HOUSTON (Feb. 5, 2015) — Total Safety U.S. Inc. today announced the company has been granted regulatory exemption for commercial use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) — small drones – for operations involving the inspection of flare stacks. This makes Total Safety the only company approved to perform flare inspections on land using Unmanned Aircraft Systems and one of just 24 companies throughout the United States granted exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) drone restrictions for specific commercial use.
Flare maintenance is critical work that often requires expensive downtime from our customers but it is work that needs to be done routinely to ensure the safety of employees and facilities including plants, refineries, pipelines, tank batteries, drilling rigs, production rigs, and in many manufacturing environments. Typically, when regular inspection and maintenance are conducted on a flare, that unit or system must be taken offline or a temporary flare must be used to bypass it. This could mean hours or days with reduced or no production.
Dangerous Inspection Work
Flares can be several hundred feet tall and have discharge temperatures in excess of 2000F. In some cases it is not possible to shut the flare down to perform the inspection. When this situation occurs, there are risky options such as climbing a nearby structure or using a sky lift for a better view of the flare but this is dangerous work. Some may even choose to climb the flare while it is in operation. “Total Safety does not recommend the latter approach as it is extremely dangerous,” said General Manager of Total Safety Flare Services Lawrence Crynes of San Antonio.
A third alternative for inspecting active flares comes with a high price tag. It is using a helicopter for aerial inspection.
“Typically chemical plants and refineries are no fly zones so making these visual inspections is only possible from a distance,” Crynes said. “But distance and other factors can compromise the effectiveness of an inspection and they are sometimes impossible to do because of weather, trees, wires, fencing and other restrictions.”
Finding a Safer, More Efficient and More Accurate Solution
Drone technology enables Total Safety to easily move around and above the flare to examine it while it is in operation.
“Our goal is to check the mechanical integrity of the flare and visible components to help determine the need for repair or replacement,” Crynes said.
“Mechanical integrity has an impact on the safety of employees, the facility and the community,” he added. “Plus, a flare that is not performing properly, may also produce emissions that are outside regulatory requirements.”
Total Safety’s drone technology is a two-person operation and much less expensive than the other methods which often require three or more employees to perform the inspection. The company uses one technician to pilot the drone and another technician who wears special goggles that allow that him or her to see what the camera sees and take close-up, high-resolution photos and video for further study.
“This method is faster than other methods and provides an instant record of the inspection,” said Total Safety Downstream District Manager Chris Barton. “Set up for aerial inspection using a Total Safety drone is quick and easy, too.”
Drone technology improves safety, reduces liability, increases accuracy, and saves time and money for our customers while allowing them to continue work as usual during the inspection process. Drone technology is just one way Total Safety is improving compliance and safety technologies that contribute to this important performance equation.
About Total Safety
Total Safety®, a Warburg Pincus portfolio company, is the world’s premier provider of integrated safety and compliance services and the products necessary to support them, including gas detection, respiratory protection, safety training, fire protection, compliance and inspection, comprehensive flare services, industrial hygiene, onsite emergency medical treatment/paramedics, communications systems, engineered systems design, and materials management. It operates from 150 locations in 21 countries to ensure the safe Wellbeing of Workers Worldwide (W3). For more information about Total Safety and its unwavering commitment to safety, visit www.totalsafety.com.
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