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.

Helping you stay safe during the BBQ season

Who doesn’t love a summer BBQ? Come rain or shine we light up our BBQs with usually the only worries being whether it will rain, or the sausages are fully cooked through.

While these are important, (especially making sure the sausages are cooked!) many of us are completely unaware of the potential risks.

Carbon monoxide is a gas that has received its fair share of publicity with many of us installing detectors in our homes and businesses, but completely unaware carbon monoxide is associated with our BBQs.

If the weather is poor, we may decide to barbeque in the garage doorway or under a tent or canopy. Some of us may even bring our BBQs into the tent after use.  These can all be potentially fatal as the carbon monoxide collects in these confined areas.

Equally with a propane or butane gas canister, we store in our garages, sheds and even our homes unaware that there is a risk of a potentially deadly combination of an enclosed space, a gas leak and a spark from an electrical device.  All of which could cause an explosion.

All of that said, BBQs are here to stay and if we use them safely, are a great way to spend a summer afternoon.  So, here is a selection of facts and tips from our safety team at Crowcon which we hope will help you enjoy a safe and delicious summer ahead!

 

Quick facts and tips about BBQ charcoals:

  • Carbon monoxide is a colourless and odourless gas so just because we can’t smell or see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there
  • Carbon monoxide is a by-product of burning fossil fuels, which include charcoal and BBQ gas
  • Always use your BBQ in a well-ventilated open area as it can accumulate to toxic levels in enclosed spaces
  • Never bring a charcoal into a tent, even if it seems cold. Remember a smouldering BBQ will still give off carbon monoxide
  • Be aware and act quickly if someone experiences the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning which include headaches, dizziness, breathlessness, nausea, confusion, collapse and unconsciousness. These symptoms can be potentially fatal

 

Quick facts and tips about gas cannisters:

  • Gas barbecues tend to use propane, butane or LPG (which is a mixture of the two)
  • Gas BBQs have holes in the bottom to prevent a build-up of gas. This is because gas is heavier than air so will accumulate in low areas or fill a space from the bottom up
  • To avoid the accumulation of gas, cannisters should always be stored outside, upright, in a well-ventilated area, away from heat sources, and away from enclosed low spaces
  • If you store your BBQ in the garage, make sure you disconnect the gas cannister and keep this outside
  • When you are using your BBQ, keep the cannister to one side so it isn’t underneath and close to the heat source and position the BBQ in an open space
  • Always keep the cannister away from ignition sources when changing cannisters
  • Always make sure you turn off the gas at the BBQ as well as on the regulator on the cannister, after use

 

Chernobyl – a powerful safety message to the world

The recent Sky Atlantic TV series Chernobyl sent out a powerful message about the catastrophic and far reaching consequences of radiation gases, both to people and the environment.

The series is based on true events from the 1986 nuclear disaster in the then USSR; the largest uncontrolled radioactive release into the environment ever recorded. The accident resulted in an untold number of fatalities, as well as serious social and economic disruption for large populations within the USSR and beyond.

The Chernobyl explosion resulted in a radioactive gas cloud which travelled across Europe, including the UK; falling to the ground in the form of ‘nuclear rain’.

There are many disturbing facts we read about. Not least that according to the British Ministry of Health, 369 farms and 190,000 sheep in Britain still contain traces of radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl disaster.

Both human and mechanical error contributed to the disaster and thankfully safety standards, regulations, awareness and new technologies have significantly improved since the disaster.

The principal of safety, whether a huge nuclear facility or small manufacturing plant, must remain the same. Here at Crowcon we are dedicated to keeping people and the environment protected. Our technologies support organisations across multiple industries, including nuclear plants, improving plant and personal safety. Our technologies help our customers be protected from the dangers of gases.

At Crowcon, we welcome shows such as Chernobyl which document historical disasters such as this and highlight in a dramatic but real way, the importance of ensuring companies understand the need for safety measures, however big or small, are in place.  Protecting their people, the environment and the world.

#DetectingGasSavingLives

#SaferCleanerHealthier

Identifying Leaks from Natural Gas pipelines at a Safe Distance

The use of natural gas, of which methane is the principle component, is increasing worldwide. It also has many industrial uses, such as the manufacture of chemicals like ammonia, methanol, butane, ethane, propane and acetic acid; it is also an ingredient in products as diverse as fertilizer, antifreeze, plastics, pharmaceuticals and fabrics.

