Touch Screen Panel PC in Hazardous Areas Classified Locations


It is required by law and legislation by countries around the world that electrical equipment must be designed and manufactured for safe use in environments or atmospheres that may be potentially flammable or explosive.  These hazardous areas are defined as where flammable gases or vapors, flammable liquids, combustible dust, or ignitable fibers or flyings are present.  At oil and gas production operations and facilities, these hazards and dangers are common place. Flammable or explosive substances may be present in some varying quantity at all times, so fire and explosion protection and safety certifications for all electrical equipment used in these operations is mandatory. Regardless of whether the equipment is certified for the ATEX Directive or to National Electrical Code (NEC) ®, NFPA 70, the fundamental methodology behind the standards or regulations are the same. 

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“Intrinsic safety” is one of the most common techniques used for achieving safety protection with lower voltage or power equipment such as electronics, controls, HMIs and industrial monitors and displays.  This method is considered to be one of the safest forms of protection and electrical safety as it can meet the highest level of explosion and protection safety standards for Division 1 Hazardous Locations (North America) or Zone 0 or ATEX category 1 (Europe) in areas where a potentially explosive atmosphere is continuously present.

It is takes a tremendous effort and investment for manufacturers of electrical equipment to achieve this approval rating or certification of safety.  At AIS, rest assured complete explosion protection and safety is met with their new line of ATEX certified, Intrinsic or Intrinsically safe line of HMI panel PCs and industrial multi-touch monitors.

What is Intrinsic Safety

In normal use, electrical equipment often creates internal tiny sparks in switches, motor brushes, connectors, and in other places. Compact electrical equipment generates heat as well, which under some circumstances can become an ignition source. Arcing is also a consideration.

Common Causes for Ignition:

  • Open circuit or short circuit components or interconnections in a resistive circuit
  • Short circuit of components or interconnections in a capacitive circuit
  • Open circuit components or interconnections in an inductive circuit
  • Ignition by hot surfaces.

Unfortunately, it only takes a very small amount of energy to cause ignition of a fire or cause an explosion.  Therefore, intrinsic safety is aimed at eliminating the variables of low current or power electrical equipment causing an ignition.  Regardless of normal or abnormal conditions, intrinsic safety relies on low voltage electrical equipment to be designed in such a way that it is incapable of releasing enough energy thermally or electrically to cause an ignition of flammable gases or liquids.  

Article 504 of the NEC® defines an intrinsically safe system as "an assembly of interconnected intrinsically safe apparatus, associated apparatus, and interconnecting cables in which those parts of the system that may be used in hazardous (classified) locations are intrinsically safe circuits." Intrinsically safe apparatus is defined in Article 504 as electrical equipment "in which all the circuits are intrinsically safe."

Designing for Intrinsic Safety

The intrinsic safety approach simplifies circuits and reduces installation cost over other protection methods. Various types of protection and power limitation components can be used for intrinsic safety. All components that are considered necessary to maintain the safe operation of a circuit require special consideration.  The safety components are used in various configurations to limit voltage, current and power to safe levels and require independent analysis and study. For example sake, consider these specifications below as guidelines only and subject to modification, revision and changes.

Electrical Safety Component Specifications and Considerations:

  • Zener diodes must be used within 2/3 of all their specified ratings. Creepage and clearance distances would have to comply with table values and duplicated diodes would be employed.
  • Diodes are used when blocking is required; they are often in series with the output of part of a circuit that is potted. They must be used within 2/3 of their ratings and be either duplicated for redundancy.
  • Resistors would be used to dissipate power and limit current. They are often employed to limit the instantaneous release of charge from capacitors. They would be required to meet a similar criterion to the zener diodes but would also have constructional requirements.
  • Capacitors can be used as safety components for blocking DC voltages, but must be duplicated in series. Electrolytic and tantalum capacitors cannot be used, and capacitors that are used are required to pass specific high voltage tests.
  • Fuses must be potted if it is used in a hazardous area. It must have a breaking capacity of 1500A (so as not to conduct after breaking) if it is used to protect a main's transformer. It limits power only and is not used to limit instantaneous current.
  • Transformers and opto-couplers can isolate intrinsically safe from non-intrinsically safe circuits. They are subject to creep age and clearance requirements and special tests, such as high voltage break-over tests on transformers.
  • Semiconductor clamps can be employed in some types of intrinsic safety, but require careful analysis.

