Why is gas detection crucial for drink dispense systems

Dispense gas known as beer gas, keg gas, cellar gas or pub gas is used in bars and restaurants as well as the leisure and hospitality industry. Using dispense gas in the process of dispensing beer and soft drinks is common practice worldwide. Carbon dioxide (CO2) or a mix of CO2 and nitrogen (N2) is used as a way of delivering a beverage to the ‘tap’. CO2 as a keg gas helps to keep the contents sterile and at the right composition aiding dispensing.

Gas Hazards

Even when the beverage is ready to deliver, gas-related hazards remain. Those arise in any activity at premises that contain compressed gas cylinders, due to the risk of damage during their movement or replacement. Additionally, once released there is a risk of increased carbon dioxide levels or depleted oxygen levels (due to higher levels of nitrogen or carbon dioxide).

CO2 occurs naturally in the atmosphere (0.04%) and is colourless and odourless. It is heavier than air and if it escapes, will tend to sink to the floor. CO2 collects in cellars and at the bottom of containers and confined spaces such as tanks and silos. CO2 is generated in large amounts during fermentation. It is also injected into beverages during carbonation – to add the bubbles. Early symptoms of exposure to high levels of carbon dioxide include dizziness, headaches, and confusion, followed by loss of consciousness. Accidents and fatalities can occur in extreme cases where a significant amount of carbon dioxide leaks into an enclosed or poorly ventilated volume. Without proper detection methods and processes in place, everyone entering that volume could be at risk. Additionally, personnel within surrounding volumes could suffer from the early symptoms listed above.

Nitrogen (N2) is often used in the dispensing of beer, particularly stouts, pale ales and porters, it also as well as preventing oxidisation or pollution of beer 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.

As nitrogen can deplete oxygen levels, oxygen sensors should be used in environments where any of these potential risks exist. When locating oxygen sensors, consideration needs to be given to the density of the diluting gas and the “breathing” zone (nose level). Ventilation patterns must also be considered when locating sensors. For example, if the diluting gas is nitrogen, then placing the detection at shoulder height is reasonable, however if the diluting gas is carbon dioxide, then the detectors should be placed at knee height.

The Importance of Gas Detection in Drinks Dispense Systems

Unfortunately, accidents and fatalities do occur in the drinks industry due to gas hazards. As a result, in the UK, safe workplace exposure limits are codified by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in documentation for the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH). Carbon dioxide has an 8-hour exposure limit of 0.5% and a 15-minute exposure limit of 1.5% by volume. Gas detection systems help to mitigate gas risks and allow for drinks manufacturers, bottling plants and bar/pub cellar owners, to ensure the safety of personnel and demonstrate compliance to legislative limits or approved codes of practice.

Oxygen Depletion

The normal concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere is approximately 20.9% volume. Oxygen levels can be dangerous if they are too low (oxygen depletion). In the absence of adequate ventilation, the level of oxygen can be reduced surprisingly quickly by breathing and combustion processes.

Oxygen levels may also be depleted due to dilution by other gases such as carbon dioxide (also a toxic gas), nitrogen or helium, and chemical absorption by corrosion processes and similar reactions. Oxygen sensors should be used in environments where any of these potential risks exist. When locating oxygen sensors, consideration needs to be given to the density of the diluting gas and the “breathing” zone (nose level). Oxygen monitors usually provide a first-level alarm when the oxygen concentration has dropped to 19% volume. Most people will begin to behave abnormally when the level reaches 17%, and hence a second alarm is usually set at this threshold. Exposure to atmospheres containing between 10% and 13% oxygen can bring about unconsciousness very rapidly; death comes very quickly if the oxygen level drops below 6% volume.

Our Solution

Gas detection can be provided in the form of both fixed and portable detectors. Installation of a fixed gas detector can benefit a larger space such as cellars or 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 clothing and will detect pockets of COusing alarms and visual signals, indicating that the user should immediately vacate the area.

For more information about gas detection in drink dispense systems, contact our team.

An Introduction to the Marine Industry

The marine sector is a global industry and is wide ranging in terms of its applications and different types of vessels including FPSO vessels, ferries and submarines. 

The type of gas hazards that will be present, and subsequently the gas detection requirements, are heavily dependent on the application and the type of marine vessel being used. In this blog we’ll take a look at some of the most common gas hazards within the marine industry and in which applications they are most likely to occur. 

Floating Production, Storage, Offloading Units and Tankers 

Floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) units, which are used in the production, processing and storage of oil, are home to many potential gas hazards. 

Firstly, there is the risk of fire and explosion hazards, which can lead to catastrophic damage and loss of life.  Combustible gas risks that may be present include methane, hydrogen, propane, LPG, solvents and gasoline fumes among others. Due to this risk, flammable gas detection is essential on FPSO vessels.  