Natural gas is transported in several ways: through pipelines in gaseous form; as liquefied natural gas (LNG) or compressed natural gas (CNG). LNG is the normal method for transporting the gas over very long distances, such as across oceans, while CNG is usually carried by tanker trucks over short distances. Pipelines are the preferred transport choice for long distances over land (and sometimes offshore), such as between Russia and central Europe. Local distribution companies also deliver natural gas to commercial and domestic users across utility networks within countries, regions and municipalities.

Regular maintenance of gas distribution systems is essential. Identifying and rectifying gas leaks is also an integral part of any maintenance programme, but it is notoriously difficult in many urban and industrial environments, as the gas pipes may be located underground, overhead, in ceilings, behind walls and bulkheads or in otherwise inaccessible locations such as locked buildings. Until recently, suspected leaks from these pipelines could lead to whole areas being cordoned off until the location of the leak was found.

Precisely because conventional gas detectors – such as those utilising catalytic combustion, flame ionisation or semiconductor technology – are not capable of remote gas detection and are therefore unable to detect gas leaks in hard to access pipelines, there has been a lot of recent research into ways of detecting methane gas remotely.

Remote Detection

Cutting edge technologies are now becoming available which allow the remote detection and identification of leaks with pinpoint accuracy. Hand-held units, for example, can now detect methane at distances of up to 100 metres, while aircraft-mounted systems can identify leaks half a kilometre away. These new technologies are transforming the way natural gas leaks are detected and dealt with.

Remote sensing is achieved using infrared laser absorption spectroscopy. Because methane absorbs a specific wavelength of infrared light, these instruments emit infrared lasers. The laser beam is directed to wherever the leak is suspected, such as a gas pipe or a ceiling. Because some of the light is absorbed by the methane, the light received back provides a measurement of absorption by the gas. A useful feature of these systems is the fact that the laser beam can penetrate transparent surfaces, such as glass or perspex, so it may be possible to test an enclosed space prior to entering it. The detectors measure the average methane gas density between the detector and target. Readings on the handheld units are given in ppm-m (a product of the concentration of methane cloud (ppm) and path length (m)). In this way, methane leaks can be quickly confirmed by pointing a laser beam towards the suspected leak or along a survey line, for example.

An important difference between the new technology and conventional methane detectors is that the new systems measure average methane concentration, rather than detecting methane at a single point – this gives a more accurate indication of the severity of the leak.

Applications for hand-held devices include:

  • Pipeline surveys
  • Gas plant
  • Industrial and commercial property surveys
  • Emergency call out
  • Landfill gas monitoring
  • Road surface survey

Municipal Distribution Networks

The benefits of remote technology for monitoring pipelines in urban settings are now being realised.

The ability of remote detection devices to monitor gas leaks from a distance makes them extremely useful tools in emergencies. Operators can stay away from potentially dangerous leak sources when checking the presence of gas in closed premises or confined spaces as the technology allows them to monitor the situation without actually gaining access. Not only is this process easier and quicker, but it is also safe. Moreover, it is not affected by other gases present in the atmosphere since the detectors are calibrated to only detect methane – therefore there is no danger of getting false signals, which is important in emergency situations.

The principle of remote detection is also applied when inspecting risers (the above-ground pipes carrying gas to the customers’ premises and normally running along the building outside walls). In this case, the operators point the device towards the pipe, following its route; they can do this from ground level, without having to use ladders or access the customers’ properties.

Hazardous Areas

In addition to detecting gas leaks from municipal distribution networks, explosion-proof, ATEX approved devices can be used in Zone 1 hazardous areas such as petrochemical plants, oil refineries, LNG terminals and vessels, as well as certain mining applications.

When inspecting an LNG/LPG underground tank, for example, an explosion-proof device would be required within 7.5 metres of the tank itself and one metre around the safety valve. Operators therefore need to be fully aware of these restrictions and equipped with the appropriate equipment type.

GPS Coordination

Some instruments now allow spot methane readings to be taken at various points around a site – such as an LNG terminal – automatically generating GPS tracking of the measurement readings and locations. This makes return trips for additional investigations far more efficient, while also providing a bona-fide record of confirmed inspection activity – often a prerequisite for regulatory compliance.

Aerial Detection

Moving beyond hand-held devices, there are also remote methane detectors which can be fitted to aircraft and which detect leaks from gas pipelines over hundreds of kilometres. These systems can detect methane levels at concentrations as small as 0.5ppm up to 500 metres away and include a real-time moving map display of gas concentrations as the survey is conducted.

