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4 Common Problems Found During Tank Battery Lightning & Static Protection Inspections

Tank battery in West Texas with a Petro Guardian lightning and static protection system installed.

You may have a physical lightning protection system installed on your production or saltwater disposal site, but is that system still doing its job? Due to the nature of lightning, a break in a conductor line or an incorrect part used in a single spot can compromise an entire system. In fact, our team estimates that 40% of sites inspected fail compliance within the first year of installation. Our Preventative Maintenance and Inspection Team does hundreds of inspections every year and they see that some problems are more common than others. Below is a list of the most common problems we see and tips on how to avoid them.

1) Incorrect or Non-UL Listed Parts

Not all lightning protection components and parts are created equal. Inexperienced installers will often go to local electrical supply houses to purchase items like grounding wire, ground rods, or clamps that are not UL listed. Sometimes these parts are adequate for electrical grounding and bonding but are not able to handle the current of a lightning strike. Always use UL listed parts when possible and trust a lightning protection expert to handle your installation.

2) Disconnected Thief Hatches

A common problem our team sees is disconnected thief hatches. Thief hatches are often changed out or replaced over time, and when the new thief hatch is installed whoever is doing the job may not know how to properly reinstall the lightning protection attached to the hatch. Even worse than that, sometimes there is no attempt to re-install the strap at all. Without regular inspections, the operator would carry on work under the assumption that they are protected.

3) Incorrect Ground Rod Placement

Ground Rod placement is crucial for lightning protection. For every 250 ft of perimeter, there should be a minimum of two ground rods driven 10 ft deep and positioned at opposite ends of the structure. With complicated structures of various shapes and sizes, it’s common to need multiple down conductors and ground rods in addition to the 2 original ground rods. Getting the ground rod placement correct is imperative to protecting your site. Also, if you see a ground rod sticking up from the ground, chances are the site is not meeting the minimum requirements for lightning protection grounding.

4) Metal Bodies Not Bonded Together

Bonding is the connection of electrically isolated metal bodies, such as a thief hatch, base flange, bull plug, or piping. As an area’s ion charge potential rises and falls, bonding metal components together ensures the rates of rise and fall are equal. When metal surfaces end up with a difference in ion charge, a spark (electrical discharge) is often the result and can cause a fire or explosion. When repairs or additions are made to existing sites, workers will often leave the bonding wires disconnected or connected incorrectly/loosely. Regular inspections can catch these mistakes and repairs can be made to make sure your sites are protected. 

When was the last time your tank battery or salt water disposal was inspected? Learn more by visiting our Inspection Program page or contact us now.