When would I need to measure gas leaks at distance? 

The use of natural gas, of which methane is the principal 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. With continuous industrial development, there is an increase in the risk of harmful gas being released. Although these emissions are controlled, there however, may be operations that involve the handling of hazardous gases in which lapses in preventive maintenance such as ensuring there are no faulty pipelines or equipment, can result in terrible outcomes. 

What are the dangers and ways of preventing gas leaks? 

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 usual method for transporting the gas over a long distance, i.e., across oceans, whilst CNG is ordinarily transported using a tanker truck over short distances. Pipelines are the preferred transport choice for long distances over land (and sometimes offshore). 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. 

Remote Detection 

Modern technologies are becoming available that allow for 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 reshaping the way natural gas leaks are detected and dealt with. 

Remote sensing is achieved using infrared laser absorption spectroscopy. As 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. Due to some of the light being 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 there is a possibility 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)). This method allows for methane leak to be found quickly and confirmed by pointing a laser beam towards the suspected leak or along a survey line. 

Overall Safety  

As there are several risks when using gas such as explosion from damaged, overheated or poorly maintained cylinders, pipes equipment or appliances. There is also the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and burns caused by contact with flame or hot surfaces. By implementing real-time gas leak detection, industries can monitor their environmental performance, ensure better occupational health, and eliminate potential hazards for optimum safety. Also, early detection of gas leaks can trigger concerned engineers to curtail the spread and keep a safe environment for better health and safety. 

For more information on measure gas leaks at distance, contact our team or visit our product page 

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 (CO2) 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. 

For more information, visit our industry page and have a look at some of our other hydrogen resources:

What do you need to know about Hydrogen?

The Dangers of Hydrogen

Green Hydrogen – An Overview

Xgard Bright MPS provides hydrogen detection in energy storage application

Hydrogen Sulphide Hazards

Next in our series of short videos is our hydrogen sulphide detection factoid.

Where is H2S found?

Hydrogen sulphide is a significant danger to workers in many industries. It is a by-product of industrial processes, such as petroleum refining, mining, paper mills, and iron smelting. It is also a common product of the biodegradation of organic matter; pockets of H2S can collect in rotting vegetation, or sewage itself, and be released when disturbed.

Continue reading “Hydrogen Sulphide Hazards”