COP26: The implications for air quality monitoring

What is the COP?

 

November 2021 saw the 26th annual COP held in Glasgow. Though delayed by a year due to COVID, it was a landmark event nonetheless as the highest attended COP in history. So, what exactly is COP? COP stands for Conference of the Parties, a United Nations climate change conference held annually to review progress of the signatories (parties) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The conference aims to create review and progress actions and accountability on pledges to limit climate change. The themes of this year’s COP were mitigation, adaptation, financing and collaborating to raise ambitions of meeting the target of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C. A standout achievement post COP is the dedication of 153 countries raising new 2030 emissions targets known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) with 90% of global GDP now being covered by net zero commitments.

 

The link between climate change and air quality

Climate change and air quality are often perceived as separate issues; however, they are two sides of the same coin with complex interactions. Climate change both impacts and is impacted by poor air quality. For example, the emissions that result in poor air quality and negatively impact human health such as nitrous oxides, carbon dioxide and methane also contribute to anthropogenic (human caused) global warming as greenhouse gases. In turn global warming increases events such as forest fires that can have both local impacts on the air, we breathe but also globally as particulates can also influence warming as they are circulated to remote places such as the polar regions where they reduce the amount of sunlight being reflected through the atmosphere.

What happened for air quality at COP26?

Declaration on accelerating the transition to 100% zero emission cars and vans:

Road transport is responsible for over 10% of greenhouse gas emissions and is the principal contributor to poor air quality. This COP saw a greater emphasis on decarbonisation of road transport with over 35 countries, 6 major carmakers, 43 cities, states, and regions, 28 fleet owners and 15 financial institutions and investors signing the declaration making greater promise to switch to electric vehicles. Currently only 0.5% of all licensed vehicles in the UK in 2018 were ultra-low emissions vehicles and therefore as this figure increases air quality monitoring provides an opportunity to demonstrate the local efficacy of switching to electric vehicles.

Deforestation:

It is well established that the forests covering roughly 30% of the earth’s surface act as the world’s lungs, not only releasing oxygen from photosynthesis but acting as a carbon store with as much as 45% of land carbon being stored in forests. Deforestation is an issue as carbon that has been stably stored in the biomass of the plant will be removed, often burned for fuel, and replaced with low storing crops or pastures compounding the impact of removing the carbon store while increasing carbon releasing activities. However, in Glasgow, 141 countries sign to end deforestation by 2030, making the move to protect our carbon stores and producing the oxygen we breathe.

Fossil fuels:

The fossil fuel industry saw more delegates at COP26 than any individual country making the pledges of the Clean Energy Transition to stop financing unabated overseas fossil fuels energy sector by end of 2022 and the Beyond Oil and Gas alliance bear greater significance. However, pressure from those that still benefit from fossil fuels was felt as pledges on coal in the Glasgow Climate Pact were reworded from “phase out” to “phase down” to gain support from China and the US. Fossil fuels contribute to poor air quality at every stage from extraction, refining and combustion as well as catastrophic pollution accidents. Without the largest emitters committing to the energy transition, we will rely on monitoring to provide us the data on the status quo of air impacted by such industries and build the case for cleaner energy.

Methane pledge:

Reduction of methane in our atmosphere is widely regarded as the most efficient strategy for reducing the momentum of global warming as it has been made accountable for at least 30% of global warming to date. Most methane emissions come from oil and gas industries and therefore the move of 105 countries signs the Global Methane Pledge to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030 is significant in supporting the energy transition in turn improving air quality and reducing global warming.

Pledges to actions: the role of low-cost air quality monitoring

The pledges to reduce fossil fuels, decarbonise sectors such as transport and the pledge to reduce methane in our atmosphere all serve to ultimately reduce emissions, global warming and in turn improve air quality. However, without data, poor air quality is an intangible issue that we can only witness once it’s too late.

We can use air quality monitoring as a method to mitigate against making the mistake of separating the issue of air quality from the climate crisis. it is impossible to know the exact need for localised measures until monitoring to establish the status quo has been undertaken. The data gathered from monitoring using platforms such as the SENSIT RAMP and SPOD can be used to identify where action needs to be taken and inform decision making. However, monitoring and provision of data is not only limited to making a case for change but also demonstrating the legacy and efficacy of actions taken to reduce pollutant gases and particulates to improve air quality and ultimately align with limiting climate change to 1.5°C as set out by the Glasgow Climate Pact.

Sensit by Crowcon RAMP and SPOD

The Sensit by Crowcon RAMP provides a solution for monitoring up to five gaseous pollutants and particulate matter in a robust, remote, and reliable way. For monitoring of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) the SPOD is a solution that is optimised for real time direct reading for localised emissions. These low cost yet robust units enable accessibility to data across industries to better inform and influence decision making on public and private climate change and sustainability strategies.

