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Ensuring safety and reliability in hazardous environments ~ The crucial applications and benefits of EX connectors and Hermetic EX connectors ~

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In industries where hazardous environments are part of everyday operations, safety and reliability are paramount. One critical component ensuring both is the  EX connector. These specialised connectors play a crucial role in various applications where explosive atmospheres are present, such as oil and gas, chemical processing, mining and more. Here, Isaac Noble,  European product manager at connector specialist PEI-Genesis, delves into the applications and benefits of EX connectors and new developments with Hermetic EX connectors.

EX connectors are a subset of connectors specifically designed to meet the stringent requirements of hazardous locations classified as explosive atmospheres. When choosing connectors for hazardous missions, there are several key factors that should be considered. First, consider the different Zones connectors will be used in.

In the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmosphere Regulations 2002 (DSEAR), Zone 0 is defined as a constant explosive environment, Zone 1 indicates there is often an explosive atmosphere and Zone 2 is indicative of a rarely explosive atmosphere.

The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) explains, “the primary purpose of zoning is to facilitate the proper selection and installation of apparatus to be used safely in that environment, taking into account the properties of the flammable materials that will be present.”

In a worst-case scenario, it is possible that electricity running through connectors could become an ignition source if it comes into contact with flammable dust and gases in the environment or the surface or the connector reaches the ignition point of the gases and dust’s in the atmosphere. For this reason, all connectors used in explosive atmospheres must comply with the IECEx international standard which governs the installation and use of electrical equipment in these environments. 

Benefits of hermetic EX connectors

One notable feature of Hermetic EX connectors is their capability to uphold pressure via a hermetic glass-to-metal seal, all while meeting the necessary ATEX and IECEX requirements essential for deployment in hazardous environments. In dangerous environments where flammable gases, vapours, or combustible dust are present, even a small spark or uncontrolled temperature source can trigger an explosion or fire. All gases and dusts have an ignition point and by controlling and limiting the temperature the surface and internal connection can reach hermetic EX connectors significantly enhance safety for personnel and in addition allowing applications requiring pressure tolerance through the connector to maintain these standards.

At the same time, hermetic EX connectors feature a sealed enclosure that effectively protects the internal electrical components from exposure to the surrounding hazardous atmosphere. This sealing mechanism prevents moisture, dust and other contaminants from infiltrating the connector, ensuring consistent and reliable electrical performance over time.

Many hermetic EX connectors are also constructed from corrosion-resistant materials such as stainless steel or specialised alloys. This corrosion resistance helps maintain the integrity of the connector in harsh and corrosive environments commonly encountered in industries like oil and gas, chemical processing, and mining.

These types of connectors are designed and manufactured to comply with stringent industry standards and certifications for use in hazardous locations. These standards, such as ATEX (European Union), IECEx (International), NEC (National Electrical Code) and others, establish requirements for equipment intended for use in explosive atmospheres. Compliance with these standards ensures that hermetic EX connectors meet the necessary safety criteria and regulatory requirements.

The reliability and durability of hermetic EX connectors contribute to reduced downtime associated with equipment failure or maintenance. By providing a secure and consistent electrical connection up to the task of withstanding pressure up to 50bar; these connectors minimise disruptions to operations in hazardous environments, thus increasing productivity and efficiency.

Hermetic EX connectors are also used to protect sensitive electrical components from exposure to corrosive substances, moisture, and other environmental factors that could accelerate equipment degradation. As a result, equipment installed with Hermetic EX connectors may experience a longer lifespan, reducing the frequency of replacements and associated costs.

Applications for EX connectors and hermetic EX connectors

EX connectors are employed in drilling rigs, wellhead equipment, and production platforms to provide reliable electrical connections in areas where flammable gases may be present. These connectors ensure safe operation and prevent the risk of igniting potentially explosive atmospheres during drilling, extraction, and processing activities.

Refineries and petrochemical plants rely on EX connectors within crucial equipment like pumps, compressors, and instrumentation, strategically positioned in areas prone to flammable vapours. These connectors ensure uninterrupted communication and control, mitigating the risk of ignition in potentially explosive environments. Moreover, Hermetic variants find extensive application in turbo generators and expanders employing magnetic bearings, pressurised actuators, and LNG pumps, reinforcing safety protocols across various industrial processes.

In mining operations, where dust and methane gas pose significant hazards, EX connectors play a pivotal role in safeguarding equipment such as conveyors, crushers, and ventilation systems. By eliminating the risk of sparks, these connectors maintain operational safety amidst potentially explosive atmospheres, enhancing the reliability and longevity of mining operations.

Additionally, the versatility of EX connectors extends to railway and automotive sectors, where the presence of flammable fuels or gases demands meticulous electrical connectivity. These connectors facilitate secure electrical connections in fuelling systems, engine controls, and onboard electronics, ensuring uninterrupted performance while prioritising safety standards in transportation applications.

EX connectors play a vital role in ensuring safety and reliability in hazardous environments across various industries, including oil and gas, mining, and transportation. By providing sealed, spark-free electrical connections, these connectors mitigate the risk of ignition in explosive atmospheres, safeguarding personnel and equipment while enabling efficient operations in challenging conditions.

PEI-Genesis is an ATEX-approved assembler of the Amphenol Star-Line EX and Amphe-Ex, which are arguably the most popular EX connectors in the world due to their sturdy design and plethora of configuration options. With a broad range of reversible inserts; solder, crimp and pressure terminals; and flexible cable options, Star-Line EX connectors will meet application demands in petrochemical refineries, land and offshore drilling systems.

To find out more about PEI-Genesis’ connector solutions for hazardous environments visit www.peigenesis.com.

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