Understanding of hardened computing solutions for hazardous environments

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

Given the possibility that gas vapors, dust or other contaminants collect in these areas, the electronic equipment installed for automation and control must be specifically designed to prevent inadvertent ignition of these elements due to electric arcs or any other thermal medium.

While much attention is paid to the automation system components used to control the process itself, these systems also require IT equipment, such as thin clients, panel PCs, remote touch displays, keyboard, video, mouse (KVM) and fixed solutions and solutions. mobile operating stations. 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 environment generated during the refining and manufacturing process.

“The production, processing, storage and distribution of flammable materials such as liquefied petroleum can release gases or vapors into the atmosphere, which can cause an explosion or a hazard. To create a safe and secure work environment, IT systems on site must, by regulation, be designed to pass explosion-proof certification and be able to withstand the corrosive environment, “said Paul Shu of ARISTA Corporation, a supplier of platform computing services and display products, including thin clients, all-in-one panel computers, ruggedized LCD touch displays and industrial KVM solutions.

Simply put, a classified hazardous location is any commercial or industrial area, building or premises that could be exposed to fire or explosion due to the presence of gases, vapors, flammable liquids, combustible dust or other similar materials in very large quantities.

robust technologyHazardous locations can be classified into various categories based on the nature of the flammable vapors or liquids. In North America, a system of classes / divisions is primarily used, and regulations related 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 classify hazardous areas and potential sources of risk.

To meet the requirements of LPG refining, there are several methods by which equipment can be made flame and explosion proof. For IT systems, manufacturers of equipment serving the market can design and manufacture UL-certified, non-incendive thin clients, industrial panel PCs, and touch panel PCs (equipment with electrical / electronic circuits that under normal operating conditions are not capable of able to cause the ignition of a certain flammable gas, steam, dust, etc., due to electric arcs or thermal media) and that meet the requirements for the various classes / divisions / zones within a plant
or station.

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

This design protects components from gas, dust, dirt, moisture, chemicals, oil and other external contaminants in an explosive environment. LPG typically arrives via pipeline or rail car and is then delivered to tanks operated by various companies and agencies. Large quantities of products, mainly flammable and combustible liquids, are stored in these places and then distributed.

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

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

With remote accessibility, data is easier to manage, store and use, and IT administrators can conveniently access any device connected to the server and make changes. Additionally, thin clients are easier to set up, manage and deploy.

To maintain a completely safe industrial working environment, LPG manufacturers must install computer and peripheral systems that meet industry regulations and safety standards for hazardous areas around the world. By working with industry-experienced IT platform providers, facility managers can obtain thin clients, industrial panel PCs, touch-panel PCs, and other critical equipment that are UL-certified, non-incendive, and corrosion-resistant. industrial environments.

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