Electrical Area Classifications for Diesel Fuel

Written by robert alley
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Electrical Area Classifications for Diesel Fuel
Mixing diesel fuel and electrical sparks can produce an explosion. (diesel storage tank image by Jim Parkin from Fotolia.com)

The National Electrical Code (NEC) establishes hazardous locations as areas where fire or explosions may exist due to the presence of flammable gases or other materials. The purpose of the classifications revolves around the fact that electrical equipment can provide the spark to ignite the materials. Care must be taken when installing electrical equipment to avoid the designated hazard, with different equipment allowed in different areas. Diesel fuel represents one flammable gas in the classification system.


The NEC divides flammable materials into three types, or classes. Class I includes the presence of flammable gases or vapours, which covers diesel fuel. When diesel fuel vapour is in the air, the potential exists for ignition from any electrical source. For diesel fuel, the locations include a refinery, storage area and dispensing area, such as fuel pumps where diesel engine vehicles are refuelled. Only Class I hazardous-location equipment can be used in this category. Class I types are further broken down to four codes; A, B, C and D. Diesel fuel falls under Code D. Each codes has certain restrictions and limits on the type of equipment allowed. Class II locations are defined as places where combustible dust is present, such as grain elevators, flour and feed mills, and producers of plastics, medicines and fireworks. Class III locations have easily ignitable fibres present, such as textile mills.


The NEC further breaks down each class into divisions. For Class I the breakdown lists two divisions. Division I is considered normal use and Division II abnormal use. Diesel fuel falls into Division I, where flammable gas or vapours are likely to occur under normal operating circumstances. For most normal uses of diesel fuel, gases or vapours will be present. Division II details situations where the presence of the gas or vapours is not likely to occur under normal conditions, or its occurrence will be abnormal. An example of this is the diesel fuel storage tank. Under normal conditions, no vapours would be present. It would only be in an abnormal condition, such as a tank leak, that vapours would be present.


Class I, Division I further divides into two zones. Zone 0 would include locations where materials such as diesel fuel can exist all or most of the time while Zone 1 would include those locations where the fuel would only be present part of the time.

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