Ensuring safe transmissions from dangerous industrial environments

There are several key considerations of ATEX and IECEx certified electronics for use in hazardous applications.

By Matthew Youngs June 21, 2023
Courtesy: Brett Sayles

Process safety insights

  • Wireless transmitters that aren’t properly protected in process environments can be damaged by chemicals, combustible dust and other elements, which can endanger the worker.
  • These devices must be specially designed for the application and rigorously tested and approved through ATEX and IECEx standards if they are to be used in these hazardous applications.

The oil and gas industry and industrial processing industries create demanding and harsh industrial environments for electronics because of the volume of volatile chemicals.

Electronics like wireless transmitters face various challenges as a result. For example, if they are not sealed correctly, they can allow chemicals, combustible dust and other matter into the equipment. Not only can this interfere with the performance, but it can also create an environment where a spark could cause an explosion.

Therefore, they must be specially designed for the application and rigorously tested and approved if they are to be used in these hazardous applications.

Regulatory compliance

ATEX is a European single market directive that applies to electrical and mechanical equipment and protective systems. If equipment is being used in an area that is identified as potentially explosive, such as petrochemical plants, then it must be tested and certified to ATEX. There is also IECEx, which is an international certification relating to equipment for use in hazardous explosive atmospheres and is more commonly used outside of Europe.

ATEX zones are defined based on the likelihood and duration of the presence of a potentially explosive atmosphere in a particular area. There are three zones: Zone 0, Zone 1, and Zone 2.

Zone 0 is an area in which an explosive atmosphere is present continuously, or for long periods of time, or frequently. Zone 1 is an area in which an explosive atmosphere is likely to occur in normal operation and Zone 2 defines an area in which an explosive atmosphere is not likely to occur in normal operation, but if it does occur, it will only be for a short time.

ATEX and IECEx approval means that electronic products have been designed and manufactured to prevent the ignition of explosive atmospheres, significantly reducing the risk to the safety of personnel and equipment. It is a legal requirement for electronic products to have this approval when used in these zones.

Key certification considerations

Although ATEX certifications are a requirement for equipment that is to be used in these environments, there are other considerations to make when choosing the right wireless telemetry system for the job.

Instruments with long battery life can reduce the need for personnel to access hazardous or remote locations to replace or recharge batteries, improving their safety and reducing the risk of accidents.

Temperature fluctuations can cause changes in the electrical properties of the sensor or the instrument, resulting in variations in the output signal.

Electronics with low temperature drift can help maintain stable and predictable electrical behaviour, reducing the risk of sudden temperature-related failures or malfunctions that could ignite the hazardous atmosphere. They also degrade at a slower rate in environments with variable temperatures, further enhancing their durability.

– This originally appeared on Control Engineering Europe’s website.

Author Bio: Matthew Youngs is sales and marketing manager at Mantracourt.