Who Verifies Intrinsic Safety

Several different and independent third party agencies develop standards for testing and certifications for intrinsic safety, and evaluate various electrical products for compliance with these standards. Standards agencies around the world engage in harmonization activity so that intrinsically safe equipment manufactured in one country eventually might be approved for use in another without redundant, expensive, testing and documentation. Independent testing ensures that electrical equipment is not only designed to be intrinsically safe, but meets all required standards for intrinsic safety.

Agencies may be run by governments or may be composed of members from insurance companies, manufacturers, and industries with an interest in safety standards.  Certifying agencies allow manufacturers to affix a label or mark to identify that the equipment has been designed to the relevant product safety standards.

Examples of such agencies in North America are the  Factory Mutual Research Corporation, Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and in Canada the Canadian Standards Association. In the EU the standard for intrinsic safety certification is the ATEX Directive while in other countries around the world the IECEx standards are followed. 

Electrical Equipment in Hazardous Areas

Many strategies exist for safety in electrical installations, but in areas where electronics, controls, HMIs and other low voltage circuits are required, safety standards and practices for fire and explosion protection must be followed.  As mentioned, intrinsic safety, or non-incendive equipment and wiring methods, is a set of practices for electrical equipment designed with low power levels and low stored energy. Insufficient energy is available to produce an arc that can ignite the surrounding explosive mixture.

Risks of leaks are a large concern in an industrial plant such as refineries and chemical processing plants where handling of large quantities of flammable liquids and gases occur constantly.   To assess or gauge these risks, the categorization of “gas zones or divisions” were created. They are divided into areas of risk of release for gases, vapors or dust. “Area classification” defines or determines the type and size of these hazardous areas. Guidance on assessing the extent of the hazard is given in the NFPA 497 Standard or API 500 and according to their adaptation by other areas gas zones is given in the current edition of IEC 60079.10. For hazardous dusts, the guiding standard is IEC 61421.10. Typical gas hazards are from hydrocarbon compounds, but hydrogen and ammonia are common industrial gases that are flammable.

Types of Protection

Electrical equipment is separated by levels of protection or safety that can be achieved by meeting certain specifications, standards and codes.  The categories are specified according to manufacture method and suitability for different situations. This is to ensure safety is achieved in different situations.  Category 1 is the highest safety level and Category 3 is the lowest safety level.

For an intrinsically safe level or type of protection, it is defined as:

  • Any arcs or sparks in this equipment has insufficient energy (heat) to ignite a vapor. Equipment can be installed in ANY housing provided to IP54. A 'Zener Barrier' or 'opto isol' or 'galvanic' unit may be used to assist with certification. A special standard for instrumentation is IEC/EN 60079-27, describing requirements for Fieldbus Intrinsically Safe Concept (FISCO) (zone 0, 1 or 2).
  • Standards to be followed: IEC/EN 60079-25, IEC/EN 60079-11 and IEC/EN60079-27
  • Location: ‘ia’: Zone 0, ‘ib’: Zone 1 and ‘ic’: Zone 2
  • Type of equipment: Instrumentation, measurement and control

ANSI/NFPA Areas Descriptions

Class I, Div. 1 - Where ignitable concentrations of flammable gases, vapors or liquids are present continuously or frequently within the atmosphere under normal operation conditions.

Class I, Div. 2 - Where ignitable concentrations of flammable gases, vapors, or liquids are present within the atmosphere under abnormal operating conditions.

Class II, Div. 1 - Where ignitable concentrations of combustible dusts are present within the atmosphere under normal operation conditions.

Class II, Div. 2 - Where ignitable concentrations of combustible dust are present within the atmosphere under abnormal operating conditions.

Class III, Div. 1 - Where easily ignitable fibers or materials producing combustible flyings are present within the atmosphere under normal operation conditions.

Class III, Div. 2 - Where easily ignitable fibers or materials producing combustible flyings are present within the atmosphere under abnormal operating conditions.

