Preventing Damage To Process Controls at Oil & Gas Refineries

In a refinery setting, fire and explosion safety are paramount concerns. The potential harm to people and property is immense. Therefore, it is important to take appropriate steps to prevent, contain and extinguish any fire hazards. Protecting process controls is particularly important. Avoiding damage to these systems can help to mitigate the impact of a refinery fire.

Protecting Process Controls

When a fire or explosive hazard occurs in an oil and gas refinery, the fire and gas safety system must activate. Additionally, the process control system must take automated, preventative steps to avoid the situation from worsening. If process controls in the refinery are damaged by fire or explosion, it could lead to the danger rapidly worsening.

  • Fire-Resistant Enclosures: Many manufacturers and suppliers offer fire-resistant enclosures for control systems. These are available as flexible, semi-rigid and rigid options. Resistance ratings vary but some are capable of protecting components from 2,200°F temperatures for up to 120 minutes. Many rigid solutions are also resistant to blast overpressure.
  • Fire-Retardant Coating: Another solution that can be applied to existing equipment, fire retardant coatings can provide 30+ minutes of protection at up to 2,000°F. This option is very space-efficient, durable and weatherproof. However, coatings offer little to no blast resistance.
  • Fire-Resistant Components: Some control system components are designed to be fire and explosion-resistant with no added enclosure or coating. These options are highly effective, especially when combined with other solutions. However, they are often new components that requires replacing existing equipment.

A combination of the above protective solutions for critical components and integration between fire and gas systems and the process control system is advisable. Automatically enabling an emergency shutdown as soon as a hazard is detected helps contain the problem. However, this is only possible if the control systems are sufficiently heat and blast resistant.

Actuators for High Temperature and Explosive Situations

Actuators play a major role in the control of refinery equipment. Standard pneumatic actuators may not be sufficiently resilient to handle the temperature extremes and pressures of an oil and gas refinery. Sourcing from the right valve actuator manufacturer can help ensure high-quality actuators for your high temperature situations. An explosion proof valve actuator that can stand up to the rigors of fire and gas hazards is worth the investment.

Refinery engineers should strongly consider process control solutions that are designed for the oil and gas industry. Valve control actuators for oil refineries and gas transmission purposes are often tested for shock, heat exposure and hazardous conditions. These could make the difference between a contained explosion and serious damage to the refinery and potentially people.


Combatting fires and explosions in a refinery is no simple undertaking. The potential impact is so immense that comprehensive, preventative solutions are necessary. Combining automation with fire-resistant enclosures, coatings and components can ensure that a minor fire or explosion does not turn into a catastrophe.

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