Understand rugged computing solutions for hazardous environments

Oil and gas facilities that refine petroleum or natural gas to create liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or butane and distribute it through pipeline stations regularly store and distribute large quantities of these flammable liquids.

Given the potential for the accumulation of gas fumes, dust or other contaminants in these areas, electronic equipment installed for automation and control must be designed specifically to prevent the unintentional ignition of these elements due to a electric arc or any other thermal means.

Although great attention is paid to the components of the automation system used to control the process itself, these systems also require computer equipment, such as thin clients, panel PCs, remote touch screens, keyboard solutions , video, mouse (KVM) and fixed and mobile solutions. operator workstations. Considering the risks, this equipment must also meet the requirements for use in areas classified as hazardous and be robust enough to withstand the harsh chemical environment and high humidity generated during the refining and manufacturing process.

“The manufacture, processing, storage and distribution of flammable materials such as liquefied petroleum can release gases or vapors into the atmosphere which may result in an explosion or hazard. To create a safe and secure working environment , IT systems on the construction site must, according to regulations, be designed to pass explosion-proof certification and be able to withstand the corrosive environment,” said Paul Shu of ARISTA Corporation, an IT solutions provider. visualization display forms and products, including thin clients, all-in-one panel computers, ruggedized LCD touchscreens and industrial KVM solutions.

In simple terms, a classified hazardous location is any area, building, or commercial or industrial premises that is susceptible to fire or explosion due to the presence of flammable gases, vapours, flammable liquids, combustible dusts or other similar materials in very large quantities. .

robust technologyHazardous locations can be classified into different categories depending on the nature of the flammable vapors or liquids. In North America, a class/division system is primarily used, and regulations for the design and manufacture of industrial equipment are formulated by the National Electrical Code, the Canadian Electrical Code, the ‘Occupational Safety & Health Administration and the National Fire Protection Association. Outside of North America, a similar “zone” system is used to define and categorize hazardous areas and potential sources of risk.

To meet the requirements of LPG refining, there are several methods to make equipment flameproof and explosion proof. For computer systems, equipment manufacturers serving the market can design and manufacture thin clients, industrial panel PCs and touchscreen PCs that are UL certified, non-incendive (equipment with electrical/electronic circuits incapable of, under normal operating conditions, cause ignition of specified flammable gas, vapour, dust, etc., due to electric arc or thermal means) and which meet the requirements of the different classes/divisions/ areas of a factory
or station.

According to Shu, touchscreen PCs are regularly deployed as human-machine interface workstations in automated stockyard and loading ramp operations. The fully enclosed version is constructed from stainless steel and has no external vents.

This design protects components from gases, dust, dirt, moisture, chemicals, oil and other external contaminants in an explosive environment. LPG usually arrives by pipeline or railcar and is then delivered to tanks operated by various companies and agencies. Large quantities of products—primarily flammable and combustible liquids—are stored in these locations and then distributed.

robust technologyFor this type of application, panel-mounted PCs are rugged fanless systems certified for use in Class 1, Division 2; Class 2, Division 2; and Class 3, Divisions 1 and 2 hazardous locations. The systems are installed with a Windows operating system and the high-resolution touch screens can be operated by operators wearing heavy-duty industrial gloves.

Fanless versions of thin clients are an increasingly popular and cost-effective way to expand a virtual desktop for more centralized management.

Remote accessibility makes it easier to manage, store, and use data, and IT administrators can easily access any device connected to the server and make changes. Additionally, thin clients are the easiest to configure, manage, and deploy.

To maintain a completely safe industrial work environment, LPG producers must install computer systems and peripherals that comply with industry regulations and safety standards for hazardous areas around the world. By working with computer platform vendors with industry experience, facility managers can obtain UL-certified, non-incendive, and corrosion-resistant thin clients, industrial PCs, touchscreen PCs, and desktop PCs. other critical equipment that will withstand harsh conditions. industrial settings.

Sherry J. Basler