Common Materials within Associated Class & Group Ratings, such as "Class I, Division 1, and Group A":

Class I Areas: Group A: Acetylene / Group B: Hydrogen / Group C: Propane and Ethylene / Group D: Benzene, Butane, Methane & Propane

Class II Areas: Group E: Metal Dust / Group F: Carbon & Charcoal / Group G: Flour, Starch, Wood & Plastic

Class III Areas: NO GROUP: Cotton & Sawdust

For more information see Article 500 of NFPA 70 - The National Electric Code, as published by the National Fire Protection Association.

Temperature Requirements

A factor that is just as important as any other variable for designing, installing or using electrical equipment in hazardous areas and locations is temperature classification.  The surface area of equipment if hot enough can ignite flammable substances. Liquid, gases or vapors have auto-ignition temperatures, meaning even without an arc, spark or source of ignition, the substances can auto-ignite at certain high temperatures.  For example, the heat generated from a high pressure steam pipe will be hot enough or above auto-ignite temperature for certain fuel/air mixtures. Therefore, any exposed parts or surface area of the electrical equipment cannot exceed 80% of the auto-ignition temperature of the specific gas or vapor in the area where the equipment is intended to be used. However, in the case of intrinsically safe or non-incendive instrumentation, measurement, control and HMIs, surface heat temperatures should not be a critical issue. Nonetheless, all standards for temperature requirements need to be followed.

The temperature classification on the electrical equipment label will be one of the following:



Germany °C
Continuous - Short Time

T1 - 450

   T3A - 180

   T1 - 450

G1: 360 - 400

T2 - 300

   T3B - 165

   T2 - 300

G2: 240 - 270

T2A - 280

   T3C - 160

   T3 - 200

G3: 160 - 180

T2B - 260

   T4 - 135

   T4 - 135

G4: 110 - 125

T2C - 230

   T4A - 120

   T5 - 100

G5: 80 - 90

T2D - 215

   T5 - 100

   T6 - 85

T3 - 200

   T6 - 85


Controlling and Monitoring Processes and Automation Equipment at Industrial Plants, Oil & Gas Refineries, Oilfield Equipment & Services

Touch Screen Panel PC In Hazardous Areas Classified LocationsAccessing critical process information and controlling your remote systems is not an easy job. Being consistently aware and on top of your all processes, the functionality of your equipment and system effectiveness and readiness are not easy tasks. It presents many challenges in manpower allocation, efficiency and cost to oil & gas end-users. The difficulty to access remote locations both physically and virtually complicate the challenges immensely, especially in hazardous locations which makes the task even more daunting. AIS’s remote automation, control, monitoring and HMI solutions make this all possible. Access to remote real-time production information, remote diagnosis of all equipment and processes and browser-based remote monitoring/operation of all HMI screens are a few key benefits that AIS HMI solutions have to offer.

With increasing pressure to improve operational performance, meet environmental specifications and overcome rising energy costs, oil and gas operations must efficiently and securely monitor and control entire processes across local and remote locations. Supported by their complete offering of Ex explosion protection, ATEX and intrinsically safe HMIs and industrial monitor solutions, AIS is dedicated to serving oil and gas operations and achieving their mission critical objectives in accordance with 49 CFR Part 192 - TRANSPORTATION OF NATURAL AND OTHER GAS BY PIPELINE: MINIMUM FEDERAL SAFETY STANDARDS.

  • As of the effective date, these regulations apply to (1) existing facilities, (2) existing facilities that undergo modification, and (3) new facilities. An exception is noted for human machine interfaces (HMI) that are not modified, replaced, or installed new. Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facilities are not covered by these amendments. Thus, there are no changes to 49 CFR Part 192/193/195.
  • AIS HMI and visualization solutions are ideal for applications requiring autonomous control and monitoring systems. Some common applications, AIS has experience applying its solutions to include oil and gas wells, pipelines distributed over wide geographical areas and wide-area co-generation systems to name just a few.
  • AIS origins begin over decade ago, as they now have the expertise in the regulation and control of operations at large-scale industrial plants such as oil refineries that require superior reliability, continuous control and monitoring and system continuity over the entire lifetime of the facility.

