With most oil and gas drilling sites lacking proper infrastructure, portable light towers are a necessity for the industry. Proper lighting increases productivity and improves overall safety of active drilling sites. New trends across the light tower market are taking those crucial features to the next level.

Here’s a look at five new light tower innovations and options that can lower operating costs, boost site productivity and improve worker safety.

Auto Start and Stop Option

Traditionally, light towers have had basic controls. However, one major evolution is an automatic start and stop control option. This feature allows the light tower to automatically turn on and off based on ambient light — dusk to dawn — or as programmed by the operator, similar to a lamp timer in your home.

Drilling jobsites typically require 10 or more light towers, often spread over miles or acres of remote terrain. Requiring an employee to locate and turn on and off each light tower is a time-consuming process. The auto start and stop option eliminates the time and cost of sending an employee to complete the task, gaining greater efficiency and productivity.

The auto start and stop option is also an important feature for remote sites with regulatory requirements for lighting, such as active pump jacks, because they are difficult to reach in order to manually control the light tower operation. In these instances, the auto start and stop option ensures the light tower turns on at dusk and turns off at dawn — meeting regulatory requirements — without operator interaction.

LED Lamps

The trend toward light-emitting diode (LED) lamps continues to gain momentum as the cost and quality become more competitive with traditional metal-halide lighting. LED fixtures have a greater upfront cost than metal-halide lights, but that initial expense is quickly offset by their fuel efficiency, lower operating costs and longer runtimes.

LED lamps are nearly twice as fuel efficient as metal-halide lights, so they operate twice as long on the same amount of fuel. For example, the Doosan Portable Power LCV6 light tower has a runtime of 119 hours with four metal-halide fixtures. Equipping that same light tower with LED fixtures pushes that runtime to 210 hours. Longer runtimes also translate to fewer work disruptions for refueling and less fuel truck traffic.

The life cycle of LED lights is longer than that of metal-halide lights, plus there is no downtime to replace a broken or burned-out bulb. Because of the absence of filaments, LED lamps are safer to operate in hazardous environments that may have a risk of ignition.

LED lighting also offers instant on and off functionality for full productivity. In other words, LED lights don’t require a warmup period to reach full illumination. Additionally, LED lamps can be turned on immediately after being turned off. Metal-halide lights require a 10- to 15-minute cool down process before the lights will turn on again.

Vertical Mast Design

One of the most noticeable trends across the light tower industry has been the shift from the traditional laydown mast to a vertical mast design. The vertical positioning offers numerous benefits, such as reducing setup time since the mast is already in the upright position. From a safety perspective, the ease of deployment also means fewer pinch points for operators.

With the vertical mast, fixtures are upright and out of harm’s way, limiting the chance for damage to fixtures caused by bumping into or colliding with other equipment moving around the drilling site.

Smaller-Body Frame

Another trend improving productivity and safety is the transition to smaller-body light towers. The compact footprint benefits active drilling sites where space is often at a premium. Light towers must be positioned to safely illuminate the area where work is being done without impeding large pieces of equipment, such as drilling apparatus and articulated dump trucks (ADTs). The compact footprint allows for greater maneuverability to achieve both outcomes.

Composite Material

Recent design trends show light tower manufacturers are increasing the use of composite materials, particularly for enclosure components. Composite materials have allowed design innovations that would not have been possible with steel, making the machine smaller, lighter and more durable than ever before. The materials have proven resistance to impacts and harsh conditions common in drilling operations. The durability provides peace of mind, while also reducing maintenance costs.