Explosion Risk Mitigation

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Explosions constitute a serious risk for a range of industries, as well as for chemical processing facilities and manufacturing plants. In order to avoid hazardous explosions and minimize the risks for personnel, equipment, and property, the appropriate certification and regulation of dangerous locations and equipment is vital.

Leybold USA has released a free webinar which deals with these imperative explosion risk regulations. Hosted by Dr Derek Corcoran, this webinar explains the occasionally complex network of regulatory bodies which test and classify industrial equipment and locations across the globe, while outlining the basics of explosion risk mitigation.

Watch the Webinar Here

Industrial explosions are liable to cause irreparable damage to infrastructure, products, and equipment, even in the best cases. The worst-case scenario can see entire areas devastated and lives tragically lost. Needless to say, industrial explosions pose a potentially devastating threat.

Consequently, an essential aspect of a wide range of sectors and industries is explosion risk mitigation. These are serious considerations for processors and manufacturers of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, petrochemicals, and automobiles. Due to the damage which can potentially be caused by explosions, these organizations must exercise great caution by stringently regulating their procedures and equipment.

It is vital that the world’s industrial equipment is assessed meticulously, and graded in line with its suitability for use in a variety of possibly explosive environments.

The same degree of scrutiny is placed upon areas in which explosions may potentially occur, in order to ensure that industrial equipment is as safely designed, and appropriately matched to its use in a particular setting, as possible.

Hazardous Locations

Any area in which it is possible for an explosive atmosphere to exist constitutes a hazardous location. Such an atmosphere could be made to exist for a variety of reasons, including the inappropriate use of equipment or the accidental ingress of gas. Wherever oxygen and fuel (I.e., an explosive atmosphere) exist alongside an ignition source, an explosion is possible.

As an example, if volatile flammable compounds are transported through a chemical processing facility, a spark from a malfunctioning electrical pump may cause them to ignite. Alternatively, the heat generated by components in high energy electrical equipment may cause a flammable solvent in a manufacturing facility to explode.

Seemingly innocuous environments can even present an explosion risk. For instance, at temperatures as low as 220 degrees centigrade, wheat dust at concentrations of approximately 1 gram per cubic foot can spontaneously ignite without a spark. Consequently, explosions pose a real risk in the grain industry.

Depending on the classification system being used, hazardous locations are classified into divisions or zone according to the type of explosive atmosphere present, and the length of time throughout the year for which it is present. In all areas which are classified as an explosion risk, organizations must make sure that all equipment is certified appropriately and safe for use.

Protection and Prevention

Sources of sparks or heat constitute ignition sources. In general, all electrical equipment which operates in a hazardous location is classified as a potential source of ignition which consequently poses an explosion risk. Copper traces (which, under certain conditions, can catalyze explosive chemical reactions) or thin wires may also cause ignition.

By isolating the ignition source (for example, by encapsulating electrical equipment within a non-flammable fluid or gas) or by containing it (for instance, by installing electrical equipment within an enclosure which can resist explosions), it is possible to protect against explosions.

Special circuit designs are also able to make electrical equipment safer. This can be achieved, for instance, with the use on non-sparking or low-temperature components, or through the limitation of energy.

Regulation and Classification of Explosion Risks

In order to minimize explosion risks, electrical equipment and industrial environments are both regulated stringently. An expert in explosion risks, Dr Derek Corcoran uses Leybold’s webinar to detail the main standards bodies which are responsible for classifying industrial areas and equipment in Europe and North America, as well as the various classifications for equipment and industrial areas.

Across the globe, the regulatory bodies vary. In Canada, the ‘Zone system’ is generally used, whilst in the USA, a ‘Division system’ of classification is used in order to classify explosion risks in various areas.

The ATEX system is followed in Europe, and efforts are being made to take on the international IECEx certification system. When explosion-proof rated industrial equipment is manufactured in Europe, complexities may arise if it is used in North America, as it has been certified under the ATEX, not the US, system.

ATEX does not have a legal status outside of European countries, although it is widely accepted. It is relatively straightforward to convert up-to-date ATEX certificates into the international IECEx system, however older ATEX certificates require updating prior to being converted into the international standard.

In North America, however, neither IECEx nor ATEX are accepted. In order to satisfy the NEC, a recognized North American certification agency must have certified the equipment.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Leybold USA.

For more information on this source, please visit Leybold USA.

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