To find out more visit https://www.crowcon.com/air-quality/

Sprint Pro on Biofuel Applications 

Unlike fossil fuels, biofuels are man-made fuels created using plant-based renewable resources often known as biomass. As biofuels are renewable, they help to reduce the net amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere from combustion-powered vehicles and other energy users. All petrol and diesel fuels sold in the UK are obliged to contain a certain percentage of biofuel (10% bio ethanol in petrol and 7% biodiesel in diesel) in order to help meet wider emissions targets. 

What is biofuel?  

Different from other renewable energy sources, biomass can be converted directly into liquid fuels known as biofuels. The two most familiar types of biofuels are ethanol and biodiesel, both of which are first-generation biofuel technology.  

Ethanol  

Ethanol (CH3CH2OH) is a renewable fuel that can be produced from a variety of plant materials, collectively known as biomass. Ethanol is an alcohol that is used as a blending agent to replace a percentage of gasoline, making a mixture. It has the added bonusses of reducing carbon monoxide and other smog-forming emissions.  

In the modern world where cleaner fuel is the future, the most common blend is E10 (10% ethanol, 90% gasoline), legally mandated as the composition of unleaded petrol in the UK from September 2021. Some modern vehicles have been designed to run on E85. This is a gasoline-ethanol blend containing between 51% and 85% ethanol, the exact composition being dependent on geography and the season. This is an alternative fuel with much higher ethanol ratio compared to that of regular gasoline. It is sold in approximately 2% of the filling stations in the United States, and overall, roughly 97% of gasoline in the United States contains some ethanol. 

Most of the ethanol is produced from plant starches and sugars, but development is continuing in technologies that would permit the use of cellulose and hemicellulose, a non-edible fibrous material that constitutes the bulk of plant matter, and there are now several commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol biorefineries currently operational in the United States. The common method for converting biomass into ethanol is through fermentation, when microorganisms (e.g., bacteria and yeast) metabolise plant sugars and produce ethanol. 

Biodiesel  

Biodiesel is a liquid fuel constructed from renewable sources, such as new and used vegetable oils as well as, animal fats. This type of liquid fuel is a cleaner-burning replacement for petroleum-based diesel fuel. Biodiesel is biodegradable and is made through the combination of alcohol and vegetable oil, animal fat, or recycled cooking grease. 

Similar to petroleum-derived diesel, biodiesel is used to fuel compression-ignition (diesel) engines. Biodiesel has the characteristics to be blended with petroleum diesel in any ratio, and then burned as fuel in modern diesel engines. This includes B100 which is pure biodiesel, as well as the most common blend, B20, which contains 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum diesel. 

Are biofuels the future?  

Although biofuels are cleaner than previous fuels, it seems unlikely that biofuels will ever be a complete replacement for petrol and diesel, though they may bridge the gap from previous fuels to future fuels. This is mainly down to the Government aiming higher for the country to be completely carbon neutral by 2050, with electric cars key to removing tailpipe emissions completely, in which Biofuels could help reduce our carbon footprint for now.  

However, a more promising approach to biofuels could be that of synthetic fuels or eFuels. Petrol and diesel are known as ‘hydrocarbons’ as they contain a combination of hydrogen and carbon atoms that make up all oils. Whereas eFuels get their hydrogen from water and carbon from the air, through the combination into structures similar to that of petrol and diesel. Synthetic fuels can be created with renewable energy, and carbon captured during their creation can offset the CO2 emissions when they are burned. Current developments suggest that eFuels may have the potential to store energy that is generated via renewable sources during times of low demand. 

Sprint Pro on biofuel application 

The main requirement is that the oil filter kit is needed rather than the normal kit. The oil kit filter will last through many tests that would block most tighter weaves, but it is still highly effective at preventing moisture ingress into the flue gas analyser itself, where it would cause damage to pump and sensors. Many biofuels are catered for by the Sprint Pro efficiency and safety algorithms, and more will be added as their use becomes significant. Such algorithm updates occur automatically at the annual service as part of the calibration process, meaning the users of Sprint Pro are to some extent futureproofed against changes known and also as yet unknown. 

 

Carbon Monoxide Awareness: What are the dangers?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, poisonous gas produced by incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels, including gas, oil, wood, and coal. It is only when fuel does not burn fully that excess CO is produced, which is poisonous. When CO enters the body, it stops the blood from bringing oxygen to cells, tissues, and organs. CO is poisonous as you cannot see it, taste it, or smell it but CO can kill quickly without warning. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics show every year in the UK around 15 people die from CO poisoning caused by gas appliances and flues that have not been correctly installed, maintained or those that are poorly ventilated. Some levels that present do not kill but can cause serious harm to health if breathed in over a prolonged period, with extreme cases causing paralysis and brain damage because of prolonged exposure to CO. Therefore, understanding the danger of CO poisoning as well as educating the public to take appropriate precautions could inevitably reduce this risk.  

How is CO generated? 

CO is present in several different industries, such as steel works, manufacturing, electricity supply, coal and metal mining, food manufacturing, oil and gas, production of chemicals and petroleum refining to name a few.  

