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Seeing the light

Published:  15 October, 2014

ODEE spoke with Tom Irwin, business development manager at Dron & Dickson, about the benefits of LED lighting for offshore oil & gas applications.

Within the offshore oil & gas sector a wide variety of lighting solutions can be observed covering every type of application; from helideck and aviation lighting, to floodlighting, low level area lighting, to recessed lighting in accommodation modules. Fluorescent and high pressure sodium lighting solutions have been the mainstay of the offshore industry for decades. However, Tom Irwin, business development manager at Dron & Dickson, believes that the more recently introduced LED lighting technology should now be seriously considered as an alternative.

Reduced maintenance

“LED lighting, as opposed to the conventional gas-based technology, offers a raft of benefits,” said Irwin. “For example, LED light fittings can require very little maintenance and inspections. This can be a key driver in terms of cost savings – after all, lighting maintenance on offshore installations can be hugely expensive.”

There are also considerable energy savings to be made with LED lights, although Irwin points out that energy savings are sometimes not such main driver for offshore operators able to generate their own energy requirements. “In the case if onshore applications where the reduction in power consumption has a direct cost implication, end users can find their usage to be as low as 25% of the normal power consumption of gas based lighting technology. The ciost savings can quickly become apparent” he said.

Working together

Nevertheless, with such pronounced advantages such as reduced maintenance requirements, Dron & Dickson is currently working closely with a number of leading LED lighting manufacturers in order to demonstrate the tangible benefits LED lights can offer to offshore oil & gas operators. “Promotion of the benefits of LED lighting is very much the forefront of our marketing activities at the moment,” said Irwin.

In terms of installation within the offshore oil & gas sector, Irwin made the point that LED lighting manufacturers have had the task of developing products that last whilst still meeting the ATEX requirements. “All light sources generate heat, and in the case of LED chips, the junction temperature need to be kept within strict parameters as so not to kill the rest of the electronics. “Although LED emits no UV light some 80% of the energy that goes into an LED light fitting produces heat, while only 20% comes out as light. Therefore, being able to dissipate the heat from the fitting effectively is crucial. We have worked closely for a number of years with the manufacturers at the forefront of this technological development. We have seen how some have approached this very well, with products specifically designed to maintain the long lifetime of the fitting.”

“The other challenge we have faced is the perceived colour issues. I´m sure we all remember the cold stark blue LED lights that first appeared on car head lights. Many still see LED lighting as being as such. The better manufacturers match the product to the application, with the correct colour temperature and also colour rendering, like is currently the case with cool white and warm white fluorescent lamps. In fact for the replacement of SONT floodlights, LED lighting offers much better colour rendering and in term can make the workplace a safer environment. There is an LED product for every application, selecting the right one is key.”

The Standards issue

As with many relatively new areas of technology LED lighting currently lacks established European Standards. “There may often be a continued focus on technologies that have been in place for several years, but there comes a time when establishing Standards for more state-of-the-art alternatives becomes a must,” said Irwin. “Some other areas of the world already have established Standards for LEDs, and in order for greater levels of uptake in sectors such as offshore oil & gas it would be a great benefit to have Standard put in place very soon.”


Moving the focus more toward global sales, Irwin explains that many of the leading LED lighting manufacturers are now looking at cross certification of the existing products. “More and more manufacturers are looking to release their LED offerings worldwide as opposed to manufacturing certain specifications of light fittings for specific markets,” he said. “So cross-certification is something we regularly hear about when we speak with our manufacturer partners. This of course makes sense in that the cost of manufacture can be reduced, and some of these savings can potentially be passed on to the customer.”

Full range

The range of LED lights applicable for offshore use is continuing to grow. Indeed, by the middle of next year Irwin believes there will be LED options for just about every type of lighting that is currently in use offshore. “At the moment we already have LED options for aviation lighting. This has now been available for some time, as have a range of fantastic LED Floodlighting. The challenge for lighting manufacturers has been creating the right amount of light output without exceeding ATEX requirements. However, by mid-2015 there will be LED lighting for every core application in the offshore environment.”

Growing uptake

Irwin pointed out that, although Dron & Dickson supplies equipment and related services worldwide, it observes that the European North Sea is currently moving to LED lighting quicker than other territories. “It’s often the case that when new or relatively new technology becomes available many prospective users don’t want to be the first within their industry vertical to put their head above the parapet,” he said. “However, although the offshore oil & gas market has been one of the last to take on board LED general lighting, we are now seeing considerable interest and take-up.”

Irwin concluded: “LED is certainly the big thing in lighting at the moment. It’s now starting to get a foothold in a number of marketplaces, including offshore oil & gas where until relatively recently there had been a considerable level of hesitancy to move away from more conventional lighting technology. However, after a number of positive reviews and trials a sizeable chunk of our business has moved in the direction of LEDs for offshore. It’s taken some time to move to this point but we are convinced that this is a very positive step for the offshore industry from a cost-saving and health & safety point of view. And when recognised Standards are eventually introduced the uptake and status of LEDs can only become greater. We are just at the beginning of the LED journey.”

Dron & Dickson

Dron & Dickson designs, supplies and maintains hazardous area electrical equipment. Working together with its clients, the company is able to offer bespoke solutions incorporating the very latest industry and safety legislation. Incorporated in 1927 the company originally supplied explosives to the mining and quarry industries. With a downturn in our original trading markets in the 1970s, the company changed direction towards the Oil & Gas industry, at first, by providing a lighting design service for offshore accommodation modules. As the industry’s requirements changed, Dron & Dickson adapted quickly to the market, offering product supply and maintenance. In 1993 the company was awarded its first Ex maintenance & inspection management contract, with AGIP for the Tiffany platform. Today Dron & Dickson works together with clients in the UK, Europe, North Africa, Middle East, CIS and Asia.

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