for Equipment, Processes, and Safety
Forensic & Expert Practice Areas
Process control systems
Boiler and burner controls
Crane & hoist control
Shock & electrocution
Oil & Gas Drilling / Production
Emergency Stop (E-Stop)
Hazardous (explosive) areas
Fire, flood, and storm damage
Engineering & operations
- Diverse Engineering & Management Career since 1975
- Board Certified Forensic Engineer
- Experience in US Federal Court and several International Arbitrations
- Former VP of Engineering & Operations for Publicly Traded Company
- Licensed Electrical Engineer (EE)
- Licensed Control Systems Engineer (CSE)
- Licensed Master Electrician
- Certificate in ISA-84 Safety Instrumented Systems (SIS)
- Certified in Control Systems Integration
- Certified in Computer Forensics
- Served as Qualifying Party for I&E Contractors
- Patented a nuclear medical treatment device
- B.S & M.S. in Engineering
This material applies to a professional electrical engineer and licensed control systems engineer who performs forensic engineering services from New Orleans Louisiana with service nationwide. Licensed as a professional electrical engineer in Louisiana, Alabama, California, and Alaska. Also licensed as a professional control systems engineer in Louisiana. Board certified forensic engineer, and certified in Safety Instrumented Systems SIS. Also certified in computer forensics and systems integration.
A list of forensic engineering and expert witness engagements can also be accessed here.
Note: the following text is for hostpapa key index only.
Expert WitnessMany forensic and expert witness engagements involve an industrial control system, electrical engineering, remote monitoring, or programmable logic controller PLC. Some projects involve patent and trade secret analysis. Projects can relate to an industrial accident, product defect, and shock or electrocution unrelated to industrial control. The forensic services include inspection, a forensic test, data analysis, a report, and testimony by deposition or at trial. Accident reconstruction can be performed using data or alarm log and forensic test data produced after an accident, such as a boiler explosion or control system failure. This work can be done by an expert electrical engineer or expert control system engineer who is experienced in forensic engineering.
Industrial ControlForensic engagements can involve a power press, offshore control system, coriolis flow meter, SCADA system, pipeline leak detection, and a medical device such as a patient monitor or blood analysis device. Other work might be subsea control system, remotely operated vehicle ROV, fieldbus input/output I/O module, and an uninterruptible power supply UPS. Some projects include human machine interface HMI, and petrochemical plant control. More work can be conveyor operation, overhead crane, and cement mixer.
Other expert witness engineer service involved boiler explosion and boiler puff as well as burner management system BMS for a steam boiler and a steel furnace.
Electrical EngineerAn electrical engineer can assist with forensic investigations of power generation, control systems, and industrial processes. An electrical engineer can be licensed by one or more states in the USA. Additional electrical engineering credentials include certifications in safety instrumented systems SIS, construction, electrical contractor, and board certified forensic engineer. To date, no licensed electrical engineer has been prohibited from serving in a state in which he is not licensed, allowing for cross-state service. A degree in electrical engineering is not required to become a professional electrical engineer, although that is the normal process.
Electrical engineers work with electrical generation, power distribution, appliances, control systems, and automation. An electrical engineer can also be a licensed electrical contractor or master electrician provided that the required training, experience, and testing is completed.
A licensed professional electrical engineer can perform engineering services for the public, including serving as an expert witness for patents and accidents.
Electronic EngineerAn electronic engineer works with the design and application of equipment such as computers, controllers, radios, and solid state devices. An electronic engineer can perform forensic investigations for patents and accidents involving electronic equipment. An electronic engineer may have experience with computer processors and input output devices such as interfaces, protocol converters, networking, and power supplies.
An electronic engineer may have experience as an electrical engineer or as a computer engineer. The nature of electronic engineering brings it into diverse applications such as computer systems, telemetry equipment, appliances, vehicles, assembly lines, and industrial automation.