The way these systems work is relatively simple. A remote detector is attached beneath the aircraft’s fuselage (usually a helicopter). As with the handheld device, the unit produces an infrared laser signal, which is deflected by any methane leakage within its path; higher methane levels result in more beam deflection. These systems also utilise GPS, so the pilot can follow a real-time moving map GPS route display of the pipeline, with a real-time display of aircraft path, gas leaks and concentration (in ppm) presented to the crew at all times. An audible alarm can be set for a desired gas concentration, allowing the pilot to approach for closer investigation.

Conclusion

The range of remote methane detection systems is increasing rapidly, with new technologies being developed all the time. All these devices, whether hand-held or fitted to aircraft, allow quick, safe and highly targeted identification of leaks – whether beneath the pavement, in a city or across hundreds of kilometres of Alaskan tundra. This not only helps prevent wasteful and costly emissions – it also ensures personnel working on or near the pipelines are not exposed to unnecessary danger.

Because the use of natural gas is increasing worldwide we foresee rapid technological advances in remote gas detection in applications as diverse as leak survey, transmission integrity, plant and facilities management, agriculture and waste management, as well as process engineering applications such as coke and steel production. Each of these areas have situations where access may be difficult, combined with the need to put personnel protection at the top of the agenda. Opportunities for remote methane detectors are therefore growing all the time.

 

Working together for safety at sea

Crowcon Detection Instruments is working together with Solent University’s Warsash School of Maritime Science and Engineering – all in the name of teaching engineering cadets, senior Merchant Navy officers, and Superyacht crews.

Solent delivers world-renowned yacht and powerboat design degree programmes, a suite of international maritime studies courses and a wide range of specialist support services for the maritime industry. It is also conducting a large number of research studies that make a real impact on industry thought leadership.

Their partnership with Crowcon makes good sense!  The marine environment is a dangerous one – and not just the more obvious hazards like high seas, storms, or rocks and coral reefs.  Confined spaces on ships, high-risk cargo, and on-ship processes all present potential gas hazards.

To keep mariners safe, gas monitoring equipment is essential.  Gas detection equipment requires specific marine environment testing and certification to ensure suitability to the extreme environments it operates in.  The European Marine Equipment Directive (MED) approval is internationally recognised. Gas detectors used by mariners onboard a vessel registered in an EU country must hold MED approval, and show the wheel mark to demonstrate compliance.

Crowcon has provided the university with demonstration T4 portable multi gas detectors.  T4 provides effective protection against the four most common gas hazards experienced in the marine industry, and is robust and tough enough to deal with the demanding marine environments.  T4 is ideally suited to help vessels comply with multiple SOLAS requirements which dictate the need for gas detection onboard vessels.

John Gouch, lecturer at  Solent University, said: “I have used Crowcon instruments in industry for many years, and know how reliable and trustworthy their gas detectors are. Since joining Warsash 18 months ago, I have been keen to ensure students understand the important part gas detection plays within the on-board safety system.”

“By using demo units of these detectors within our marine engineering courses, we can show the importance of gas detection in a marine environment to hundreds of seafarers and mariners, keeping as many people as possible aware and safe.”

Louise Early, Head of Marketing at Crowcon, said: “We’re really pleased with our partnership with Solent University.  By developing our relationship with training establishments, our safety message gets out to the people who will benefit most. We are always keen to learn from industry and this programme also offers Crowcon further insight into the way in which our equipment is used.”

For more information, visit the Solent University website, or the marine section of our industries page.

Hazards of Ammonia – it’s chilling!

With the reduction in use of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) and hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) gases in refrigeration and air conditioning systems has come an increase in the use of ammonia. Use of ammonia avoids the strong green house effect for which use of CFCs and HCFCs was banned, but it brings issues of it own. Much of the food we eat will have spent some time in storage chilled using ammonia. Continue reading “Hazards of Ammonia – it’s chilling!”

Deadly Sin No.5 – introducing other hazards

Introducing other hazards is the fifth in Crowcon’s series of Deadly Sins of Gas Detection. Most working environments where gas detection is required are already hazardous enough. The irony of using a gas detector that ends up being the cause of non-gas-related accident would not be an amusing one. Improvements in a variety of gas detection technologies mean that now this can often be avoided. Continue reading “Deadly Sin No.5 – introducing other hazards”

Limiting your exposure

Reducing time exposed to hazards is key to minimising risk. We review some of the multiple benefits that developments in gas detection technology are introducing, to reduce the amount of time operators must spend in hazardous areas and improve worker safety.

Continue reading “Limiting your exposure”