LED Applications in the Oil and Gas Industry



Oil and gas refining and processing facilities can be highly unsafe because of the presence of hazardous compounds found in the atmosphere under normal operating conditions. To enhance safety, companies in this industry usually install explosion proof lighting systems in their facilities to hinder the ignition of sparks that are created by electrical equipment.


Just like companies in other industries, oil and gas refining and processing companies need to lower costs in order to maintain cash flow and increase profits. For this reason, a high number of these companies have transitioned to LED industrial lighting to decrease utility and maintenance costs. LED industrial lighting keeps workers safe in hazardous spaces and also provides considerable cost savings.

Oil and gas production companies who adopt LED technology reinforce key safety measures and tackle the issues of unpredictable work environments, costly maintenance, and light failure. Safe, efficient, and economical lighting is important in these hazardous environments where operating conditions are a constant challenge.

As more businesses in the oil and gas sector look to LED technology as a great alternative to old lighting systems, it is highly likely that the trend of converting to LED will continue to increase. The oil and gas sector is highly competitive and decision-makers are always competing to unearth every advantage. The biggest advantage comes from the most unlikely of sources: LED lighting.

Trends in Industrial Lighting

The oil and gas sector has very strict requirements for all pieces of equipment that are used – including lighting fixtures. All luminaires used in environments with explosive atmospheres must not pose a risk of ignition. The luminaires must be safe and resistant to vibration as they will be operating close to powerful machinery which rarely stops. Oil and gas production facilities often use diesel generators to power the machinery, which leads to very high energy costs. This is why LED lighting is recommended over all other energy-efficient technologies.

LED adoption began to take off back in 2008, when the technology had advanced enough for widespread industrial use. Interestingly, a big percentage of the hazardous locations market has not converted to LED technology, only 1% has fully switched to LED. In the oil and gas industry, drilling sites have been the most active in upgrading their lighting systems. HID lamps are typically used on derricks in drilling sites.

The most sought-after LED fixtures in the industry include high bays, low bays, high masts, flood lights, wall packs, and eye wash station lights. The main reason companies in this sector switch to LED is because of the high maintenance costs of traditional lighting. Conventional luminaires like metal halide lamps are very easily affected by the unpredictable environments in this industry. Light repair work in hazardous locations can be painstakingly slow because it involves permitting, scaffolding, and supervision – processes which can be time-consuming for oil and gas facilities.

 

The U.S. Department of Energy says that switching to LED (in the next 20 years) could help save the nation more than $250 billion in energy costs. The better news is that LED adoption during this period will help prevent carbon emissions – more than 1,800 million metric tons.

Findings from a Research Study

A research study carried out in an oil refinery plant revealed the many benefits of replacing dated lighting fixtures with LEDs. The company initially used high intensity discharge lamps to illuminate its facility. However, the harsh nature of the environment caused the luminaires to malfunction prematurely. As a result, the company had to spend a lot of money on light maintenance and replacement in order to keep the units operational. Finally, the decision-makers decided it was time to convert to LED.

During the conversion project, the HID lamps were replaced with explosion-proof LEDs (with class 1 and division 2 ratings). After 1 year, the researchers went back to see how the LEDs had benefited the facility. They found out that LED technology had helped the company to reduce its yearly energy consumption by approximately $35,000. Since the LEDs had an average lifespan of 50,000 hours and were virtually maintenance-free, lighting repair-related work had significantly decreased (by almost $800,000).

Combustible Compounds in Oil and Gas Processing

Because oil and gas facilities contain dangerous compounds, they present a lot of safety challenges for workers. In these facilities, hydrocarbons – such as fossil fuels, propane, methane, and ethane – are usually processed. The process is highly sensitive and must be carried out in a stable environment. However, oil and gas processing facilities are far from stable. Dangerous chemicals are usually refined in them and dark, tight tanks are used to store combustible products.

Hydrocarbons are highly volatile as they can combine with air and react with flammable compounds in the environment. But since they are the world’s biggest source of heat and electric energy, the demand for them is always rising. This unquenchable demand adds pressure to processing plants to maintain high levels of production.

Extracted hydrocarbons in liquid form are usually referred to as petroleum. The liquid variant is extremely combustible and the National Fire Protection Association gives it a Class I-A rating. When stored in a confined space, the concentrated amount may result in the formation of carbon monoxide.

Hydrocarbons can also form hydrofluoric acid when mixed with fluorine compounds and should be stored far from these compounds. Hydrofluoric acid is a highly corrosive, toxic agent that is normally used to dissolve oxide-based materials. According to scientists, hydrocarbons contain aromatic properties that may make them highly carcinogenic. For this reason, individuals who work with hydrocarbons must control their exposure rates by using safety equipment at all times.

Explosion-Proof Lighting for the Oil and Gas Sector

One of the major concerns when handling dangerous compounds like hydrocarbons is the probability of ignition from electric devices and machines that are close by. Lighting fixtures in the facility that lack sufficient safety features can be a source of ignition as they may create sparks during operation. To lower the chances of combustion, businesses should install fixtures with C1D1 (Class 1 Division 1) and C1D2 (Class 1 Division 2) approval ratings inside their facilities. These classifications are usually set by the National Electric Code.

