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Gas Detection in the Refinery Industry

Gas Detection in the Refinery Industry

Posted by Claire Allcock on 3rd Jul 2020

Refineries are an essential part of modern society, allowing us to create fuel needed to keep us all on the move. But what are the gas hazards involved in refining, and what gas detection systems do they need?

The purpose of refineries is to convert crude oil mixes into various blends of hydrocarbons, being used for a huge range of applications. With any industrial process, there are many opportunities for gas hazards to arise, making gas detection an essential part of safety procedures in refineries.

The Future of Refineries

With the rise in popularity of renewable energy, electric-powered cars and hydrogen as a replacement fuel, many may think that over time, the use of refineries would decrease and with it, the risks associated with working in them. Especially with the COVID-19 crisis, the outlook on the refinery industry was looking especially troubling.

However, as with many sectors, this crisis has illuminated many opportunities for the refinery industry to move into a new future with visionary thinking and bold action. With this in mind, it is essential to continue to focus on investing in and constantly improving safety processes within the refinery industry.

Gases Present in Refineries

Refineries are typically large, sprawling plants with extensive piping to carry substances from one part of the plant to the other. With the amount of processes taking place within a refinery, there are a multitude of different gas hazards to go along with it.

Flammable Gas Hazards

A refinery’s final products are various forms of hydrocarbon; putting the plants at a serious explosive risk due to the flammable nature of hydrocarbons.

Asphyxiant Hazards

In any environment where other gases have the potential to displace oxygen in the atmosphere, the risk of asphyxiation to personnel is present. Leaking materials or poorly-ventilated areas within a refinery have the potential to turn into an asphyxiant hazard.

Toxic Gas Hazards

One of the most common toxic gases that can be found in a refinery is hydrogen sulfide. To adhere to environmental protocols, sulfur is removed from many of the final products and converted into hydrogen sulfide.

Minimising Hazard Risk in Refineries

With the huge potential for leaks and other hazards, gas detection is vital throughout a refinery; although that isn’t the only safety consideration.

Fixed Gas Detection

Fixed gas detectors should be strategically placed at locations such as:

  • Flanges
  • Pump seals
  • Valves
  • Catalytic cracking process monitoring
  • Bulk storage areas
  • Ventilation systems
  • Perimeter/fence-line monitoring (to prevent cross-contamination with other substances in the atmosphere around the refinery).

Gas detectors should also be present throughout the catalytic cracking process monitoring, as well as during planned maintenance and plant shutdown/modification.

Portable Gas Detection

Alongside a comprehensive system of fixed gas detectors, personnel working in the refinery should also carry with them a portable gas detector for process stream sampling collection, overseeing the refining process and other general plant operations.

Gas Safety Measures for Refineries

Due to the nature of materials being handled by refineries, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, oxygen and hydrocarbon gas detectors are the most important and most common detectors found. Beyond this core range of gases, others may need to be detected depending on the circumstances at each individual plant.

Depending on their individual environment, refineries could consider some extra features of their gas safety protocols to ensure comprehensive protection:

  • Explosion-proof transmitters
  • Infrared transmitters
  • Wireless gas detection systems
  • Gas detection controllers
  • Real-time gas monitoring software

Refineries have created a unique environment that is rich with gas hazards, which should be protected against with a comprehensive detection system in place. For more help and guidance on creating a gas detection system that is right for your environment, get in touch with us.