FPSO units also have confined spaces in the form of inverted tanks or voids, meaning oxygen detectors are a must for these areas to protect from the risks of oxygen depletion which can cause mental confusion, nausea, weakness and in extreme cases loss of consciousness and death. 

Ferries 

Whilst ferries may not be home to as many gas hazards as other vessels, there are certainly still some to be aware of. On vehicle carrying ferries, for example, there may be a large build-up of emissions from vehicle exhausts which contain harmful gases such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. Both gases are capable of causing damage to human health, causing issues such as nausea, confusion and disorientation, inflammation of the airways and increased vulnerability to respiratory infection. 

Submarines 

Submarines may be used for a variety of purposes including salvage and exploration operations, marine science and facility inspection and maintenance. On these vessels there may be a requirement for hydrogen detection in battery storage rooms. Whilst hydrogen is a non-toxic gas, if it builds up in environments without sufficient airflow it can displace oxygen in the air leading to risk of oxygen depletion. 

Our solutions 

Gas detection can be provided in both fixed and portable forms. Our portable gas detectors protect people against a wide range of gas hazards, and include T4xGas-ProT4 and Gas-Pro TK. Our fixed gas detectors are used where reliability, dependability and lack of false alarms are instrumental to efficient and effective protection of assets and areas. Now available through Crowcon, the Sensitron SMART S-MS MED fixed detector has been designed specifically for use in marine environments. The SMART S-MS MED is fully marine certified by Lloyd’s Register in accordance with MED/3.54 Regulation whilst also being SIL-2 certified. Also available is the Multiscan++MED control panel, also MED and SIL-2 certified, able to manage and monitor up to 64 gas detectors. 

To find out more on the gas hazards in the marine sector visit our industry page for more information.

Confined Space Entry 

Confined Space Entry (CSE) is a location that is substantially enclosed although not always entirely, and where serious injury can occur from hazardous substances or conditions within the space or nearby such as a lack of oxygen. As they are dangerous, it must be noted that any entry to confined spaces must be the only and final option in order to carry out work. Confined Spaces Regulations 1997. Approved Code of Practice, Regulations and guidance is for employees that work in Confined Spaces, those who employ or train such people and those who represent them. 

Confined Space Identification 

HSE classify Confined Spaces as any place, including any chamber, tank, vat, silo, pit, trench, pipe, sewer, flue, well or other similar space in which, by virtue of its enclosed nature, there arises a reasonably foreseeable specified risk, as outlined above. 

Although, most confined spaces are easy to identify, identification is sometimes required as a confined space is not necessarily enclosed on all sides. Or exclusive to a small and/or difficult to work in space – grain silos and ships’ holds, can be very large. Although, these areas may not be that difficult to get in or out of, some have several entrances/exits, where others have large openings or are apparently easy to escape from. Some confined spaces (such as those used for spray painting in car repair centres) are used regularly by people in the course of their work. 

There may be instances where a space itself may not be defined as a confined space, however, while work is ongoing, and until the level of oxygen recovers (or the contaminants have dispersed by ventilating the area), it is classified as a confined space. Scenarios include welding that would consume some of the available breathable oxygen, a spray booth during paint spraying, using chemicals for cleaning purposes which can add volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or acidic gases, or an area subjected to significant rust which has reduced available oxygen to dangerous levels. 

What are the Rules and Regulations for Employers? 

Under the new OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standards, the obligation of the employer will depend on what type of employer they are. These include the controlling contractor, the host employer, the entry employer or sub-contractor.  

The controlling contractor is the main point of contact for any information about PRCS on site. 

The Host employer: The employer who owns or manages the property where the construction work is taking place. 

Employer can’t rely solely on the emergency services for rescue. A dedicated service must be ready to act in the event of an emergency. The arrangements for emergency rescue, required under regulation 5 of the confined space regulations, must be suitable and sufficient. If necessary, equipment to enable resuscitation procedures to be carried out should be provided. The arrangements should be in place before any person enters or works in a confined space. 

The Controlling contractor: The employer who has overall responsibility for construction at the worksite. 

The Entry employer or Sub-Contractor: Any employer who decides that an employee it directs will enter a permit-required confined space. 

Employees have the responsibility to raise concern such as helping highlight any potential workplace risks, ensuring that health and safety controls are practical and increasing the level of commitment to working in a safe and healthy way. 

