Case Studies

Troubleshooting Support for Petrochemical Panel Operators

We have completed many projects focused on understanding and improving the cognitive skills of petrochemical panel operators.

Domain: Petrochemical

Focus areas: Sensemaking; problem solving; thinking beyond procedures


Panel operators working in the oil, gas, and petrochemical industry must manage complex systems, containing thousands of automated control loops and higher-order interactions. As a result, their ability to detect, diagnose, and recover from possible failures is critical. ShadowBox has been used in a number of training departments across North America to train both field and panel operators on how to make sense of complex problems so they can maintain safe and normal operations.


Our team has developed over ten ShadowBox scenarios on concepts in the refining and petrochemical industry, including distillation principles, fouling dynamics, and combustion issues. In collaboration with numerous training departments, we have delivered scenarios training via pen/paper, web-based ShadowBox application, and in both low and high-fidelity simulation platforms.


Leaders in the industry continue to use the ShadowBox technique within their training curriculums to teach non-procedural skills and accelerate expertise within their organization.

Background and Description

ShadowBox has completed multiple projects for the Center for Operator Performance, a world-wide leader in raising the performance level of operators and improving health, safety, and environmental effectiveness in the oil, gas, and petrochemical industry. With a focus on training, ShadowBox LLC has:

  1. Investigated how operators make decisions, particularly in complex and uncertain situations.
  2. Designed multiple training programs on a variety of topics for both operators and trainers.

Sample Materials

Check out some samples from work with the Center for Operator Performance.

An orientation video from our Cognitive After-Action Review Guide for Observers (CAARGO)
This video depicts the key differences between a Critical and Curious Trainer as part of our CAARGO video series