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The Journal for Employee Protection
The Journal for Employee Protection
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The fourth of our five manufacturers forums for 2008 concentrates on the field of gas detection. Once again we approached manufacturers from around the world with the same questions and these are the answers we received.
1. What is the most important development or innovation you have seen in gas detection over the last 12 months?
Technology is continuously improving and data analysis is being made increasingly easy and more efficient. BW’s MicroDock II has the capability to automate calibration, bump test and record data on a storage system and downloads are made simple with a press of a button. It offers a wide range of tracking capabilities that can be networked to a system to suit large areas such as those found in refineries. It enables the users to track the status and location of the units in the field. Cost and time requirements for routine maintenance are therefore reduced.
Advancements in measuring methane at distance utilizing TDLAS (Tunable Diode Laser Absorption spectrometry) are demonstrating savings in both time and resource. The ability to detect escapes without the need to be in arms reach (as per FID) provides both safety and practicality benefits allowing detection up the sides of buildings, in roof spaces, through fences and even single glazed glass.
Introduction of new techniques such as FTIR (Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy) into portable gas detection.
The most significant development in gas detection in the past year has been the introduction of instruments with more user friendly operating systems. New equipment has been introduced that is meant to function with an operating system that is more closely tied to the common electronic equipment that common workers use everyday. The introduction of the color display to gas detection has been a key to this type of operation.
The development of a series 4 style PID sensor with Fence electrode capability overcoming the known humidity issues associated with the PID sensors giving superior stability. This now gives the capability for all multi gas detectors to be fitted with PID offering low level ppm VOC detection together with normal safety gas sensors.
The modern gas detection market is becoming increasingly focused on cost-of-ownership and features which improve performance and ease of use. The most innovative feature in the last 12 months has been the MotionAlert, the man-down alarm used in the ALTAIR 4 portable gas detector. Within permanent gas detectors the easy software configuration of up to eight sensors is a feature unique to the new wall mount controller GasGard XL.
During the last 12 months we didn’t see any particular innovation in gas detection, used technologies are mostly the same and even systems are having the same technical structures. To see a real innovation we must go back of about 5 years when Infrared technology started to be used for CO2 and hydrocarbons detection, of course prices at that time were very high; nowadays they are rapidly decreasing reaching acceptable levels.
The most important development over the last year is the customers’ awareness that gas detection systems are safety equipment and, as such, need to be fail safe.
2. How do you see portable and fixed gas detection developing and improving in the near future?
Advancements in plastics, gas sensor design and electronic components allow portable gas detectors to be almost unnoticeable by the wearer until an alarm condition exists. Miniaturization and minimization of electronic components helps decrease the overall size of the detector. Portable gas detectors will continue to become smaller and less expensive resulting in more companies investing in protection.
Portable and fixed-point hydrocarbon gas detectors will more commonly use infrared (IR) sensors rather than catalytic bead (pellistor) sensors traditionally employed. IR sensors provide increased reliability, more dependable operation and increased life-times when compared to pellistors. The cost of IR sensors has fallen in the past few years, and a commercial case can easily be made for switching to IR technology.
Detection limits will be lower; analyzers will be more specific. Shift from plain detection (qualitative information) to actual analysis (both qualitative & quantitative information).
Industrial Scientific Integrating wireless technology is likely to be the next biggest development trend in both portable and fixed gas detection equipment. Providing the ability to deliver real time data from both portable and fixed instrumentation wirelessly, as well as locate workers and/or equipment will be key market drivers in the future.
The ability to monitor more specialised gases at lower levels. Easy maintainable PID detectors. Increase in use of Fixed PID for low level (ppm levels) of VOC’s.
Future portable and fixed gas detectors will use smaller intelligent sensors capable of self-diagnosis and self configuration. Wireless communication incorporating telemetry, enhanced user interface and extended operational life are key factors in responding to the increasing needs of the customer.
Portable gas detectors are going to be more and more diffused in the market (moreover in Italy where the security in working condition is becoming an important aspect) reducing dimensions and increasing numbers of detected gases, prices will constantly decrease because of big competition and technology development. Fixed gas detection is moving towards Infrared technology which is becoming cheaper and cheaper and asking lower cost for maintenance services.
Near future improvement and development are to be based on always more and more accurate sensors, reliable electronics and user friendly systems. It’s important to insist on reliability as if a product is reliable, duly certified and offered at an adequate price, customers will not be any longer attracted by “no matter what” gas detectors, and will learn that there are instruments available at a reasonable price that will really help increase the safety of their plants.