The Risks and Hazards: VOCs 

A confined space that contains certain hazardous conditions may be considered a permit-required confined space under the standard. Permit-required confined spaces can be immediately dangerous to operator’s lives if they are not properly identified, evaluated, tested and controlled. Permit-required confined space can a defined as a confined space where there is a risk of one (or more) of the following: 

  • Serious injury due to fire or explosion 
  • Loss of consciousness arising from increased body temperature 
  • Loss of consciousness or asphyxiation arising from gas, fume, vapour, or lack of oxygen   
  • Drowning from an increase in the level of a liquid
  • Asphyxiation arising from a free-flowing solid or being unable to reach a respirable environment due to being trapped by such a free-flowing solid 

These arise from the following hazards: 

  • Flammable substances and oxygen enrichment 
  • Excessive heat 
  • Toxic gas, fume or vapours 
  • Oxygen deficiency
  • Ingress or pressure of liquids 
  • Free-flowing solid materials 
  • Other hazards (such as exposure to electricity, loud noise or loss of structural integrity of the space) VOCs. 

Intrinsically Safe and suitable products for Confined Space Safety 

These products are Certified to meet local Intrinsically Safe Standards. 

The Gas-Pro portable multi gas detector offers detection of up to 5 gases in a compact and rugged solution. It has an easy-to-read top mount display making it easy to use and optimal for confined space gas detection. An optional internal pump, activated with the flow plate, takes the pain out of pre-entry testing, and allows Gas-Pro to be worn either in pumped or diffusion modes. 

Gas-Pro TK offers the same gas safety benefits as the regular Gas-Pro, while offering Tank Check mode which can auto-range between %LEL and %Volume for inerting applications. 

T4 portable 4-in-1 gas detector provides effective protection against 4 common gas hazards: carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulphide, flammable gases, and oxygen depletion. The T4 multi gas detector now comes with improved detection of pentane, hexane, and other long chain hydrocarbons. 

Tetra 3 portable multi gas monitor can detect and monitor the four most common gases (carbon monoxide, methane, oxygen, and hydrogen sulphide), but also an expanded range: ammonia, ozone, sulphur dioxide, H2 filtered CO (for steel plants). 

Seasonal Gas Dangers

When it comes to gas safety there’s no off-season, although it is important to know that there is such a thing as seasonal gas safety. When temperatures rise and fall, or the rain falls in deluge, it can have unique impacts on your gas appliances. To help you get a better understanding on seasonal gas safety, here is everything you need to know about key challenges throughout the year.  

Gas safety on holiday 

When on holiday, the last thing on your mind is gas safety, however, it’s crucial that you keep yourself safe. Whether it’s a long summer holiday or a winter weekend getaway are you packing a carbon monoxide monitor in your suitcase? If not, you should be. Gas safety on holiday is just as important as it is at home, this is because when you’re on holiday you have less knowledge or control over the state of any gas appliances. 

Although, there isn’t much difference between gas safety in a caravan or gas safety on boats, gas safety when camping in a tent is different. Gas camping stoves, gas heaters (such as table and patio heaters), and even solid fuel BBQs can produce carbon monoxide (CO) thereby leading to possible poisoning. Therefore, if they are brought into a tent, a caravan or any other enclosed space, during or after use, they can emit harmful CO putting anyone around them in danger. 

It’s also important to remember that gas safety regulations in other countries may differ from those outside the UK. While you can’t be expected to know what’s legal and what’s not everywhere you go, you can keep you and others around you safe by following some simple tips. 

Tips for gas safety on holiday 

  • Ask if the gas appliances in your accommodation have been serviced and safety checked. 
  • Take an audible carbon monoxide alarm with you.
  • When you arrive, the appliances may not work in the same way as those you have at home. If no instructions are provided, then contact your holiday rep or accommodation owner for assistance if you’re unsure.
    • Be aware of the signs of unsafe gas appliances 
    • Black marks and stains around the appliance 
    • Lazy orange or yellow flames instead of crisp blue ones 
    • High levels of condensation in your accommodation
  • Never use gas cookers, stoves or BBQs for heating, and ensure they have adequate ventilation when in use.  

BBQ safety

Summer is a time for being outdoors and enjoying long evenings. 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. Gas safety isn’t just something for the home, or industrial environments, BBQs need special attention to ensure they’re safe.  

Carbon monoxide is a gas that its health risks are widely known with many of us installing detectors in our homes and businesses. However, the association of carbon monoxide is associated with our BBQs is unknown. 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. It must be noted that the cooking area should be well away from buildings and be well ventilated with fresh air, otherwise you are at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Knowing the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning is vital – Headaches, Nausea, Breathlessness, Dizziness, Collapse or Loss of consciousness. 

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. 