CO is produced by incomplete combustion of fossil fuels such as gas, oil, coal, and wood. This happens where there is a general lack of burner maintenance, insufficient air – or the air is of insufficient quality to allow complete combustion. For example, the efficient combustion of natural gas generates carbon dioxide and water vapour. But if there is inadequate air where that combustion takes place, or if the air used for combustion becomes vitiated, combustion fails and produces soot and CO. If there is significant water vapour in the atmosphere, this can reduce the burning efficiency still further and speed up CO production. 

Incorrect or poorly maintained appliance such as cookers, heaters or central boiler are the most common cause of carbon monoxide exposure. Other causes include blocked flues and chimneys as this can prevent carbon monoxide form escaping leading to dangerous levels accumulating. Burning fuel in an enclosed or unventilated environment such as running a car engine, petrol-powered generator or barbecue inside a garage or tent can lead to similar CO accumulation. Faulty or blocked car exhausts can lead to inefficient combustion and hence a leak or blockage within the exhaust pipe can cause an excess of CO to be produced. Some vehicles and properties may have flues or exhausts blocked after heavy snowfall which may lead to a build-up of carbon monoxide. A different cause of CO poisoning may result from some chemicals, paint fumes and some cleaning fluids and paint removers contain methylene chloride (dichloromethane), which when inhaled the body breaks this substance down into carbon monoxide leading to possible co poisoning. Though to be fair, since methylene chloride is a listed 1B carcinogen, its breakdown to CO may not be the worst of a subject’s subsequent health problems. Another common cause of low-level CO poisoning is smoking, and smoking shisha pipes can be particularly bad, especially indoors. This is because shisha pipes burn charcoal and tobacco, which can lead to a build-up of carbon monoxide in enclosed or unventilated rooms.  

High concentrations of CO 

In some cases, high concentrations of CO may be present. Environments that this may occur include a house fire, therefore the fire service are at risk of CO poisoning. In this environment there can be as much as 12.5% CO in the air which when the carbon monoxide rises to the ceiling with other combustion products and when the concentration hits 12.5% by volume this will only lead to one thing, called a flashover. This is when the whole lot ignites as a fuel. Apart from items falling on the fire service, this is one of the most extreme dangers they face when working inside a burning building. 

How does CO affect the body? 

Due to the characteristics of CO being so hard to identify, I.e., colourless, odourless, tasteless, poisonous gas, it may take time for you to realise that you have CO poisoning. The effects of CO can be dangerous, this is because CO prevents the blood system from effectively carrying oxygen around the body, specifically to vital organs such as the heart and brain. High doses of CO, therefore, can cause death from asphyxiation or lack of oxygen to the brain. According to statistics from the Department of Health, the most common indication of CO poisoning is that of a headache with 90% of patients reporting this as a symptom, with 50% reporting nausea and vomiting, as well as vertigo. With confusion/changes in consciousness, and weakness accounting for 30% and 20% of reports.  

Carbon monoxide can severely affect the central nervous system and those with cardiovascular disease. As CO prevents the brain from receiving sufficient levels of oxygen it has a knock-on effect with the heart, brain, and central nervous system. along with symptoms including headaches, nausea, fatigue, memory loss and disorientation, increasing levels of CO in the body go on to cause lack of balance, heart problems, cerebral edemas, comas, convulsions and even death. Some of those who are affected may experience rapid and irregular heartbeats, low blood pressure and arrhythmias of the heart. Cerebral edemas caused because of CO poisoning are especially threatening, this is because they can result in the brain cells being crushed, thereby affecting the whole nervous system. 

Another way CO affects the body is through the respiratory system. This is because the body will struggle to distribute air around the body because of carbon monoxide due to the deprivation of blood cells of oxygen. As a result, some patients will experience a shortness of breath, especially when undertaking strenuous activities. Every-day physical and sporting activities will take more effort and leave you feeling more exhausted than usual. These effects can worsen over time as your body’s power to obtain oxygen becomes increasingly compromised. Over time, both your heart and lungs are put under pressure as the levels of carbon monoxide increase in the body tissues. As a result, your heart will try harder to pump what it wrongly perceives to be oxygenated blood from your lungs to the rest of your body. Consequently, the airways begin to swell causing even less air to enter the lungs. With long-term exposure, the lung tissue is eventually destroyed, resulting in cardiovascular problems and lung disease. 

Chronic exposure to carbon monoxide can have extremely serious long-term effects, depending on the extent of poisoning. In extreme cases, the section of the brain known as the hippocampus may be harmed. This part of the brain is accountable for the development of new memories and is particularly vulnerable to damage. Figures have shown that up to 40% of people who have suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning experience problems such as amnesia, headaches, memory loss, personality and behavioural changes, loss of bladder and muscle control, and impaired vision and coordination. Some of these effects do not always present themselves immediately and can may take several weeks or may be highlighted after more exposure. Whilst those who suffer from long-term effects of carbon monoxide poisoning recover with time, there are cases in which some people suffer permanent effects. This may occur when there has been enough exposure to result in organ and brain damage. 

