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APPLICATION NOTE FLAMMABLE GAS DETECTOR

APPLICATIONS FOR PROTECTION


AND SAFETY OF PERSONNEL
AND PLANT

November 2009

By Paul Lazor, Sales & Marketing Director

Copyright © Extronics Ltd 2009


The information contained in this document is subject to change without notice. Extronics cannot be held responsible for any errors or inaccuracies within
this document.

Extronics Ltd, Meridian House, Roe Street, Congleton, Cheshire, CW12 1PG, Tel +44 (0)1260 292651, Fax +44 (0)1260 297280 | www.extronics.com

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Extronics Ltd | Flammable gas detector applications for protection and safety of personnel and plant

Flammable gas detector applications for protection and safety of personnel


and plant
GENERAL INTRODUCTION
The following document is intended to provide an overview of Gas Detection with respect to the products offered by
Extronics Ltd, namely the iGAS100 series and the iLEL100 Solvent Probe. This document is not intended as an in depth
technical paper but is written to provide the reader with a greater insight of the applications that these products can be
utilised for and in which sectors of the market.

Please note that the Gas Detectors offered by Extronics Ltd are not intended or certified for use in Coal Mines.
Additionally this document does not cover the use of personal monitoring equipment worn to determine exposure to
toxic substances or flammable gases; it is dedicated to fixed Gas Detector installations for flammable gases only.
Extronics also provides a range of fixed Gas Detectors which can be utilised for non flammable applications where
Toxicity is the environmental hazard. These will be addressed in another White Paper.

THE PRODUCT TYPES


Extronics iGAS100 series and the iLEL100 Solvent Probe are ‘fixed’ Gas Detectors and are permanently installed in a
chosen location to provide continuous monitoring of plant and equipment. They are used to give early warning of leaks
from plant containing flammable gases or vapours. The iGAS100 range is designed for area monitoring of flammable
gases and is suitable for inside and outside applications. The iLEL100 Probe is specially designed to monitor flammables
directly in a process or exhaust duct system, providing that there is a sample flow in one direction.

Figure 1. iGAS100 with Local Display Figure 2. iGAS100 Figure 3. iLEL100

All of the iGAS100 range is available as analogue or addressable units

THE SAFETY MARKET


The use of fixed gas detection is very important where there is the possibility of a leak into an enclosed or partially
enclosed space where the flammable gases could accumulate creating a potential hazard. Fixed location detectors
should provide plant operators with advance warning of potentially dangerous situations where flammable gases or
vapours may occur by initiating sounders and /or beacons to provide visual and audible alarms, hence the market that
Extronics is focusing on with its range of Gas Detectors is Safety Protection.

OPERATIONAL PHILOSOPHY
The measurement of flammability using gas detectors of escaping gases vapours in the work place for personnel
protection is not a precise measurement. To measure and obtain accurate values of the %LEL many other factors have to
be taken into consideration. Variations in the different techniques used to calculate the LEL (Lower Explosive Limit) of a
Gas can provide different results and tables of flammability from around the world can indicate differences of greater
than 10% to 20% for the same gas.

Regardless as to the method that has been used to establish the LEL of a gas all of the values that have been calculated
under laboratory test conditions have been based upon a number of physical constants which include, pressure,
temperature and Oxygen concentration. In practice all of these parameters will vary from the laboratory conditions used
to calculate flammability. Hence to establish an accurate value of the %LEL in an operational process or area other
sensors must be utilised in conjunction with the gas detector to compensate for the variations in pressure, temperature
and oxygen and by applying the laws of physics using the appropriate algorithms the corrected value of %LEL can be
calculated.

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In practice this is neither pragmatic nor cost effective and totally unnecessary.

Gas Detectors for the measurement of flammability are not designed to provide precise measurements. They are
designed to warn personnel of impending danger by a rate of change process when alarm set points are breached as the
%LEL rises in an area or process due to the rapid increase in concentration of the flammable gas or vapour.

Once the alarm signals have been generated then suitable action (based upon the plants assessment of how to deal with
such scenarios) can be implemented to protect both personnel and plant.

The most important factor critical to safety is the rate of change of the %LEL of the gas to ensure that personnel
operating in an area where a large release has occurred can take appropriate action or move away to a safe area or
Muster Point. Only when the hazard has passed should personnel return to the area of gas release.

Please note it is NOT within Extronics remit to advise on what actions an operator should take in the event of gas
detectors sensing high levels of flammable gas. The plant philosophy for addressing such incidents should be based
upon a Risk Assessment carried out by the plant operators (or consultants) and a response procedure employed based
upon the Risk Assessments findings. The iGAS100 range and iLEL100 probe provide alarms to facilitate such safety
measures.