Control Systems EngineerA control system engineer works with the automation and safety aspects of machine design, process control, and manufacturing. A control systems engineer can be licensed in that discipline separately from a license as a mechanical engineer or electrical engineer. Additional credentials include safety instrumented systems SIS, computer forensics, and board certified forensic engineer.
Control System FailureA control system failure can result from errors in the design, fabrication, maintenance, and operations of control system hardware, software, communications, and human factors. The control system failure may be obvious and evident to an event, or the control system failure can be a latent defect that must be identified through forensic analysis of drawings and documents for every phase of a project life cycle. For example, a comparison of the control system failure documents to similar historical documents may reveal that the control system failure occurred due to changes in the design or programming of an automated control system. Further, examination of the control system failure may reveal that its original design or fabrication introduced latent defects that caused inadvertent operation during normal or upset conditions. A control system failure in a process or manufacturing application may not be apparent until a full investigation of all relevant components is performed by a competent control system engineer. For situations involving legacy equipment and software, a control systems engineer with long term experience is often required to evaluate and analyze the cause of the control system failure.
Programmable Logic Controller PLCCases in programmable controller, also called a programmable logic controller PLC, have included both patents and accidents. The patent investigations included fieldbus input output, data storage and communications, network protocols, and hmi interface to personal computers. Accidents relate to PLC operation in a steel mill, offshore oil production, paper mill, band strapping, and remote monitoring with liquid meter and gas meter. PLC has also been involved in explosion at chemical plant and boiler control. A lumber debarker and a battery recycling machine in a lead acid battery plant, and a tire recycling machine called a rasper.
Steam turbine overspeed can result from a PLC based speed control on a turbine generator power generation station. Another accident was inadequate combustion air into a steam boiler that resulted from a I/P valve positioner failure. A dual fuel boiler exploded due to error in DCS program of a function control block for purging the oil gun.
Manufacturing can involve a power press with control reliability, conveyor system control, motion control, and assembly line safety system and control system.
Patent ExpertAn PHOSITA with a BS or MS in engineering is often useful for patent evaluation and analysis in regard to infringement, validity, and enablement. A PhD is not required to be an expert witness. A PE license as a professional engineer (sometimes called registered engineer) is helpful but not usually required as a condition for testimony.
An forensic engineer can assist with patent evaulations related to patent infringement, patent invalidity or patent validity, and claim term construction. Having a forensic electrical engineer involved during claim term construction is often considered to properly frame the potential patent ligitation. A forensic electrical engineer can also assist with the drafting of patent specifications and patent claims.
Some patent expert witness was a programmable garage door opener, a computer environment monitor, and a remote paging system using cell telephone network. Computer simulation and monitoring was another patent involving an industrial computer and a mainframe computer network. Patent research includes claim construction, patent infringement, and patent validity. Patent analysis can also include contributory infringement, prior art analysis, anticipation, obviousness, and enablement. A person having ordinary skill in the art can be termed a PHOSITA.
Boiler & Burner ControlSome areas of expertise for a boiler control expert engineer include boiler control, burner management system BMS, oil and gas (including offshore platforms), hazardous area classification and equipment, and petrochemical plant control system design. NFPA 85 is a common boiler control industry standard. These systems can use a standard PLC or a safety PLC, and may also include a distributed control system DCS. Some systems conform to ISA84 Safety Instrumented System ISA-84 SIS concepts involving failsafe and fault tolerant devices and systems to execute a Safety Instrumented Function SIF with a Safety Integrity Level SIL of 1 to 4. This includes Layer of Protection Analysis, LOPA, and other methods of risk assessment. A safety relay may be used for critical control applications requiring SIL 1 to SIL 4.
PLC ControlProgrammable Logic Contoller, or PLC, is often used in a manner similar to traditional relay logic, although current systems have far more analog control system features. PLC programming is primarily done in ladder diagram LD logic, sometimes called ladder logic. Other languages include function block diagram, structured text, and instruction list. A PLC control system can use multiple IEC programming languages at the same time. Remote I/O allows a PLC to link with external devices over a network connection.
