Difference between Process shutdown and Emergency Shutdown

What is Process shutdown (PSD) ?

Process shutdown (PSD) is defined as the automatic isolation and the activation of all part of a process. During a PSD the process remain pressurized.

Basically PSD consist of field mounted sensors. Valves and trip relays, a system logic unit for processing of incoming signals, alarm and MHI units. The system is able to process all input signals and activating output in accordance with the applicable cause and effect matrix chart

Typical action from PSD systems are:

1. Shutdown the whole process
2. Shutdown part of the process
3. Depressurize/Blow down parts of the process

What is Emergency Shutdown (ESD) ?

The Emergency Shutdown (ESD) shall minimize the consequences of emergency situations, related to typically uncontrolled flooding, escape of hydrocarbons, or outbreak of fire in hydrocarbon carrying areas or areas which may otherwise be hazardous. Traditionally risk analyses have concluded that the ESD system is in need of a high Safety Integrity Level, typically SIL 2 or 3.

Basically the system consists of field-mounted sensors, valves and trip relays, system logic for processing of incoming signals, alarm and HMI units. The system is able to process input signals and activating outputs in accordance with the Cause & Effect charts defined for the installation.

Emergency Shutdown System Philosophy

 ESD can be automatically initiated by load shedding functions or manually by the operator through push button on the panel. ESD will shutdown and isolate all designated process related equipment, including inlet and outlet ESD valves. Depends on each project some plant will allow the power generation, utilities and fuel gas system keep running during this condition.

Typical action from ESD system are:

  1. Shutdown of part system and equipment
  2. Isolate hydrocarbon inventories
  3. Isolate electrical equipment
  4. Prevent escalation of event
  5. Stop hydrocarbon flow
  6. Depressurize/Blow down parts of the process
  7. Emergency ventilation control
  8. Close watertight doors and fire doors


Process shutdown (PSD) system is a part of plant (facility) safeguarding system with a purpose to minimize the frequency and consequences of excursions outside the facility operating envelope.

Emergency shutdown (ESD) system is a part of plant (facility) safeguarding system with a purpose to keep the process within the design envelope and to prevent the escalation of abnormal conditions into a major hazardous event.

PSD and ESD can be considered as effects, which are triggered by certain causes, the PSD and ESD are levels of shutdown which discriminate between the seriousness of the causes leading to the appropriate effects.

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4 thoughts on “Difference between Process shutdown and Emergency Shutdown”

  1. Process shut down could be attributed to any planned shut down of the unit. It is an anticipated one and planned to attend the process issues during the favorable situation such as unit feed limited due to downstream unit issues, feed quality affects the unit throughput etc. Otherwise shut down time to be planned according to the severity of the issue.

    Whereas emergency shutdown, as the terminology explains it is a forced situation on the process unit. One has to act according to the situation. Using the available resources, plan to go for safe shutdown of the unit as per the SOP of the unit.

    Application of mind relating to the situation is the most important aspect as emergencies are always different and may be the type of emergency occurs also new. A very good knowledge about the process, plant and facilities available in the unit are the must to handle ESD safely.

  2. As the name suggest, the process shutdown originates from the unwanted process conditions and emergency shutdown originates from emergency related issues.

    Process shutdown will be initiated if the control system capture any process abnormalities as defined in the control system design. This system will try to stop propagating the impacts of process abnormalities downstream.

    Emergency shutdown will be mostly initiated originating from abnormalities leading to serious safety concerns such as Runaway reactions leading to excessive temperature.


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