Flammable releases can potentially be extremely dangerous as they can cause vast amounts of damage and serious if not
fatal injury. The initial explosion or fire does not need to be of major proportions but can act as a catalyst triggering and
facilitating potentially devastating consequences.

APPLICATIONS
Wherever there is a hazardous area in which flammable gases are present either within a process or an exhaust
ventilation system then a gas detector can be considered for use as a warning system of impending danger.

Many industrial processes produce flammable gases and vapours which can burn when mixed with air, sometimes
violently. Typical examples include:

Removal of flammable materials from tanks and pipes in preparation for entry
Line breaking, cleaning, or hot work such as welding
Evaporation of flammable solvents in a drying oven
Spraying, spreading and coating of articles with paint, adhesives or other substances containing flammable solvents
Manufacture of flammable gases
Manufacture and mixing of flammable liquids
Storage of flammable substances
Solvent extraction processes
Combustion of gas or oil
Combined heat and power plants
Heat treatment furnaces in which flammable atmospheres are used
Battery charging

Many of the above examples of potential gas escapes can be found in:

Refineries
Paint manufacture
Converting Industry
Automotive
Pharmaceuticals
Steel plant
Chemicals manufacture
Engine Testing
Gas Bottling plant such
Research laboratories…

The above list represents just a few areas of industry where an application for a gas detector may be found for the
protection and safety of Personnel and Plant.

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WHERE SHOULD GAS DETECTORS BE POSITIONED?


This is a question that is often asked and the answer is never simple as there are many factors that should be taken into
consideration when providing an indication of where to position a gas detector.

The first question is to identify what the gas or gases are that may be present on the site?

Gases that are heavier than air will move downwards towards the ground, gases that are lighter than air will disperse in
an upwards direction, gases that are very similar to air in weight, will mix at lower levels and will be dispersed by air
movement or thermals created by the surrounding process plant structures.

Methane (CH4) is very light so the gas detectors should be positioned high in the roof space. Toluene is very heavy
therefore the gas detectors should be positioned low down beneath the process, (imagine heavy gases behaving rather
like water, there movement will be influenced by gravity!).

The size and topography of a hazardous area on a plant will influence how many detectors may be required as will the
type of gas release. For a simple flat area one detector for every 60 – 80 square meters may be considered acceptable
but many other factors have to be considered.

1. From where can the escape originate a flange, a loading process or a process vessel?
2. Are there any enclosed areas where gas can accumulate in sumps or closed off rooms and storage bays?
3. Is the area outside or inside and if it is inside is it well ventilated?
4. Does the origin of the source of the potential leak change because the process changes?
5. Is the escape under pressure and at what pressure?

Other site specific factors may have to be taken into consideration before a final decision can be taken to identify the
number of gas detectors required to protect an area. Flammable gases are generally invisible and cannot be seen hence
it is crucial to understand precisely what processes are employed on a plant that can result in the release of flammable
compounds. The human nose can detect odours very quickly and at extremely low levels but after a short period of time
it becomes desensitised and cannot be relied upon as a method for detecting the build up of flammable gases. Also
many gases are odourless making them even more difficult to detect.

If existing gas detectors are present on a plant then they may have been installed many years ago and their positioning
may no longer be appropriate because operational processes have changed. It is therefore very important to ask the
question - why the sensors are positioned in their respective locations but do not assume that replacement detectors
should be installed in the same locations.

The number of gas detectors and locations are site specific and subject to a site survey.

SENSOR ORIENTATION
When locating gas detectors into position they should always point down towards the ground and never up. The reason
for this is that particulates can block the sensor head if they are positioned with the detector pointing up, also in rainy
areas water will cause problems.

    
Figure 4. Correct Sensor Orientation Figure 5. Incorrect Sensor Orientation

For heavy gases gas detectors can be positioned between 30 and 50 cm from the ground but careful consideration
should be given to the whole area in case there are any drainage runs etc where gas can accumulate.

For gases of a similar weight to air then a position of 1.5 to 2m should be considered. The sensors may have to be
installed in a variety of locations as more than one gas may be present.

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Another very important aspect which has to be considered when installing gas detectors is how easy is it to calibrate
them? Access may not always be easy but consideration should always be given to the need for a maintenance
programme in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.

If jet wash cleaning is undertaken on site then special covers with baffles can be supplied to protect the detector but still
allow measurements to take place.

Calibration Nipple

Splashguard

Figure 6. iGAS100 with Splashguard

INFRA RED OR PELLISTOR?


