The classic definition of resilience is the “ability to recover quickly from difficulties,” and while this is often applied to individuals, it holds true for corporations and even countries. However, within the context of industry, resilience is often applied to a system’s ability to recover from or adapt to a major disruption. These disruptions may arise from significant threats ranging from extreme weather, climate change, and regulatory change to supply chain interruption and/or cyberattacks.
At the recent Enterprise and Infrastructure Resilience Workshop held August 12-13th in Cincinnati, OH, sponsored by AIChE’s Institute for Sustainability, a small, multi-disciplinary group of scientists and engineers from industry, government, and academia gathered to explore multifaceted resilience strategies for the modern enterprise that addressed dependence on external elements, such as the environment, stakeholders, shareholders, and society.
During the event, RAPID hosted its own problem-discovery workshop to better understand resilience as it relates to RAPID’s mission to transform the chemical process industries (CPI) through process intensification (PI) and modular technology. CTO Paul Yelvington noted, “While chemical engineers have thought about risk management for a long time, we are just beginning to think about how the concept of resilience will impact CPI. The RAPID workshop was an excellent way to begin a dialogue about the link between resilience and PI or modular manufacturing.” One interesting outcome of RAPID’s workshop was the suggestion that small, modular chemical manufacturing may make supply chains more resilient by lowering the barrier for new entrants to the market should a major player exit.
Throughout the larger workshop, different aspects of resilience were explored relating to an array of topics including flooding, power generation, manufacturing and transportation. Dr. Igor Linkov from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center gave a keynote address about the science of resilience with examples from analysis of transportation networks. Dr. Linkov believes that “risk” and “resilience” are often conflated and can be misapplied in practice. Risk management is proactive—efforts are designed to prevent or defuse threats before they occur while resilience focuses on the aftermath; recovery and adaptation. By applying risk-based approaches to problems that require a resilience-based solution, systems can result that do not produce the desired outcomes.
Other speakers included Wendy Young from RAPID Member Chemstations, who discussed designing resilience into chemical plants by using dynamic process simulations to stress test a plant design with various disturbances.
On the second day, Dr. Gregory Sayles from the U.S. EPA in his keynote, elaborated on new strategies to recover from accidental chemical or nuclear releases. Sayles recounted a 2016 incident where an asphalt compound was accidentally back-flowed from a refinery into the water main in Corpus Christi, TX, and how RAPID member Idaho National Lab’s Water Security Test Bed can be used to better understand how to respond to this type of disruption.
There are no easy answers to the resilience challenges faced by the chemical industry but workshops such as these ensure that participants have an opportunity to share perspectives and acquire a better understanding of how to manage and mitigate dangers to large-scale assets through the creation of more dynamic and flexible operating systems. As we delve deeper, PI and MCPI technologies will have a greater role to play in the years ahead.