LightningMaster Corp

Structural Lightning Protection and Why is it So Important?

A bolt of lightning contains amazing amounts of energy; anywhere from a few thousand amps to as much as 100,000 amps. It doesn’t take an electrical engineer to understand that a lightning bolt is potentially very dangerous. Apart from the primary damage, there can also be secondary damage to objects located away from the strike. In fact, each year, millions of dollars’ worth of damage are caused by lightning strikes, including loss of life.

The responsibility of finding adequate structural lightning protection lies with the company. This is especially true now since summertime is one of the most active seasons for thunderstorms. As far as lightning protection for fuel storage tanks or lightning protection for oil and gas is concerned, you cannot be too cautious. These types of facilities are located outdoors, use metal for its construction, and contain volatile substances, automatically making them more susceptible to lightning strikes and fire hazards. Hence structural lightning protection for the petroleum industry needs to be taken very seriously.

According to Lightning Master CEO, Bruce Kaiser,
“The third step in securing effective lighting protection is generally referred to as structural lighting protection. This term describes what is most readily recognized as the traditional lightning rod (air terminal) system, with its associated bonding and grounding systems.

It is important to note the purpose of a lightning rod system is to keep the protected structure from burning down. That is why lightning rod systems are covered under National Fire Protection Association standards. That was fine back in the days of barns filled with hay and horses. Lightning would strike the lightning rod on the barn and be conveyed to ground. The barn would not burn down, and everyone would be happy, particularly the horses.

However, we have now taken the hay and horses out of the barn and installed computers. Lightning now strikes the structure, and the energy is conveyed to ground. The barn does not burn down, but now, none of the computers in the barn work. So everyone is not happy.

Since we cannot, with currently available technology, influence the formation of cloud charge or of stepped-leaders, if we want to influence the attachment of cloud-to-ground lightning, we must influence the formation of ground charge and of streamers. Hence, the introduction of streamer – influencing technology.

A good illustration of the general principle is found in the debate between the relative merits of a sharp lightning rod versus a blunt lightning rod. Please refer to the lightning propagation section (next) of these white papers for a review of lightning strike mechanism. Assume we have a sharp rod and a blunt rod side-by-side with the axis between them perpendicular to, and directly facing, an oncoming electrical storm. As the ground charge reaches the two rods, the potential rises on both. The sharp rod will tend to break down into corona under a relatively low potential, leaking off some of the ground potential to the atmosphere. The blunt rod will hold its charge, with ions accumulating on the blunt end.

As the ground potential builds, the corona builds around the sharp rod, while the blunt rod still tends to retain its charge. When the ground potential becomes very high, as when stepped leaders are on their way down from the cloud and there is going to be a strike in the immediate vicinity, the corona will build in density and elevation around the pointed rod. When the blunt rod finally breaks down, it breaks down catastrophically, and the accumulated charge jumps off of the blunt rod in a streamer extending well upward toward the stepped leaders.

Since the object on the ground that throws off the best streamer is the one most likely to be struck, the blunt rod is more likely to trigger a strike than is the sharp rod. Streamer-influencing technology uses this principle to influence strike termination likelihood. If you want to direct lightning to a preferred attachment point, do so with an early streamer emitting (ESE) air terminal. If you want to discourage lightning from attaching to a protected structure, use streamer-delaying air terminals. If you merely want to intercept a close proximity lightning strike, use a conventional lightning rod system. Lightning Master Corporation offers all three technologies, based upon the requirements of our Customers.”

Contact Lightning Master For More Information About Structural Lightning Protection

If you have concerns or questions regarding structural lightning protection or any lightning protection for any facility or application, contact Lightning Master today at (727) 447-6800 to schedule a site survey. Our staff members will guide you to take the next step towards proper structural lighting protection.