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Addressing the Challenges in Chemical Process Safety

By: , Posted on: April 27, 2017

methods in chemical process safety

Chemical process safety is a key component to the management of chemicals that are an essential part of everyday modern life. In the last decade there have been two large and devastating events that have shown the importance of research into improving safety.  These disasters not only cost human life, but have had a huge impact on the local environment and represent major financial loss for the companies involved.

The first disaster occurred in 2010 in the gulf of Mexico at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. It is estimated this disaster caused 4.9 million oil barrels to leak into the sea, it caused 11 deaths and cost BP an estimated $56.4 billion since 2010. The environmental impact was huge, and its full consequences may still not yet be truly known. In 2013 dolphins and other marine life continued to die in record numbers, with infant dolphins dying at 6 times the normal rate. The disaster was caused by poor safety systems and cost cutting measures according to a White House report.

Five years later in 2015 there were a series of explosions at a container storage station in the Port of Tianjin, China. Images of the disaster were shown around the world. Overall it cost 173 deaths, and 797 non-fatal injuries as well as damage to over 300 buildings and thousands of cars and shipping containers. It is reported to have cost businesses around $9 billion.

Whilst these are two notable examples, smaller scale breaches in safety occur all over the world every day, causing damage to the environment, business and ultimately to those working within the industry, or living near to large plants. Researchers and industry practitioners working within chemical process safety are constantly looking to more dynamic and adaptive methods of design and management to improve health and safety across the industry. As this area of research continues to grow, and the engineering systems they work to improve become more and more complex, it is clear that there is a need for an authoritative publication that researchers can refer to.

Working together with Faisal Khan, Professor and Canada Research Chair (Tier I) in Safety and Risk Engineering at Memorial University in Canada, Elsevier has developed a new book series Methods in Chemical Process Safety aimed at providing this trusted reference for those working within this field.

Currently industry practitioners receive information on new methods to improve safety from 2 sources – firstly from safety regulations and secondly from journals and books. Textbooks provide fundamentals, which though relevant, fail to provide information on latest advances or link fundamentals with these advances and their relevant application. Journals content on the other hand is up to date, but the highly technical language can be difficult for non-academics to easily understand and implement.  Methods in Chemical Process Safety aims to fill this gap, updating industry practitioners quickly on the latest best practice whilst linking together fundamentals, the latest advances and application, whilst maintaining a highly practical approach.

Methods in Chemical Process Safety also aims to be a timesaver for academics – summarizing hundreds of research papers and giving a through overview of a specific topic in each volume. This is a booming area of research, so there is much information to keep up with.  It is accessible for non-experts and interdisciplinary researchers who may be encountering an area for the first time or need a quick summary of the current findings. The publication also provides a bridge between academic and industry content allowing researchers from all backgrounds to share important information.

The chapters will provide context as well as answers and aim to be a one stop resource for anyone trying to get up to speed on a particular area of research within chemical process safety.

The editor of this new book series Faisal Khan sums up the importance of a publication of this type to the field. He explains that “Engineering systems are growing in complexity to meet the need of efficient operations, cost competitiveness and higher production. With increasing complexity, safety is becoming a growing challenge. There is no simple shortcut to address this challenge, but academic researchers and industry must work together to develop new knowledge. In my view this is similar to human health with scientists working together with concerned individuals and industry to develop new knowledge. Similarly, the safety community must work together with industry to address safety challenges as they evolve. Methods in Chemical Process Safety provides a resource to develop this knowledge and catalyze the development of new methods, tools and technology to address safety challenges. Ultimately using this series will help researchers and industry practitioners to reach their shared goal of ‘Inherently Safer Design and Safe Operation’.”

The first volume in the series discusses the fundamentals of process safety from a practical perspective to make the book applicable for practitioners working within the industry. We are developing more volumes which will publish at least once per year and will cover major topics within this field of research, in particular in hazard identification and detection, risk assessment and management, modelling, safety, inherently safer design and loss prevention.

Check out the 1st Volume on ScienceDirect

Available to purchase volume by volume on or recommend to your librarian for institutional access on ScienceDirect.

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