Unborn babies are at the highest risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, since foetal haemoglobin mixes more readily with CO than adult haemoglobin. As a result, the baby’s carboxy haemoglobin levels become higher than the mothers. Babies and children whose organs are still maturing are at risk of permanent organ damage. Additionally, young children and infants breathe faster than adults and have a higher metabolic rate, therefore, they inhale up to twice as much air as adults, especially when sleeping, which heightens their exposure to CO. 

How to identify 

In the event of carbon monoxide poisoning there are a number of treatments, these depend on the levels of exposure, and the age of the patient.  

For low levels of exposure seeking medical advice from your GP is best practice.  

However, if you believe that you have been exposed to elevated levels of CO then your local A&E would be the most suitable place to go. Although your symptoms will usually indicate whether you have CO poisoning, for adults a blood test will confirm the amount of carboxyhaemoglobin in your blood. For children this will lead to an underestimate of the peak exposure since children will metabolise the carboxyhaemoglobin faster. Carboxyhaemoglobin (COHb) is a stable complex of carbon monoxide that forms in red blood cells when carbon monoxide is inhaled, using up the capacity of the red blood cell to transport oxygen.  

The effects of CO poisoning can include breathlessness, chest pain, seizures and loss of consciousness which may lead to death or physical problems that can occur, depending on how much CO is in the air. For example:  

CO volume (parts per million (ppm)   Physical Effects  
200 ppm   Headache in 2–3 hours  
400 ppm   Headache and nausea in 1–2 hours, life threatening within 3 hours.  
800 ppm   Can cause seizures, severe headaches and vomiting in under an hour, unconsciousness within 2 hours.  
1,500 ppm   Can cause dizziness, nausea, and unconsciousness in under 20 minutes; death within 1 hour  
6,400 ppm   Can cause unconsciousness after two to three breaths: death within 15 minutes  

 Around 10 to 15% of people who obtain serve CO poisoning go on to develop long-term complications. These include brain damage, vision and hearing loss, Parkinsonism – an illness that isn’t Parkinson’s disease but has similar symptoms, and coronary heart disease.  

Treatments  

There are several treatments for CO poisoning, these include rest, standard oxygen therapy or hyperbaric oxygen therapy.  

Standard oxygen therapy is provided in hospital in the event you have been exposed to a prominent level of carbon monoxide, or you have symptoms that suggest exposure. This process includes being given 100% oxygen through a tight-fitting mask. Normal air contains around 21% oxygen. Continuous breathing of concentrated oxygen enables your body to quickly replace carboxyhaemoglobin. For best results, this type of therapy is continued until your carboxyhaemoglobin levels decrease to less than 10%. 

The alternative treatment is that of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), this treatment consists of flooding the body with pure oxygen, helping it overcome the oxygen shortage caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. However, there is currently not enough evidence about the long-term effectiveness of HBOT for treating severe cases of carbon monoxide poisoning. Although standard oxygen therapy is usually the recommended treatment option, HBOT may be recommended in certain situations – such as, if there’s been extensive exposure to carbon monoxide and nerve damage is suspected. The treatment provided is decided upon purely on a case-by-case basis.

Make your business safer without compromising budgets

Unless your business has very few employees, all of whom work on site, you have probably experienced challenges when it comes to tracking, logging, aggregating and using the data from portable gas detectors. Until recently, this was a widespread problem.

The advent of connected safety, however, has transformed the situation – and for organisations that detect gas hazards, connected gas safety applications (like our own Crowcon Connect) can give you automated compliance records and risk management information, a 24/7 overview of both historic and current training needs and device use, as well as lots of gas safety insights that can be used (for example, with predictive analytics) to make your internal processes and business operations more efficient and effective.

Connected safety solutions can also help you to reduce costs and get better value for the money you do spend.

We’ve already published a couple of posts about aspects of connected safety: you can read them here and here. In this post we’ll look at the ways a connected safety solution and gas safety insights can make your business safer (in terms of both secure business data and better gas safety protocols) without the need for large investments.

What is a connected gas safety solution?

We have defined this term in an earlier post but in a nutshell, a connected safety application links all of your portable devices to a cloud-based software application, which downloads all of the data from each device and presents it to you in a flexible and user-friendly way.

A key advantage is that the connected safety app can aggregate your data both for single instances and over time, which means you get the top quality data you need to make optimal, cost effective, decisions – all in a user-friendly, intuitive format.

For example, Crowcon Connect uploads all data from portable gas detectors when they are docked at the end of a work session (this can be done via a fixed docking point and/or via Bluetooth when the device is charged). It then presents the information (whichever element(s) and from whichever perspective you choose) on a dashboard.

You can see this in action in our interactive online demo.

How does connected safety make my organisation safer?

A connected safety solution safeguards your organisation in two primary ways. Firstly, it gives you proof that your gas protection protocols are being used correctly and that you are complying with all relevant regulations. Secondly, it stores your gas detection data securely and maintains the integrity of that data.

That final point is important because the quality of the data you collect and analyse is imperative. Only top quality (current, accurate and correctly aggregated) data can be used to prove compliance, and with the analysis required to improve operational efficiency and productivity.

