In electrical engineering, a hazardous location is defined as a place where concentrations of flammable gases, vapors, or dusts occur. Electrical equipment that must be installed in
such locations is especially designed and tested to ensure it does not initiate an explosion, due to arcing contacts or high surface temperature of equipment.
For example a household light switch may emit a small, harmless visible spark when switching; in an ordinary atmosphere this arc is of no concern, but if a flammable vapor is present,
the arc might start an explosion. Electrical equipment intended for use in a chemical factory or refinery is designed either to contain any explosion within the device, or is designed not
to produce sparks with sufficient energy to trigger an explosion.
Many strategies exist for safety in electrical installations. The simplest strategy is to minimize the amount of electrical equipment installed in a hazardous area, either by keeping the
equipment out of the area altogether or by making the area less hazardous by process improvements or ventilation with clean air. Intrinsic safety, or non-incendive equipment and
wiring methods, is a set of practices for apparatus designed with low power levels and low stored energy. Insufficient energy is available to produce an arc that can ignite the
surrounding explosive mixture. Equipment enclosures can be pressurized with clean air or inert gas and designed with various controls to remove power or provide notification in case
of supply or pressure loss of such gases. Arc-producing elements of the equipment can also be isolated from the surrounding atmosphere by encapsulation, immersion in oil, sand, etc.
Heat producing elements such as motor winding, electrical heaters, including heat tracing and lighting fixtures are often designed to limit their maximum temperature below the
autoignition temperature of the material involved. Both external and internal temperatures are taken into consideration.
As in most fields of electrical installation, different countries have approached the standardization and testing of equipment for hazardous areas in different ways. As world trade
becomes more important in distribution of electrical products, international standards are slowly converging so that a wider range of acceptable techniques can be approved by
national regulatory agencies.
Area classification is required by governmental bodies, for example by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and compliance is enforced.
Documentation requirements are varied. Often an area classification plan-view is provided to identify equipment ratings and installation techniques to be used for each classified plant
area. The plan may contain the list of chemicals with their group and temperature rating, and elevation details shaded to indicate Class, Division(Zone) and group combination. The
area classification process would require the participation of operations, maintenance, safety, electrical and instrumentation professionals, the use of process diagrams and material
flows, material safety data sheet and any pertinent documents, information and knowledge to determine the hazards and their extent and the countermeasures to be employed.
Area classification documentations are reviewed and updated to reflect process changes.
Soon after the introduction of electric power into coal mines, it was discovered that lethal explosions could be initiated by electrical equipment such as lighting, signals, or motors. The
hazard of fire damp or methane accumulation in mines was well known by the time electricity was introduced, along with the danger of suspended coal dust. At least two British mine
explosions were attributed to an electric bell signal system. In this system, two bare wires were run along the length of a drift, and any miner desiring to signal the surface would
momentarily touch the wires to each other or bridge the wires with a metal tool. The inductance of the signal bell coils, combined with breaking of contacts by exposed metal surfaces,
resulted in sparks which could ignite methane, causing an explosion.
In an industrial plant such as a refinery or chemical process plant, handling of large quantities of flammable liquids and gases creates a risk of leaks. In some cases the gas, ignitable
vapor or dust is present all the time or for long periods. Other areas would have a dangerous concentration of flammable substances only during process upsets, equipment deterioration
between maintenance periods, or during an incident. Refineries and chemical plants are then divided into areas of risk of release of gas, vapor or dust known as divisions or zones. The
process of determining the type and size of these hazardous areas is called area classification. Guidance on assessing the extent of the hazard is given in the NFPA 497 Standard, or
API 500 and according to their adaptation by other areas gas zones is given in the current edition of IEC 60079.10. For hazardous dusts, the guiding standard is IEC 61421.10.
Typical gas hazards are from hydrocarbon compounds, but hydrogen and ammonia are common industrial gases that are flammable.
An area such as a residence or office would be classed as Non Hazardous (safe area), where the only risk of a release of explosive or flammable gas would be such things as the
propellant in an aerosol spray. The only explosive or flammable liquid would be paint and brush cleaner. These are classed as very low risk of causing an explosion and are more of a
fire risk (although gas explosions in residential buildings do occur). Non hazardous areas on chemical and other plant are present where the hazardous gas is diluted to a concentration
below 25% of its lower flammability limit (or lower explosive limit (LEL)).
This is a step up from the safe area. In this zone the gas, vapor or mist would only be present under abnormal conditions (most often leaks under abnormal conditions). As a general
guide for Zone 2, unwanted substances should only be present under 10 hours/year or 0–0.1% of the time.
Gas, vapor or mist will be present or expected to be present for long periods of time under normal operating conditions. As a guide for Zone 1, this can be defined as 10–1000 hours/year
or 0.1–10% of the time.
Gas or vapor is present all of the time. An example of this would be the vapor space above the liquid in the top of a tank or drum. The ANSI/NEC classification method consider this
environment a Division1 area. As a guide for Zone 0, this can be defined as over 1000 hours/year or >10% of the time.
Flammable dusts when suspended in air can explode. An old system of area classification to a British standard used a system of letters to designate the zones. This has been replaced
by a European numerical system, as set out in directive 1999/92/EU implemented in the UK as the Dangerous Substances and Explosives Atmospheres Regulations 2002
The boundaries and extent of these three dimensional zones should be decided by a competent person. There must be a site plan drawn up of the factory with the zones marked on.
The zone definitions are:
A place in which an explosive atmosphere in the form of a cloud of combustible dust in air is present continuously, or for long periods or frequently.
A place in which an explosive atmosphere in the form of a cloud of combustible dust in air is likely to occur, occasionally, in normal operation.
A place in which an explosive atmosphere in the form of a cloud of combustible dust in air is not likely to occur in normal operation but, if it does occur, will persist for a short period
Explosive gases, vapors and dusts have different chemical properties that affect the likelihood and severity of an explosion. Such properties include flame temperature, minimum
ignition energy, upper and lower explosive limits, and molecular weight. Empirical testing is done to determine parameters such as the maximum experimental safe gap, minimum
ignition current, explosion pressure and time to peak pressure, spontaneous ignition temperature, and maximum rate of pressure rise. Every substance has a differing combination of
properties but it is found that they can be ranked into similar ranges, simplifying the selection of equipment for hazardous areas.
Flammability of combustible liquids are defined by their flash-point. The flash-point is the temperature at which the material will generate sufficient quantity of vapor to form an ignitable
mixture. The flash point determines if an area needs to be classified. A material may have a relatively low autoignition temperature yet if its flash-point is above the ambient temperature,
then the area may not need to be classified. Conversely if the same material is heated and handled above its flash-point, the area must be classified.
Each chemical gas or vapour used in industry is classified into a gas group.
|OFF-SHORE||Marine application Harsh Enviroment|
|SWA||Steel wire armored|
|AWA||Aluminium wire armored|
|SWB||Steel wire braid|
|PWA||Pliable wire armored|
|STA||Steel tape armored|