Projects for a PLC control expert engineer can involve equipment and control system components from major manufacturers including Honeywell, Rockwell, Emerson, ABB, and Siemens. Other players include Allen Bradley, Opto 22, Robicon, Fisher Controls, and MicroMotion. Other projects have involved specially designed and fabricated control systems and components using relay, electronic logic solver, loop controller, and industrial computer control. The computer projects include hardware, software, and input/output I/O device design and programming.
Electric ShockNon-fatal electrical shock forensic investigations for an expert electrical engineer result from accidents involving extension cords, portable tools, portable generators, and temporary power connections. Forensic testing of electrical insulation and wiring connections can help determine the cause of electrical shock. Arc flash burns are related to electric shock but are caused by high temperature rather than the passage of electrical current through the human body.
ElectrocutionFatal electrocution accidents for an electrical engineering expert can result from kitchen equipment, electric generators, electronic test equipment, and temporary living quarters. The forensic testing can be done on wiring, enclosures, electric terminations, and powered equipment. Forensic medical information is useful in determining the entry and exit points for the electrical current causing the electrocution.
Industrial ComputerAn industrial computer expert investigation can be for process control, remote monitoring, gas and liquid metering, and equipment control. An industrial computer can be based on embedded processor, personal computer, or rugged packaging of a computer system. The computer software can contain a realtime operating system RTOS, application software, driver routines, and human interface components. The computer can have storage with disk drive, USB memory, or a network storage device. Programming can be in C, Pascal, Fortran, assembly language, and machine language.
Safety SystemA safety system expert investigation can be for a safety PLC, safety instrumented system SIS, or an electronic safety system. A safety system can be designed to be failsafe, fault tolerant, or redundant using multiple similar components or diverse technology. A failsafe control system will take a predetermined state when a specific failure occurs. A fault tolerant system will continue to perform a function in the event of a specific fault in the control system.
A safety system can be made with electronic control, electrical control, or pneumatic control panel as found in offshore oil platform systems. Safety systems can provide an emergency stop function as described in NFPA 70.
Lockout Tagout LOTOLockout-tagout loto is an OSHA term related to removing potentially hazardous energy sources from equipment and processes. The basics of lockout tagout are defined in 29 CFR 1910.147, and is related to the general duty clause that requires employers to provide a safe working environment for all employees in any work situation.
Loto is done during maintenance and construction, and also during non-routine production steps in which equipment and employees are subject to harm from the unexpected release of energy. Loto requires procedures for each application, although some general procedures can be applied to overall situations such as routine maintenance.
An expert consultant is useful when designing a lockout tagout program, or when investigating an incident related to lockout tagout. Experience with managing loto is useful, as is hands-on experience with manufacturing, production, process, and construction. An expert in lockout tagout can serve as an expert consultant or an expert witness.
And lastly, electronic deblopenator control is a key index term.
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PATENTS & INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
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Programmable Logic Controller PLC: several
patent-related engagements for PLC hardware and software. Topics
include onboard file management, remote diagnostics, program
change recording, and ladder logic configuration. One of the
engagements included testimony as an expert witness in US
Remote Well Service Rig Monitor: this
system provided the ability to monitor work activity at a remote
site while an oil or gas well was being serviced. The system
measured physical parameters such as pressure and temperature as
well as work processes such as production string removal and
replacement, rig up and down activities, and travel. This
engagement included testimony as an expert witness in US Federal
Remote Utility Power Monitoring & Control:
the technology of these patents involved methods and apparatus
for regulating power usage of electrical equipment to reduce
overall electrical energy costs. The systems included
monitoring, data transmission, and control of the connected
equipment at a remote site.
Industrial Control Protocol: patent
disputes involving proprietary and open architecture methods of
exchanging control system data and commands over wired and
wireless network connections. One of the engagements included
OLE for Process Control, known as OPC, that transparently links
computer workstations to industrial control equipment such as
PLCs, DCS controllers, and motion controllers.