You are probably familiar with the need to store data securely – data protection has been a topic of debate and legislation for years now – but you may be less familiar with the extent to which data can be corrupted when it is read, stored, transmitted or processed, unless the correct safeguards are in place.

That’s why we have integrated multiple layers of security, corruption prevention, data backup and testing protocols into our Crowcon Connect product; for more detail, please read our IT security FAQs, which are here.

What is more, by sending your data to the cloud (and it can be hosted on your own private cloud, or link to your existing reporting tools using a bespoke API solution, if you prefer,), you may be able to make substantial savings on storage costs while finding it much easier (and less expensive in terms of time and human resource) to get the most value from your data (which may yield further cost savings). Being on the cloud also ensures that updates to the portal happen immediately and automatically when richer insights and more features are released s you always get the best experience possible.

Crowcon Connect improves organisational and practical safety

By using a cloud data system such as Crowcon Connect, you can use your gas safety insights and employee information to monitor compliance (both regulatory and with internal protocols) and to spot gaps in knowledge and training. You can then fix these – for example, by refreshing safety training, developing bespoke programs or discussing issues with staff – which may prevent catastrophe and save lives.

With the bird’s eye view that Crowcon Connect provides, you can clearly see if your detectors are ready to go and being used properly. You can also spot patterns of alarm events or gas exposure, and act to remedy these before they cause major issues.

Cloud data storage and processing lets you review data logs in a timely manner, assess measurements and response times and implement data-backed training and protocols. This can transform your operations and greatly improve safety.

To find out more about Crowcon Connect and cloud storage, please have a look at our white paper on the subject, which you can access by clicking here.

Blue Hydrogen – An overview

What is Hydrogen?

Hydrogen is one of the most abundant sources of gas contributing approximately 75% of the gas in our solar system. Hydrogen is found in various things including light, water, air, plants, and animals; however, it is often combined with other elements. The most familiar combination is with oxygen to make water. Hydrogen gas is a colourless, odourless, and tasteless gas which is lighter than air. As it is far lighter than air this means it rises in our atmosphere, meaning it is not naturally found at ground level, but instead must be created. This is done by separating it from other elements and collecting the gas. 

What is Blue Hydrogen?

Blue hydrogen has been described as ‘low-carbon hydrogen’ due to the Steam Reforming Process (SMR) not requiring the release of greenhouse gases. Blue hydrogen is produced from non-renewable energy sources when natural gas is divided into hydrogen and Carbon Dioxide through either Steam Methane Reforming (SMR) or Auto Thermal Reforming (ATR), the CO2 is then captured and stored. This process captures greenhouse gasses, thereby mitigating any impacts on the environment. SMR is the most common method for producing bulk hydrogen and contributes most of the world’s production. This method uses a reformer, which reacts steam at an elevated temperature and pressure with methane as well as a nickel catalyst resulting in production of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The carbon monoxide is then combined with more steam resulting in more hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The process of ‘capturing’ is completed through Carbon Capture Usage and Storage (CCUS). Alternatively, autothermal reforming uses oxygen and carbon dioxide or steam to react with methane to form hydrogen. The downside of these two methods is that they produce carbon dioxide as a by-product, so carbon capture and storage (CCS) is essential to trap and store this carbon. 

The Scale of Hydrogen Production

The natural gas reforming technology that is available today lends itself to the industrial manufacture of hydrogen on a large scale. A world-class methane reformer can produce 200 million standard cubic feet (MSCF) of hydrogen per day. That is the equivalent amount of hydrogen to support an industrial area or refuel 10,000 lorries. Approximately 150 of these would be needed to completely replace the UK natural gas supply, and we use 2.1% of the world’s natural gas. 

Industrial scale production of Blue Hydrogen is already possible today, however, improvements in production and efficiency would lead to a further reduction in costs. In most countries who produce hydrogen, Blue Hydrogen is currently being produced at a lower cost than green, which is still in the earlier stages of its development. With the additionally arrangements of CO2 policy and hydrogen incentives, the demand for hydrogen will continue to rise and with this it will gain in traction, although this would currently require both production technologies for hydrogen to be fully used. 

Advantages of Blue Hydrogen?

By producing Blue Hydrogen without the need to generate electricity needed for the production of green hydrogen, Blue Hydrogen could help to conserve scarce land as well as accelerate the shift towards low-carbon energy without hinderance related to land requirements. 

Currently Blue hydrogen is less expensive compared to Green Hydrogen. With mainstream estimates of Blue Hydrogen production costing around $1.50 per kg or less when using lower-cost natural gas. Comparatively, Green Hydrogen is costs more than two times that amount today, with reductions requiring significant improvements in electrolysis and very low-cost electricity. 

Disadvantages of Blue Hydrogen?

Natural gas prices are on the increase. US researchers when looking into environmental impact over its entire lifecycle of Blue Hydrogen have found that methane emissions produced when the fossil natural gas is extracted and burned are much less than Blue Hydrogen due to manufacturing efficiencies. With more methane needing to be extracted in order to make Blue Hydrogen. As well as it requiring to pass through reformers, pipelines, and ships, of which poses more opportunities for leaks. This research indicates, making Blue Hydrogen is currently 20% worse for the climate than just using fossil gas. 