Oil & Gas Application Benefits Utilizing AIS HMI & Visualization Solutions:

  • Overall improved operational effectiveness and decision making thanks to more visible and centralized processes
  • Improved safety and overall performance driven by the new Experian user interface, including the use of displays based on ASM philosophies for faster operator detection and quick resolution of any issues that may arise.
  • Higher return on investment (ROI) of existing hardware by keeping all field wiring and I/O intact with controller replacement.
  • Increased production and efficiency due to a better understanding of data and ability to interpret it into actionable information
  • Communication of data across the network and information reporting
  • Empowers HMI project specialists to act as technology leads or project execution leads for both small projects and large projects involving implementation of customized complex and/or standard automation engineering solutions.

Drilling Systems HMI and Visualization

ATEX Ex Zone 2 Class 1 Div 2 Panel PC for Drilling Rig HMI ApplicationsHMI and visualization solutions for drilling rig applications from AIS help oil & gas end-users deal with and solve the several common problems they confront with in their operations including: the lack of experienced labor and personnel to control and monitor the drilling equipment, the need to reduce costs and have better metrics, minimize operator errors and improve overall operator safety. Utilizing AIS’s HMI open system architecture will improve the overall maintainability of their site.

Application Possibilities with AIS HMIs and Third Party Enterprise & SCADA Software Tools

  • With AIS HMIs and the right programming tools or software packages, machine operators will easily find information only relevant to their job or task. For example, an Oil Rig and Oil Well drill operator may be only interested in viewing information regarding the drilling process, while a service technician may only need to see the error log of the control system. Information can be managed so that only the necessary information will be displayed to the appropriate personnel.
  • Use AIS HMIs to recreate a graphical representation or a more “control panel like” experience on the interface so that operators can be more comfortable and effective.  For example, with Oil Rig and Oil Well drills, information relating to the diesel motor’s RPM value, drilling speed and oil pressure can be displayed while in drilling mode as gauges in the user interface. While the machine operator focuses on monitoring the boom position and the drill penetration speed while drilling, they may need to glance at gauges for verification. In the upright position the gauge’s needles let the operator know that the machine is functioning as expected. In each gauge, there is additional range drawn in gauges that shows the normal operating area.
  • Machine operators are extremely focused while drilling, so it is advisable to place any “feedback” information close to the area of focus for the operator. For example, if the operator’s drill gets stuck, the light or user interface message informing about him about the situation should be located so that it is in close proximity to the drilling controls. Now the operator is likely to take a glimpse at the drilling controls, so he will be alerted to the situation and act promptly.
  • For Process Control & Rig Instrumentation HMI applications, operations personnel can set upper and lower performance parameters, or pre-set timed operations, for equipment that previously had to be manually operated and monitored. Benefits include keeping workers out of potentially hazardous environments, reduced personnel requirements and improved equipment performance. A data-acquisition system and advanced driller’s monitoring system can accurately measure, monitor and display all drilling variables in real time.

Oil Refinery HMI and Visualization

  • ATEX Ex Zone 2 Class Div 2 Panel PC for Oil Refineries HMI ApplicationsAIS HMI and visualization solution enhance productivity and energy efficiency of oil refineries, terminals and downstream complexes.
  • Your HMI and visualization investment is future proof and safe when you invest in AIS hardware and technologies. AIS offers an affordable migration path for upgrades and you can depend on AIS to handle all your future hardware and OS designs. We have a strong grasp of the latest guidelines for safety and efficiency and will implement them in your new HMI design, while maintaining an interface that's comfortable for your team and delivers the features, performance and productivity required.  Our U.S. based HMI design and engineering teams will work with you to meet your goals and assure total satisfaction.  Extensive experience in all aspect of development and production combined with our size allow us to offer you very competitive pricing.
  • Our HMIs solutions allow your personnel to perform and function at their highest levels of performance. Extended operator workplace (EOW) provides an ergonomic HMI for the process, plant assets and automation, electrical and telecoms aspects, thereby also improving productivity.

Pipeline Transport HMI and Visualization & Regulations Adherence

ATEX EX Zone 2 Class Div 2 Panel PC for Pipeline Transport Applications AIS engineer and design HMI and Visualization for pipeline transport applications in accordance with the latest pipeline safety standards.  The regulations call for specific improvements in the control room and change management, including compliance with American Petroleum Institute’s API 1165 and API 1168 best practices for control room management. They specify improvements in SCADA HMI, pipeline alarm management, business process management (BPM), field operator workflow, pipeline operator training, shift handover, documentation and auditing. 

