Oil and gas is the world’s biggest industrial sector, in terms of both value generation and employment opportunity. It generates billions of dollars globally and employs hundreds of thousands of workers worldwide. Some oil companies’ revenue exceeds that of some nations’ GDP.
Closely linked to oil and gas, the petrochemicals industry takes raw materials from refining and gas processing and, through chemical process technologies, converts them into valuable products. In this sector, the organic chemicals produced in the largest volumes are methanol, ethylene, propylene, butadiene, benzene, toluene and xylenes (BTX). These chemicals are the building blocks of many consumer goods including plastics, clothing fabric, construction materials, synthetic detergents and agrichemical products.
The oil and gas industry generates many workplace hazards, and management of these is critical to maintain a high level of safety and protect both people and assets. All electrical equipment must be certified according to IEC60079-0, for use in explosive atmospheres that contain flammable gases or dusts. Approval may take months and many rounds of submission. What is more, in addition to hazardous area approval, individual countries will require local certification such as Inmetro, Kosha and CCC.
Typical processes and associated gas detection issues
Fixed and portable gas detectors are needed to protect plant and personnel from the risks of flammable gas releases (commonly methane) as well as from high levels of H2S, particularly from sour wells. Gas detectors for O2 depletion, SO2 and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are required items of personal protection equipment (PPE), which is usually highly visible colour and worn near breathing space. Key requirements for gas detectors are rugged and reliable design and long battery life. Models with design elements that support easy fleet management and compliance obviously have an advantage. You can read about VOC risk and Crowcon’s solution in our case study .
Fixed monitoring of flammable gases situated close to pressure relief devices, filling and emptying areas is necessary to deliver early warning of localised leaks. Multigas portable monitors must be used to maintain personal safety, especially during work in confined spaces and supporting hot work permit area testing. Infrared technology in flammable gas detection supports purging with the ability to operate in inert atmospheres and delivers reliable detection in areas where pellistor type detectors would fail, due to poisoning or volume level exposure. You can read more on how infrared detection works in our blog and read our case study of infrared monitoring in refinery settings in Southeast Asia.
Portable laser methane detection (LMm) allows users to pin-point leaks at distance and in hard-to-reach areas, reducing the need for personnel to enter potentially dangerous environments or situations while performing routine or investigative leak monitoring. Using LMm is a quick and effective way to check areas for methane with a reflector, from up to 100m away. These areas include closed buildings, confined spaces and other difficult-to-reach areas such as above-ground pipelines that are near water or behind fences. Read more about LMm in our news release.
In downstream refining, personal detectors must have a bump testing station, to ensure each detector responds to the target gas and that its alarm is still functional. The ongoing demand to reduce facility down-time whilst ensuring safety, especially during shutdown and turnaround operations, means that gas detection manufacturers must deliver solutions offering ease of use, straightforward training and reduced maintenance times, along with local service and support.
During plant shutdown, processes are stopped, items of equipment are opened and checked and the number of people and moving vehicles at the site is many times higher than normal. Many of the processes undertaken will be hazardous and require specific gas monitoring. For example, welding and tank cleaning activities require area monitors as well as personal monitors to protect those on site.