09.02.2018

Process Safety in a Silicones Plant

Two years after Bluestar Silicones was merged with Elkem in June 2015 and after the renaming of Bluestar Silicones to Elkem Silicones in June 2017, I had the great opportunity to be the first employee of the Silicones division to participate to the Elkem Trainee Program.

This blog post was written by our first year trainee Anne-Laure Auclaire.

In addition to various professional experiences that the trainee program allows me to consider, it is for me also an interesting cultural experience to be a French immersed in a Norwegian environment. I was, with 4 others 1st year trainees, welcomed by a nice group of 2nd year trainees and our trainee coordinator, Rolf. This challenging experience began with our week in August 2017 in Kalvåg, where I could discover sporting activities at Hornelen, fishing activities, Norwegian weather (I remember this boat trip from Kalvåg to Florø in a stormy sea!), and the learning of few Norwegian words. More recently we had in January a trainee gathering in Kristiansand, where we attended some very interesting presentations on Elkem Solar and the divisions Carbon, Silicon materials and Technology and an introduction to Digitalization and Standardization. We had also the possibility to visit Elkem Solar plant.

It is always interesting to meet up with the other trainees during our first, second or third trainee periods, to know what are our projects, and what we are involved in, and to see how there are plenty of possibilities through this program to discover different jobs and departments in Elkem.

For my part, the last 6 months, I have worked for my 1st period in the Silicones division on the Saint-Fons plant, close to Lyon. On Saint-Fons site a huge variety of silicones (all made of silicon) are manufactured (elastomers, oil, resins,…), and for various applications such as : release coatings, antifoams, textile coatings, mold making, construction, healthcare…

Picture: Saint-Fons Silicones Plant

Process Safety Department plays a significant role in the plant in the prevention of hazards with regards to workers, neighboring populations and the environment. The principal requirement is to manage risks with technically plausible scenarios which have been identified by applying an appropriate process risk analysis method, like HAZOP (HAZard OPerability study). The characterization of the risks requires investigation into the causes, effects, consequences and probability of unwanted events. The investigation work leads on to proposals for solutions designed to keep the risks under control, at a level which is acceptable according to the Group's EHS policy. These solutions may take the form of the implementation of appropriate preventive (reduce the probability of occurrence) and/or protective (reduce the severity) measures. The main objective of the process risk analysis is to control risks associated with fires, explosions, toxic gas emissions and with any loss of containment of hazardous material.

In accordance with the continuous improvement process, risk analyses are periodically updated and for that reason, in Saint-Fons plant, a team called “task force” has been set up at the beginning of 2017 and is dedicated to the resolution of unwanted situations. This team, that I am a part of, strengthens the work already done by field teams and accelerates the resolution of new detected unwanted situations. Our task is to give technical proposals to solve these situations for the whole Saint-Fons plant, in order to improve our safety level. These proposals must be agreed and validated by Production and Process Safety. In detail, our job consists of:  

  • Getting full understanding of risk assessment scenario  
  • Developing knowledge of related process  
  • Developing already issued technical proposals or issuing new technical proposals  
  • Working with all departments (Operation, Maintenance, Instrumentation, Process Safety, New construction) to get full agreement on technical proposals.

At the beginning of 2018, the goal has been achieved regarding technical solutions which are now being implemented, following a clearly defined schedule. To be a member of this team give me the opportunity to develop my knowledges and skills in Process safety and Risk analysis. I work specially on safety related to flammable products. Before starting my first period, I have had the opportunity to develop experience for 10 months on Saint-Fons North (a silicones synthesis workshop), as technical support engineer. That is why, for my 1st placement, I am assigned to the related unwanted situations in Saint-Fons North workshop.

From the beginning, I was welcomed by nice colleagues, both the day team and the operators. As my first period comes soon to the end, it is time for me to thank them for their help and for sharing their experience. I am now very excited since I know that my second period will take place in a plant in Norway. I will meet new people, begin a new project, and enjoy summer in Norway for some months.

Vi sees snart !