Gas safety in winter

When the cold weather sets in, gas boilers and gas are fired up for the first time in several months, to keep us warm. However, this increased usage can put extra pressure on appliances and can result in them breaking down. Therefore, preparing for winter by ensuring gas appliances – including boilers, warm air heaters, cookers and fires – have been regularly safety checked and maintained by a qualified Gas Safe registered engineer, who carry gas detectors 

What to do if you suspect a gas leak

If you can smell gas or think there could be a gas leak in a property, boat or caravan, it’s important to act fast. A gas leak poses a risk of fire or even explosion. 

You should: 

  • Extinguish any naked flames to stop the chance of fire or explosion.
  • Turn off the gas at the meter if possible (and safe to do so).
  • Open windows to allow ventilation and ensure the gas dissipates.
  • Evacuate the area immediately to prevent risk to life.
  • Inform your holiday representative or accommodation owner immediately or equivalent.
  • Seek medical attention if you feel unwell or show signs of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms

The signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are often mistaken for other illnesses, such as food poisoning or flu. Symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Breathlessness
  • Nausea or feeling sick
  • Collapse
  • Loss of consciousness

Anyone who suspects they are suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning should immediately go outside into the fresh air and seek urgent medical attention. 

Personal gas detectors 

The Clip SDG personal gas detector is designed to withstand the harshest industrial working conditions and delivers industry leading alarm time, changeable alarm levels and event logging as well as user-friendly bump test and calibration solutions. 

Gasman with specialist CO sensor is a rugged, compact single gas detector, designed for use in the toughest environments. Its compact and lightweight design makes it the ideal choice for industrial gas detection. 

Detecting dangers in dairy: What gases should you be aware of? 

Global demand for dairy continues to increase in large part due to population growth, rising incomes and urbanisation. Millions of farmers worldwide tend approximately 270 million dairy cows to produce milk. Throughout the dairy farm industry there are a variety of gas hazards that pose a risk to those working in the dairy industry.  

What are the dangers workers face in the dairy industry?

Chemicals

Throughout the dairy farm industry, chemicals are used for variety of tasks including cleaning, applying various treatments such as vaccinations or medications, antibiotics, sterilising and spraying. If these chemicals and hazardous substances are not used or stored correctly, this can result in serious harm to the worker or the surrounding environment. Not only can these chemicals cause illness, but there is also a risk of death if a person is exposed. Some chemicals can be flammable and explosive whilst others are corrosive and poisonous. 

There are several ways to manage these chemical hazards, although the main concern should be in implementing a process and procedure. This procedure should ensure all staff are trained in the safe use of chemicals with records being maintained. As part of the chemical procedure, this should include a chemical manifest for tracking purposes. This type of inventory management allows for all personal to have access to Safety Data Sheets (SDS) as well as usage and location records. Alongside this manifest, there should be consideration for the review of current operation.  

  • What is the current procedure?  
  • What PPE is required?  
  • What is the process for discarding out of date chemicals and is there is a substitute chemical that could pose less of a risk to your workers? 

Confined Spaces

There are numerous circumstances that could require a worker to enter a confined space, including feed silos, milk vats, water tanks and pits in the dairy industry. The safest way to eliminate a confined space hazard, as mentioned by many industry bodies, is to employ a safe design. This will include the removal of any need to enter a confined space. Although, this may not be realistic and from time to time, cleaning routines need to take place, or a blockage may occur, however, there is a requirement to ensure there is the correct procedures to address the hazard. 

Chemical agents when used in a confined space can increase the risk of suffocation with gases pushing out oxygen. One way you can eliminate this risk is by cleaning the vat from the outside using a high-pressure hose. If a worker does need to enter the confined space, check that the correct signage is in place since entry and exit points will be restricted. You should consider isolation switches and check that your staff understand the correct emergency rescue procedure if something were to happen. 

Gas Hazards

Ammonia (NH3) is found in animal waste and slurry spreading on farming and agricultural land. It is characteristically a colourless gas with a pungent smell that arises through the decomposition of nitrogen compounds in animal waste. Not only is it harmful to human health but also harmful to livestock wellbeing, due to its ability to cause respiratory diseases in livestock, and eye irritation, blindness, lung damage, alongside nose and throat damage and even death in humans. Ventilation is a key requirement in preventing health issues, as poor ventilation heightens the damage caused by this gas.  

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is naturally produced in the atmosphere; although, levels are increased through farming and agricultural processes. CO2, is colourless, odourless, and is emitted from agricultural equipment, crop and livestock production and other farming processes. CO2 can congregate areas, such as waste tanks and silos. This results in oxygen in the air to be displaced and increasing the risk of suffocation for animals and humans.  Sealed silos, waste and grain storage spaces are specifically dangerous as CO2 can accumulate here and lead to them being unsuitable for humans without an external air supply. 

