Oil&Gas sector: earthing and protection against lightning - AT3w
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Oil & Gas sector: earthing and lightning protection systems

The petrochemical and hydrocarbon handling industry is of enormous importance to the global economy and is also a hazardous industry capable of causing serious environmental damage. Its electrical installations are exposed to the risks of fault and static electricity and are vulnerable to hazards from lightning strikes. Grounding systems are key to reducing these safety threats to sensitive people and equipment. Artificial intelligence and IoT technology applied to earthing and lightning protection systems bring unique value to the safety and operational and financial efficiency of assets.

The petrochemical (Oil & Gas) industry is responsible for a range of applications from transport fuels to the manufacture of chemicals and pharmaceuticals. It is therefore one of the world economy’s most important sectors, and changes in oil benchmark prices have major implications for other industrial areas.

By its very nature, this sector is subject to potential disruptive factors such as geopolitical uncertainty, the emergence of new clean technologies, the macroeconomic environment and regulatory policies.

However, the oil and natural gas sector is used to supply disruptions and price volatility. As such, it is an industry that remains at the forefront of adopting advanced technologies that enhance operational efficiency, minimise costs and optimise safety and sustainability.

Undoubtedly 2023 was the year of artificial intelligence and according to Forbes magazine, the Oil & Gas industry is the segment of the global economy that is betting heavily on process-oriented AI. In this context, a recent survey showed that more than 92% of companies in the oil and natural gas sector are already investing in AI or intend to do so in the coming years.

Among the applications of AI, predictive maintenance facilitates a large number of objectives related to cost reduction, increased productivity and operational reliability. In addition, AI provides other values of advanced analytics, machine learning algorithms and data-driven process optimisation.

At Aplicaciones Tecnológicas S.A. we have integrated artificial intelligence into our Smart Earthing and Smart Lightning divisions, allowing us to minimise risks and ensure the operational and financial efficiency of the assets protected by our systems. Below, we present our in-house developed services and products for Earthing 4.0 and lightning protection.

Smart Earthing solutions for Oil & Gas grounding systems

Earthing systems are at the heart of safety in electrical installations to protect people, assets and operations in the petrochemical industry1.

In an environment such as the Oil & Gas sector, the generation of static electricity during day-to-day activities does not usually pose a direct hazard. However, this static electricity can exceed the minimum flammability energy of some petroleum or natural gas products, which could trigger sparks and consequently fires in hazardous areas1.

Earthing provides a controlled path whereby electrical currents are safely dissipated to earth. Therefore, this installation prevents the risks of electric shock to people, as well as fire and other electrical incidents that could have catastrophic consequences.

On the other hand, the earthing system also stabilises the electrical installation and ensures the proper functioning of the equipment. This is very important given the increasing use of more sensitive electrical and electronic equipment. The addition of new equipment increases susceptibility to an intense electromagnetic environment. The consequences would affect the operations and functioning of the facilities.

In an environment such as the petrochemical industry where it is a priority to eliminate the risk of ignition of potentially explosive atmospheres, a centralised earth monitoring system provides a clear advantage that minimises risks to people and assets.

The earthing system not only makes it possible to observe the electrical dynamics attributable to malfunctions of this installation. Its monitoring also makes it possible to know the status of the equipment connected to it that could be affected by leakage currents, electromagnetic interference, capacitive or inductive couplings, harmonics, etc.

Using Smart Earthing Monitoring System, in Aplicaciones Tecnológicas S.A. we can transform the earthing systems of the petrochemical industry into 4.0. Smart Earthing Monitoring System performs the centralised monitoring of the earthing system using distributed intelligent sensors. In this way, it turns the installation into a huge sensor that supervises the proper functioning of the earthing system. Thus, it facilitates real-time monitoring in an efficient, economical way that guarantees the safety and continuity of operations. The collected data is sent via IoT technology to the triple-secured AT-CLOUD server. AT-CLOUD interprets the data using AI algorithms. Therefore, it can provide accurate diagnostics that the user receives through objective multi-channel alerts.