Hazardous materials Pipeline Operators must comply with Risk-Reduction Regulations. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has issued regulations 49 CFR parts 195.446 and 192.631 to protect people and the environment from the risks inherent in the transportation of hazardous materials. PHMSA requires companies to implement and document measures that reduce risk associated with controller fatigue; precisely define roles and responsibilities of control room staff; and provide information, training and processes necessary to help fulfill these responsibilities.

The regulations apply to both owners and operators of liquid pipelines and gas pipelines. All control rooms are covered that contain equipment that permits the manual intervention of the operation of the pipeline. This includes local control rooms or panels to the extent that the safety effects of operational error are similar to regular control rooms. Control rooms and control areas that are “view only” are exempt. Also, gas pipelines that service less than 250,000 customers and/or lack compression equipment are subject to the requirements only for fatigue management, validation, compliance and documentation.

HMI Pipeline Transport Application Possibilities & Considerations

To support the pipeline’s technical engineering and operating personnel, AIS provides a comprehensive range of technical engineering and services to support their efforts and needs. AIS HMIs provide pipeline visualization and other monitoring capabilities at pumping stations.

  • Block valve stations are sectioning points of transport pipelines at remote sites for pipeline automation applications. During normal operation, mode valves are in the “open” position. When a block valve needs to be closed, pipeline operation must be stopped. Valve line closures are required to perform a pressure test of the pipeline to find small leaks, to isolate a leakage between two block line valves and for safety reasons during routine pipeline maintenance. Along the entire length of the pipeline, block valves will be remotely monitored and controlled using AIS HMI, advanced real-time HMI processors designed to support complex remote applications.
  • Information systems have also been introduced into different areas of pipeline industry activity. They add to the basic information of transportation (including SCADA and HMI) systems that collect and analyze information for integrity area, risk analysis tools and GIS.
  • The rule amendment summary states: “… Under the final rule, affected pipeline operators must define the roles and responsibilities of controllers and provide controllers with the necessary information, training, and processes to fulfill these responsibilities. Operators must also implement methods to prevent controller fatigue. The final rule further requires operators to manage HMI alarms, assure control room considerations are taken into account when changing pipeline equipment or configurations, and review reportable incidents or accidents to determine whether control room actions contributed to the event. It further requires the statutorily mandated human factors management. These regulations will enhance pipeline safety by coupling strengthened control room management with improved controller training and fatigue management HMI Displays. “Pipeline controllers must have adequate and up-to-date information about the conditions and operating status of the equipment they monitor and control…. “Operators need to assure that SCADA systems perform this important function correctly, and that the information is displayed in a manner that facilitates controller understanding and recognition of abnormal operating conditions
  • To prepare for the referenced requirements, operators should review each aspect of the following areas of their enterprise-wide SCADA: alarm management, control room management, documentation and procedures, HMI displays, shift handover, fatigue management, change management and training.
  • The design is expected to follow API Recommended Practice 11656 that covers the appropriate hardware to consider so that the equipment is capable of delivering the needed speed of response and providing for appropriate ways for the controller to input commands. It also lays out the proper use of color, the design of clear overviews of the process, and display navigation to enable effective controller use. Additionally, other important guides for HMI designs have been adopted by industrial users.
  • The SCADA operator station performs any required data conversions, intermediate calculations, checks for unusual conditions which should be brought to the attention of a pipeline controller, and stores data for viewing, long-term archiving, and for use by advanced applications and open Field Bus protocols. Pipeline controllers interface with the SCADA operator/monitoring station through the graphical user interface (HMI) which allows them to view current or historical data, alarm messages, and issue controls to field equipment.
  • Pipeline SCADA systems cover a broad range from small to huge, relatively simple to very complex, and important to extremely critical for both financial and safety reasons. A small SCADA system may be comprised of a local control/monitoring station, which also supports the HMI Station, to handle a few hundred points in a non-critical environment. A large SCADA system may be comprised of triple-redundant sets of servers and Hybrid-Controllers, in a distributed configuration, spread out over multiple geographic locations along with numerous multi-headed HMI workstations, support staff, and management. Factors such as point count, data acquisition rates, and availability (up-time) requirements determine the size, complexity, and redundancy of the pipeline control system.
  • In an Abnormal Situation Management (ASM) consortium traditional interface study, improving the human machine interaction (HMI) in designing the operator’s user interface resulted in 41% less time for the operators to deal with events like leaks, power failures, equipment malfunction and equipment failures in an unstable plant (Errington, 2005).

