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152

Handbook of Fire and Explosion Protection Engineering Principles

If a gas contains liquid, water vapor or solid particles such as rust particles or dirt, a
static charge can be generated.
Generally static electricity can be overcome or controlled by several basic
approaches: bonding, grounding or controlled generation. Bonding tries to achieve
a common electrical potential on all equipment so that a charge does not have to
opportunity to accumulate. Grounding is the process of electrically connecting one
or more conducting objects to a ground potential to dissipate the charge buildup in a
safe manner. Most process facilities are provided with a grounding grid. The primary
purpose of the grounding grid is to limit the effects of corrosion induced by charges,
but it also serves as a means to dissipate electrical charges that could be a source of
ignition.

14.11

Lightning

Lightning is generally considered a form of static electricity that is discharged from


particles in the atmosphere. Many instances of lightning-induced hydrocarbon fires
have been recorded, especially at atmospheric storage tanks. NFPA requirements state
that if equipment, process vessels or columns, and tanks are suitably constructed of
substantial steel construction that are adequately grounded, and do not give off combustible vapors, no other mechanism of lightning protection is required. This is also
true of flares, vent stacks, and metal chimneys by nature of their construction and
grounding facilities.
As most storage tanks release combustible vapors as seals and vents, they are
susceptible to lightning-induced fires. Common European practice is to provide
lightning rods on the highest vessel at a facility to provide a cone of protection.
NFPA 780 provides additional guidance for the provision of lightning protection
measures.
Direct lightning strikes can ignite combustible contents of cone roof storage tanks unless the roof is provided with bonding for the structural members.
Floating roof tanks with seal hangers in the vapor space may be ignited indirectly
when charges on the roof are released by a nearby lightning strike. Floating roof
tanks are commonly protected against lightning ignition by bonding the floating
roof to the seal shoes at not less than 3 meters (10 ft) intervals, use of insulating
sections in the hanging linkages, covering sharp points on hangers with insulating materials, and installation of electrical bond straps across each pinned hanger
joint.
Buildings that are more than 15.2 meters (50 ft) high, that contain combustible liquids in large amounts or store explosive materials, should be provided with lightning
protection measures in accordance with the requirements of NFPA 780.
Ships with steel hulls or masts have suffered little or no damage from lightning and
no special protection measures are considered necessary. During loading or unloading of vessels it is common practice to suspend operations and close all openings into
tanks during the appearance of lightning storms.