for Equipment, Processes, and Safety
new engagments at this time.
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
- Licensed Electrical Engineer (EE)
- Licensed Control Systems Engineer (CSE)
- B.S & M.S. in Engineering
- Certificate in ISA-84 Safety Instrumented Systems (SIS)
- Certified in Control Systems Integration
- Certified in Computer Forensics
- Patented a nuclear medical treatment device
- Licensed Master Electrician
- Served as Qualifying Party for I&E Contractors
- Taught Engineering at the university level
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.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
PATENTS & INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
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 Federal Court.
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 Court.
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 Court.
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 international litigation.
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 international litigation.
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 controller.
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 Canada.
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.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
ACCIDENTS AND DAMAGES
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
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 accident reconstruction.
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 applications.
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 equipment.
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 modules.
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.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
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 equipment.
Copyright © 2021 Arthur Zatarain, all rights reserved. Some images are modified for confidentiality
or illustration clarity. This site should not be used as a technical or legal reference.