An Introduction to the Oil and Gas Industry 

The oil and gas industry is one of the biggest industries in the world, making a significant contribution to the global economy. This vast sector is often separated into three main sectors: upstream, midstream and downstream. Each sector comes with their own unique gas hazards. 

Upstream

The upstream sector of the oil and gas industry, sometimes referred to as exploration and production (or E&P), is concerned with locating sites for oil and gas extraction the subsequent drilling, recovery and production of crude oil and natural gas. Oil and gas production is an incredibly capital-intensive industry, requiring the use of expensive machinery equipment as well as highly skilled workers. The upstream sector is wide-ranging, encompassing both onshore and offshore drilling operations. 

The major gas hazard encountered in upstream oil and gas is hydrogen sulphide (H2S), a colourless gas known by its distinct rotten egg like smell. H2S is a highly toxic, flammable gas which can have harmful effects on our health, leading to loss of consciousness and even death at high levels. 

Crowcon’s solution for hydrogen sulphide detection comes in the form of the XgardIQ, an intelligent gas detector which increases safety by minimising the time operators must spend in hazardous areas. XgardIQ is available with high-temperature H2S sensor, specifically designed for the harsh environments of the Middle East. 

Midstream

The midstream sector of the oil and gas industry encompasses the storage, transportation and processing of crude oil and natural gas. The transportation of crude oil and natural gas is done by both land and sea with large volumes transported in tankers and marine vessels. On land, transportation methods used are tankers and pipelines. Challenges within the midstream sector include but are not limited to maintaining the integrity of storage and transportation vessels and protecting workers involved in cleaning, purging and filling activities. 

Monitoring of storage tanks is essential to ensure the safety of workers and machinery. 

Downstream

The downstream sector refers to the refining and processing of natural gas and crude oil and the distribution of finished products. This is the stage of the process where these raw materials are transformed into products which are used for a variety of purposes such as fuelling vehicles and heating homes.  

The refining process for crude oil is generally split into three basic steps: separation, conversion and treatment. Natural gas processing involves separating the various hydrocarbons and fluids to produce ‘pipeline quality’ gas. 

The gas hazards which are typical within the downstream sector are hydrogen sulphide, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen and a wide range of toxic gases. Crowcon’s Xgard and Xgard Bright fixed detectors both offer a wide range of sensor options to cover all the gas hazards present in this industry. Xgard Bright is also available with the next generation MPS™ sensor, for the detection of over 15 flammable gases in one detector. Also available are both single and multi-gas personal monitors to ensure workers safety in these potentially hazardous environments. These include the Gas-Pro and T4x, with Gas-Pro providing 5 gas support in a compact and rugged solution.

The Benefits of ‘Hot Swappable’ Sensors

What are ‘Hot Swappable’ Sensors?

Hot swappable sensors allow for the replacement or addition of components to a device without the need for stopping, shutting down or rebooting the production process, thus allowing for high productivity and efficiency.

Other benefits of ‘Hot swappable’ sensors

Another benefit is that it eliminates the need for hot work permits. Hot work is regularly undertaken during construction and maintenance projects and is a high-risk activity that requires careful and active risk management. These environments pose a significant risk of fire as well as safety. Hot swappable sensors are designed to avoid these potential problems entirely.

Why are they important?

Some gas detection products are designed to go into zoned areas where there can be flammable (explosive) gas present. Therefore, in environments such as a refinery, if you were to disconnect normal electronics, it usually would cause a small spark, and this is a risk as it could potentially lead to a fire or explosion. However, if the electronics have been designed so there is not a spark and have been approved as “not capable of causing an spark” by the certifying authority, these products can be disconnected and reconnected even in an explosive atmosphere without fear of sparking, ensuring that those working in these environments are kept safe.

It is possible to calibrate hot swappable sensors outside a zoned area and thus allow a rapid swapping exercise instead of a far longer calibration process. Thus, the operator need spend only a fraction of the time in the zoned area substantially avoiding personal risk.

Products with ‘Hot Swappable’ Sensors

XgardIQ is a fixed detector and transmitter compatible with Crowcon’s full range of sensor technologies. Available fitted with a variety of sensors for fixed flammable, toxic, oxygen or H2S gas detection. Providing analogue 4-20mA and RS-485 Modbus signals as standard, XgardIQ is optionally available with Alarm and Fault relays and HART communications. The 316 stainless steel is available with three M20 or 1/2“NPT cable entries. (SIL-2) Safety integrity level 2 certified fixed detector.

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