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is one of a group of highly reactive gases known as oxides of nitrogen or nitrogen oxides (NOx). At worst, it can cause sudden death when consumed even from short term exposure. This gas can cause suffocation and is emitted from silos following specific chemical reactions of plant material. It is recognisable by its bleach-like smell and its properties tend to create a red-brown haze. As it gathers above certain surfaces it can run into areas with livestock through silo chutes, and therefore poses a real danger to humans and animals in the surrounding area. It can also affect lung function, cause internal bleeding, and ongoing respiratory problems. 

When should gas detectors be used?

Gas detectors provide added value anywhere on dairy farms and around slurry silos, but above all: 

  • When and where slurry is being mixed 
  • During pumping and bringing out slurry
  • On and around the tractor during slurry mixing or spreading 
  • In the stable during maintenance work on slurry pumps, slurry scrapers and the like 
  • Near and around small openings and cracks in the floor, e.g., around milking robots 
  • Low to the ground in poorly ventilated corners and spaces (H2S is heavier than air and sinks to the floor) 
  • In slurry silos 
  • In slurry tanks 

Products that can help to protect yourself 

Gas detection can be provided in both fixed and portable forms. Installation of a fixed gas detector can benefit a larger space to provide continuous area and staff protection 24 hours a day. However, a portable detector can be more suited for worker’s safety. 

To find out more on the dangers in agriculture and farming, visit our industry page for more information. 

Our Partnership With Teksal 

Background

Crowcon has been working with Australian-based industrial safety supplier Teksal Safety for more than 10 years, so we thought we’d share some of the ways it helps support our gas detection solutions. 

Founded in 2002, Teksal Safety provides industrial safety solutions for process and pressure safety, machine and automation safety, and operations and maintenance safety applications in industrial, mining, and oil and gas sectors. They work with safety professionals, engineers, plant operators, and maintenance personnel to deliver optimal solutions and minimise risk. Focused on providing industrial safety solutions that help protect people, plant, process, Teksal Safety sources and supplies a range of Crowcon’s portable and fixed gas detectors for diverse applications. 

Views on Gas Detection  

While oil and gas operators and teams working in environments with flammable and toxic gases are exposed to some level of risk, Teksal Safety strives to provide proven industrial safety solutions to help mitigate this risk, including Crowcon’s suite of gas detection products. 

By focusing firstly on awareness of risk, then embedding best practice and innovative solutions, Teksal Safety helps industrial operators provide a safe work environment for their people, and safe ways of working, through its distribution and maintenance of Crowcon gas detection products. 

Teksal Safety’s goal is to “protect people, plant and process. Safety culture often emphasises administrative controls and things like PPE. While these play a key role within a wider HSE programme, we focus on engineered controls to mitigate risk at a high level. While we have solutions that tackle administrative issues that capture residual risk, our main aim is to mitigate the risks further up the chain.” – Joe Hischar, Managing Director.  

Working with Crowcon 

While oil and gas operators and teams working in environments with flammable and toxic gases are exposed to some level of risk, Teksal Safety strives to provide proven industrial safety solutions to help mitigate this risk, including Crowcon’s suite of gas detection products. Our collaboration allows Teksal to source and supply a range of personal gas detectors to meet diverse applications and requirements. “Working on remote sites in Australia can be challenging. As its products are designed with safety in mind, Crowcon allows us to provide proven safety solutions and help protect our customers’ people, plant and process.” – Joe Hischar, Managing Director.  

Our Partnership with Pass Ltd 

Background  

Founded in early 2001 and based in Stockton-On-Tees, PASS Ltd is a leading supplier of test equipment, training, and calibration. Built on delivering an exceptional customer experience, they have grown to offer one of the most comprehensive catalogues of test and measurement, thermal imaging, and industrial safety products, as well as a broad calibration scope. In 2014, their calibration and repair laboratories gained UKAS accreditation. PASS Ltd pride themselves on offering a fast, affordable service; therefore, they have developed an online asset management portal for larger businesses to provide 24/7 access to asset details and service tracking. Additionally, as an accredited training provider specialising in low and high voltage courses, PASS Ltd offers an ever-expanding range of classes including City & Guilds and MCA accredited programmes.   

Views on HVAC 

PASS Ltd understand that confined spaces can be extremely dangerous and this is what makes these areas such a cause for global concern. They acknowledge that not all confined spaces are fully enclosed but point out that these locations may still pose a significant risk due to hazardous substances or conditions within or nearby the space, for example, a lack of oxygen. It is therefore critical to provide education and training on dangerous gases and environments to those working in the HVAC industry.    

