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SA Instrumentation & Control Buyers' Guide


Trends in process safety systems
January 2018, This Week's Editor's Pick

Market is changing

The global process safety systems market is changing in a rapid and dramatic way. Less industrialised countries continue efforts to grow their economies and build mega plants. These complexes will be interconnected and offer multiple complex product streams. There will be requirements to coordinate ‘in process’ product flows and extend safety shutdown functionalities across multiple units and areas of these facilities.

End users are demanding more information about the functioning and behaviours of their process safety systems, and they want them to be easier and more intuitive to access.

Recognising the need to become more cost-efficient to remain profitable in the changing global environment, many companies are adjusting their business practices to meet the challenges of the ‘new normal’.

ARC is also seeing increased efforts to optimise existing operations for maximum availability (by minimising spurious trips) and migrate/upgrade formerly grandfathered systems into a compliant process safety system. Today, proof of compliance is not only mandated, it can also provide benefits by reducing insurance costs.

Cybersecurity remains a key concern

Cybersecurity is top-of-mind for many major safety integrated system (SIS) end users. Stuxnet demonstrated that malware can be deployed by nation states as a weapon of war, as well as by hackers. Such weapons may be extremely difficult to develop, but are also very difficult to trace to an individual, group, or country. SIS suppliers are addressing the cybersecurity threat with active initiatives, either in-house, through partnerships, or both.

Although integrating process automation systems with process safety systems – a growing trend in recent decades – may offer some advantages, many end users are carefully considering just ‘how integrated’ they want their systems to be due to the fear of increased exposure to cybersecurity and other threats.

Integrated vs. separate

Most leading process safety systems’ suppliers today also supply automation systems. Eight out of the top nine suppliers in this market offer a broad range of automation products. As the leading automation systems’ suppliers have entered the safety system business, customer preference appears to be shifting toward using a common supplier and, in some cases, even similar platform technology for both control and safety systems. This approach offers the advantage of reducing engineering costs and project risk.

However, both approaches have tradeoffs. While integrated DCS/SIS platforms can certainly help reduce overall project risk and offer potential cost savings related to reduced engineering, training and spare parts requirements, proponents of separation would argue that this increases vulnerability to both cyber and physical security risks and opens the potential for common-cause failures. There are also varying degrees of ‘integration’ to consider. For example, are the systems just integrated from an engineering, HMI and/or asset management perspective (very likely), or is there actual integration at the control logic level (not very likely)?

Expanding scope of supply

More industry participants are expanding the main automation contractor (MAC) project concept to include the electrical equipment and systems.

Regardless of the project scope, however, there is an increasing trend to look to a third party for safety consulting services. End users are losing the ability to provide these services in-house. These services extend beyond configuring and installing the safety system, to pre-project work like determining the appropriate safety integrity levels (SILs), and after-project work like maintenance support, testing, and validation.

Recognising that many previous process safety system projects have failed, suppliers are adopting new technologies and standards to improve process safety system project execution. Some of the key technological changes occurring in the market include a growing use of new I/O technologies, increasing adoption of standards, and increasing use of virtualisation. The overarching goal of these changes is to make process safety systems easier to implement and maintain.

While ARC does not expect the safety market to embrace virtualisation of safety logic any time soon, over the long term, it is possible that virtualisation technologies will prove to be robust enough for this type of application.

ARC also sees an increased focus on the entire safety lifecycle. More users are beginning to observe that most safety failures come from field devices connected to the safety system, rather than the safety system logic itself. This understanding is driving more end users to demand safety lifecycle management software functionalities so they can not only operate their plants safer, but also prove it!

Regulators are also getting more involved in the safety lifecycle and becoming more proactive by working with major end users to ensure that they comply with standards and demonstrate understanding of risks and corresponding safeguards to manage/mitigate identified risks before accidents can happen.

However, much more still needs to be done to make industry aware of the risk and reduce both the frequency and severity of process safety-related incidents.

ARC has recently updated both its market research ( on this dynamic space for the supplier community and prepared an updated technology evaluation and selection guides ( for end users.

For more information contact Paul Miller, ARC Advisory Group, +1 781 471 1141,,

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