Being in the oil and gas industry—or any sector that manages pipeline systems—means you know a thing or two about API 1165.

You probably heard something along the lines of it being a set of practices that improve safety for your operators. Or something about considering the human factor in the display of your HMIs (human-machine interfaces) for your SCADA system.

Whatever you heard, there are still many questions about the value API 1165 can bring to your company. That’s why, in this first part of our API 1165 blog series, you’ll learn what API 1165 is and how it incorporates human factors engineering.

Plus, you’ll learn about the advantages and disadvantages of API 1165 in case you are considering implementing it. 

An Overview of HMI Screens in Production Today

Nowadays, your HMI screens are the bridge that connects data between your field and your operators. These screens help your operators monitor and control your processes to identify any problems and act accordingly.

The thing is, when poorly designed, HMIs can be confusing, taking away the promise of safety and productivity.

HMI design has become an important factor in ensuring operators know the status of your system with just a glance. So, identifying bad HMI design isn’t that difficult. For starters, a bad HMI design looks cluttered and contains too much numeric data from where you can’t really distinguish between what’s important and what’s not.

An HMI Screen before API 1165 Principles are applied.

Figure 1: An example HMI screen before API 1165 principles are applied

Still, many companies make the mistake of stuffing screens with information (e.g., the metrics related to all pumps and valves) in an attempt to give operators a full overview of the process. This—as you may have already figured out—backfires as the screens end up looking like a mess and operators can’t make sense of it.

And it doesn’t end there.

It’s possible that over the years, the developer that coded your HMIs was able to show only the information operators needed on the screens. But, with a new developer and no standard for your HMI design, you might end up with different directional arrows for flow, the same vessels with different shapes, or even two completely separate layouts.

What Is API 1165?

API 1165 consists of standards for pipeline SCADA screens to lay out the elements of an HMI screen in a way it makes sense. These practices are guidelines for design focused on helping operators interpret data to operate pipeline systems safely.

Even your newest operators should be able to look at an “overview” screen and know the status of your system right away. API 1165 helps developers in pipeline companies identify those design elements that are important to consider when configuring HMIs.

Some of the key design components of API 1165 are:

  • Screen hierarchy (pipeline overview vs. secondary screens)
  • Navigation (button bars, navigation buttons, menus, etc.)
  • Screen styles (objects, colors, and text)
  • Object dynamics and data attributes
  • Control points
  • Consistency and coding
An HMI Screen after API 1165 principles are applied.

Figure 2: An example HMI screen after API 1165 principles are applied

These best practices work for real-time and SCADA systems and complement but don’t replace other screen techniques. Unfortunately, API 1165 isn’t all-inclusive as companies might have unique philosophies and SCADA systems.

Advantages of Using API 1165 in Your SCADA System

API 1165 has many benefits that have helped companies transition from inconsistent screens to a more human-centered approach. Here are some of the major advantages.


API 1165 allows operators to make decisions fast but more safely. With API 1165’s design recommendations in place, operators can understand what’s happening quickly rather than guess what might be happening.

Instead of scrutinizing a screen looking for the problem, they can navigate from overviews to more detailed screens. This gives them accurate information, which increases their situational awareness and capacity to perform critical tasks.


A messy screen can overwhelm even the most experienced of your operators. And hesitation can cost a lot of money for your company when timely decisions are the difference between having spoiled products and achieving your production  goal for the month.

However, when operators realize immediately what the problem is, they can act and save the day. Not only does this save you money, but it also saves you the time you would have used to get back the spoiled product.


API 1165 ensures that the information on the screen is easy to understand for your operators meaning you can be confident they communicate the real problem—and not a guess—to stakeholders.

Human Error

Consistency in the design of your HMIs decreases human error. Rather than screens with valves and pumps in different colors and sizes, applying a standard design means that even if your operators change stations they’ll still be able to make sense of any HMI of your facility.

Disadvantages of Using API 1165 in Your SCADA System

Now that you understand the benefits of API 1165, it’s also important to be aware of the drawbacks that come with it.

Not All Inclusive

As mentioned before, API 1165 isn’t all-inclusive of SCADA and real-time systems. Companies have different software providers that may not comply with these practices, or how companies operate might not fit the mold of API 1165.

Examples of not-all-inclusive scenarios for API 1165 are:

  • Multiple SCADA systems
  • Unique operating philosophies or techniques for screens
  • Lack of developer tools necessary to implement API 1165

So before deciding that you want to use API 1165 for your HMI design, make sure you comply with the requirements to implement it.

Implementation Costs

When you implement a new technology or practice, there will always be a cost associated with it. In the case of API 1165, you will likely incur costs like hiring a developer – we hope you will consider us 🙂 – to program the HMIs and draft the documentation.

And if you really want to implement these recommended practices, it may even mean you have to incur the cost of a SCADA system that complies with the requirements of API 1165.

Training Costs

Once the HMI design is complete, you’ll need to invest time in training your operators in the new recommended practices. It may also take some time for them to get used to the new design. So, it’s wise to schedule training sessions weekly until your operators are familiar with these practices.

Level up Your SCADA System’s Screens with CSE ICON

A lot of companies are weighing down on whether to migrate to compliant SCADA systems or lose out on the benefits that API 1165 has to offer. But how do you know if your SCADA system complies with these practices?

Head out to part 2, A Complete Guide to API 1165 Recommended Practices, and learn what are the API 1165 recommended practices everyone is talking about.

If you’re considering anything from migrating to a new SCADA system, implementing API 1165, or have a few specific SCADA questions, we’re here to help. Contact us at or fill out the form below.

Have API 1165 Questions?

If there’s a specific API 1165 project or question you’d like to discuss, contact us today.