Working with Crowcon  

PASS Ltd have been a long-term partner of Crowcon. For over seven years our partnership has enabled new areas of growth within the HVAC and portables industries. PASS Ltd attest that “our partnership has allowed us to supply a range of gas detection products and services that are reliable and diverse, improving the safety of our customers working within the Gas, HVAC, and Plumbing sectors. Crowcon’s quality and values align well with PASS’ ethos; they are the perfect partner to support our mission of raising end-users’ and businesses’ awareness of gas exposure.” 

The Benefits of MPS Sensors 

Developed by NevadaNano, Molecular Property Spectrometer™ (MPS™) sensors represent the new generation of flammable gas detectors. MPS™ can quickly detect over 15 characterised flammable gases at once. Until recently, anyone who needed to monitor flammable gases had to select either a traditional flammable gas detector containing a pellistor sensor calibrated for a specific gas, or containing an infra-red (IR) sensor which also varies in output according to the flammable gas being measured, and hence needs to be calibrated for each gas. While these remain beneficial solutions, they are not always ideal. For example, both sensor types require regular calibration and the catalytic pellistor sensors also need frequent bump testing to ensure they have not been damaged by contaminants (known as ‘sensor poisoning’ agents) or by harsh conditions. In some environments, sensors must frequently be changed, which is costly in terms of both money and downtime, or product availability. IR technology cannot detect hydrogen – which has no IR signature, and both IR and pellistor detectors sometimes incidentally detect other (i.e., non-calibrated) gases, giving inaccurate readings that may trigger false alarms or concern operators. 

The MPS™ sensor delivers key features that provide real world tangible benefits to operator and hence workers. These include: 

No calibration  

When implementing a system containing a fixed head detector, it is common practice to service on a recommended schedule defined by manufacturer. This entails ongoing regular costs as well potentially disrupting production or process in order service or even gain access to detector or multiple detectors. There may also be a risk to personnel when detectors are mounted in particularly hazardous environments. Interaction with an MPS sensor is less stringent because there are no unrevealed failure modes, provided air is present. It would be wrong to say there is no calibration requirement. One factory calibration, followed by a gas test when commissioning is sufficient, because there is an internal automated calibration being performed every 2 seconds throughout the working life of the sensor. What is really meant is – no customer calibration. 

The Xgard Bright with MPS™ sensor technology does not require calibration. This in turn reduces the interaction with the detector resulting in a lower total cost of ownership over the sensor life cycle and reduced risk to personnel and production output to complete regular maintenance. It is still advisable to check the cleanliness of the gas detector from time to time, since gas can’t get through thick build ups of obstructive material and wouldn’t then reach the sensor. 

Multi species gas – ‘True LEL’™  

Many industries and applications use or have as a by-product multiple gases within the same environment. This can be challenging for traditional sensor technology which can detect only a single gas that they were calibrated for at the correct level and can result in inaccurate reading and even false alarms which can halt process or production if another flammable gas type is present. The lack of response or over response frequently faced in multi gas environments can be frustrating and counterproductive compromising safety of best user practices. The MPS™ sensor can accurately detect multiple gases at once and instantly identify gas type. Additionally, the MPS™ sensor has a on board environmental compensation and does not require an externally applied correctional factor. Inaccurate readings and false alarms are a thing of the past.  

No sensor poisoning  

In certain environments traditional sensor types can be under risk of poisoning. Extreme pressure, temperature, and humidity all have the potential to damage sensors whist environmental toxins and contaminants can ‘poison’ sensors, leading to severely compromised performance. Detectors in environments where poisons or inhibitors may be encountered, regular and frequent testing is the only way to ensure that performance is not being degraded. Sensor failure due to poisoning can be a costly experience. The technology in the MPS™ sensor is not affected by contaminates in the environment. Processes that have contaminates now have access to a solution that operates reliably with fail safe design to alert operator to offer a peace of mind for personnel and assets located in hazardous environment. Additionally, the MPS sensor is not harmed by elevated flammable gas concentrations, which may cause cracking in conventional catalytic sensor types for example. The MPS sensor carries on working. 

Hydrogen (H2)

The usage of Hydrogen in industrial processes is increasing as the focus to find a cleaner alternative to natural gas usage. Detection of Hydrogen is currently restricted to pellistor, metal oxide semiconductor, electrochemical and less accurate thermal conductivity sensor technology due to Infra-Red sensors inability to detect Hydrogen. When faced with challenges highlighted above in poisoning or false alarms, the current solution can leave operator with frequent bump testing and servicing in addition to false alarm challenges. The MPS™ sensor provides a far better solution for Hydrogen detection, removing the challenges faced with traditional sensor technology. A long-life, relatively fast responding hydrogen sensor that does not require calibration throughout the life cycle of the sensor, without the risk of poisoning or false alarms, can significantly save on total cost of ownership and reduces interaction with unit resulting in peace of mind and reduced risk for operators leveraging MPS™ technology. All of this is possible thanks to MPS™ technology, which is the biggest breakthrough in gas detection for several decades. The Gasman with MPS is hydrogen (H2) ready. A single MPS sensor accurately detects hydrogen and common hydrocarbons in a fail-safe, poison-resistant solution without recalibration.

