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Industrial Lightning Protection

Lightning Protection Blog

Week 111 | May 14, 2015

“Lightning Protection? We Ain’t Got No Stinkin Lightning Protection!”

 

Each year numerous facilities across a myriad of industries around the world are either knocked off line, explode, catch fire, or are subject to unexplained equipment failures forcing them to suspend operations costing millions of dollars and/or worse, someone loses their lives or they create an environmental disaster.  I have seen it happen time and again in Oil and Gas (upstream, midstream and downstream) Petroleum, Electric Power, Data Centers, Broadcasting, Logistics, Mining, Manufacturing and more; incidents and consequences that could have been prevented had companies just invested in proper Lightning Protection Systems (LPS) and done even the most basic of risk mitigation planning . Implementing solutions, which not only prevent against a direct strike, but also the secondary effects of lightning enabling safety and maintaining profits.  One would think that companies would be chomping at the bit to protect their assets? Not the case. Most companies today wait until after an event and/or incident to invest in Lightning Protection Systems, which include proper grounding and surge solutions, as covered in this paper we recently released for electric power facilities. It’s usually too late at that point and the occurrence more often has a long-term impact potentially costing millions of dollars in downtime, damage, liability and regulatory fines.

I am mind boggled at this approach. It perplexes me why a company would take this risk?  The approach of, “It won’t happen to us? “or “What are the odds?”  just doesn’t work. The odds get greater with each year because lightning is increasing and it does happen more than you think in every industry.  You might not even know that it happened. Think back! Is there a time when a piece of equipment that you budgeted to last 10-15 years, stopped working after 4 or 5 years? Did operations have to come to a screaming halt and did you have to replace that valuable piece of equipment at a greater cost? Was your bottom line impacted?  Guess what, it was probably lightning! Yes lightning! The secondary effects of a lightning strike can be even more costly in some cases than a direct hit.

Then there is the other mystery. Lightning Rods! Why would you ever want to collect a strike when you can prevent it? Bringing lightning into a volatile environment which houses combustibles and/or sensitive electronics and equipment is just crazy and that is what a lightning rod does. Hats off to Ben Franklin, but frankly this technology is almost 300 old. There are better more modern ways to protect a facility, but that brings us back to the beginning, most companies don’t even consider it to their detriment and when it happens they play innocent! I call BS!!!!

Cases of incidents are on the rise, because lightning is. Also, industry is growing and spreading giving lightning more targets to hit. I have seen instances of lucrative companies who didn’t implement a plan or maintain their lightning protection get slammed.  For one company in the United States had they spent from $170,000 – $350,000 (10 X tanks with either grounding only and/or with a lightning protection solution) to protect their storage tanks they could have saved at least $9.65 Million. When we last spoke to them the cost had already reached $10 Million and it was still rising. This was from one lightning strike. This is just one example from one industry. Our treasure chest is filled with many similar stories across multiple industries.  I don’t get it!

Wake up and start to consider lightning in your risk mitigation and safety planning. Use solutions that don’t collect a strike, because that is equally as dangerous and consider the consequences of not protecting your facilities or it could end up costing you more than you ever imagines. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

  • Assess your environment- What components need protection?
  • Call an expert to complete a risk assessment (make sure they have an engineering degree).
  • Test your environment.
  • Make sure the solution is designed to suite your needs and not a cookie cutter approach (what is good for one facility might not work at another).
  • Estimate the cost of loss of product, damages, workflow and potential liability and regulatory fines? Do you know what an hour or even a day would cost you?
  • If you have an LPS implemented please maintain and inspect it annually if not more often.
  • Include lightning protection in your planning!!!!

Don’t forget to take the ILTI’s Lightning Protection Survey and you could win a MS Surface Pro 3…take me to the survey

LightningSurvey_Slider_031815

If you have any lightning stories you would like to share with us, positive or negative and/or if you have any questions or need additional information please feel free to contact me at LightningDiva@lecglobal.com

Be careful out there! Visit www.lightningprotection.com for all your lightning protection needs. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn for more information and updates as well as some great photos.

The LightningDiva@Large

Photo credit to Photo by Jack Miller at Jack G. Miller Photography and The L.O.U. Project

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