The Difference Between Pressure Transmitters with an Intrinsically Safe Barrier vs. Explosion-Proof Enclosure

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Safety is the main concern when working in hazardous conditions or with dangerous materials. When it comes to pressure transmitters, two different systems exist to minimize the risk of ignitions and explosions: intrinsically safe and explosion-proof. The difference between the two comes down to prevention vs. containment.

How Does an Intrinsically Safe Barrier Work?

Safety is the main concern when working in hazardous conditions or with dangerous materials. When it comes to pressure transmitters, two different systems exist to minimize the risk of ignitions and explosions: intrinsically safe and explosion-proof. The difference between the two comes down to prevention vs. containment.

WIKA's intrinsically safe pressure transducers, like Model IS-3, operate on low power and can tolerate two internal faults without overheating. The devices are also non-incendive, which means the components cannot store enough energy to cause a spark when energy is released.

Explosions do not occur under failure conditions. However, the intrinsically safe barrier does not protect the transmitter against explosions produced by mechanically induced electrical sparking, chemical reactions, radio waves, or lightning strikes.

Pressure transmitters with an intrinsically safe barrier are small, light, and can be serviced while powered. These pressure sensors are commonly found in landfill sites (landfill gas monitoring), wastewater plants, petrochemical refineries, and natural gas wells.

What Does Explosion-Proof Mean?

Explosion-proof does not mean the absence of explosions. Rather, an explosion-proof enclosure prevents any generated flames, sparks, or hot gases from escaping. How? A typical explosion-proof system has extended threaded flanges that provide a long flame path, which serves to cool, control, and contain the ignition.

Compared to systems with an intrinsically safe barrier, explosion-proof transmitters are bulkier, heavier, more difficult to install, and usually more expensive. And before they can be opened in a hazardous area, technicians must first remove the power source. Due to the danger, servicing these devices often require a “hot permit”.

So, why would anyone opt for an explosion-proof transmitter over one with an intrinsically safe barrier? The beauty of an explosion-proof pressure transmitter is that it isolates the three components of the combustion triangle: oxygen, heat, and fuel. Therefore, both the pressure transmitter and its power supply can be placed in hazardous locations, which gives engineers greater flexibility when designing systems. And unlike intrinsically safe pressure sensors, which must run on low power, explosion-proof devices can be used in systems and components that take any amount of power. That's why explosion-proof transmitters like the E10 and E11 are commonly found in drilling platforms, pipelines, and gas compressors.

WIKA’s pressure transmitters with intrinsically safe barrier or with explosion-proof enclosure feature:
• Stainless steel wetted parts
• Stainless steel case
• High resistance to vibration
• High resistance to pressure spikes
• ATEX, IECEx, EAC, and CSA certification

The selection of the type of protection will depend on the particulars of the site and application. Contact WIKA for more information about whether you should choose an intrinsically safe or explosion-proof pressure measuring device for your application.

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