Senators May Talk To Chemical Firms : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Is this headline a contradiction or what?? Link

No major safety issues apparent, but officials say they need to know more

By Patrick Thibodeau 08/23/99 Washington

When Dec. 31 arrives, chem-ical maker Celanese Ltd. will have extra people on duty and others on call. The company's emergency command center will be on watch for problems at its 30 worldwide sites, but especially at those in time zones well ahead of its Dallas headquarters.

If a year 2000-related problem develops at its Singapore plant, for instance, that information will be relayed to headquarters. "If one site has a problem, the other sites will have a chance to learn from it," said John Susil, process safety manager at Celanese.

Susil said he believes Celanese has a good handle on Y2K. But the same can't be said for the chemical industry at large. U.S. officials said they know little about the industry's year 2000 readiness, especially among medium-size and small manufacturers and handlers.

The White House, at the urging of the Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, expects to meet late this month with chemical producers and trade groups on the Y2K risks posed by chemical manufacturing processes.

"At this juncture, there is no indication that there are major safety issues" in the chemical industry, said White House Y2K czar John Koskinen. But "we don't have enough information to conclusively determine that."

Chemical manufacturing makes extensive use of computer controls and embedded systems. Those systems, industry experts say, are built with numerous safeguards and were designed to safely shut down if power is lost or system problems develop.

"I have a hard time conceiving of things that can go wrong because of Y2K that are new and different," Susil said.

But there could be "consequences that aren't yet understood," said Gerald Poje, year 2000 coordinator at the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board in Washington. "The word vigilance is quite important in this area." The board has been urging state governors to take steps to check chemical facilities.

Critics said Congress and theWhite House haven't done enough to force Y2K compliance by chemical companies. "It was more important to pass legislation to protect companies that create problems," said Leon Kappelman, head of the Society for Information Management's Year 2000 Special Interest Group in Chicago, referring to a Y2K liability-limiting bill signed by the president.

In a 10-year period, there were 600,000 chemical incidents that resulted in more than 2,250 deaths and 20,300 injuries. Of those incidents, 240,000 were caused by mechanical failures, but the U.S. Chemical Safety Board doesn't know how many were computer-related.

Computer systems disruptions can be critical. On June 10, a gasoline pipeline operated by Olympic Pipe Line Co. exploded in a park in Bellingham, Wash., killing two 10-year-old boys and an 18-year-old man, and releasing thousands of gallons of gas. The cause of the explosion hasn't yet been determined.

But the U.S. Office of Pipeline Safety said there were problems with the supervisory control and data acquisition system, which controls the pipeline, that may have inhibited operators from controlling the problem. An advisory was issued to all gas pipeline facilities.

-- y2k dave (, August 24, 1999


Notice how the methodology is different here than in the Navy report. Here, we are told they don't know what's what, but they're assuming no problems unless proven otherwise; in the Navy report, we were told they didn't know what's what but they assumed big problems unless proven otherwise.

Thus, we see what the real strategy is: actively discourage the public from thinking about Y2K.

-- Lane Core Jr. (, August 24, 1999.

The cause of the explosion hasn't yet been determined.

I thought the boys had been playing with a butane lighter.

-- Lane Core Jr. (, August 24, 1999.


"actively discourage the public from thinking about Y2K."

I believe this is what I would call MEDIA coverage. This is how the MEDIA spoon feeds the masses. Can you imagine what y2k would be like WITHOUT the Internet?? Mind boggling to say the least.

-- y2k dave (, August 24, 1999.

Thanks y2k dave, but could we have the real link, pretty please?

-- Brooks (, August 24, 1999.

Link I hope this works...

-- y2k dave (, August 24, 1999.


"At this juncture, there is no indication that there are major safety issues" in the chemical industry, said White House Y2K czar John Koskinen. But "we don't have enough information to conclusively determine that."

Here we are on August 24, 1999 and we don't have ENOUGH INFORMATION TO CONCLUSIVELY DETERMINE THAT!!!

Time for the K-Man to be replaced. Need someone to take the FALL.


-- Ray (, August 24, 1999.

In case some folk had missed the posting on Andy Rays Threads (Thanks Andy Ray!!!!! :o) here is the Y2K Senate committee's alert on this subject. Plus a link at the bottom for the Chemical Industry Safety Report in HTML.

I have always found it interesting that this is a watershed document in regards to Y2K failures and it has been on the Senate Y2K committee home page (PDF) since March. Yet very few people comment on it. Look at the snip from it at the end of my post.

 Senate Y2K Committee

For Immediate Release
 Monday, August 9, 1999  


Lack of Knowledge Raises Safety Concerns

WASHINGTON, DC ? U.S. Senators Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah), Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 (Y2K) Technology Problem, and Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), Vice-Chair, noting a "lack of knowledge regarding the Y2K progress being made in preparing companies and others that manufacture, store, transport, or use toxic or hazardous materials in large quantities," today urged the White House to convene a special chemical safety summit to assess and improve the Y2K readiness of the chemical industry.

