Hot or Cold; Humid or Dry; Dust or Salt; Prefabricated Data Centers Can Handle Harsh Environments

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In Part I of this blog series, I laid out the issues around the urgent need in the oil and gas industry to modernize IT infrastructures to maximize performance and optimize operational levels. I also outlined how prefabricated data centers offer a unique solution to meet the industry’s unique requirements.

Challenges include poor quality of existing infrastructure, small populations of professional expertise and some of the most inhospitable environments on earth. It’s these environments I’ll be highlighting in this post.

Oil and gas operations are often managed out of locations with extreme temperatures, on offshore platforms or at sites exposed to sand, dust or high concentrations of air pollutants. Prefabricated data centers make special allowances for these difficult conditions.

Environments with Sand & Dust

Power and IT prefabricated modules can be fitted with data center vestibules to protect critical data by reducing cross-contamination between external air and the data center.

An air lock entry is fitted with inner and outer doors that open in an alternating pattern so that only one set is open at any given time to prevent air infiltration into the IT space.

To insulate against smoke gases and prevent heat spread, the rest of the external structure not protected by a vestibule is typically reinforced with 60 to 120 millimeter (mm) insulated panels.

Air renovation and purification systems, customized with sand traps, can guarantee normal working conditions and sand trap customization should also be performed on condenser’s coils to avoid sand backlog.

Marine & Offshore

Marine environments present high concentrations of salt and chlorine, threatening erosion to the external structure and degradation of materials.

High-performance coatings for highly corrosive environments up to ISO 12944 C4 and C5 classification can be requested. You should also consider periodical on-site maintenance services to detect and remediate issues related to corrosion.

External condensers may also need to be treated with epoxy resins to prevent oxidation and/or corrosion of the internal coil. In the case of chilled water-based systems, metal components should be avoided and replaced with plastic materials wherever possible (i.e. piping). More efficient filters are also recommended.

Hot & Humid Climates

The sealing mechanisms must be reinforced with chemical sealants to protect the data center environment from water intrusion. You should also consider International Protection Marking (IP) X6 waterproof doors.

Such doors are tested to withstand leakage by being exposed to water delivered through a 12.5 mm nozzle at a rate of 100 liters per minute at a pressure of 100 kilonewtons per square meter (kN/m2) for three minutes from a distance of 3 meters.

Hot & Dry Climates

In case of extreme hot and dry climates (45 C/113 F and up), some cooling considerations may apply. In general, the hotter the temperature, the weaker cooling systems perform.

Condensers should be oversized and upgraded. R134a refrigerant gases are used instead of R410A and R407C, which are the industry standards for more temperate data center environments.

Cold Climates

In case of cold climates (-20 C/-4 F and below) some additional cooling considerations are applicable.

Chilled water cooling: For condensation purposes, and in order to operate with low external temperatures, units must be fitted with crankcase heaters for the compressors and an anti-condensation heater for the electrical components and control boards. Units should also be fitted with antifreeze heaters on evaporators, pumps and water tanks.

Direct expansion cooling: In temperatures of -40 C/F and below, condensers need to be fitted with refrigeration circuits and components optimized for extremely cold temperatures. Condensers equipped for these climates can feature high-resilience steel liquid receivers and flooding valves to control condensing temperature. Both can be designed to fit within the overall dimensions of the equipment.

Prefabricated Benefits

Overall, a prefab solution in harsh or remote environments optimizes installation and deployment by minimizing the need for many different construction disciplines on site.

It reduces design and construction complexity and ensures reliability as a factory-built and tested data center and shortens delivery cycle time. Factory lead time is projected to be 16-20 weeks and the modules can be shipped anywhere in the world.

For more on the benefits of prefabricated data centers in any industry, read White Paper 166.

Editor’s Note: These two blogs are based on a byline that originally appeared in Upstream Pumping.

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