Lightning Strikes in the Oil and Gas Industry

Topic: Oil & Gas
Date: June 22, 2021

Tim Martin, CSP, CFPS, Senior Risk Control Consultant

8 Engineering Controls to Mitigate Property Exposures

Did you know that the oilfield regions of Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico have some of the highest rates of lightning density in the world? Lightning strikes to tanks and oilfield production equipment can be costly: equipment damage, explosions, worker injuries, spills, and production shutdowns.

Oilfield Lightning Facts

Check out these facts on how lightning exposure could affect your oil and gas operation.

  • Lightning is most common during the summer.
  • Oilfield tanks and production equipment are prone to strikes because they jut out in the plains.
  • Enclosed saltwater and knockout tanks are more likely to rupture violently due to the flammable atmospheres in the tops of these tanks.
  • Increased damage can occur to fiberglass tanks and other equipment insulated from the ground by pads or lined containment systems.
  • Non-conductive material in fiberglass tanks creates increased electrical resistance (as opposed to a steel tank) during a lightning strike. Therefore, more heat is generated, which can increase ignition exposure.
  • Lightning strikes can cause damage through a direct strike by hitting adjacent areas or hitting electrical lines that feed the production equipment.

oil and gas jobsite with lightning strikes


Check your operation to ensure the following controls are in place to mitigate property exposure.

  1. Lightning studies can provide data on the frequency and severity of lightning strikes in a particular area. When creating lightning protection systems, design them in accordance with the exposure.
  2. Existing bonding and grounding systems, used to reduce static charges on tanks, can be enhanced for lightning protection.
  3. Conductor cables should be bonded and tied to the grounding wire.
  4. Ensure the grounding rod is located close to the tank battery area so that the electricity runs the shortest distance and path of least resistance to minimize damages.
  5. The grounding rod should have less than 25 ohms of resistance. Installers should test the soil resistivity and install grounding rods at a depth suitable for the ground conditions in the area.
  6. Lightning protection systems should have lightning rods/air terminals at high points around the perimeter of the tank battery and/or top of the tanks.
  7. On fiberglass tanks, metal structure components such as ladders, piping, and vents should be bonded and grounded.
  8. Surge arrestors can protect motors, circuits, and oilfield protection equipment from damage due to the electric impulse that lightning strikes can put on the electrical line. The quicker the arrestor responds to the high voltages, the more likely the equipment will be protected. This is especially important when using expensive submersible pumps with variable-speed drives on location.

For more Oil and Gas safety tips, please contact your BITCO Risk Control Consultant, or speak with an agent today.

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For information purposes only. BITCO's blog content does not address all potential circumstances and is not a substitute for business, safety, or legal consultation.

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