Static Electricity Hazard in Oil and Gas

Static electricity is the electric charge generated when there is friction between two things made of different materials or substances. When in contact, the surface electrical charges of the objects try to balance each other through the free flow of electrons. When separated, they are left with either an excess or shortage of electrons causing both objects to become electrically charged.
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If these charges don’t have a path to the ground, they become “static” and if the static electricity is not eliminated, the charge will build up and jump as a spark to a grounded or less highly charged object. If this spark occurs in an ignitable vapour or dust mixture, the result could be a fire or explosion.
Electric charges can build up on an object or liquid when certain liquids (e.g., petroleum solvents, fuels) move in contact with other materials. This can occur when liquids are poured, pumped, filtered, agitated, stirred or flow through pipes. This buildup of electrical charge is called static electricity. Even when liquids are transported or handled in non-conductive containers, something rubbing the outside surface of the container may cause a static charge to build up in the liquid. The amount of charge that develops depends, in part, on how much liquid is involved and how fast is it flowing or is being agitated or stirred.
Causes of Static Electricity in Oil and Gas Industry:
 Propane gas cylinder processing facilities: The propane present in the air can be ignited by static electricity.
• Frack tanks: Static charges can build up and ignite residual oil and trapped gases in the tank. Static electricity can be generated when dissimilar molecules such as water, oil and sediment in the flow back fluid collide and form positive and negative charges.
• Fueling operations: The flowing movement of flammable liquids like gasoline inside a pipe can build up static electricity. Liquids such as paraffin, gasoline, toluene, xylene, diesel, kerosene and light crude oils exhibit significant ability for charge accumulation and charge retention during high velocity flow.
• Natural gas pipelines: Friction caused by dust or constrictions in the pipe can cause static buildup on pipes used to transport natural gas. If there is a negative charge inside the pipe, it will attract an opposite equal charge through the soil and to the outside of the pipe. When the pipe is uncovered, the charge outside the pipe can arc.

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