Earthing systems 4.0 projects in the oil and gas industry

. As grounding experts we offer the professional service of Grounding system projects 4.0 to engineering and architectural firms. We facilitate the design of the system taking into account all considerations in a comprehensive manner.

These projects begin with a geo-electrical study. This is also available through our professional geo-electrical survey service.

A well-designed and properly implemented grounding system is beneficial to the electrical safety and operational efficiency of the Oil & Gas industry. This installation protects personnel, equipment and the environment while ensuring uninterrupted operations that optimise productivity, reliability and ROI (return on investment) compliance.

Smart Lightning: Lightning protection solutions for the petrochemical industry

Adverse weather conditions pose a safety threat in the oil and natural gas industry. The risk of lightning strikes is high in the case of large infrastructures in large open areas. Flammable or explosive materials are stored inside their facilities. These materials in turn produce flammable or explosive emissions. Work in the plants of this industry is continuous, involving a high number of employees in outdoor areas, especially during maintenance activities.

Lightning protection systems contribute to the prevention of economic losses in production, equipment replacement and service. Our expertise in the petrochemical sector comprises external protection, internal protection and preventive protection.

With our lightning protection system design service, we offer the optimum solution for comprehensive protection of any structure using our own advanced technology.

Smart Lightning: intelligent lightning protection products

The lightning arresters with priming device (PDC) are a technological innovation compared to conventional external protection, as they protect a larger area by considering the breakthrough time. This parameter is the difference between the emission time of the upward leader concerning a Franklin tip.

A petrochemical plant, if its characteristics allow it, can benefit from a PDC system to protect structures and people from physical damage. DAT CONTROLER® REMOTE combines the advanced properties of PDCs with self-diagnostics using IoT technology. Self-diagnosis and communication of its status provides the advantages of real preventive maintenance, without the need to wait for planned inspections to know the status of the protection and without the need for disassembly or auxiliary lifting means.

On the other hand, industries that handle flammable products such as the Oil & Gas sector can increase the quality of protection against electrical storms with the capabilities provided by a lightning counter. SMART LIGHTNING LOGGER is our intelligent system for real-time warning and recording of lightning strikes. It is installed in the down conductor of the lightning rod to report the impact and its characteristics at the moment it occurs, via IoT communication.

Although external and internal lightning protection prevents some damage to storage tank infrastructure, it cannot fully guarantee the safety of operators in open areas or when performing activities with a risk of explosion in case of a lightning strike. Therefore, preventive protection employing early warning systems is recommended. In fact, IEC 62793:2020 “Lightning protection – Storm warning system “2 includes the oil and natural gas industry as a hazardous situation.

Early warning systems allow the gradual activation of actions foreseen in emergency protocols. They mainly concern the evacuation of exposed personnel and the cessation or postponement of hazardous processes. It is therefore important to identify the beginning and end of the thunderstorm as early and as accurately as possible. This makes it possible to reduce or eliminate safety risks. In addition, it allows preventive measures to be limited to the time necessary to ensure the minimum economic loss.

ATSTORM® is the technological solution for the prevention of thunderstorm risks. It is based on the evaluation of the conditions of the area to be protected and multiple data that support the expert algorithms to determine the real local risk objectively.

At Aplicaciones S.A. we focus on offering unique Smart Earthing and Smart Lightning solutions, understanding the needs of the Oil & Gas industry. The services and products we develop are key to safeguarding all your facilities, as well as the people and critical equipment within them.

If you would like to find out more about how our grounding and lightning protection solutions are suited to the petrochemical sector, please contact us at the following link.

References

Energy Institute. Guidelines on earthing/grounding/bonding in the oil and gas industry. vol. 2016 (Energy Institute, 2016).

2. International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). IEC 62793 Thunderstorm warning systems – Protection against lightning. 90 https://webstore.iec.ch/publication/64935 (2020).

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