Hazardous Area Certification ATEX Zone 2 Div 2 HMI Panel PCAIS offers 15-22" HMI panel PCs or touch screen operator interfaces with international approvals for operation and monitoring in hazardous areas with modular designs. AIS premium and standard modular panel PCs are constructed with completely sealed stainless steel type 4/4X, IP 65/66, NEMA 4/4X enclosure with environmental ratings (UL 50 or IEC 529) on the entire HMI system including fully sealed I/O ports. The touch panel PC supports wide operating temperatures from -20 to +60°C, comes with pre-installed Windows 10 IoT Enterprise (LTSB), Windows 7, or Linux operating system, and is powered by Intel® Core™ i5-6300U (Premium IEx Series), Intel® Celeron® N2930 (Standard IEx Series), or Intel Atom® N2600 (Compact IEx Series) processor.

AIS offers OSHA’s NEC Class I Division 2, Groups A, B, C, D, T4, CENELEC’s ATEX 94/9/EC Zone 2, IEC’s IECEx Zone 2, Ex nA and Ex ic certification on its hazardous locations panel PCs and open HMI platforms which are primarily designed for the volatile and harsh environments of oil, gas, chemicals, and oilfield equipment and services.

Premium HMI Panel IEx

The Premium HMI panel PC (15-22") with Intel® Core™ i5-6300U processor (3M Cache, up to 3.00 GHz) is designed and certified to meet NEC/CEC Class/Division, ATEX Directive 94/9/EC, and IECEx Zone standards for increased safety in Division 2 and Zone 2 operator control and monitoring applications. AIS offers UL Class 1 Division 2, Groups A, B, C, D, T4, ATEX 94/9/EC Zone 2 Category 3, and IECEx Zone 2, Ex “nA” and Ex “ic”, T4 certification on its hazardous areas panel PC and open HMI platforms which are primarily designed for the volatile and harsh environments of oil, gas, chemicals, and petrochemical manufacturing industries used in drilling systems, control & monitoring, oilfield equipment & service applications. Learn more »

Standard HMI Panel IEx

The Standard HMI panel PC (15-22") with Intel® Celeron® processor N2930 (2M Cache, up to 2.16 GHz) is designed and certified to meet NEC/CEC Class/Division, ATEX Directive 94/9/EC, and IECEx Zone standards for increased safety in Division 2 and Zone 2 operator control and monitoring applications. AIS offers UL Class 1 Division 2, Groups A, B, C, D, T4, ATEX 94/9/EC Zone 2 Category 3, and IECEx Zone 2, Ex “nA” and Ex “ic”, T4 certification on its hazardous areas panel PC and open HMI platforms which are primarily designed for the volatile and harsh environments of oil, gas, chemicals, and petrochemical manufacturing industries used in drilling systems, control & monitoring, oilfield equipment & service applications. Learn more »

Compact HMI Panel IEx

The Compact HMI panel PC with Intel Atom® Processor N2600 (1M Cache, 1.6 GHz) is designed and certified to meet NEC/CEC Class/Division, ATEX Directive 94/9/EC, and IECEx Zone standards for increased safety in Division 2 and Zone 2 operator control and monitoring applications. AIS offers UL Class 1 Division 2, Groups A, B, C, D, T4, ATEX 94/9/EC Zone 2 Category 3, and IECEx Zone 2, Ex “nA” and Ex “ic”, T4 certification on its hazardous areas panel PC and open HMI platforms which are primarily designed for the volatile and harsh environments of oil, gas, chemicals, and petrochemical manufacturing industries used in drilling systems, control & monitoring, oilfield equipment & service applications. Learn more »