3. When it comes to gas detection what are the most common areas you see specifiers and end users struggle with?
End users and distributors struggle with identifying what their gas detection needs are, what the gas detectors they are considering buying are capable of, and comparing prices versus features.
Assessment of risk, application advice and the distinction between ‘detector’, ‘monitor’ and ‘analyser’. eg some processes require analysis (ie quantification of gas levels) for control rather than gas leak detection for safety purposes and the most suitable sensor technology depends upon the application: process vs safety. Other topics that cause confusion are complexity of hazardous area certifications, standards, maintenance requirements and user training.
Understanding the limitations of different technologies; requirements are sometimes unrealistic especially when detection limits are concerned.
End users struggle with the application and understanding of different sensing technologies. Gas detection users typically have the need to monitor and detect a number of different gases. Some more exotic and technologically difficult to detect than others. Selecting the proper sensing technology and understanding that not all gas sensors function in the same manner as the common oxygen, carbon monoxide or hydrogen sulphide sensors can be the source of tremendous problems for end users.
The need to detect at lower levels and with greater specifity.
One of the most common issues faced by specifiers and end users is that they don’t always know which gasses may be present in a potentially hazardous area. This information is normally obtained by carrying out a full risk assessment and only then the detector can be configured with the correct sensors.
Specifiers and end-users mostly struggle with dimensioning of the gas detection system because there are too many variable to consider when engineering how big the system has to be; then the second problem is where exactly to place detectors (ray of detection for each detector is important); then the best technology to be used for each specific application, choice between different technologies is not easy.
Specifiers and end users most common struggles are in the evaluation of the most suitable gas detection system at the lowest price possible.
Specifiers’ are aimed at covering possible existing risks in the plant they are assessing and offer products with the adequate certifications, either local or European.
On the other side, in some Countries end users often feel as “obliged” to have a gas detection system installed and want to fulfil this requirement investing the lowest possible cost, sometimes even reducing the quantity of detectors the specifier assessed as necessary.
4. What is the most important thing for your customers to consider when researching and specifying gas detection equipment?
Assessing the environment the detector will be used in is a primary consideration. Whether the application is a confined space, oil and gas, refineries, petrochemical facilities, utilities or municipalities affects which detector is most appropriate. First determine which atmospheric hazards are or potentially will be present. Assess the environment the detector will be used in and consider the existence of combustibles, toxic gases or volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and the possibility for oxygen enrichment or deficiency. Once the atmospheric hazards have been identified, the choice between a single or a multi-gas detector can be made.
The credibility of performance and certification claims made for products. Integrity can be gauged to some extent by age and legal structure eg a UK PLC with ISO 9000 will have strict approaches to risk. Customers purchasing large quantities of equipment should request a product for a trial period before choosing supplier.
For our customers, the versatility of our analyzer (multiple applications, capability to measure hundreds’ of different compounds with same instrument).
By far the most important thing for customers to consider when specifying gas detection equipment is their application. What they are using the equipment for and how it is being used. Customers need to be certain that the instrumentation, sensors, features and functionality all match the application before making a purchasing decision. Separating what they truly need from everything that is available to them is the key.
The ability to get accurate and low level detection in the ppm/ppb levels. Also flexibility in operation and upgradeability to allow the correct and changeable instrument for all applications.
Customers need to know which configuration of instrument is required to keep the workforce safe. Once this is known they seek optimum value for money, proven performance and extended functionality. These requirements are normally best met by a company with a longs and successful history in safety industry all over the world.
Customers are mainly looking at the lowest possible price paying also attention to the cost of after sales service and maintenance costs. Then an important role is played by the product certifications according to the standards and moreover it is coming up the request for the whole system certification according to the new standards.
What is the most important thing for your customers to consider when researching and specifying gas detection equipment? Our customers most important things are:
– full compliance of the products with EU norms – reliability – easy to use – easy to maintain (one man calibration is always highly appreciated)
We are confident that you have found these observations of interest, perhaps even bringing something to light that you hadn’t previously considered.
There is obviously only so much we can address in such a short article. For more in-depth information and help and advice on your own particular situation and problem why not call the manufacturer direct, using the information found in their adverts found in this issue. You can use the Advertiser List on page 98 to find out exactly where they are, or how to find them on the Web.
Don’t forget to tell them where you heard about them!
Published: 10th Jul 2008 in Health and Safety International
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