"The Y2K bug has the potential to disrupt the operation, transport, maintenance, and control activities at chemical facilities," the Senators said. "We rely on these systems to ensure our citizens enjoy a safe and healthy environment. A White House summit will help us better understand what the industry is doing to keep those safeguards in place."

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) endorsed the call for a summit. "With the millennial countdown approaching T minus 140 days, American communities must be better assured regarding chemical safety," said Gerald V. Poje, Ph.D., who oversees Y2K issues for the CSB. "A Chemical Safety Summit will help redouble efforts to prevent releases of hazardous materials from year 2000 technology problems."

A March 1999 report on the chemical industrys Y2K readiness, released jointly by the Senate Y2K Committee and the CSB, identified "significant gaps" in federal guidelines regarding Y2K chemical safety and a lack of information from small and medium-sized chemical enterprises. The industry was also the subject of a committee hearing in May, in which Senator Bennett called Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) action toward ensuring employee safety during the millennium date change "woefully inadequate."

What information does exist on the chemical industrys Y2K preparedness is based in part on a survey the Chemical Manufacturers Association (CMA) conducted of its membership beginning last December. To date, CMA has received only a 63 percent response. Data on another 7 percent of CMAs members was obtained through other means. Thirty percent of the countrys largest chemical companies have still not declared their Y2K status.

The Senators also expressed concern that a Y2K survey conducted by a coalition of associations representing smaller chemical firms this spring was overly optimistic. Almost 6,000 companies were contacted. The results, however, "were based on self-reported data from only 300 companies (a five percent response rate) that were in turn projected to the remaining 5,700 companies that did not participate."

In a letter to John Koskinen, Chairman of the Presidents Council on Y2K Conversion, Bennett and Dodd cited California as a possible model for nationwide action with regard to chemical Y2K safety. California recently instituted a program to survey and assist the 110,000 hazardous materials facilities located in the state. At present, no similar effort has been pursued at a national level, leading to the need for more accurate preparedness information.

"The Federal Government has an important role in providing Y2K leadership, coordination, and direction," the Senators wrote Koskinen. "The outcome of a federal summit should lead to a coordinated federal plan of action and communication on chemical safety and Y2K." The Senators support wide disclosure and dissemination of the summits findings at the earliest possible date.

The chemical industry is potentially vulnerable to the Y2K problem on two fronts. First, there is there a great deal of automation in the production, storage, and movement of chemical products. These automated systems may fail in unpredictable and potentially dangerous ways when the year 2000 arrives. Secondly, chemical production and storage facilities are often very dependent on external utilities, especially electricity, water, and telecommunications, for safe operations. There are concerns that failures may occur in one or more of these services in localized areas in the US and in parts of the world where US firms have chemical plants.

A July safety bulletin from the U.S. Department of Transportation provides an example of the vulnerability of the chemical sector to technological problems. Stemming from an investigation into a recent pipeline safety incident involving the transport of hazardous materials, the bulletin warned pipeline operators of potential problems with their computer systems, known as Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems, which electronically monitor and control pipeline operations. The bulletin said that in one particular situation, the systems had become temporarily "overburdened" as a result of database errors, a lack of reserve computational power in the SCADA processor, and the unusually dynamic changes that occurred during the incident. Operators nationwide were warned to review their own SCADA systems to safeguard against similar problems.


Year 2000 Issues
 Technology Problems
 and Industrial Chemical Safety

 Year 2000 Issues


Power Outages

No effort was made in this study to assess the potential of power
outages from Y2K-related failures. However, potential Y2K-related
power outages represent another set of problems for
chemical and petroleum facilities. While many chemical and
petroleum manufacturing facilities have backup power generators,
Y2K failures may include concurrent loss of power, cooling water
and other system malfunctions. First, plants without auxiliary
power backup systems face a threat to parts of their processes that
may not shutdown in a fail-safe mode. Batch chemical processes
are especially susceptible because the safety of the process is quite
often dependent on time-dependent factors such as precisely timed
mixing, heating or cooling requirements. Second, a potential
scenario is that widespread power outages may cause shutdowns of
many plants, which in turn will require simultaneous startups.
Although startups of chemical plants are infrequent and their
durations are short compared with the life cycle of a plant, process
safety incidents occur five times as often during startup as they do
during normal operations 16 . Thus, a large number of simultaneous
startups may increase the potential of incidents in one or more
process plants. In addition, the simultaneous restarts of large
power-consuming facilities will impose large demands on the
electrical grid.

-- Brian (, August 24, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