The process of making Blue Hydrogen also requires a lot of energy. For every unit of heat in the natural gas at the start of the process, only 70-75% of that potential heat remains in the hydrogen product. In other words, if the hydrogen is used to heat a building, 25% more natural gas is required to produce Blue Hydrogen than if it was used directly for heat. 

Is hydrogen the future?

The potential of this initiative could increase the use of hydrogen, which may help decarbonise the area’s industrial sector. Hydrogen would be delivered to customers to help reduce emissions from domestic heating, industrial processes and transportation, and CO2 would be captured and shipped to a secure offshore storage location. This could also attract significant investment in the community, support existing employment, and stimulate the creation of local jobs. In the end, if the Blue Hydrogen industry is to contribute a meaningful role in decarbonisation, it will need to build and operate infrastructure that delivers on its full emission reduction potential. 

Our Partnership with Frontline Safety

The Safety Distribution Industry has transformed a great deal in the last few years, as companies rely more on the use of the Internet to gather information about products, applications and pricing.

Background 

Founded in 2003 and headquartered in Glasgow, Frontline Safety is a global supplier of gas detection, environmental monitoring and occupational safety equipment. Frontline has over 30 years of experience in the service of gas detection systems, providing tailored support  working with individuals and organisations of varying degrees and sizes across various sectors, including oil and gas, energy, general process, chemical, pharmaceutical, and environmental.

Views on Gas Detection

Due to industrial environments having the possibility to house a range of gases for commercial production purposes, a variety of gas detectors may be required, including both portable, multi-gas detectors and fixed detectors, both being an essential part of health and safety requirements. Therefore, providing the most appropriate equipment and service that will meet both the needs of the customer and HSE requirements. 

Working with Crowcon

“As Gas detectors are at the forefront of Frontline Safety’s product offering, our partnership allows Frontline to provide the highest quality possible. Our Partnership with Crowcon allows us to give our customers access to a well-recognised brand. Their extensive gas detection range complements our existing product range and enables us to produce the required equipment to reduce injury to workers within the oil and gas, energy, general process, chemical, pharmaceutical, and environmental industries as well as helping the environment.” 

As a Crowcon partner, Frontline Safety UK is fully trained and authorised in the use, calibration, servicing, and repair of Crowcon equipment.

Connected Safety: what are gas safety insights?

In a previous blog post, we talked about connected safety and the many benefits it brings to gas detection and the organisations that use it. We also looked at Crowcon’s own connected safety offering, Crowcon Connect, and saw how it can provide vital gas safety insights, which businesses and managers can use to improve productivity, gas detector fleet management and workplace safety.

In this post we will explore in more detail what we mean by ‘gas safety insights’, and how you can use them to achieve better outcomes across your organisation.

What are Gas Safety Insights and why do I need them?

When an organisation uses Crowcon Connect, every time a Crowcon portable gas detector is returned to its docking station (or to its charger, if the worker is off site), a comprehensive collection of gas data is immediately and automatically uploaded to the Crowcon Connect portal. This data can include:

  • Information about that specific device, such as type and gases being detected
  • Who was using it for the work session in question
  • Where that work session took place, and
  • Details of gas exposures, alarm events and detector use.

Once uploaded, this information can be combined with related information, such as:

  • When that specific device is due for calibration or other maintenance, and
  • Fleet-side faults detected per instrument

Together, these data points generate an individual profile for each device, which is useful in its own right when it comes to proving compliance, locating devices and personnel, making sure all calibrations/maintenance events are up to date and scheduling any that are due. However, the benefits of connected safety data go way beyond this.

Record, Analyse and Act on Gas Safety Insights

Not only does connected safety create a profile for each device, but in doing so it also generates a large volume of data that spans time, users at personal and team levels, locations, gas hazard event types and device fleets.

This data is organisational gold! Large volumes of timely, accurate, constantly updated and cross-organisational data allow managers to:

  • Spot patterns (e.g. of device loss, gas exposure, alarm incidents) from multiple perspectives such as the people, sites/locations, times of day, gas hazards and devices involved, to make informed data driven decisions quickly.
  • These patterns can be contextualised in time – it is easy to see if a particular issue is long-established or recent.
  • Events can be differentiated and compared by site/shift/date – almost any parameter you can think of is easily applied.
  • Data points can be combined and compared to optimise outcomes: for example, you can work out the least productive hours on a given site and schedule device downtime (e.g. calibration) for those times to minimise any loss of productivity.

All of this is possible because the accuracy and real-time nature of connected safety means that the data generated is ideal for use with predictive analytics.

Predictive analytics uses historical data to forecast future events and contexts, which allows an organisation to make truly informed decisions at all levels (for example, in terms of focus and staff recruitment/deployment) and create more intelligent strategies, such as maintenance schedules, productivity monitoring and internal processes.