Mainframe Computer Simulation: these
patents related to the hardware and software of networked
personal computers that simulate high speed operations of
mainframe computers. Although the accused application was
transaction processing, the technology was applicable to other
high speed computers. The networked personal computers emulated
the mainframe system as well as the transaction processes to
provide a realtime testing and training environment. This
engagement included testimony as an expert witness in US Federal
Power Line Data Transmission: a patent
infringement dispute involving methods and apparatus for
transmitting digital data over wires primarily designed to carry
electrical power. This technology allows data to be exchanged
over both existing and new power lines without the need to
provide separate data communications links.
Energy Optimization: patents related to the
measurement and control of electrical energy for large scale
Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems. The
technology included Building Automation Systems (BAS) using
proprietary and open architecture standards such as Modbus. Some
patents involved the Hartman Loop method of energy reduction and
cooling performance optimization. The systems included the
chilled water loop, cooling tower, hot gas bypass, and
compressor vane control.
Motion Control: several unrelated patent
disputes for both hardware and software to automate motion
control in robotics, conveyor systems, food processing, and
vehicle control. The technologies included the hardware and
software of the motion controller as well as that of the
development system used to create automated sequence for the
motion control systems. One of the disputes involved
Modular Input/Output Interface: this
dispute involved a patented modular input/output I/O device that
typically connects to a PLC, DCS, or other programmable control
device. The electronic and mechanical design of the side-by-side
modular I/O “slice” allowed a mix of input and output modules to
be arranged to suit unique control applications. The patents
covered the packaging design as well as the electromechanical
interface for the power and data buss that connected the modules
to the protocol controller. This dispute involved domestic and
Non-weather Environment Monitoring: this
patent dispute involved remote monitoring of environmental
conditions not directly related to weather parameters such as
temperature and humidity. The disclosed system measured
conditions such as smog levels, radiant and incident sunlight
exposure, ambient heat retention and radiation, and chemical
levels in the relevant atmosphere.
High Pressure Water Cutting System: a trade
secret dispute regarding programmable logic controller (PLC)
software and hardware used to control and direct high pressure
water jets used to cut materials such as concrete and steel. The
investigation involved comparison of PLC source code among
several software versions belonging to the parties in dispute.
Analysis was also made of the software source code as compared
to industry standard methods and practices for the control of
high pressure water jet and similar devices.
Movable Barrier Control: the patented
technology related to the configuration and control of remote
control devices for movable barriers such as gates, garage
doors, and doors. The novel aspects included the ability of
users to program the functions, security features, and safety
features of the remotely controlled barrier. The disclosed
barrier control system included methods of mating the remote
controller to the base unit as well as security functions
related to unauthorized access and tampering.
Coriolis Flow Meter: this international
dispute involved a patented device to operate a Coriolis meter
for liquid or gas measurement in potentially explosive
(hazardous) areas. The system limited the electrical power to
levels acceptable to certification entities such as Underwriters
Laboratories (UL) and Factory Mutual (FM). The energy levels
related to intrinsically safe operation were managed by the
disclosed device and the related communications links and host
Fuel Vapor Recovery: this patented system
related to recovery of fugitive emissions at a fuel dispenser
such as a service station “gas pump.” The system controlled a
electrically driven vacuum pump to retrieve the fuel vapor
emissions at the dispensing point, with vacuum regulation based
on fuel dispensing rate. The accused system used a mechanical
system to regulate vacuum flow rate.
Computer Environment Monitoring: the
disclosed system provided detailed monitoring of computer
operating environments in regard to safe and efficient operation
of large and small computer systems located in remote or
unmanned locations. The system measured key parameters such as
temperature and humidity to allow local or remote analysis of
the operating environment. Additional aspects provided for
autonomous action by the remote system to remedy unfavorable
conditions by adjusting power consumption, ventilation systems,
and operator alarms.
Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV): a trade
secret dispute involved computer-based simulation and training
systems for underwater ROV units. The technology used computer
workstation hardware and software as well as simulated and
actual ROV systems to enable operator training as well as
mission-specific simulation of tasks to be performed onsite.
