What Are Best Practices and Standards for Control Narratives?


The following technical discussion is part of an occasional series showcasing the ISA Mentor Program, authored by Greg McMillan, industry consultant, author of numerous process control books, 2010 ISA Life Achievement Award recipient and retired Senior Fellow from Solutia Inc. (now Eastman Chemical). Greg will be posting questions and responses from the ISA Mentor Program, with contributions from program participants.

In the ISA Mentor Program, I am providing guidance for extremely talented individuals from Argentina, Brazil, Malaysia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and the USA. This question comes from Adrian Taylor.

Adrian Taylor is a process control specialist at Cristal.

Adrian Taylor’s Question

At the place I work we are typically good at documenting how we configure our controls in the form of DDS documents but not always as good at documenting why they have been configured that way in the form of rigorous control narratives.

We now have an initiative to start retrospectively producing detailed control narratives for all our existing controls and I am looking for best practice, standards and examples of what good looks like for control narratives.

I wondered if you had any good resources in this regard or you could point me in any direction. (I did look at ANSI/ISA-5.06.01–2007 but this seems more concerned with URS/DDS/FDS documents rather than narratives).

Hunter Vegas’ Answer

We do a lot of DeltaV systems and we use 3 different ways to “document” the control system. As a system integrator “document” for me may mean something than different than for you so let me explain that these documents are my way to tell my programmers exactly how I want the system to be configured. These documents fully define the system’s logic so they can program it and I can test against it.

As I said there are three parts:

  1. Tag List
  2. Logic Notes
  3. Batch Flowsheets

Obviously batch flowsheets do not apply if your system isn’t batch but the same flow sheets can be used to define an involved sequence.

The tag list is simply a large excel spreadsheet that includes all of the key parameters — module name, IO Name, tuning constants, alarm constants, etc. It also includes a “comment” cell that can include relatively simple logic like “Man only on/off FC valve with open/close limits and 30 sec stroke” or “analog input” or “Rev acting PID with man/auto modes and FO valve” etc. Most of the modules can be defined on this spreadsheet.

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The logic notes are usually a couple of paragraphs each and explain logic that is more complicated. Maybe we have an involved set of interlocks or ratio or cascade logic. If I have a logic note I’ll reference it in the tag list so the programmer knows to look for it.

The flow sheets are the last part. I usually have a flow sheet for every phase which defines the phase parameters, logic paths, failures, etc. (See Figure 1 for an example of an agitate phase.) Then I create a flow chart for every recipe which defines what phases I am using and what parameters are being passed. (See Figure 2 for an example of a partial recipe.)

Hiten Dalal’s Pipeline Feed System Example

I find the American Petroleum Institute Standard API RP 554 Part 1 (R2016) “Process Control Systems: Part 1-Process Control Systems Functions and Functional Specification Development” and the ISA Standard ANSI / ISA 5.06.01–2007 Functional Requirements Documentation for Control Software Applications to be very useful. ANSI/ISA95 also offers guidance on “Enterprise-Control System Integration.” These types of documents in my opinion help include the opinion of all stakeholders in the logic without the stakeholder having to be familiar with flow charting or logic diagrams or specific control system engineering terminology. The functional specification in my opinion is a progressive elaboration of a simple process description done by the process engineer. Once finalized, the functional specification can be developed into a SCADA/DCS operations manual by listing normal sequence of operation along with analysis of applicable responsibility such as operator action/responsibility, logic solver responsibility, and HMI display. You may download my example of a pipeline control system functional specification: Condensate Feed Pump & Alignment Motor Operated Valves (MOVs).

Additional Mentor Program Resources

See the ISA book 101 Tips for a Successful Automation Career that grew out of this Mentor Program to gain concise and practical advice. See the InTech magazine feature article Enabling new automation engineers for candid comments from some of the original program participants. See the Control Talk column How to effectively get engineering knowledge with the ISA Mentor Program protégée Keneisha Williams on the challenges faced by young engineers today, and the column How to succeed at career and project migration with protégé Bill Thomas on how to make the most out of yourself and your project. Providing discussion and answers besides Greg McMillan and co-founder of the program Hunter Vegas (project engineering manager at Wunderlich-Malec) are resources Mark Darby (principal consultant at CMiD Solutions), Brian Hrankowsky (consultant engineer at a major pharmaceutical company), Michel Ruel (executive director, engineering practice at BBA Inc.), Leah Ruder (director of global project engineering at the Midwest Engineering Center of Emerson Automation Solutions), Nick Sands (ISA Fellow and Manufacturing Technology Fellow at DuPont), Bart Propst (process control leader for the Ascend Performance Materials Chocolate Bayou plant) and Daniel Warren (senior instrumentation/electrical specialist at D.M.W. Instrumentation Consulting Services, Ltd.).

About the Author

Gregory K. McMillan, CAP, is a retired Senior Fellow from Solutia/Monsanto where he worked in engineering technology on process control improvement. Greg was also an affiliate professor for Washington University in Saint Louis. Greg is an ISA Fellow and received the ISA Kermit Fischer Environmental Award for pH control in 1991, the Control magazine Engineer of the Year award for the process industry in 1994, was inducted into the Control magazine Process Automation Hall of Fame in 2001, was honored by InTech magazine in 2003 as one of the most influential innovators in automation, and received the ISA Life Achievement Award in 2010. Greg is the author of numerous books on process control, including Advances in Reactor Measurement and Control and Essentials of Modern Measurements and Final Elements in the Process Industry. Greg has been the monthly “Control Talk” columnist for Control magazine since 2002. Presently, Greg is a part time modeling and control consultant in Technology for Process Simulation for Emerson Automation Solutions specializing in the use of the virtual plant for exploring new opportunities. He spends most of his time writing, teaching and leading the ISA Mentor Program he founded in 2011.

Originally published at https://blog.isa.org.



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