In this way, connected gas safety applications generate wide-ranging gas insights (data) and when these are analysed and then acted upon they can transform performance, process and safety at multiple points within the business.

This is how Crowcon Connect helps businesses to do better through a systematic approach.

Great for Multi-Site Businesses and Fleets

Collecting high quality data and then analysing and proactively using it can help most organisations. However, connected gas safety is particularly useful for multi-site businesses and any business with widely-dispersed gas detection fleets.

For these organisations, connected gas safety also reduces much of the complexity and time involved in manual recording, and provides almost immediate savings in terms of hours spent documenting compliance, retrieving manual records and preparing for audit.

Furthermore, all organisations stand to gain from having an immediately available and real-time, birds-eye view of their devices and relevant information. Connected gas safety insights can be used to:

  • Schedule maintenance with the least possible downtime (minimising the cost of ownership)
  • Ensure that devices are always in the location required and ready for use (which makes it easier to purchase devices cost-effectively, reduces downtime due to lack of available detectors and minimises device loss)
  • Monitor gas levels from various perspectives (by site/team/shift time etc.) and act promptly to control them where required (which may prevent a gas-related disaster)
  • Monitor gas at given sites over given periods to improve environmental and sustainability outcomes and/or demonstrate improvements as needed (for example, prove that methane emissions at a given site have been reduced over time).

In this way, connected gas safety initiatives like Crowcon Connect can make a solid contribution to the profitability, safety and sustainability of businesses, their personnel and projects.

If you would like to know more about using connected gas safety insights in this way, please check out our white paper on connected safety for multi-site businesses by clicking here. You can also take a look at the Crowcon Connect pages on our website by clicking here.

What is Purge Testing and when should I be doing it?

Purge testing is vital when installing, replacing or maintaining a natural gas pipeline or storage tank, or filling new pipework with flammable gas. This process uses an inert gas to clear the enclosed environment of flammable gases prior to air being introduced thereby preventing air and flammable gas mixing. Such mixtures could of course lead to explosive combustion.

What is Purge Testing? 

Purge testing is a key part of the process of making a working environment safe prior to entering it to carry out work. Analysis of the atmosphere in the pipe or enclosure shows the starting point – usually 100% flammable gas. Purge testing is the measurement and reporting of the atmosphere as an inert gas is introduced. As the flammable gas declines to a safe level well below concentrations that would be dangerous in air, the atmosphere is continually analysed, and the flammable gas concentration reported. Once a low concentration has been achieved, air may be introduced. During this phase the flammable gas concentration is analysed to check it remains low, and oxygen concentration is measured to indicate when the atmosphere becomes breathable. Work may then commence – all the while protected by the measurement of flammable gas and oxygen concentration. If, as is likely, the purge testing is being carried out via suction of atmosphere through a sample tube, then this sample tube must at all times and all along its length be held above the flash point of the flammable gas in the tank. This is vital to both your safety and the safety of those working with you.  

Purging removes or displaces hazardous gases from the tank or pipework to prevent them from mixing with the air you need to introduce into the tank to carry out the inspection or maintenance task. The most used and preferred purge gas is Nitrogen, due to its inert properties. After conducting the inspection or maintenance task the reverse process is carried out, reintroducing the inert gas and reducing the oxygen level to near zero prior to allowing natural gas to re-enter. Often a service valve on the line with a standpipe or diffuser attached is cracked to release the venting gas or nitrogen. Purging systems are generally designed to redirect additional gases away from the work area preventing them from remixing with the gas within the tank or pipework. 

Why Conventional Gas Detection isn’t enough 

Traditional gas detection systems are not designed to work in oxygen-deprived environments. This is because they are primarily designed as safety equipment with the specific purpose to detect small traces of target gases in otherwise normal breathable environments. Gas detection equipment designed for use in purge testing activities must be able to function in low oxygen environments and with all contaminants likely to be found in tanks and pipes being purge tested. If sensors can be poisoned by the contaminants present or if there isn’t enough oxygen in the air to enable the selected sensor technology to be used, it may lead to the sensors on the device producing inaccurate results, posing a threat to those working within that environment. An additional point to note to note is that certain gas combinations, concentrations and corrosive liquids may damage the gas detection equipment, rendering it useless. For these reasons, Infrared technology or thermal conductivity is usually chosen as the measurement technology of choice for purge tests. Crowcon uses infrared technology in these applications. A fortunate by-product of that design decision is better accuracy than required over the full sensing range. 

More about Purge testing 

Purge Testing is essential for workers as some may be breathing in toxic gases without even realising it if the sensors on their detection equipment have become defective, don’t measure the required gas type or don’t measure over the required gas range, or environmental range present. Toxic or asphyxiant gas exposure can lead to respiratory issues, significant injury, even death. 

Workers cannot merely rely on a standard confined space gas detection instrument to adequately test for safe conditions during this process, as the high gas level may overwhelm or damage an LEL (Lower Explosive Limit) sensor depending upon type. Or the sensor may not function in an oxygen-depleted atmosphere leading to an unreported dangerous condition. 

What products do we offer? 