This dispute involved litigation in two states as well as
PLC to Spreadsheet Link: provided analysis
and prior art research in regard to what has been called the
“Solaia Patent.” The method allowed a spreadsheet to be linked
to data in a PLC in a manner similar to that of ladder logic
normally used for PLC programming. This high-profile litigation
involved multiple manufacturers of industrial control equipment
and Human Machine Interface (HMI) systems.
Uninterruptible Power Supply UPS: this
dispute involved a patented method of monitoring UPS power usage
and remaining capacity combined with a method of communicating
status to a monitoring computer that could control powered
equipment such as a computer or automated machine. This allowed
the equipment to take evasive action by reducing power
consumption and/or preparing for a total shutdown prior to a
total loss of power.
Medical Patient Monitoring: a standalone
device that monitored the activity of bedridden and wheelchair
patients to alert attendants of unacceptable movement. The low
power battery operated monitoring system used tamper-proof
design that prevented intentional or inadvertent operation by
the patent. It used a power management technique that allowed
battery operation over extended time periods without the need or
ability to either remove or recharge the built-in battery.
Low Power Flow Measurement: this trade
secret dispute involved low power flow measurement devices
located in remote locations. The devices operated with solar
power and minimal radio connectivity to conserve electrical
power during cold periods with reduced sunlight. The dispute
related to the use of proprietary technology disclosed by a
product developer who was not subsequently contracted to produce
the equipment that was ultimately deployed to the field.
Pill Counter: a patent royalty dispute
involving a pharmaceutical counting device known as the “Baker
Cell.” The investigation involved analysis of equipment used to
count and package small items such as pills, screws, and other
products packaged and sold by specific counts.
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ACCIDENTS AND DAMAGES
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Remote Monitoring & Control: several
engagements based on the remote control of equipment and
processes. These systems are commonly known as telemetry, SCADA,
and remote control. The investigations involve analysis of
hardware, software, and communication links to determine failure
points that resulted in damage to people, equipment, or the
environment. Example systems include high voltage tap changers,
pipelines, flow control, environmental monitoring, matrix
display boards, well control panels, and a subsea blowout
preventer. One of these engagement involved testimony in US
Federal Court in the Deepwater Horizon / BP Oil Spill trial.
Programmable Logic Controllers: engagements
for PLC-related accidents include analysis of the design,
fabrication, programming, and maintenance of the PLC as well as
the controlled automated equipment. Investigations include
analysis of original and modified ladder logic, function block
diagrams, logic schematics, and wiring diagrams. Services
include ladder logic reconstruction from object code as well as
ladder logic simulation on computer workstations to assist
Control Software Analysis: many engagements
have involved computer software related to the control and
monitoring of equipment. The control systems were based on
technologies such as industrial computers, programmable logic
controllers, distributed control systems, and standalone loop
controllers. The computer languages included ladder logic,
function control blocks, C and C++ programming, Fortran, Pascal,
Basic, HTML, as well as proprietary languages specific to
industrial equipment. Expert experience also includes IEC-61131
control system languages including ladder diagram LD, function
block diagram FBD, Structured Text ST, Instruction List IL, and
Sequential Function Chart SFC. Several engagements involved
computer program comparison (object code and source code) in
regard to trade secret disputes for industrial control
Electrical Shock & Electrocution: these
engagements investigated the cause of inadvertent contact with
live electrical components that resulted in personal injury or
death. Examples include shock and electrocution situations for
water making equipment, battery chargers, kitchen equipment,
commercial furniture, electrical test equipment, and temporary
power systems used at construction sites.
Root Cause Analysis: many accident
investigations included development of a root cause analysis
report. The root cause report can be part of a forensic
engineering report, or it can be prepared as a separate document
to identify preventable causes of an accident or incident. The
root cause is analyzed within a specific context relevant to the
accident as well as the overall operating environment in which
the accident occurred.
