Responsible for transporting gas through grid networks across Europe, Gasunie places heavy demands on the phones used for its field workers. Not only do devices have to be dust, liquid and shock proof – they also have to be intrinsically safe for use in the combustible environments that can occur during the wholesale supply of gas.
Gasunie is a European gas infra- structure company, which stores and transports natural and ‘green’ gas through its pipelines in the Netherlands and Northern Germany. To get the gas to the end-user safely and reliably, it operates a high-grade gas transmission grid on behalf of its customers. Awarded ‘Transmission System Operator of the Year’ at the 2012 European Gas Conference, Gasunie is internationally recognized for its contribution to the industry.
“Much of our success is due to the performance of our in-field teams,” says Richard Spitzers, responsible for maintenance of communications equipment in the field at Gasunie.
“We have a widely dispersed international workforce many of whom are lone workers. Keeping them connected is vital to our business. We need reliable communications to keep them safe, talk to teams, ensure operational efficiency and report real-time grid data.”
As Gasunie knows, maintaining reliable communications when working with gas presents unique challenges for electronic devices, which can spark or cause temperatures, which could ignite combustible vapors and materials.
There are clear guidelines for determining explosive environments; these include Ex-zones 0, 1 and 2. The most dangerous, Zone 0, relates to the presence of explosive materials such as gases. Within the guideline’s classifications Class 1, represents an environment with a reasonably large risk of release of explosive gas such as that found within Gasunie’s operations.
“Communication may be vital but safety is our first priority at Gasunie,” confirms Spitzers. “For this reason we have strict safety measures that govern our processes and the devices that we use, to avoid an unsafe situation.
One of these measures is that the mobile phones used by all of our mechanics have to be explosion proof – or Ex-safe. When working with gas, you never know if and where a situation might occur. We leave nothing to chance. That’s why when it came time to upgrade our phones, we wanted a solution that would reduce any risks even further.”
Rather than simply upgrading its outdated legacy devices, Gasunie choose to replace them with the Ecom/Sonim Handy 06-Ex, which complies easily with Gasunie’s Class 1 status. This incorporates all the inherent features, functionality and call capability of Sonim’s ultra-rugged XP3 handset with safety specialist, Ecom’s, intrinsically safe build and features creating a tough, high performance Ex-safe phone.
Ex-safe branded phones are certified to meet a number of strict requirements. This includes excluding any component, which could cause a spark capable of igniting combustible materials.
In addition, the phone must remain safe during a fall for example – the battery cover must not get loose, or the casing cause a spark on contact with a hard surface. The paint and outer plastics must under no circumstances hold a static charge. The Ecom/Sonim Handy 06-Ex delivered this while providing the highest level of rugged reliability available - far exceeding MIL-Spec criteria.
For additional safety reasons, Gasunie wanted to ensure that its Ex-safe phones were easily distinguishable from other handsets. The Sonim phone’s bright yellow color as well as its performance ensured it stood out from all other devices used by its personnel.
Spitzers explains, “With its bright yellow casing, our new Ex-safe phones are easy to spot. Our workers know that when in the field they must only use the ‘yellow’ phone. Anyone can see at a glance if the device is safe. In fact it has become so well known that our customers call it Gasunie yellow.”
Not only is the Ecom/Sonim Handy-06 Ex exceptionally safe to use across Gasunie’s operations, it is also IP67 certified and as such ultra-rugged, waterproof and dustproof providing outstanding reliability and longevity even with the roughest handling and long term outdoor exposure.
For added convenience it can be charged with USB via a computer ideal for engineers who are always on the move. The phone also has very loud ringtones, allowing it to be heard easily by engineers working close to noisy machinery.
Spitzers adds, “For additional safety, we also needed a phone with a really good hands-free mode. One that would allow our workers to make and take a support call while keeping both hands free to continue to work and operate other equipment safely.”
Sonim intrinsically safe devices were chosen for gas workers because they can be used in highly explosive areas.
Gasunie is a European gas infra- structure company with 1700 employees in Netherlands and Germany. The 1.5 Billion € revenue company provides the transport of natural and green gas in the Netherlands and Northern part of Germany. Activities range from constructing new gas infrastructure, transport of gas to gas storage and gas transport services.
Standard regulations for equipment used inside hazardous areas with potentially explosive atmospheres are a core issue for the European Union.
Thus, they took the lead in developing standards, which became well known as ATEX directives. They apply to all kinds of electrical or non-electrical equipment and safety devices as well as machines and industrial facilities located within potentially explosive atmospheres. Since July 2003 it is mandatory in Zone 1 and 2 environments to use devices that have an ATEX type approval all across Europe.
Zone 0/20: Danger is always present, for a long time or frequently
Zone 1/21: Danger is occasionally present
Zone 2/22: Danger is seldom present or present for a short time