This write-up was originally featured in Automation April 2021 by Automation Magazine

By: Gary Collins, General Manager EMEA

Various gases exist in systems and environments in almost every industry today, and in most cases more than one gas. Monitoring and detecting gases is extremely important for a number of reasons.

Workplace safety: Many gases are combustible while others pose health risks and potential fatalities among workers and nearby communities.

Operational efficiency: Stopping operations in part or full due to a gas leak can be a costly process. It’s estimated that a single work stoppage due to leaks can cost close to $30,000.

Financial losses: The cost of gas leaks can add significantly to the bottom line, both in terms of relating gas that escapes and in loss of products, service and/or customers, depending on the industry. It can also prevent your company from having to pay high litigation costs, settlement fees or workers’ compensation claims, common when disasters occur.

Detecting gases Accurately detecting gas leaks with fixed leak detectors can be a challenging prospect, especially in extreme conditions and for companies with different requirements and environmental challenges. Until recently, the only way to monitor flammable gases was by using a traditional flame sensor detector with a Pellistor, calibrated for a specific gas (and multiple Pellistor sensors in multi-species environments), or a sensor using infra-red (IR) technology that also requires a separate sensor to be calibrated for each gas.

Calibration: It is common to service these detectors on a recommended schedule defined by the manufacturer. This entails ongoing regular costs as well potentially disrupting production to service or gain access to a detector(s). This may pose a further risk when detectors are mounted in particularly-harsh environments. In some environments, sensors must be continually changed, which is very costly.

Multi-species gas: Many industries and applications use or have as a by-product multiple gases within the same environment.

This is challenging for traditional sensor technology that can detect only the single gas for which sensors were calibrated, and can result in inaccurate readings or false alarms which can halt production.

Poisoning: In certain environments traditional sensors can become inhibited or poisoned. Once poisoned, some traditional sensors appear to be operational, which can put workers in extremely hazardous situations. In these environments, regular and frequent testing is the only way to ensure that performance is not being degraded. Most conventional systems require at least two Pellistor sensors to monitor multi-species environments, and with both IR and Pellistor monitoring only the readings generated for the calibrated gases can be relied upon.

Hydrogen Hydrogen (H2) is a high efficiency, low polluting fuel that is used in transportation, heating and power generation in places where it is difficult to use electricity, or as a CO2 neutral feedstock for chemical processes (ammonia-fertilizers). Traditionally, the only way to detect hydrogen was with Pellistor sensor technology due to IR sensors’ inability to detect the gas. However, these are subject to poisoning or false alarms, leaving operators with costly challenges.

MPS™ technology The first new gas leak detection technology in 40 years, Molecular Property Spectrometer™ (MPS) is the only gas-detection technology able to accurately and reliably detect multiple flammable gases, including hydrogen, using a single sensor. These sensors are designed for multi-gas environments such as those in waste energy, wastewater, green energy, biogas, petrochemical, oil and gas, and industrial environments where multiple flammable gas hazards may occur.

MPS sensors have on-board environmental compensation capability, which means they do not need a compensation factor. Inaccurate readings and false alarms are therefore a thing of the past. Unlike Pellistor and IR sensors, the MPS sensor can report 0-100%LEL in up to 14 gases (including H2) accurately – a capability known as TrueLEL. This enables a fast response, protecting workers, enhancing safety and reducing the number of false alarms and, hence, costs. These sensors do not require calibration, are immune to poisoning, are virtually no maintenance over their ten-year lifetime and do not require bump testing, which translates to less downtime, expense and risk to the workforce.

Leveraging the newest sensor technology is the only way to create safer, cleaner, healthier future for everyone. In addition to protection, they also provide peace of mind.