Industry Pulse In Depth: Honeywell Unveils Formula to Secure Chemical Plants

GEISMAR, La. — Despite the clamor since 9/11 about protecting critical sites from terrorism, the world’s chemical plants have remained extremely vulnerable to attack. It is estimated that only about 1,000 of the 15,000 chemical plants in the United States have even undergone vulnerability assessments. However, this alarming situation may finally be changing.

In November, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine began requiring his state’s 140 chemical plants to abide by industry-imposed security guidelines. Fearing that other states might also establish their own security mandates, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in March that the time has come for the federal government to step up and start regulating security at chemical facilities.

Anticipating these developments, Honeywell recently invited select trade journalists from security and building automation publications the world over — including Security Sales & Integration — to tour the Honeywell Specialty Materials chemical plant in Geismar, La., about 60 miles west of New Orleans. The facility is America’s largest producer of hydrofluoric acid, which is used to make refrigerants and other products.

Key personnel from Honeywell’s security and automation businesses were on hand, including Vice President, Global Marketing, Honeywell Security, Yvonne Hao, who briefed the assembled group prior to the plant tour. Site Manager Bill Lessig acted as the principal guide as editors were shown the facility’s two command centers, a mobile demo room and some of the grounds, including a riverfront docking area.

Honeywell spent 16 months designing and installing the plant’s sophisticated, fully integrated security system. In addition to the Specialty Materials facility, there are four other independently operated plants sitting on the 240 developed acres within the 1,900-acre, Honeywell-owned site. It is located in an area along the Mississippi River that is lined with 160 such chemical plants.

Honeywell’s mission was to create a showcase to demonstrate how effectively and efficiently a chemical plant could be equipped not only to safeguard employees, visitors, products and the facility itself, but also the nearby environment and people. The 1967-built Geismar facility is designated as a Tier 1 Plant, which means an explosion there could result in a deadly chemical cloud capable of traveling up to 20 miles (as far as Baton Rouge) and potentially harming as many as one million people.

The plant’s $3 million system — which centers on access control, video surveillance and perimeter detection — not only integrates security functions but also the building automation and process control systems for real-time information sharing. It incorporates biometrics for access to especially sensitive areas and radar at a riverfront shipping dock that directs cameras toward unidentified vessels.

Since the company’s building and process control systems share the same distributed server architecture, Honeywell was able to tightly integrate physical, electronic and cyber security with process control. The objective is to enable faster, better responses (e.g. preemptive shutdown/safe-mode and the mustering of personnel in safe areas). According to the company, this integration can be scaled to work in all sizes of facilities with different types of hazards and risk levels.

Honeywell is making securing chemical facilities a primary target and recently launched a team specifically dedicated to industrial security solutions. The company is in the process of deploying its integrated solution globally at several multinational plants.

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About the Author

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Scott Goldfine is the marketing director for Elite Interactive Solutions. He is the former editor-in-chief and associate publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He can be reached at [email protected].

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