Non sparking tools are essential in maintenance, operation and modification jobs. Certain electric, hydraulic or pneumatics tools are indispensable across the board, and especially when performing a job in an Offshore Platform.
The Proper Tools to Use in Explosive Environments
Similar in what they can do, non sparking tools and conventional tools differ significantly in safety, cost and capabilities. The main difference is where they can be used Safely in an Explosive Environment governed mostly by the Hot Work Permits.
To put it in plain words, in order to use a Tool in an Area Classified as Explosive or Hazardous, the HSE Personnel must grant a permit to introduce tools that are considered Hot and that may cause heat or Hot sparks.
In most cases, HSE Personnel will need to Verify that the tool is Cold Work Certified in order to grant Approval for the job.
Advantages of Using Non Sparking Tools
One thing must be noted, the fact that an Offshore platform may be as large as 4 football fields or as small as 200 sq-ft does play an important role.
Particularly when designating what areas of the platform will be deemed as Potentially Explosive/Hazardous and what Areas will be Classified as safe for Hot work Tools.
HSE Personnel will consider many aspects including the location of the work area, process equipment location, pipes, flanges, living quarters, the direction of the wind, whether a structure is fixed (welded) or movable (bolted), and generally speaking all the areas where Hydrocarbons may be present (both liquid and gas).
Safety in Use
Non-Sparking Tools provide a level of Safety unrivaled by that of conventional tools, whether they are pneumatic, electric, or hydraulic.
These tools, while more expensive in most cases are one of the options in the resources a Project Manager has to perform a job.
Other options include
- Shutting down the platform
- Use of Habitats
- Fire watches
Safety is the most important thing when performing a job Offshore as accidents may cause devastating consequences and impact significantly the life of the personnel, as well as the bottom line and even the existence of the Companies involved.
Hot Work Considerations
When thinking about a traditional grinder for example, whether it’s electric or pneumatic we need to think about the heat such tools generate.
Electric grinders for instance will generate enough energy due to the simple fact they are running with electricity. And both electric tools and pneumatic tools will generate sparks.
Such sparks may reach temperatures in excess of 1,800 °F by the time they fly off 15 or 18 ft (the farther they travel the more oxygen they get and the hotter they burn). Most often than not using, using hot work tools carries consequences.
While a conventional tool may cost as little as $50 USD, shutting down an Oil and Gas Platform to perform a job in a Classified Area may cost as little as a few thousand dollars, in excess of $100,000 USD a day and upwards of $15,000,000 USD for a very large platform.
Project managers, OIM’s and often enough the Asset Owners need to find the right balance between what some equipment will cost and all hidden costs associated.
Damage to adjacent equipment
Hot sparks produced by a conventional electric or pneumatic grinder may burn the paint off a section of the platform 18 ft away. Those areas touched by the sparks will transform into rust areas within 2 or 3 days.
With time, cavities will form and steel will no longer be as strong as it used to be. Whether it's pipe or deck, corrosion has started to set in. And we all know corrosion never sleeps.
Consequences of Shutdown/Slowdowns
The most obvious consequence of using Hot Work Tools is a Shutdown or Slowdown. Whether it’s for a few hours or months.
The loss of revenue and an increase in expenses will have a large impact on Owners and Operators. One way to reduce it and in some cases avoid it altogether is to use Cold Work Tools.
When working against the clock time and efficiency is of the essence. Postponing a job may bring temporary relief in terms of scheduling. However, it may hamper efficiency and safety. It is those circumstances that a Project Manager will need to evaluate how to proceed.
With Certified Cold Work Tools job postponement can be minimized or eliminated altogether.
Capabilities of Non-Sparking Tools
There are many areas where an Offshore Platform can benefit from using sparkless tools. Some of the most important ones are the following:
The ability to use hydraulic tools to disassembles flanges and valves becomes important in order to maximize safety and efficiency. Some major players such as Titan Hydraulic Tools carry a wide variety of tools.
The capability of some Cold Cutting Tools such as TFT-Pneumatic’s 2 in 1 Cutting and Weldseam removal system allows operators and owners to benefit from No Work, unparalleled safety, and continuous work without a shutdown or slowdown.
The ability to remove bolts and modify structures while doing it cold can solve a problem in a matter of minutes. On any given day when an Operator is trying to remove a flange that has 16 or 20 bolts, they will encounter problems. It is not unusual to have 20 or 30 percent of bolts be completely stuck.
It is then when tools such as Non-Sparking Die Grinders will make a big roll eliminating in 2-3 minutes what hydraulic tools could not do in 8 hours or more.
Cold surface Preparation
Need to create an anchor profile in an Explosive Environment? Sand Paper and a lot of hours will generate that Profile. Is it worth it to have a Top Class Worker from the oil Field literally waste hours and hours when the same surface prep can be achieved in minutes and be more consistent and reliable?
- Roughness profile 2.5 mils
- Equivalent to common blast standards referred to in SSPC-SPC 10 (SA 2 ½ near white) Nace No. 2.
Look into some of the Surface Preparation Non Sparking Tools by TFT-Pneumatic.
Tool cost vs. Hidden Costs
While initially more expensive the ability to rent or buy the tool may bring significant benefits. When deciding how to proceed consider the hidden costs. You will quickly note the hidden costs will add a significant burden on the job that will otherwise go unnoticed.
Hidden costs include job preparation, risk evaluations, personnel hours, clean up, hot work permits, habitats, fireguards, surface damage (sparks), production shutdown, job delay, and health issues.
Most often than not ALL hidden costs are eliminated using non-sparking tools, particularly with the tools provided by TFT-Pneumatic Safety Tools product line.
We offer the only grinding and cutting tools certified by DNV for use in potentially explosive and hazardous environments Class 1 Division 1 & 2 (ATEX zone 1 & 2 approved). With Safety Tools, there is no need for Hot Work Permits, saving you time and money, and making your work area safer.
- Certified and Classified as Cold Work Tools
- No Hot Sparks
- Low Heat (average 95-105°F grinding steel)
- Low Noise (<85 dBA)
- No Dangerous Sharp Splinters
- No Low Vibration (Average < 3.1 m/s²)
- Roughness Profile 40-75 microns (2.5 mils) 1600 psi on Pull Test.