Seven stories above an icy ocean, miles from the mainland, an urgent concern lurks in the minds of oil platform workers every day: the threat of a fire or gas leak. When you live and work in a contained area smaller than a football field, says a former safety manager, the sound of an alarm sends your adrenalin racing.
So safety is a critical issue. Platform crews rely heavily on detectors that can quickly recognize a toxic leak or a flame and can distinguish between a real hazard and a false signal. False alarms can raise anxiety and disrupt business operations.
Jerry Slocum, General Manager of UTC Fire & Security’s Specialty Detection business, says that the safety issue has become an acute concern. “This is particularly true at a time when many of the estimated 20,000 platforms worldwide are aging and oil companies are trying to extend the life of their equipment thus making safety and accuracy an increasing focus and priority,” he says.
To meet the need for accuracy and precision, Detector Electronics (Det-Tronics), a UTC Fire & Security company, manufactures gas detectors, flame detectors, and safety systems that are reliable and flexible.
Aging oil fields, for example, tend to produce hydrogen-sulfide gas, which is deadly in high concentrations. So Det-Tronics manufactures a sensor that can detect the gas in five seconds. The detector’s speed of response is essential because people average 12 breaths a minute, so if a hydrogen-sulfide gas release occurs, they might have time to take only a few breaths before reaching safety.
“Quick detection is important to allow time to escape before gas levels reach deadly concentrations,” says Slocum.
Det-Tronics also makes a combustible-gas detector that can sense the presence of flammable hydrocarbon vapors, even in harsh conditions. One product comes with a plastic baffle, a shield of sorts, which surrounds the sensing element and screens out contaminants. The shield is critical because detectors that are offshore are exposed to oil, saltwater, and wind.
Along with improvements in gas detection, advances in optical flame detection have greatly reduced false alarms. Det-Tronics set a new benchmark by using three infrared sensors, patented algorithms, and a 32-bit microprocessor that make calculations quickly, accurately and at greater distances than other flame detectors. These detectors can “self-test” to verify proper operation.
“Operators need reliable and accurate detectors in an environment where there is the potential for false alarms, and they need the reassurance that comes from being able to check detectors from a laptop miles away from the platform,” comments Slocum.
The Det-Tronics’ Eagle Quantum Premier system links the detectors and other system components into a digital communications network that allows remote-control access. A safety engineer can check the status of a platform’s detectors while sitting at an office computer on the mainland.
“Our detectors help avoid false alarms that cause wasted time, aggravation to workers who must respond and interruptions to operations as safety managers reset the system following an alarm,”says Slocum.
So while improved drilling and production techniques and technology advances enable oil companies to continue operations on platforms, Det-Tronics’ detectors will help them to maintain their operations safely.
For more information on Det-Tronics visit www.Det-Tronics.com.