Smarter lighting: For a brighter future

Combining highly efficient lighting technology, smart control and sensors, mean every aspect of the luminaire can be fully optimized.

By Jesús Fernández March 19, 2022
Courtesy: Brett Sayles

Sustainability used to be something in the wings. A ‘nice to have’ if you like. Today, however, we all recognize how vital increased sustainability is to every industry. Lighting may seem a relatively small consideration when we talk about sustainability, but there are huge savings to be made. Using latest technology, organizations can harness safer, more reliable and vastly more efficient lighting solutions with clarity that improves workplace environments. The use of LEDs for lighting is something most of us already have in our homes but the unique challenges of oil and gas installations require a very different approach.

For oil and gas facilities, lighting accounts for a significant proportion of energy costs and a notable toll on maintenance overheads. However, smart lighting, using latest LED technology, presents an ‘easy win’ opportunity for sites to save money, improve lighting quality and increase sustainability.

LED is the most sustainable, tested and proven lighting available on the market today and latest technologies can provide outstanding efficiencies, reaching values above 200 lumens per Watt. This performance is two or even three times better than traditional lighting solutions such as discharge lamps or fluorescence and represents a remarkable 50% saving in energy. Combined with smart sensors, however, sites are looking at savings of up to 85% in lighting running costs. In turn, this equates to not only a quick return on investment, but a lower overall carbon footprint.

Additional sustainability and reduced cost of ownership are further facilitated through the integration of wireless communications and internal sensors within lighting fixtures that can predict maintenance requirements. Smart luminaires can include sensors to monitor the temperature and electrical parameters to give warning if a failure is imminent. This not only ensures enhanced reliability with reduced chance of unexpected failure, but also means maintenance activities can be fully optimized, reducing time and cost overheads of the system.

Many oil and gas applications have harsh environments, and locations may make operation and maintenance more challenging. First, luminaires must be certified under EX and IECEX standards (among others). This is mandatory. Then, luminaires must also ensure safe operation. For longevity, however, their construction should also be resilient to corrosive substances, including chemicals and salt. Harsh environments may additionally require wide operating temperatures.

Alongside EX and IECEX certifications for Zone 1 or Zone 2 installations, the latest LED luminaires can operate at up to 75°C, use innovative PMMA housing materials to make them resilient to corrosives and provide gas tight seals to ensure sophisticated electronics are not damaged by any corrosive atmospheric gases that may be present. Very few manufacturers are able to guarantee this high specification. Supplying luminaires that operate at 75°C is particularly rare, but one provider who has the capability is the protected lighting specialist, ZALUX, with its Made in Europe explosion proof luminaires.

Easy lighting upgrade, long life

Upgrading lighting is not a difficult win. Ageing installations often need to upgrade electrical devices and the benefits of taking this opportunity to upgrade conventional lighting to new LED technology with smart control will deliver better lighting efficiency, greater resilience to extreme temperatures, lower energy consumption and reduced maintenance. Indeed, the expected return on investment is within two years.

Traditional luminaires have a typical operating life of around 10,000 hours. LED technology offers 10 times this, which equates to around 20 years of operational life. Other considerations include recyclability. Modern plastics, such as PMMA, used in new lighting fixtures are 100% recyclable. Unlike fluorescent tubes, they also do not contain mercury, which is difficult to dispose of and dangerous to the environment. In fact, legislation is moving to stop the manufacture of fluorescent tubes because of the impact they can have on the ambience.

By using modern plastics, luminaires also become much lighter and easier to install. In addition to the ease of installation, wireless technology allows traditional installations with non-dimmable luminaires to be updated with new dimmable fittings without the need of rewiring. So, this is a great benefit in refurbishment projects and increases their profitability. The installations also get the advantages of predictive management, better use of the light and energy savings.

A brighter future

Ultimately the question of upgrade to modern LED technology to meet lighting needs offshore and onshore is not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’. The longevity of traditional luminaires is waning and there are so many benefits to be gained from upgrading, for operators, workforce and the environment.

For oil and gas applications, new luminaires need to be holistically designed. To do it, eco-design techniques are applied to analyze the impact of the luminaire during its lifecycle in terms of environmental impact and carbon footprint.

They must also include relevant safety certification – EX and ICEX standards, among others. To meet these requirements, proficiency in both lighting electronics and modern plastics is required. It is only by combining these areas of expertise that the longevity, reliability and efficiency of the luminaire can be assured in harsh and often dangerous environments, including hazardous areas or those with risk of explosion.

Lighting summary

Latest lighting solutions are an easy win in the battle for sustainability. The combination of highly efficient lighting technology, smart control and sensors, mean every aspect of the luminaire can be fully optimized. Combined with careful selection of materials to produce a safe, highly robust and fully recyclable housing solution and a design that is easy to install and maintain, the benefits simply cannot be ignored.

The future

Lighting solutions continue to be developed to offer increasing efficiency, reduced manufacturing carbon footprint and to consider latest materials, including biodegradable options.

Although there are many challenges ahead to transform the energy landscape, this is an exciting time for the oil industry and there are many opportunities ahead. As we emerge from a global pandemic, the industry is more focused than ever on the future. For today, the gains in efficiency and environmental protection are already huge, but manufacturers are not standing still and are looking for even greater savings and sustainability to ensure we all have a brighter future.


Jesús Fernández
Author Bio: Jesús Fernández is the Product Manager at ZALUX.