Ex Enclosing Solutions

Ensto’s lighting success in the marine industry has paved the way for an entire host of new Ex offshore marine products.

Ex means “explosive safe” and denotes products made for potentially explosive environments. But it might also refer to growth, since the explosive protection market segment is growing 10 to 12 percent each year.

What’s the source of this growth? “The world needs not only petrol and chemicals, but we’re seeing  new LNG infrastructure being built, plus more automation in control stations,” explains Tuomas Mäkelä, Product Manager, Explosion Protection Solutions at Ensto. “We’re working hard to fill those market needs with new product introductions.”

Ex for marine industry

Based on Ensto’s history of supplying luminaires and LED lighting to cruise ships, the same customers – small service providers, OEMs, technical distributors – began requesting Ensto supply them with Ex products.

“These customers want to offer everything,” says Mäkelä, “and the fewer suppliers they use, the higher they can keep their quality level.”

Ex luminaires

Ensto soon will launch its first models of fluorescent technology Ex luminaires. They are non-sparking, heat-limited fixtures, which are both air- and water-tight. “The marine and offshore market often favors older technologies,” says Mäkelä of fluorescent, “but the next generation will be LED.”

The Ex luminaires will find their way to any potentially explosive areas on ships, such as the battery  room, the engine room, and cargo area, if the ship carries dangerous cargo. The luminaires will also target FPSOs (Floating Production Storage and Offloading) offshore areas, floating vessels used by the offshore oil and gas industry for the processing of hydrocarbons and for the storage of oil.

For onshore markets the luminaire is ideal for non-corrosive areas. While marine production calls for stainless grade 316L, onshore applications may utilize less expensive materials like zinc coated mild steel.

Polyester Ex junction boxes

Glass reinforced polyester (GRP) and aluminum junction boxes will be introduced for the Ex market. “GRP is a stock product which can be quickly customized and delivered,” says Mäkelä, noting that the lead time for Ex steel is three to four weeks, but a polyester box has a lead time of only one week. “It’s a great option for when you need a lightweight, quickly customized option for relatively dry areas inside a ship, rig or in FPSO.”

Online savings

In addition to the new products comes a new way to order those products. The Ensto Ex Solution Configurator now can, in some instances, take the place of a product manager, designer, and factory work planner.

“You don’t have to be an engineer,” says Mäkelä. “Any qualified non-tech person can use it in two to three minutes. Choose and click.

”The configurator will first be used by Ensto sales representatives and project managers, but soon panel builders and technical distributors will also have access to it. “A customer chooses stainless steel or GRP, then chooses the size of the enclosure, hole quantity, what controls he wants in the holes. The software makes it ready in IFS [a data management system] and quotes a price,” says Mäkelä.

“Traditionally, three to four hours are used on a single project,” says Mäkelä. “Now all that time is saved, and savings passed on to the customer.”

The biggest savings for customers, however, comes through faster turnaround which translates to lower risk of penalties. “A 20 million euro project being built for an oil company can cost the builder up to 200,000 euros a week in late penalties,” says Mäkelä. “In the marine industry, products need to be replaced under a clear timetable when a ship is in port.  Doing work after that is extremely expensive.”

The software will be applicable for local control stations made of stainless steel and polyester.

Beyond marine, beyond Europe

There are even bigger markets for the new Ensto Ex products: manufacturing plants and process facilities, chemical, petrochemical, refineries, pharmaceutical, gas treatment and transport, the list is exhaustive.

Couple that with new hazardous location approvals for Ex steel enclosures in the USA and Canada, and the potential is significant. “There are only a few manufacturers in Europe with these approvals,” says Mäkelä.

A growing market. A growing portfolio of products. An explosive combination.


Author: Scott Diel