OSHA Lockout-Tagout: this safe work
practice, often termed LOTO, is mandated by the US Government to
prevent employee injury due to the unexpected release of
hazardous energy during maintenance procedures. Lockout-Tagout
requires cooperation between employers and employees to design,
perform, and manage work practices to isolate all energy sources
that could be released during maintenance. Sample lockout-tagout
engagements have involved overhead cranes, conveyor belts,
lumber debarkers, hydraulic equipment, soot blowers, paper roll
handlers, water filters, assembly lines, high voltage
transformers, shredded paper baggers, and manufacturing
Boiler and Burner Control: engagements in
this specialty included burner management systems (BMS) as well
as combustion control and fuel management. The boiler control
systems included PLC, DCS, and stand-alone controllers that
perform safe light-off and ongoing operation of boilers and
burners. Some units also involved safety relays, PLC systems
with ladder logic, and links to external DCS systems that
regulated overall boiler operation. Analysis of these systems
include conformance to industry codes and standards as well as
how those boiler control systems were operated and maintained.
Crane Control Systems: investigations
related to crane accidents have included the control system
design and programming as well as operation of the crane in the
circumstances of the accident. The cranes operated with both
wired crane control pendants, cab operated cranes, and wireless
remote control using “belly box” as well as handheld wireless
crane controls. The control systems used individual components
such as relays and solenoids as well as small PLC units
processing ladder logic control schemes.
Forensic Testing: provided inspection and
test protocols for several onsite and laboratory forensic
investigations related to residential, commercial, and
industrial accidents. Also performed forensic testing of
electrical, electronics, and mechanical components and devices.
The incidents related to power press control systems, electrical
wiring, air pumps, maintenance equipment, electrical appliances,
instrumentation and control devices, PLC systems, boiler
controls, power generation equipment, hydraulic and pneumatic
devices, and computers.
HVAC Controls: onsite inspection and
forensic evaluation of the control system for a large scale
ammonia refrigeration system for cooling inlet air to a power
generation gas turbine. The investigation included analysis of
the control system hardware and software as well as the
connected PLC and DCS system at the pacific gas and electric
utility power plant.
Power Press Control: these engagements
involved control systems for the safe automated operation of
manually loaded power presses. These presses and similar
mechanical devices are used in manufacturing operations for
metal stamping and shaping. The investigations included analysis
of the control system as it was designed, fabricated, modified,
and maintained. The technologies include redundant protection,
safeguarding as require by OSHA, control reliability, and two
hand control systems. The controllers involved discrete
components such as relays and diodes as well as complex
redundant PLC controllers using ladder logic and C program
Gas Powered Control Panels: these
investigations involve flash fire and explosions for pneumatic
panels that operate with natural gas for both power and control.
These panels are typically used at offshore and remote onshore
well locations where natural gas from the well is used to
operate the local control system.
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Insurance Claim Analysis: these
investigations assisted the insurer as well as the insured to
evaluate claims for damage caused by water, fire, storms, and
lightning. The services include analysis of options for
repair/replace as well as interpretation of policy language in
regard to specific loss events. The engagements also analyzed
associated costs such as lost production, rental equipment, and
other equipment affected by the loss. Examples include damage to
computer systems, programmable logic controllers, tire recycling
equipment, prison security systems, printing equipment,
integrated circuit placement systems, closed circuit television,
food service equipment, and electronic display boards.
Patented Technology Exploitation: provided
analysis and testimony in regard to “best efforts” to develop
and market technology related to testing of oil well drill
strings. This investigation involved analysis of the patented
technology, the business relationship between the patent seller
and buyer, and the after-sale activity by the purchaser to
generate royalty revenue for the seller.
Equipment Performance: provided analysis
for several disputes related to the performance of automated
equipment and individual components. The investigation involved
analysis of the agreement (or lack thereof) between supplier and
purchaser. The disputes were reviewed in terms of the relevant
industry standards, project-specific documents, and objective
test results. Example engagements involved linear air pumps (low
pressure compressors), flow meter interface equipment, CNC
machines for metal component manufacturing, automated welding,
HVAC control, nitrogen production, and plastic blow molding
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