Benefits of a Hydrocarbon Gas Sensor

Hydrocarbons are organic compounds consisting of only hydrogen and carbon atoms. Almost all hydrocarbons occur naturally in crude oils, such as petroleum and natural gas. The reason behind this is that crude oil is made of decomposed organic matter, which is abundant in hydrogen and carbon atoms. While hydrocarbons can be found in other natural sources, such as natural crude rubber, most uses are in the petrochemical industry. Because they can be dangerous chemicals, hydrocarbon gas sensors are essential in many industries. 

What Are Hydrocarbons?

Hydrocarbons are the most widely used organic compound on the planet. They are used for combustion and energy sources, transport fuels, solvents, cleansers, lubricants, and greases, among other uses. Common hydrocarbon gases found across many industries include:

  • Hydrogen
  • Methane (CH4): Methane is lighter than air and readily burns in the air. It is odorless and colorless. 
  • Ethane (C2H6): Ethane is also odorless and colorless, with a very low ignition temperature. 
  • Propane (C3H8): Propane is a versatile fuel that is colorless and odorless and commonly exists as a flammable liquid or gas. 
  • Butanes (CH10): Butane is highly flammable and exists as a gas at room temperature. It is colorless but has an odor like gasoline. 
  • Pentanes (C5H12): Pentane is a clear, colorless liquid with an odor like petroleum. 
  • Hexane (C6H14): Hexane is odorless and odorless when pure but readily combusts. 
  • Heptane (C7H16): Heptane is a flammable chemical that is commonly used as a solvent. It is colorless and has a petroleum odor. 

This list also includes trace amounts of octane (C8H18) and higher molecular weight hydrocarbons. 

How Are Hydrocarbons Dangerous?

Hydrocarbons are frequently found in many homes in small amounts. But even small amounts can pose a health hazard. If these toxic (and combustible) gases are inhaled, serious breathing problems can develop. In high concentrations, a pneumonia-like condition can occur. If this problem escalates, it can cause irreversible lung damage, coma, seizure, irregular heart rhythms, damage to the kidneys and liver, and death. 

Workers in the petroleum industry or any industry that uses petroleum products are at risk of hydrocarbon exposure. In addition to the harmful physical effects of the chemicals themselves, there are additional risks, such as:

  • Creating an oxygen-deficient environment that could lead to asphyxiation.
  • Fires or explosions if the concentrations are high enough and an ignition source is present. 
  • The rapid development of high concentrations since these chemicals are frequently stored under pressure in pipelines or storage containers. 

Because of the high risk of these chemicals, they are often considered volatile organic compounds. Acute exposure to hazardous areas on the job can affect the eyes, lungs, and central nervous systems. Once the concentration in the air quality is high enough to displace oxygen, it strains the heart, causing abnormal rhythms and ventricular fibrillation. Even brief exposure can result in respiratory depression, hypoxia, and fatal cardiac effects. Individuals who inhale these gases experience the same symptoms as those taking narcotics. This includes dizziness, rapid disorientation, confusion, loss of judgment, narcosis, and incapacitation. Additionally, some hydrocarbons are known carcinogens

And these dangers are limited to the physical effects of direct exposure. If any of these hydrocarbons are exposed to even a low-temperature ignition source, there is the potential for a fire or explosion. The safety risks of these events cannot be understated, especially in industrial areas with additional reserves of combustible gases. 

What are the Benefits of Hydrocarbon Gas Sensors?

Hydrocarbon gas sensors should be available and widely used in all areas with the potential for dangerous hydrocarbon exposure. Hydrocarbon gas sensors are essential because many of these toxic gases have no odor or color. These traits mean that anyone working in the area will likely be unaware that combustible gases are present. While some hydrocarbons have additives that may introduce an odor, relying on the ability to smell the presence of the gas is usually not safe enough. 

The benefits of gas sensing include:

  • Detection provides early warning. A reliable gas sensor can provide early warning of a dangerous environment. Detecting hydrocarbons accurately and in the right concentration allows workers to 
    • Vacate the area before toxic and explosive gas exposure becomes a health risk
    • Prevent ignition sources and others from entering the area
    • Prevent the additional accumulation of the harmful gases
    • Identify and fix any existing leaks
    • Identify the type and concentration of the gas, which workers can use to find additional information on the material safety data sheets
    • Activate the proper protocols for addressing the presence of the gas
    • Alert or provide a signal to any authorities or personnel in the chain of command that need to be informed

This early detection can give precious additional minutes to the team working in the area. It can prevent a dangerous gas leak from becoming a huge disaster. It can also minimize the physical effects on the team.

  • Keep individuals and property safe. The ability to detect a leak quickly ensures that the best possible response is delivered. And a good response often serves to keep workers safe and protect the assets of the employer. Explosions, fires, and worker injuries, and death can be incredibly costly. Smart hydrocarbon detection procedures and reliable gas sensors are the key to protecting the workplace and everyone in it. 

Selecting the Best Hydrocarbon Gas Sensor

There can be no denying that hydrocarbons present a grave threat to many workplaces. The best way to keep the environment and employees safe is by selecting the most reliable gas sensor on the marketplace. NevadaNano’s MPS sensor provides exceptional reliability and accuracy. The sensor design includes an intrinsically safe housing unit and easy-to-use software. It also features environmental compensation so you know you are getting an accurate reading no matter the environmental conditions. The innovative design of the MPS relies on superb electronics as part of the micro-electromechanical (MEMS) transducer to detect the full range of combustible gases quickly. To learn more about the benefits of the most innovative hydrocarbon gas sensor on the market, contact NevadaNano today. 

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