For more on Crowcon, visit https://www.crowcon.com or for more on MPSTM visit https://www.crowcon.com/mpsinfixed/  

What is IR Technology? 

Infrared emitters within the sensor each generate beams of IR light. Each beam is measured by a photo-receiver. The “measuring” beam, with a frequency of around 3.3μm, is absorbed by hydrocarbon gas molecules, so the beam intensity is reduced if there is an appropriate concentration of a gas with C-H bonds present. The “reference” beam (around 3.0μm) is not absorbed by gas, so arrives at the receiver at full strength. The %LEL of gas present is determined by the ratio of the beams measured by the photo-receiver. 

Benefits of IR technology 

IR sensors are reliable in some environments that can cause pellistor-based sensors to function incorrectly or in some cases fail. In some industrial environments, pellistors are at risk of being poisoned or inhibited. This would leave a worker on their shift unprotected. IR sensors are not susceptible to the catalyst poisons so significantly enhance safety in these conditions. 

Pellistor technology is considerably less expensive than IR technology, reflecting the comparative simplicity of the detection technology. However, there are several advantages of IR over pellistors. These include IR technology provides fail-safe testing. The mode of operation means that if the infrared beam failed, this would register as a fault.  In normal pellistor operation, conversely, a lack of output is ordinarily an indication that no flammable gas is present, but this could also be the result of a fault. Pellistors are susceptible to poisoning or inhibition; a particular concern in environments where compounds containing silicon, lead, sulphur and phosphates, even at low levels. IR instruments don’t, themselves, interact with the gas.  Only the IR beam interacts with the gas molecules, so, IR technology is immune to poisoning or inhibition by chemical toxins. In high concentrations of flammable gas, pellistor sensors can burn out. As with poisoning or inhibition, this would probably only be picked up by testing.  Again, IR sensors are not affected by these conditions. Low levels of oxygen mean that pellistor sensors won’t work. This can be the case in recently purged tanks, but also in confined spaces generally, where pellistors may be ineffective.  IR technology is effective in areas where oxygen may be reduced or absent. 

Factors that affect IR technology  

Exposure to high levels of flammable gas can cause “sooting” of pellistors, reducing their sensitivity and potentially leading to failure. Pellistors require oxygen to function, however, IR sensors can be relied on in applications such as fuel storage tanks where there is little or no oxygen, due to flushing with inert gas prior to maintenance, or which still contain high levels of fuel vapours. The fail-safe nature of IR sensors, which automatically alert you to any fault, provides an additional layer of safety. Gas-Pro IR measures in %LEL and has been certified for use in hazardous areas as defined by both ATEX/IECEx and UL. 

Knowing when the technology has failed  

IR sensors are reliable in environments that can cause pellistor-based sensors to function incorrectly or in some cases fail. In some industrial environments, pellistors are at risk of being poisoned or inhibited. This leaves workers on their shifts unprotected. IR sensors are not susceptible to these conditions, so significantly enhance safety. 

Problems with IR sensors 

IR sensors do not measure hydrogen, and they usually don’t measure acetylene, ammonia of some complex solvents either except for some specialist sensor types. 

If nothing is done to prevent it, moisture can build up inside IR sensors on the optics scattering the IR light and causing a fault.  

The fail-safe nature of IR sensors, which automatically alert you to any fault, provides an additional layer of safety, and this results in a fault if there isn’t enough light getting through the system e.g., if the light is being scattered form the beam. 

IR sensors have very high resistance to interference or inhibition by other gases and are suitable for both high gas concentrations and use in inert (oxygen free) backgrounds where catalytic pellistor sensors would perform poorly. 

Products  

Our portable products such as Our Gas-Pro IR and Triple Plus+ help customers to detect potentially explosive gases where traditional, “pellistor,” catalytic sensors will struggle – especially in low oxygen or ‘poisoning’ environments. And allow for the measurement of hydrocarbons at both % LEL and % Volume ranges making this instrument ideal for tank and line purging applications. 

To explore more, visit our technical page for more information. 

Gold Mining: What gas detection do I need? 

How is gold mined?

