Have you ever thought about the dangers behind your favourite beverage?

Beer Production

It’s only natural for us to associate the need for gas detection in the oil and gas, and steel industries, but have you thought about the need to detect hazardous gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen in the brewing and beverage industry?

Maybe it’s because nitrogen (N2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) are naturally present in the atmosphere. It could be that CO2 is still under-valued as a hazardous gas. Although in the atmosphere CO2 remains at very low concentrations – around 400 parts per million (ppm), greater care is needed in brewery and cellar environments where in confined spaces, the risk of gas canisters or associated equipment leaking could lead to elevated levels. As little as 0.5% volume (5000ppm) of CO2 is a toxic health hazard. Nitrogen on the other hand, can displace oxygen.

CO2 is colourless, odourless and has a density which is heavier than air, meaning pockets of CO2 gather low on the ground gradually increasing in size. CO2 is generated in huge amounts during fermentation and can pose a risk in confined spaces such as vats, cellars or cylinder storage areas, this can be fatal to workers in the surrounding environment, therefore Health & Safety managers must ensure the correct equipment and detectors are in place.

Brewers often use nitrogen in multiple phases of the brewing and dispensing process to put bubbles into beer, particularly stouts, pale ales and porters, it also ensures the beer doesn’t oxidise or pollute the next batch with harsh flavours. Nitrogen helps push the liquid from one tank to another, as well as offer the potential to be injected into kegs or barrels, pressurising them ready for storage and shipment. This gas is not toxic, but does displace oxygen in the atmosphere, which can be a danger if there is a gas leak which is why accurate gas detection is critical.

Gas detection can be provided in the form of both fixed and portable. Installation of a fixed gas detector can benefit a larger space such as plant rooms to provide continuous area and staff protection 24 hours a day. However, for worker safety in and around cylinder storage area and in spaces designated as a confined space, a portable detector can be more suited. This is especially true for pubs and beverage dispensing outlets for the safety of workers and those who are unfamiliar in the environment such as delivery drivers, sales teams or equipment technicians. The portable unit can easily be clipped to belts or clothing and will detect pockets of CO2 using alarms and visual signals, indicating that the user should immediately vacate the area.

At Crowcon, we’re dedicated in growing a safer, cleaner, healthier future for everyone, every day by providing best in class gas safety solutions. It’s vital that once gas detectors are deployed, employees should not get complacent, and should be making the necessary checks an essential part of each working day as early detection can be the difference between life and death.

Quick facts and tips about gas detection in breweries:

  • Nitrogen and CO2 are both colourless and odourless. CO2 being 5 times heavier than air, making it a silent and deadly gas.
  • Anyone entering a tank or other confined space must be equipped with a suitable gas detector.
  • Early detection can be the difference between life and death.

What you need to be aware of when…

…zeroing your CO2 detector

Without wishing to sound accusing, where were you the last time you zeroed your CO2 detector?  In your vehicle?  In the office before you travelled to the location you were working in?

It might not have caused you problems so far, but the air around you can make a big difference to the performance of your CO2 detector.

What is zeroing?

Zeroing your detector means calibrating it so its ‘clean air’ gas level indication is correct.

When is zero not really zero?

Many CO2 detectors are programmed to zero at 0.04% CO2 rather than 0%, because 0.04% is the normal volume of CO2 in fresh air.  In this case, when you zero your detector, it automatically sets the baseline level to 0.04%.

What happens if you zero your CO2 monitor where you shouldn’t?

If you zero your detector where you shouldn’t, the actual CO2 concentration could be much higher than the standard 0.04% – up to ten times higher, in some cases.

The end result?  An inaccurate reading, and no true way of knowing how much CO2 you’re actually exposed to.

What are the dangers of CO2?

CO2 is already in the earth’s atmosphere, but it doesn’t take much for it to reach dangerous levels.

  • 1% toxicity can cause drowsiness with prolonged exposure
  • 2% toxicity is mildly narcotic and causes increased blood pleasure, pulse rate, and reduced hearing
  • 5% toxicity causes dizziness, confusion, difficulty in breathing, and panic attacks
  • 8% toxicity causes headaches, sweating and tremors. You’ll lose consciousness after five to ten minutes of exposure.

What can I do to make sure I’m safe?

Only zero your instruments if you really have to, and make sure you zero your detector in fresh air – away from buildings and CO2 emissions, and at arm’s length to make sure your own breath doesn’t affect the reading.

What if I think my zero reading is incorrect?

It’s best to test the instrument with 100% nitrogen to check the real zero point, and then with a known level of CO2 test gas. If the zero gas reading is incorrect, or any other gas reading for that matter, the detector will need a full service calibration – contact your local service provider for help.

If you have a Crowcon detector, you can use our Portables Pro software to correct its zero reading.  For further information, call Crowcon customer support on +44 (0)1235 557711.

The don’ts and don’ts of zeroing your CO2 detector

Unlike other toxic gases, carbon dioxide (CO2) is all around us, albeit at levels too low to cause health issues under normal circumstances. It raises the question, how do you zero a CO2 gas detector in an atmosphere where CO2 is present?

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Carbon Dioxide – Friend and Foe?

Carbon dioxide (CO2) gas is commonly used in the manufacture of popular beverages. The leak at the Greene King brewery in Bury St Edmunds (UK) last week, is a reminder of the importance of effective gas detection. It resulted in twenty workers having to be rescued by emergency services and local residents being evacuated. So what is carbon dioxide, why is it dangerous and why do we have to monitor it carefully?

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What are VOCs?

The nature of gas hazards posed by some working environments can be complex and complete protection is not available from a single solution. This week, our guest blogger, Richard, takes a look at VOCs: how they pose a hazard and what we can do to protect against them.

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Monitoring and Analysis of Landfill Gases

As recycling becomes more common, use of landfill is reducing, but it is still an important means of waste disposal. For example, 2012-13 figures from Defra (department of the environment, food and rural affairs) for England show that 8.51 million tonnes, or 33.9%, of waste collected by local authorities went to landfill.

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How dangerous is CO2 in the home? Chris looks into the importance of looking after your appliances

Last week we looked at Carbon Dioxide from an industry point of view, so this week I thought I’d highlight the dangers of this gas from a domestic side.

What is Carbon dioxide?

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a gas that the human body produces naturally. Everyone is exposed, to some degree, to this gas every day. It occurs naturally in the Earth’s atmosphere as part of animal metabolism, plant photosynthesis, decomposition, and combustion. The gas is colourless, odourless, tasteless, non-combustible, is soluble in water and makes up slightly less than 0.5% of our atmosphere. CO2 is classed as a ‘greenhouse gas’ and increasing CO2 is debated to be one of the main causes of global warming.

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Don’t be Complacent about Carbon Dioxide – how to stay safe

Carbon dioxide is a component of normal air, at around 0.037%. However, it can be produced by the burning of fossil fuels and other chemical reactions, and is a common component in the manufacture of many consumer products, notably beer and other fizzy drinks. Working in these environments risks exposure to levels elevated over the norm. At high levels, CO2 is a suffocation risk, and it can pose a significant toxic threat as well.

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