Wireless switches for the oil and gas industry
Wireless switches are not yet widely used in the oil and gas industry. And yet wireless technology offers this sector some special advantages - provided explosion protection is guaranteed.
Explosion hazard, corrosive environments, vibration, high mechanical wear are the typical environmental conditions for switches used in the oil and gas industry, and especially in offshore installations or supply ships. Read more about wireless switches.
Wireless technology increasingly popular
In these applications, industrial switches and sensors are almost always wired. In other industrial application areas, however, wireless switches are becoming increasingly popular. In the oil and gas industry, only a few applications can be found where wireless switches and sensors are used. This is due to the fact that (gas) explosion protection requirements usually also have to be met, raising the bar for safe signal exchange even higher.
Advantages of wireless
The deployment of wireless switches and sensors in this sector makes real sense. Wherever a high degree of mechanical wear and tear can be expected, there is a risk of cable damage. When Ex-compatible cable glands can be omitted, installation within an Ex zone becomes easier. The switches can transmit from inside the ATEX zone to outside, with the added advantage that the receiver does not have to meet explosion protection requirements.
Of course, the general advantages of wireless switches also apply: fast installation and versatile mounting. This is especially true for applications involving long distances (e.g. position monitoring of manually operated valves in pipelines), poorly accessible locations or moving/rotating installation parts.
Wireless technology for ATEX zones
Wireless switches must be approved for use in hazardous areas. To achieve this goal, steute has further developed its own wireless sWave technology, already proven in industrial applications - as "Wireless-Ex" - for use in hazardous areas. Because this certified wireless system is low-energy, there is no danger of sparks or explosions.
Wireless-Ex is less sensitive to other wireless networks and adverse environmental conditions of industrial facilities. The maximum range of the wireless signal is 40 m indoors and 450 m outdoors.
The industry-compatible wireless technology is based on bi-directional communication. The function of the regular status signal is adjustable. The switches are powered by primary lithium thionyl chloride (Li-SOCl2) batteries, which are approved for use in Ex zones. It is no problem to change the battery within the Ex zone.
The switches and sensors not only meet the requirements of the European Atex Directive and IECEx, but also other national standards, such as EAC (Russia), Inmetro (Brazil) and cCSAus (North America). This means that the Ex switches can be used in all producing countries and markets critical to the oil and gas industry.
Different devices for different applications
Available Wireless-Ex switches include the Ex RF 96 wireless position switch in a slim rectangular design, and the Ex RF IS wireless inductive sensor in a cylindrical design. They are suitable for wireless applications in combination with the universal transmitter Ex RF ST and are also powered by this transmitter. The product range is constantly being expanded.
The latest additions are the Ex RF MC magnetic switches, which also work in combination with the Ex RF ST universal transmitter. All switches with Wireless-Ex technology are categorised as "intrinsically safe" and fall into safety class "ib" according to EN 60097-11. This means they meet the standards for gas Ex zones 1 and 2, and dust Ex zones 21 and 22.
Typical applications in the oil & gas industry
One of the very first application areas of Wireless-Ex technology in the oil & gas industry was the position monitoring of valves in gas pipelines. These valves are often manually operated and with wireless switches, they do not need to be wired.
Installation time is significantly reduced by battery-powered wireless Ex-switches. Several rigs use wireless switches and sensors from Steute's Extreme range, including for determining the position of moving tools on drill rods or rod bearings.
Onshore applications for Wireless-Ex switches and sensors include monitoring access valves of fuel tanks and monitoring access doors of hazardous areas.