LDAR – The Role of Software and Safety Standards Back

Himalya Bansal elaborates upon the role of software and safety standards with reference to Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR).

Approximately 36-years after the Bhopal gas tragedy (the world’s worst industrial disaster), in recent days, there were two similar accidents – the Styrene gas leak from an LG Polymers plant in Andhra Pradesh; and the gas well blowout of Oil India Limited’s petroleum plant in Assam. Many people lost their lives in these disasters, and the environmental impact was so huge that it’s difficult to restore and bring back a healthy life.

Leaking equipment, such as valves, pumps, and connectors, are a large source of emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), SF6, Ammonia, and other volatile hazardous air pollutants (VHAPs). It is vital to find and correct leaks and identify process equipment deficiencies at the early stages to avoid environmental disasters. Implementation of the Smart Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) program is one of the best practices to detect and repair gas leakage at an early stage for various industrial sectors such as Oil & Gas, Mining, Oil Rigs, Natural Gas, Petro Chemicals, Refineries, Chemical Manufacturing facilities, Pharmaceutical companies, etc. Such a program helps to find leaks that we can’t see otherwise and to prevent unfortunate environmental disasters. LDAR Program also helps the industries to reduce unwanted losses of chemicals, and thereby conserving energy and increasing their profitability.

Use case of LDAR
LDAR regulations were put into place by the Environmental Protection Agency because of the amount of volatile organic compounds and volatile hazardous air pollutants (VHAPs) emitted by leaking equipment such as valves, pumps and connectors in industries such as petroleum refining and chemical manufacturing.

According to the six months report (1st October 2017 to 31st March 2018) wide Reference No. IOC/BGR/ENV/MS Max/MoEF&CC/2017-18/02 dated 12.06.2018, which was submitted to MoEF&CC (Ministry of Environment & Forests and Climate Change) by DGM-HSE of Indian Oil Corporation Limited, Bongaigaon Refinery, Assam, the company has implemented LDAR

program quarterly by following the New Effluent & Emission Standards, 2008. As per their fugitive survey for the said period, they have checked 23519 potential leaky points and detected an astonishing 165 leaky points. By following LDAR program in the right spirit, the company could avoid not only the potential loss of 50.29 MTA (approx) of light Hydrocarbon to the atmosphere through fugitive sources, but shall also keep healthy work environment in the plants.

Market growth

KBV 1 Research (a market research and consulting company) estimates the global LDAR market size is expected to reach $ 26.5 billion by 2025. Upstream, Midstream and Downstream oil & gas companies are planning to incorporate LDAR as part of their digital transformation strategies. Advances in robotics, UAV and Industrial Automation are expected to drive the market growth. Stringent regulations and policies, as well as the growing awareness of the adverse effects of greenhouse gas emissions on the atmosphere, are expected to be primary drivers of market growth.

Functional safety

Functional safety is part of the overall safety of a system or piece of equipment, and generally focuses on electronics and related software. It looks at aspects of safety that relate to the function of a device or system and ensures that it works correctly in response to commands it receives. For example, in case of a leak detection system, functional safety engineering processes aim to identify potentially dangerous conditions, situations or events such as excessive false alarms, failure to detect leaks, an inability to localise them, etc., which could result in an environmental disaster.

Functional safety cannot be addressed at the installation and commissioning stage. Instead, it must be taken care throughout the design and development of systems used in oil & gas plants. Safety Instrumented System (SIS) design is a severe aspect while ensuring that critical control functions are not compromised. Considering safety after the deployment stage would only be a retrofit and therefore not advised. Any developed product/system must be intrinsically safe by following standards and global best practices and should ensure that the layers of protection on a plant are adequate for the safe operation of the plant.

Functional safety (software) considerations

1. Leak Detection Equipment should be Safe: As a plant head, always use the equipment that is designed for safety as per global standards. You should include safety as a product safety requirement in the RFQ while purchasing the expensive LDAR equipment. The successful implementation of LDAR project is heavily dependent on the functional safety of leak detection equipment like OGI (Optical Gas Imaging) Camera, Infrared Camera, VOC Analyser and Toxic Vapor Analyser, etc.

