One of the world's leading manufacturers of Zone 1 computers has provided insight into the extreme conditions hardware has to withstand when extracting oil and gas.
HMi Elements has specialised in designing, testing and making rugged hazardous area-accredited computers for multinational oilfield companies since the 1980s.
It provides a stark reminder of the challenging oil and gas environments while showcasing the extraordinary technological progress made by the sector in recent years.
The core of HMi Elements' indispensability to its multinational customer base is the design and manufacture of IT hardware that allows oilfield companies to extract oil and gas as quickly, safely and as cost effectively as possible.
Conditions are extreme with widely varying temperatures and rough handling very common.
HMi Elements' VP of Sales, Rob Gaines, said: "Look at some examples of the key oil and gas territories – Texas, the Middle East, Canada, North Sea, Middle East and Russia – they could not be more extreme and yet hardware has to be able to perform in all these rugged environments.
"Be it desert sands in the Middle East or ice in Canada, access to remote sites is often via incredibly rough, largely unmade roads with computers housed in vehicles that are thrown around by the rough terrain.
"Once rigged up, they are often exposed to oil, dust or ice with exposure to wide ranging temperatures typically between -40°C and +60°C.
"This happens day in, day out. Equipment is frequently subjected to an equally harsh cleaning regime using high pressure hoses whilst expected to operate reliably powered by unreliable and dirty power supplies.
"Compare this to the fragility of mobile devices, tablets and desktops which lack the resilience of specialist devices designed and built to withstand such field rigours.
"In direct sunlight our computers can get so hot you can't touch them with a bare hand. Now they are out there working 24/7."
HMi Elements' latest model, the Zone 1 approved 1301, is feature rich with all six sides waterproofed and ingress protected to IP66/NEMA 4X.
It has a 1000 NIT glove-friendly sunlight viewable display with ATEX, IECEx and AEx certification.
"These are mission critical products that play a somewhat underrated role in the bigger picture of oil and gas being extraction across the globe," adds Rob.
"This means there is huge pressure on hardware to perform at its fastest, optimum level all the time – they just can't fail.
"Our machines have to not only survive extreme elements but actually thrive in them – it's a financial imperative.
"Downtime costs are exorbitant if you're not drilling. So reliability is key.
"Computers need to be rigged up and rigged down extremely quickly often every few weeks so connector accessibility is also vital, user-specific bespoke connector configurations are a given.
"Building-in longevity is crucial. We have 15-year-old products still operating in the field.
"They are a key investment for improvements to processes, workflow, productivity, safety providing an enviable return on investment."