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Operations & Maintenance

Solving Key Challenges in Pipeline Control Room Management


The control room is a crucial component of midstream oil and gas operations. It’s the metaphorical eyes and ears of the entire pipeline system, monitoring the real-time status of factors that contribute to a pipeline's functioning, including the flow rate, operational status, pressure and temperature of oil and gas products, combustible vapors, condensates and other potentially hazardous substances. When anomalies occur, the control room is the first to know, and operators must respond immediately with proper emergency mitigation strategies to prevent catastrophes. 

Adhering to safety and compliance regulations is one of the most important priorities in this room - and arguably one of the most challenging to achieve. The control room is a heavily regulated and complex environment. However, operators can ensure accurate adherence to safety regulations by enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of shift handovers. This article will explore some of the digital tools used to achieve safer processes while enhancing operational efficiencies.  


Challenges in Pipeline Control Management: Achieving Safety and Regulatory Compliance  

Errors made in the control room can contribute to and significantly exacerbate emergency situations, putting workers and communities surrounding existing pipelines at risk. As a result, pipeline companies must adhere to stringent regulations that ensure that every process is executed correctly and safely. These regulations – which are extremely detailed and must be followed precisely – are outlined by the United States Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA.) The control room management regulations are found on the National Archives website  

PHMSA's inspection guidance covers various aspects of control room operations, safety procedures and compliance requirements for pipeline operators. It also highlights the need for a written alarm management plan and alarm system performance monitoring to provide an effective response to alarms. The alarm management plan must be reviewed and updated at least once a year.

Regulatory compliance is complex, but it’s imperative that control room operators adhere to these regulations. Operators can better ensure compliance by leveraging digital solutions that enhance alarm monitoring and shift handover processes, as discussed below. 


Hexagon’s j5 Shift Operations Management Solution Improves Shift Handover Procedures and Ensures Compliance  

The shift handover process is critical to safe pipeline operations, but it also creates room for inaccuracies. Relaying incorrect or misleading information during a handover can prove costly, both in terms of financial risk and safety hazards. Moreover, the prevalent use of paper-based documentation systems introduces a broader risk for miscommunications and simple human error.  

These issues can be mitigated by introducing a digital shift handover solution to pipeline management processes.  

Hexagon’s j5 Shift Operations Management solution is an example of a digital solution that enables control room operators to achieve consistent, safe and fully informed shift handovers.  

PHMSA requires operators to establish a method of recording controller shift changes and handover to ensure prompt and appropriate response to operating conditions. By serving as a centralized data repository, Hexagon’s j5 Shift Handover makes crucial information available to all relevant stakeholders, improves communication, standardizes reporting and reduces the risk of hazardous incidents.  

With j5 Standing Orders, operators can continue to ensure PHMSA compliance by communicating, distributing and tracking instructions on a single digital platform. j5 Standing Orders creates an audit trail of who has received and acknowledged instructions, providing a heightened level of accountability and visibility into compliance reporting. And utilizing j5 Shift Operations Management Solutions, facilities can document and manage the execution of safety-critical industrial processes. Control room operators are mandated by section 5 of API 1168 to establish procedures for when a different controller assumes responsibility, which includes the information that needs to be exchanged.  


Further Bolstering Safety and Compliance with Targeted Alarm Management Solutions 

In addition to streamlined shift handover procedures, proper alarm management is crucial to minimizing hazards associated with midstream operations. Issues like alarm flooding or inaccurate alarms can put both workers and communities located near the pipelines at risk.

Hexagon’s market-leading PAS AlarmManagement reduces the noise of a poorly functioning alarm system, increasing the visibility of a control room’s alarms as well as operator trust in notifications and responsiveness. Its key solutions include:  

  • Alarm & Event Analysis: Captures and analyzes alarms, events, operator interventions, system logs and parameter changes.

  • Documentation & Rationalization: Facilitates sessions to engineer alarms and capture the information on setpoints, priorities, severities, causes, consequences and corrective actions in a master alarm database.

  • Audit & Enforce: Enables real-time notification and capture changes, audit reporting and configurable enforcement of alarm setting changes.

  • Alert Director: Provides notifications in real-time based on configurable triggers.

  • Dynamic Alarming: Modifies engineered alarms based on current operating state, temporarily disables nuisance alarms and generates reports to facilitate corrective actions.  


j5 Shift Handover also integrates with PAS AlarmManagement, making alarm and event data directly available to the incoming shift using j5 Shift Handover. Regulatory mandates for shift handover in the control room require addressing several factors, including active alarms, inhibited alarms, nuisance alarms, maintenance overrides and recurring or persistent alarms. With PAS AlarmManagement, detailed tracking and management of these alarms enables operators to access real-time status updates, as well as identify patterns and recurring issues to improve overall system reliability.  

AcceleratorKMS® Empowers Compliance with Control Room Procedure Regulations 

 AcceleratorKMS is a procedure lifecycle management (PLCM) solution that aims to mitigate incidents stemming from incorrect information. This technology enables control room operators to maintain compliance with control room procedure regulations. AcceleratorKMS standardizes work instructions, improves the reliability and consistency of tasks completed using an automated feedback cycle and streamlines onboarding and training.

PHMSA outlines detailed requirements for controller training. Among other elements, every training program must include training for the following:   

  • Responding to abnormal operating conditions likely to occur simultaneously or in sequence;

  • Training that will provide a controller with a working knowledge of the pipeline system, especially during the development of abnormal operating conditions; 

  • For pipeline operating setups that are periodically, but infrequently used, providing an opportunity for operators to review relevant procedures in advance of their application; and

  • Control room team training and exercises that include both operators and other individuals, defined by the operator, who would reasonably be expected to operationally collaborate with operators (control room personnel) during normal, abnormal, or emergency situations.  

Adhering to these training requirements is easy using the AcceleratorLXP integration - all educational materials are easily accessible on any device. AcceleratorLXP allows organizations to manage training with personalized learning modules and contextually connect operation content to learning opportunities.  



Pipeline control rooms are the epicenter of midstream oil and gas operations. Disruptions or malfunctions in control rooms can have far-reaching consequences, including environmental damage, operational downtime and potential risks to public safety. To compound issues, pipeline companies are on the hook for complying with complex industrial regulations.

By optimizing shift handover, alarm management, procedure execution and training to comply with industry regulations, pipeline companies can remain compliant and enhance the resilience of their infrastructure while meeting their customers' needs. Contact Hexagon today to learn more about the solutions available to help reach those goals.