33 per cent of accidents in storage tanks in the Oil & Gas sector could be avoided

It is estimated that approximately six million people work in the Oil & Gas sector. In many cases, these jobs are characterized for being located in isolated areas far away from cities since the activities involve operating with hazardous materials: gases and flammable liquids stored in large quantities.

Even today, the petrochemical industry suffers important accidents with serious consequences such as loss of human lives, environmental disasters and high economic costs.

Accidents occur in petrochemical plants every year in different parts of the world caused by the impact of lightning, incidents that are echoed by national and international media. The economic loss of these accidents is estimated to be between $10.000.000 and $420.000.000 for every accident, depending on the size of the affected facilities.

Oil plants and refineries are large metal infrastructures that are far from any building and are located in large open spaces, which makes them especially prone to being struck by lightning. This circumstance, together with the high flammability of the products stored in the tanks, can cause considerable risk of explosion and fire.

According to recent studies (James I. Changa, Cheng-Chung Linb, 2005), 33% of accidents in oil tanks are caused by the fall of lightning stroles. These accidents could be avoided with adequate prevention and protection measures.

Preventive protection in order to avoid accidents in the petrochemical sector

The facilities of the petrochemical industry, where flammable products are stored and handled, must have high-tech lightning protection systems (external protection) such as Dat Controler® Remote from Aplicaciones Tecnológicas.

Together with these systems, it is necessary to have preventive protection mechanisms and protocols to maximize safety and avoid accidents. The preventive protection does not replace the external or internal protection but is a complement to avoid the risks of accidents, which are so common in petrochemical processes.

Interruption of production in order to avoid accidents during operations in the petrochemical industry

Some of the operations that are carried out in the handling of hydrocarbons involve a risk in case of lightning strikes, due to the flammable atmospheres in which they are developed. This happens especially in those activities which involve dealing with flammable material during distribution tasks and logistics of petrochemical products, since lightning is a powerful source of ignition.

When  it is required for safety reasons, stops in the activities are made during the duration of the lightning strike warning. In this sense, it is very important that these stops are carried out efficiently, which means they last only for the time when there is real risk of lightning, regardless of how the sky looks.

Other preventive protection actions to be taken in case of risk of lightning strike in petrochemical facilities

Protecting workers in the Oil and Gas sector is a priority and one of the biggest challenges in the industry. In this sense, when there is a risk of a thunderstorm it is the duty of those responsible for occupational safety to evacuate the employees who are performing their tasks in areas open to the open sky.

The preventive tools make possible to determine the ideal moment to activate the alerts and when to activate the protocols established for each situation. In this sense, they allow the prevention and anticipation of the departments responsible for protection, such as fire brigades.

Besides, electronic components are very sensitive to overvoltages caused by lightning strikes. For this reason, it is very beneficial to know in advance if overvoltages can occur so with the necessary anticipation equipment that could be damaged is disconnected or other procedures are carried out .

Solutions for protection and prevention against lightning in the petrochemical industry

The experience of Aplicaciones Tecnológicas in the petrochemical sector includes external protection, internal protection, detection and prevention.

External protection against lightning strikes

A petrochemical facility, as long as its characteristics allow it, requires a lightning protection system with an early streamer emission (ESE) air terminal that protects structures and people from physical damage due to setp or touch voltages.

The Dat Controler® Remote system allows a wider protection area thanks to the early streamer emission (ESE) system. The technology of the device has a system for checking the equipment remotely without the need of having to reach the location of the air terminal to check its correct functioning.

solutions for protection and prevention against lightning in the oil and gas industry

Preventive protection: early storm detection

With the aim of increasing protection for facilities and workers, it is recommended to install a system for the detection of thunderstorms with electrostatic and electromagnetic field sensors jointly. The combined action of both sensors allows realistic measurements and alerts, optimizing warning times.

In this sense, the local expert system for early warning thunderstorm warning ATSTORM® increases safety, reduces risk of accidents ,improves occupational risk prevention and reduces costs since it is able to interrupt the necessary operations for security reasons only for the time needed

The ATSTORM® thunderstorm detector is equipped with solar panels, making it a completely autonomous device that does not require external power. In addition, as it happens with Dat Controler Remote, it has a service of continuous monitoring and remote maintenance.

preventive protection to avoid oil and gas accidents

For more information on protection and prevention solutions in the petrochemical industry, consult our team of experts.