Oil and Gas Processing
The oil and gas industry value chain is comprised of the following major activities: upstream exploration and production, midstream gas processing and gathering, downstream refining, and transportation through pipelines and trucking terminals. These processes are complex and safety management is an important consideration across all processes. There are many sources of risk- noise, machinery, extreme temperatures, fatigue, and the hazard posed to assets and personnel from gas and fire.
- Drilling and production methods of oil and gas, such as hydraulic fracturing, can expose workers to a variety of combustible and toxic gases.
- Oil refineries and petrochemical plants utilize or produce a wide range of hazardous gases. Gas leaks can unknowingly occur and the plant processes can produce non-toxic gases such as Carbon Monoxide (CO) which, when accumulate in confined spaces, deplete the oxygen in a room causing a condition dangerous to individuals entering the area without proper protection.
- Hazardous gas leaks can also occur during transportation, increasing the risk of explosion or fatigue and asphyxiation for the drivers.
The various facilities used for extraction, processing, refining, and transportation, and the personnel who work in those facilities must be protected with flame and gas detection systems that can automatically monitor, alarm, and take corrective actions.
Fire and Gas Detection
A well-designed fire and gas detection program needs to identify the hazards at the facility or site, and then assess the risk of a hazardous event to the plant, personnel, community, and environment. Hazardous gases to be monitored include but are not limited to:
- Combustible Gases
- Hydrogen Sulfide
- Oxygen Deficiency
- Carbon Monoxide
- Carbon Dioxide
Personal gas monitors cannot detect the buildup of combustible gases in a non-occupied area. It is therefore necessary to implement fixed gas detectors that connect to controllers that can issue suitable alarms or visual warnings and take the appropriate remediating actions before a minor leak or flame becomes a major event that endangers a facility or its personnel.
Automation and Integration Strategies
Detecting the presence of flame or hazardous gases is a necessary first step, but it is equally important to deliver alarms such as flashing strobes or sounding horns, and to take other remediation actions where possible such as increasing ventilation in enclosed facilities. Implementing a comprehensive alarming and remediation strategy often requires the controller to drive discrete relays, but also requires the controller to be integrated with the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA), the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC), or the Building Management System (BMS) responsible for automating the larger facility. Other automation processes may include providing notifications to an employee’s phone, tablet, and/or PC.
As these systems are automated, the regulatory agencies require that the systems be “performance approved” and checked on a periodic basis.