April 8, 2015
By Mark Scantlebury, president and CEO
I often get asked where our controllers can be installed. At first I found that to be an odd question until I looked at the challenges that an operator faces on a daily basis with a lot of other oilfield controls. Questions arise such as “will the screen operate in the hot or cold temperatures outside?” “what is the hazardous location certification for this controller?” and “what is each area around a well head or shack classified as?”
Anyone that has an electronic device with a liquid crystal display (LCD) knows that it gets sluggish as the temperature drops. By the time it gets to 0 F (about -20 C) the characters don’t even show up, making it essentially useless. Conversely, as the temperature rises, a LCD screen will go dark and eventually black out completely. ETC products use a vacuum fluorescent display (VFD) which is made of tiny vacuum tubes that are not affected by temperature. They continue to be as bright and react as quickly at extreme temperatures as they would at room temperature.
Many oilfield controls are designed in Texas where extreme cold temperatures are just not experienced. This leads to designs that do not compensate for the fact that a battery’s capacity is typically cut in half or even worse at extreme cold temperatures. If the power consumption of the controls are too high, the battery will go dead in the winter, leading to operators having to run around with spare batteries.
Some companies try to fix this by compensating with a larger solar panel, but that doesn’t cut it on cloudy days or in areas with reduced sunlight. The real solution here is a design that uses very little energy and has a built in safety factor that accounts for the reduction in storage capacity of the battery.
Often controls are put in the general purpose area which is not hazardous at all, but then you need to protect the wiring, use intrinsically safe (IS) barriers, or explosion proof devices when wiring into a more hazardous location. Many control products are certified to Div 2 (Zone 2), which allows for explosive vapors or gases under failure conditions. But what happens if you want to install your controller in a shack or right at the well head? More often than not these are Div 1 areas (Zone 0/1), which means that you expect to have explosive gases on a regular or even constant basis. ETC controls and sensors are certified as Div 1 (Zone 0) so that you can install them anywhere you want.
So, as you can see, if you don’t have to worry about the temperature, the amount of available sunlight, and the hazardous area classification, all you need to be concerned with is installing ETC products where it makes sense for your application. With a number of different mounting configurations available, you can put our controllers on a wall, a pipe, or even right on a motor valve. The options are truly endless and all the headaches with other oilfield controls disappear.