Gold is a rare substance equating to 3 parts per billion of the earth’s outer layer, with most of the world’s available gold coming from Australia. Gold, like iron, copper and lead, is a metal. There are two primary forms of gold mining, including open-cut and underground mining. Open mining involves earth-moving equipment to remove waste rock from the ore body above, and then mining is conducted from the remaining substance. This process requires waste and ore to be struck at high volumes to break the waste and ore into sizes suitable for handling and transportation to both waste dumps and ore crushers. The other form of gold mining is the more traditional underground mining method. This is where vertical shafts and spiral tunnels transport workers and equipment into and out of the mine, providing ventilation and hauling the waste rock and ore to the surface.

Gas detection in mining

When relating to gas detection, the process of health and safety within mines has developed considerably over the past century, from morphing from the crude usage of methane wick wall testing, singing canaries and flame safety to modern-day gas detection technologies and processes as we know them. Ensuring the correct type of detection equipment is utilised, whether fixed or portable, before entering these spaces. Proper equipment utilisation will ensure gas levels are accurately monitored, and workers are alerted to dangerous concentrations within the atmosphere at the earliest opportunity.

What are the gas hazards and what are the dangers?

The dangers those working within the mining industry face several potential occupational hazards and diseases, and the possibility of fatal injury. Therefore, understanding the environments and hazards, they may be exposed to is important.

Oxygen (O2)

Oxygen (O2), usually present in the air at 20.9%, is essential to human life. There are three main reasons why oxygen poses a threat to workers within the mining industry. These include oxygen deficiencies or enrichment, as too little oxygen can prevent the human body from functioning leading to the worker losing consciousness. Unless the oxygen level can be restored to an average level, the worker is at risk of potential death. An atmosphere is deficient when the concentration of O2 is less than 19.5%. Consequently, an environment with too much oxygen is equally dangerous as this constitutes a greatly increased risk of fire and explosion. This is considered when the concentration level of O2 is over 23.5%

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

In some cases, high concentrations of Carbon Monoxide (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. 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.

Hydrogen sulphide (H2S)

Hydrogen sulphide (H2S) is a colourless, flammable gas with a characteristic odour of rotten eggs. Skin and eye contact may occur. However, the nervous system and cardiovascular system are most affected by hydrogen sulphide, which can lead to a range of symptoms. Single exposures to high concentrations may rapidly cause breathing difficulties and death.

Sulphur dioxide (SO2)

Sulphur dioxide (SO2) can cause several harmful effects on the respiratory systems, in particular the lung. It can also cause skin irritation. Skin contact with (SO2) causes stinging pain, redness of the skin and blisters. Skin contact with compressed gas or liquid can cause frostbite. Eye contact causes watering eyes and, in severe cases, blindness can occur.

Methane (CH4)

Methane (CH4) is a colourless, highly flammable gas with a primary component being that of natural gas. High levels of (CH4) can reduce the amount of oxygen breathed from the air, which can result in mood changes, slurred speech, vision problems, memory loss, nausea, vomiting, facial flushing and headache. In severe cases, there may be changes in breathing and heart rate, balance problems, numbness, and unconsciousness. Although, if exposure is for a longer period, it can result in fatality.

Hydrogen (H2)

Hydrogen Gas is a colourless, odourless, and tasteless gas which is lighter than air. As it is lighter than air this means it float higher than our atmosphere, meaning it is not naturally found, but instead must be created. Hydrogen poses a fire or explosion risk as well as an inhalation risk. High concentrations of this gas can cause an oxygen-deficient environment. Individuals breathing such an atmosphere may experience symptoms which include headaches, ringing in ears, dizziness, drowsiness, unconsciousness, nausea, vomiting and depression of all the senses

Ammonia (NH3)

Ammonia (NH3) is one of the most widely used chemicals globally that is produced both in the human body and in nature. Although it is naturally created (NH3) is corrosive which poses a serve concern for health. High exposure within the air can result in immediate burning to the eyes, nose, throat and respiratory tract. Serve cases can result in blindness.

Other gas risks

Whilst Hydrogen Cyanide (HCN) doesn’t persist within the environment, improper storage, handling and waste management can pose severe risk to human health as well as effects on the environment. Cyanide interferes with human respiration at cellular levels that can cause serve and acute effects, including rapid breathing, tremors, asphyxiation.

Diesel particulate exposure can occur in underground mines as a result of diesel-powered mobile equipment used for drilling and haulage. Although control measures include the use of low sulphur diesel fuel, engine maintenance and ventilation, health implication includes excess risk of lung cancer.

Products that can help to protect yourself

Crowcon provide a range of gas detection including both portable and fixed products all of which are suitable for gas detection within the mining industry.

To find out more visit our industry page here.