Detecting Hazardous Gas Leaks Is a Complicated Problem — Learn How to Solve It

By Edward Naranjo, director of product management,  Rosemount flame & gas detection, Emerson Automation Solutions

Every industrial plant has extreme safety requirements, particularly if combustible gases are present. But selecting gas detection technology isn’t a straightforward issue. There are many different types of gas detectors, each with their own advantages and disadvantages that make them ideal for certain types of gas, but inappropriate for others that exist in the same plant. Anyone concerned with gas safety needs to know the basics of how to select and combine gas detectors for their specific installation. I recently had an opportunity to write an article for Chemical Processing that does just that – walks you through the selection process for gas detection systems. Here is a segment that introduces the challenge:

As shown in the selection decision tree (shown to the right), catalytic and infrared (IR) technologies can detect combustible gases. Of the two techniques, only the optical method lends itself well for point and area monitoring. Choose IR devices for detecting a single type of hydrocarbon or simple mixtures. Because they are unaffected by oxygen levels, such detectors are ideal for anaerobic processes, operations with high concentrations of corrosive agents, and areas with constant background of combustible gases. On the other hand, catalytic gas detectors are a better choice for monitoring hydrogen or hydrocarbon mixtures. Because catalytic detectors require oxygen gas concentrations in excess of 10% by volume to operate, they only suit situations where oxygen always is present. Moreover, catalytic gas detectors perform best in applications where the target gas normally is absent.

For monitoring toxic gas leaks in congested spaces, electrochemical and solid-state gas detectors are the instruments of choice. Use electrochemical detectors in applications where the target gas is not normally present and in environments with relative humidity (RH) above 15%. By contrast, solid-state detectors should be used for extreme high temperatures or low humidity applications or where ambient conditions are stable. Oxygen deficiency is best monitored using electrochemical gas detectors sited near the breathing zone. As for open or uncongested spaces, open-path near infrared or ultraviolet detectors offer the widest coverage per device.

Hazardous material releases can take many forms. For pressurized gas releases, choose ultrasonic gas leak detectors to provide the fastest response to a leak. They excel at detection in open, well-ventilated areas where other detection methods may not be wholly effective. For pressurized liquid releases, select air particle monitors.

Integration of appropriate technologies is essential to meeting each plant’s unique requirements. Which gas detection types should you use in your plant?

For a more in-depth analysis of the pros and cons of gas detection technologies, click HERE.

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