Understand ruggedized computing solutions for hazardous environments

Oil and gas facilities that process crude oil or natural gas into liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or butane and distribute through pipeline stations regularly store and distribute large quantities of these flammable liquids.

Since gas vapors, dust, or other contaminants may accumulate in these areas, electronic equipment installed for automation and control must be specifically designed to prevent inadvertent ignition of these items due to arcing or other thermal means.

Although much attention is paid to the components of the automation system used to control the process itself, these systems also require computer equipment, such as operator workstations. Given the risks, this equipment must also meet the requirements for use in areas classified as hazardous and be robust enough to withstand the harsh chemicals and high humidity generated during the refining and manufacturing process.

“The manufacture, processing, storage and distribution of combustible materials such as liquid oil can release gases or vapors into the atmosphere that could result in an explosion or hazard. By regulation, to create a safe working environment, the computer systems on the construction site must be designed to pass explosion-proof certification and withstand the corrosive environment,” said Paul Shu of ARISTA Corporation, a provider of computing platforms and visualization products including Thin Clients, all-in-one panel computers, robust LCD touch displays and industrial KVM solutions.

In simple terms, a location classified as hazardous is an area, building, or business or industrial site that could be susceptible to fire or explosion due to the presence of flammable gases, vapors, flammable liquids, combustible dust, or other similar materials in very large quantities.

robust technologyHazardous areas can be divided 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 relating to 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 that can be used to make plants flame and explosion proof. For computer systems, equipment manufacturers serving the market can design and manufacture thin clients, industrial panel PCs, and touch panel PCs that are UL-certified and non-incendive (devices with electrical/electronic circuits that do not cause ignition under normal operating conditions be able). a specific combustible gas, vapour, dust, etc. due to arcing or thermal effects) and which meet the requirements for the different classes/divisions/zones within a facility
or train station.

According to Shu, touch panel PCs are routinely used as human-machine interface workstations in automated tank farm and loading dock operations. The fully enclosed version is made of stainless steel and has no external vents.

This design protects the components from gases, dust, dirt, moisture, chemicals, oil and other external contaminants in a hazardous environment. LPG usually arrives via pipeline or rail car and is then delivered to the tanks operated by various companies and agencies. Large quantities of products – mainly flammable and combustible liquids – are stored and then distributed at these locations.

robust technologyFor this type of application, the Panelmount PCs are fanless, ruggedized systems designed 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 touchscreens can be operated by operators wearing robust industrial gloves.

Fanless thin client versions are an increasingly popular and affordable way to design a virtual desktop for more centralized management.

Remote access makes it easier to manage, store and use the data, and IT admins can conveniently access and make changes to any device connected to the server. In addition, thin clients are the easiest to configure, manage and deploy.

To maintain a totally safe industrial work environment, LPG manufacturers must install computer systems and peripherals that meet industry regulations and safety standards for hazardous locations around the world. By working with computing platform vendors with industry expertise, facility managers can obtain UL-certified, non-sparking, corrosion-resistant thin clients, industrial panel PCs, touch panel PCs, and other critical equipment that can withstand harsh industrial environments.

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