2. Digital LDAR Dashboards: In the early decades, LDAR technicians used to take field notes on papers manually. Labelling, Organising and Analysing, everything was done manually. With the rise in the software era, digital dashboards have become a reality now. They play a prominent role in regulatory compliance for Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) managers. Such dashboards ease the data collection by field inspectors via handheld devices, provides a summary of outstanding leaks as well as a timeline for compliance, monitoring, and analysis of the big

picture. The dashboard provides real-time data updates with GPS information, time and date stamps, and attached site photos, and generates automatic email notifications to both field and office personnel. There is a significant dependency on LDAR implementation on digital dashboards, and it is important to ensure that its software is functionally safe.


Process industry is following IEC 61508/61511 standards for functional safety implementation. These standards provide the basis for safety evaluation. The likelihood and the consequence of critical events are investigated to mitigate the risk to an acceptable level.

IEC 61508: It is the international standard for electrical, electronic and programmable electronic safety-related systems. It is widely accepted as the basis for Safety Instrumented Systems (SIS) solutions and covers the SIS specification, design, and operation as well as provided the framework and core requirements for sector-specific standards. IEC 61508 sets out the requirements for ensuring that systems are designed, implemented, operated and maintained to provide the required Safety Integrity Level (SIL). Four SILs are defined according to the risks involved in the system application, with SIL 4 being used to protect against the highest risks.

Software Considerations in IEC 61508: Part 3 of IEC 61508 defines software requirements, and its associated clause 6 & 7, as mentioned in below table 1 refers to software quality management system requirements and software life cycle requirements, respectively.

IEC 61511: The IEC 61511 standard addresses SIS particularly for the process industry including oil and gas production, oil refining and chemicals. IEC 61511 defines practices in the engineering of SIS that ensure the safety of an industrial process through a dedicated use of instrumentation and automation solutions. The standards cover the requirements for all phases of the life cycle for safety-related equipment and functions. It considers Hazard and Risk Assessment methods and defines requirements to SIS design and engineering as well as to tests, installation, commissioning, operation, maintenance, modification, decommissioning and documentation. IEC 61511 applies when devices meet the requirements of IEC 61508, or IEC 61511 is integrated into an overall system that is used for a process sector application.

Relationship between IEC 61508 and IEC 61511: While IEC 61508 is a general-purpose standard applicable for electronic devices, IEC 61511 has been developed as process sector implementation of IEC 61508. The relationship between IEC 61508 and IEC 61511 is explained in below image 1.

Also, there are mainly two domain-specific functional safety Standards that apply to gas detection, i.e. IEC 60079-29-3 and EN 50402. IEC 60079-29-3:2014 gives guidance for the design and implementation of a fixed gas detection system, including associated and/or peripheral gas detection equipment, for the detection of flammable gases/vapours and oxygen when used in a safety-related application following the IEC 61508 and IEC 61511. EN 50402 applies only to manufacturers of gas detection equipment and provides design information and of manufacture detectors and R&D to operate under FSM.

LDRA’s role in standard compliance

A was established in 1975 and with more than 45 years of experience, LDRA provides software testing, verification and validation tools that are certified by TUV SUD & TUV SAAR for safety-related application development as per IEC 61508 up to SIL 4 (highest critical). Besides, LDRA also has a pool of IEC 61508 subject matter experts who can provide certification services such as gap analysis, process compliance documents, process assessment and training for certification readiness.

LDAR program is very effective to prevent disasters in various industries. Its successful implementation heavily depends on the functional safety of leak detection systems. Following a standard driven approach is one of the best practices to ensure that the systems are safe by design. The EHS managers in the plants should always add &Functional Safety by Design& as a mandatory requirement in the RFQ while buying expensive detection systems.

1 https://www.kbvresearch.com/leak-detection-and-repair-market/

Himalya Bansal is a business development professional at LDRA. He is a CIG Member and Skills Development workgroup lead of Automotive CIG at IESA (India Electronics and Semiconductor Association). He also contributes as a committee member in BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) TED28 committee of Intelligent Transportation System and its P11 Panel on Cyber Security and Functional Safety of Road Vehicles. Himalya did his Bachelor of Engineering in Avionics from The Aeronautical Society of India and MBA in Marketing from Sikkim Manipal University.




February 2021