Our Gas-Pro TK is a specialised tank monitor that is perfect for customers who want to purge, free, or maintain storage and transportation tanks due to its integrated auto switching dual range IR sensor technology. Other sensors in the product, for example the H2S (Hydrogen Sulphide) sensor option cover other potential risks if gases vent during purging. 

Our Partnership with Bence Plumbing & Heating

Established in February 2021 Bence Plumbing & Heating dedicated to Bathroom, Plumbing and Heating is part of the Bence Group, Gloucestershire’s leading Independent Builders Merchant, established in Cheltenham in 1854. Bence Plumbing & Heating serves all customers plumbing and heating needs, with daily deliveries in Gloucestershire and access to a huge range of products from our main depot in Cheltenham. Bence provide a personal touch, bespoke service with a vast knowledge of the bathroom, plumbing and heating sector.

Partnership with Crowcon

We are delighted to be working with Bence Plumbing & Heating to provide Anton by Crowcon. This partnership will work hand in hand with Bence’s current customer database already present from over 160 years business trading. Bence Plumbing & Heating will also become a drop-in centre for servicing. Allowing local customers to Drop their devices into Bence Plumbing & Heating at a time convenient to them and they will work with us to facilitate the annual calibration.

Bence is a new partner for our gas analysers, our Sprint Pro stops you from having to store, charge, carry, calibrate and transport multiple devices. Our device allows you to conduct all critical test measurements with just one high performance, innovative solution.

National Apprenticeship Week 

At Crowcon we have a passion for gas detection, for over 50 years we have been manufacturing high quality gas detectors that are reliable and have technical innovation. In a week that brings businesses and apprentices together to highlight the positive impact apprenticeships have on individuals, business and the wider economy, we are delighted that we offer such apprenticeships here at Crowcon.  

With over 25 employees having completed an apprenticeship and three currently going through the process, we know apprenticeships are more than just a qualification, they offer experience to become a professional in a chosen trade, helping to make an impact in the business all whilst earning a wage.  

“Apprenticeships are still undercelebrated despite of all the benefits they bring to both the individuals and the business. They perfectly blend theory and practical skills together into a learning-working experience that is like no other. Crowcon has seen many of our colleagues successfully graduate form apprenticeships with HNC, HND and even bachelor’s degrees. I would strongly encourage today’s youth to consider apprenticeship route, especially females within STEM. I have no doubt that it will unlock many career opportunities for you” – Birute Infantado, Human Resources Manager. 

In the process of building your engineering career through an apprenticeship scheme at Crowcon, you will experience a work environment day-to-day in parallel whilst gaining the benefits from experienced colleagues and mentors who can help you build your skills and take them straight into the workplace. 

An advanced apprenticeship at Crowcon takes three years to complete. We work closely with local colleges to provide apprenticeship programmes with the opportunity to continue your academic studies at both Newbury College that covers engineering or Abingdon and Witney College that supports business improvement. The scheme combines 80% work and 20% learning time. 

We believe that home grown talent is the future. Although higher education has now become an expectation in the workplace, the cost of higher education is leading many to re-think the automatic study routes. Vocational career paths have become widely available, offering a multitude of opportunities and development routes. People development is at the heart of our business success and working collaboratively to release the wider potential within our business is how Crowcon will continue to go from strength to strength. 

Following completion of the three-year apprenticeship, previous apprentices have developed the scope to move into engineering roles after a few years in the Line Technician position. Not only have all our apprentices been placed in permeant jobs within Crowcon following the end of their apprenticeships, but some have even continued with higher level apprenticeship studies. Some of the previous apprentices have taken roles in Test and Verification, Quality Engineering, Manufacturing Engineering and Project Management within R&D. 

Hear what some of our current apprentices have to say: 

“One of the things I particularly enjoy about the apprenticeship is the fact you earn while you learn, with the opportunity to continue into higher education all supported and sponsored by the company, meaning no hefty student loan. Additionally, with a tailored training and development plan directly related to the job – you pick up a lot of useful/ specialist skills along the way which puts you in line for great career prospects and progression. I would recommend the apprenticeship route as it gives you the opportunity to learn within the industry, whilst putting these into practice in real world scenarios, which is just as valuable as going to university” – Alex Watson, Test and Verification Technician 

“The apprenticeship gave me an insight and understanding into LEAN practice and has given me the tools to streamline production and improve processes.  Working in small teams with other apprentices doing the same course was good as we all had different opinions and views which was also a good learning process for me” – Debbie Murphy, Team Leader.  

“I am currently undergoing Level 3 Engineering Technician course, where I am learning the basics of electronics as well as building and testing my own circuit boards. The apprenticeship is allowing me to develop my social skills as well as get hands on by combining my learning and work together” – Ethan Shurmer, Line Technician.  

“Throughout my time at Crowcon, I have completed 4 apprenticeships from level 3 to level 6. The apprenticeships have allowed me to work in real world environments giving the options to gain the essential experience needed for future careers choices and have provided me with the skills and knowledge to progress further within the engineering industry” – Vikesh Patel, Junior Project Manager.