In her illuminating paper entitled, Lightning: It’s All About the Bolt, the author (known as “The Lightning Diva @ Large” of Lightning Eliminators & Consultants Inc.) reveals just how costly lightning strikes can be for businesses and industries. In fact, she says that “there is no industry that has not been impacted severely by a lightning strike and/or the secondary effects of lightning.”
As for as risks, she notes, “The chance that your facility or structure will be hit varies on a number of factors such as location, structure height and design, temperature, and humidity. If all the factors are just right, even areas with infrequent thunderstorms can experience rare, but high intensity, lightning strikes. One should note that recently it has been reported that lightning is becoming more volatile, striking more frequently both in places that are known for heavy lightning storms but also in regions that have not had many lightning events. I will expand on this topic later in this article.
Lightning can have devastating effects on any operation, whether taking a direct strike or being subjected to the secondary effects from nearby strikes. A single lightning strike to a mission-critical facility poses unacceptable risks which can cripple operations. These risks can include, but are not limited to, explosion/fire, loss of product, damage to infrastructure, communications, failure of sensitive electronics and equipment, lengthily downtime and more importantly, loss of life. I haven’t even mentioned liability and environmental penalties."
When it comes to the consequences of lightning strikes, the author observes: “There are several industries that I could use, but the industries with the most shared data on losses are the Petrochemical, namely Tank Storage and the Energy Industries. But don’t let that fool you. All industries are subject. Most just don’t like to report the losses or publicize lightning strikes in association with their businesses.
In petrochemical facilities, lightning can cause explosions and/or ignite fires that consume millions of dollars of product, create prolonged downtime, demands environmental cleanup, incurs regulatory fines, and causes destruction of equipment-- requiring excessive repair or replacement, and impacts entire communities. The repercussions can be exorbitant financially for these companies.
In 2014, we saw a rise in fires at the upstream end of the industry, primarily salt water disposal tanks (SWD, at tank batteries associated with fracking across the United States. We have not yet gotten the numbers associated with many of these incidents, but we know that tanks had to be replaced, product was lost and in some cases the companies were fined by the EPA for no less than $30 thousand. Not to mention downtime and other potential losses.”
One good example given by the author of the potential losses to be suffered from lightning damage is the 2012 strike to the Bangkok Synthetics Company facilities at Map Ta Phut Industrial Park in Thailand, which resulted in 12 dead, 129 injured, environmental damage, and plant closure resulting in a loss of more than $1 billion.
Furthermore, no business or industry is immune from the serious damage that lightning can cause to electronics and communication systems. Says the Lightning Diva @ Large: “Most companies only consider a direct lightning strike as their only risk and don’t consider the secondary effects of lightning. The truth is that a lightning strike can cause damage even when it strikes the ground surrounding a facility. A lightning strike causes an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), which is then coupled to overhead and underground wires and cables, which in turn causes a powerful surge into your equipment and electronics. The effect reduces what is called meantime-between-failure, as covered in my blog from August 28, 2013 “Lightning Strikes are the Weakest Link for Electronics”. This can result in major damage, critical data loss, downed operations and lost business. This risk is shared by utilities, data centers, emergency services, logistics providers, corrections facilities, government and military facilities, process manufacturing, and transport hubs and more. It is often overlooked until it is too late. Grounding engineering and surge protection must be incorporated when contemplating the effects of lightning.”
In our next blog, we’ll focus on exactly what you can do to protect your business from the effects of lightning. For more information on this subject, see the entire blog at http://www.lightningprotection.com/lightning-101/. And contact us to find out if your insurance coverage is adequate in the case of fire and damage caused by lightning. At Alliance, we’ve got you covered for all possible risks.
(Photo courtesy of LEC Inc)