C1D1 refers to hazardous locations where ignitable concentrations of flammable liquids, vapors, or gases exist in the atmosphere under normal conditions. C1D2 refers to hazardous locations where combustible concentrations of flammable liquids, vapors, or gases exist in the atmosphere under abnormal conditions.

Besides having explosion-proof ratings, fixtures designed for oil and gas production facilities must be corrosion-resistant and water-resistant. This is because they are frequently exposed to harsh cleaning solutions when the facilities are being cleaned. If the light fixtures are constantly exposed to water and corrosive agents, they may fail prematurely, posing a safety hazard for workers inside confined spaces like storage tanks.

Water-tight light fixtures are usually regulated through the IP Code (which is also known as Ingress Protection Marking or the International Protection Marking). IP67 is the general standard in the oil and gas industry. Light fixtures with this rating offer total protection against water and dust immersions (up to 1 meter deep for 30 minutes).

4 Great Benefits LED Lighting Offers the Oil and Gas Industry

LED technology is one of the fastest-growing technologies in the world. Currently, lighting accounts for about 20% of the United States’ overall electricity consumption. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2017 alone, the U. S. commercial and residential sectors used approximately 273 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity for lighting. This was approximately 7% of the total electricity consumption in the United States for that year.

The commercial sector, which includes oil and gas production facilities, consumed about 143 billion kilowatt-hours for lighting. The light fixtures installed in oil and gas refinery and processing facilities typically operate for a minimum of 12 hours a day, which makes them extremely good candidates for energy-saving alternatives.

Here are 4 benefits LEDs offer to the oil and gas sector.

OSHA Safety Standard Compliance

Work areas are not created equal and the light fixtures that may be suitable for one workplace may be totally unsuitable for another. The facility where the lighting fixtures are installed dictates the kind of lighting that should be used. This is because of the different types of hazardous materials that may be present in the atmosphere. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration defines hazardous locations by classes, divisions, and groups – according to the National Electric Code (NEC). NEC requires that all of the lights used in hazardous locations to be explosion-proof.

The various classifications for hazardous lighting locations are usually based on the properties of combustible gases, fibers, dusts, liquids, or vapors that could be present in the location and the probability that a flammable concentration is present. LED light fixtures for hazardous locations typically feature tempered glass and have stronger frames and casings.

All electrical components that could trigger sparks are tightly contained in the fixtures to keep the sparks away from the flammable vapors, dusts, fibers, gases, and liquids. Understanding and staying updated on the frequent lighting changes that apply to these environments can be challenging, which is why you should have a reputable LED manufacturer to go to for help whenever you need it.

Energy Savings and Sustainability

One of the biggest benefits of LED lighting is that it enhances safety while decreasing costs across the board. Converting to LED technology can help an oil and gas company to save millions of dollars on both labor and energy. This is because LEDs need less maintenance, have very long lifespans, and consume very little energy.

Many companies postpone switching to LED because of the upfront costs of a lighting upgrade. However, the savings offered by LED make the switch worthwhile. Generally, the payback period for a large scale upgrade is approximately 1-2 years.

Implementing the right lighting strategy can also give a company the push it needs to achieve its sustainability goals. Lighting comprises a large portion of an organization’s energy consumption. With LED lighting, employees can enjoy a well-lit environment that consumes less energy. LEDs last 25 times longer than traditional lighting systems and use 75% less energy.

Because of their ability to significantly lower energy consumption, LEDs are considered a great alternative to green lighting. And because they don't contain any dangerous chemicals, like conventional lighting systems, their disposal process isn't intricate.

Reduced energy consumption impacts more than just electricity. An effective lighting system can lead to less water usage and lower carbon dioxide emissions.

It Makes a Hazardous Environment Less Dangerous

Working in a chemical plant or an oil refinery comes with a wide range of safety issues. The good news is that LED lighting can increase worker safety and boost confidence while offering considerable cost savings.

A driving factor in changing the lighting system of an offshore platform is the frequent maintenance requirements of traditional lighting. Offshore rigs are usually subjected to shocks, vibrations, corrosive atmospheres, and fire risk.

LED technology is the best light for the worst operational conditions as LEDs contain no moving parts, are long-lasting, and withstand corrosion and shock better than other lighting technologies. They also have the capability to ignite spark-free, which gives them an advantage in combustible environments.

Lower Maintenance

Replacing lighting fixtures in hazardous locations is costly, labor-intensive, and poses a risk to safety. The great thing about LEDs is that they have long lifespans and drastically lower lighting maintenance costs. Most industrial LED bulbs have a rated life of 60,000 hours at 55°C. What this means is that at temperatures of 25°C, their lifespans could be as long as 170,000 hours – which is almost 20 years of maintenance-free operation.

Most LED products have the L70 rating, which means they maintain 70% of their lumens for their whole lifetimes. Some of the most advanced LEDs boast ratings of up to 100,000 hours and their performance improves in cold temperatures. Fluorescent and HID light fixtures have a maximum lifespan of 25,000 hours. LEDs feature solid state construction and are less prone to unplanned or premature failure, which makes them perfect for high vibration and abusive applications.



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