By Chris Duncan, Business Manager, Emerson Automation Solutions

Detecting flammable gas that has the potential to threaten people and property in areas where gas clouds easily disperse is a problem in many applications. This recent case history is a classic example.

A UKCS (United Kingdom Continental Shelf) operator was issued an improvement notice from the Health and Safety Executive after a large volume gas leak went undetected on one of their North Sea platforms. The release had not been picked up by the platform’s existing flammable gas detection system because the gas had been dispersing as soon as it escaped.

The company contacted Emerson for help. The solution was to provide the Incus, an ultrasonic gas leak detector that, while working in conjunction with the existing gas detection system, added another line of defense and provided an early warning when gas releases occurred. Most importantly, it increased the safety of platform personnel.

Ultrasonic gas leak detection uses acoustic sensors to identify fluctuations in noise that are imperceptible to human hearing within a process environment. The sensor and electronics are able to detect these ultrasound frequencies (25 to 100KHz), while excluding audible frequencies (0 to 25KHz).

Unlike traditional gas detectors that measure the accumulated gas, ultrasonic gas detectors “hear” the leak, triggering an early warning system. The sensors respond to sound generated by escaping gas at ultrasonic frequencies. Leak rate is mainly dependent on the size of the leak and the gas pressure. In most facilities, the majority of process noise is in the audible range, while limited ultrasonic noise is generated in normal operation. Highly pressurized gas releases produce ultrasound (25-100 kHz) which the sensors are able to pick up despite the presence of audible noise. Ultrasonic (acoustic) gas leak detection technology has several advantages over conventional gas sensor technologies: it does not have to wait until a gas concentration has accumulated to potentially dangerous concentrations; it does not require a gas cloud to eventually make physical contact with a sensor; and the response is instantaneous for all gas types.

The Incus is ideally suited for monitoring outdoor applications such as on an oil platform. The Incus has been engineered to withstand even the most extreme conditions. Performance is not affected by inclement weather, wind direction, leak direction or any potential gas dilution, with an instantaneous response to all gas types. It is an excellent addition to many safety systems adding another layer of detection to existing technologies.

The Health and Safety Executive subsequently inspected the platform and approved the solution provided, resulting in a very happy customer!

Do you have an application that might require the addition of ultrasonic detection? It might be worth a discussion. Contact us HERE today.

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