology generated based on the knowledge of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) specific to that type of process unit. Even with all those consistencies the gap in risk discovery was still very significant. 

  • The Pie Charts can also compare your facility to others’ to see if your facility is a strong performer in Risk Discovery
  • Understanding and visualizing how your Risk Discovery changes over time with subsequent PHA revalidations, you can complete a gap closure analysis on potential missed risks and reach 0 missed risks goal in a timely manner using this type of analysis

How Can Risk Alive® Help Improve Your PHA Analysis to Meet Industry Standard?

  • Risk Alive® compares how your facility analyzed a risk versus how other facilities analyzed the same risk. It can show you potentials of where a risk may have been under analyzed or missed
  • This information can be used for future PHA to ensure a more complete analysis is conducted using the collective knowledge of similar facilities from our ‘WHAT EXCELLENCE LOOKS LIKE (WELL)’ list

How Can You Focus on the Right Risk Reduction?

  • By doing the similar comparison as above, Risk Alive can also show you potentials of where a risk may have been over analyzed
  • Understanding these over analyzed risks can provide many benefits:
    • You may be able to avoid implementing some lower value recommendations
    • You may not require as many risk reducing safeguards
    • This can help SAVE TIME and MONEY, which can be better allocated to other places like closing your risk gap

Predicting Risk Discovery – Why It Helps 

With the largest repository of risk data available, Risk Alive® has built predictive models and advanced analytics driven by our data to make the world a safer place. Now these tools can empower you by predicting recommendation implementation cost, safeguard profile and maintenance cost, and finally Risk Discovery. Our Risk Discovery prediction model (RDM) is lean and easy to use, just upload your data and the wheels will turn to provide you with results in an instant. It does this by analyzing the PHA data using advanced algorithms, removing the noise, and comparing it to others in our vast data set with a similar signature. The value of the prediction trail is four old: it is fast, cheap, proactive and it can tell you if your plant is above or below a known threat threshold. The results enable the user to determine if the process unit is within acceptable levels, and if it is not, then it is probably a good time to act.

To illustrate the advantages of the model, let us look at how this applied in the  HF Alkylation Units case study. The prediction model predicted the bottom three, and the top two of the HF Alkylation units. Noting that 85% fell within 15% accuracy, this shows that the RDM can help you determine which of your units has minimal threat discovery and may require further investigation.


Risk Alive® helps teams focus on capturing the correct risk and provide insight on the fastest way to reduce the current risk exposure at your facility.

Authored by David Wang, Risk Alive Analytics Process Safety Analyst 

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