Lightning Protection for the Safe Storage of Chemical Tanks

Utmost caution must be taken when working with hazardous materials. It isn’t something that should be taken lightly. This explains why there are tons of regulations governing plants and handling of toxic materials. Safety is given first priority. Surprisingly, these regulations do not define how these materials should be protected from lightning. Unfortunately, lightning is a natural event capable of causing a lot of damage such as lose of property, extended downtime as well as loss of life. For example, a fire caused by lightning has resulted in lose of life and property because it takes longer to control.

Organisations and individuals have a reason to be concerned about lightning protection. Recent research studies focusing on climate change reveal that strikes of lightning will become more and more prevalent. Going by the increasing number of lightning incidents witnessed over the past few years, storage terminal operators should take it upon themselves to make sure that their storage tanks are down to earth.

According to the President and Chief Executive Officer of LEC (Lightning Eliminators and Consultants), Avram Saunders, lightning isn’t something that should be taken for granted. A 6% increase in the lightning strikes is predicted by the climate change researchers for every degree of change in the global temperature. A separate study indicated that these attacks are expected to double in the next 20 to 40 years.

In 2006, research performed by Liverpool John Moores University blamed 61% of all accidents in the storage and processing industry on lightning. Fast forward in 2011, a report done by Lloyds & Insurance Information Institute showed a 15% rise in losses associated with lightning – between 2009 and 2010.

Benefits of lightning protection

An evaluation of the cost of recovering from losses caused by lightning strikes shows why it is imperative to take precautionary measures. Tank fires resulting from lightning strikes can cost operators millions of pounds in terms of terminal downtime, product loss, regulatory penalties, and fines, liability as well as equipment damage and loss. Lives can even be lost in extreme cases. Of course, no amount of money can restore lives of humans. On the other hand, if efforts are made to protect the facility, the company wouldn’t have to spend as much money as the one needed to recover losses. Most importantly, lives would be saved.

What is the way forward? The electrical potential of the structure of the tank should be kept the same as the earth it sits on. The management should focus its efforts on the installation of a system that can deliver on this basic premise. Professionals in lightning protection must be involved to secure the facility altogether.