Catalytic (Pellistor) are based upon a destructive process as the flammable gas burns on the gas detector which
shortens the life of the pellistor. The operating principle of this point detector is that heat is generated during the
catalysed reaction between the gas and oxygen in air. The resulting rise in temperature of the
catalyst bead (also known as a ‘pellistor’) causes a change in electrical resistance of a platinum
wire embedded in the bead, also acting as the heater, which is a measure of gas
concentration (Wheatstone Bridge). The heated wire is contained within an Ex-certified
enclosure with a porous sintered metal insert that allows the gas to enter.

This detector is small and is used for detecting flammable gases from 0-100% LEL.
Figure 7. Pellistor
The Pellistor can be poisoned by trace gases such as silicones and
hydrogen sulphide and the sintered metal filter can become blocked. This
can result in detector drift, and loss of sensitivity, so it needs regular calibration and eventual
replacement.

Infra red gas detectors tend to have a much longer operational life span and do not suffer from
poisoning due to the fact that their measuring technique is based on the absorption of infra red
Figure 8. Infra red energy and is a non destructive technique.

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If the area which is being monitored is always subject to background releases of flammable gas then the Infra Red gas
detector will be more cost effective. If the possibility of an escape is extremely rare then the pellistor will provide a
reliable long term solution.

iLEL100
The iLEL100 Solvent Probe was designed to provide measurements of flammable gases and vapours within the various
production processes or vent ducts exhausting flammable gases away from a process. The iLEL100 Probe utilises the Infra
red sensor (but can be used with a pellistor).

The philosophy however is exactly the same as the iGAS100 series, which is to provide the plant operator with warning
that a potentially hazardous situation is developing. Enclosed processes have traditionally presented many problems in
accessibility for measuring instruments, the iLEL100 provides a simple solution without the need for complicated
sampling systems requiring extensive maintenance.

The iLEL100 can be effectively utilised by direct insertion into a process or exhaust duct where a positive flow of the gas
medium exists, (further details are available in Extronics white paper Gas Measurement without sampling systems).

CALIBRATION
Manufacturers of gas detectors will prescribe a calibration period which is suited to the particular type of detector.
However historic data gathering during maintenance regimes can assist in ensuring that an installed base of gas
detectors is always operating effectively and the service regime can be modified in terms of frequency of calibration
based upon the information secured during the maintenance programme.
Infra Red gas detectors will generally require fewer calibrations due to the fact that their principal of measurement is non
destructive and less likely to create drift. Pellistor devices burn the gas hence carbon will deposit on the sensor causing
drift and increasing response times which are critical to the desired rapid rate of change sought after in a system
designed to warn of impending danger.

SUMMARY
The protection of personnel and plant is an important aspect of any process plants operation. The use of gas detectors
correctly located and positioned offers the operator an additional level of safety and in conjunction with a properly
implemented maintenance programme can avert potentially catastrophic situations from developing.

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GLOSSARY
Flammable: Capable of burning with a flame.
Flammable range: The concentration of flammable vapour in air falling between the upper and lower explosion limits.
Flash Point: The temperature at which a liquid is in equilibrium with its vapour which can ignite when exposed to an
energy source.
Hazardous area: An area where flammable or explosive gas (or vapour-air mixtures) are, or may be expected to be,
present in quantities that require special precautions to be taken against the risk of ignition.
Lower explosion limit (LEL): The minimum concentration of vapour in air below which the propagation of flame will not
occur in the presence of an ignition source. Also referred to as the lower flammable limit (LFL) or the lower explosive
limit.
Upper explosion limit (UEL): The maximum concentration of vapour in air above which the propagation of flame will not
occur in the presence of an ignition source. Also referred to as the upper flammable limit (UFL) or the upper explosive
limit.
Vapour: The gaseous phase released by evaporation from a substance that is a liquid at normal temperatures and
pressures.
Zone: The classified part of a hazardous area, representing the probability of a flammable vapour (or gas) and air
mixtures being present.

REFERENCES
1. BS EN 50073: 1999 Guide for the selection, installation, use and maintenance of apparatus for the detection and
measurement of combustible gases or oxygen British Standards Institution
2. BS EN 61779: 2000 Electrical apparatus for the detection and measurement of flammable gases (Parts 1-5) British
Standards Institution
3. BS EN 1539: 2000 Dryers and ovens in which flammable substances are released - Safety requirements British
Standards Institution
4. Dangerous substances and explosive atmospheres. Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations
2002. Approved Code of Practice and guidance L138 HSE Books 2003 ISBN 0 7176 2203 7
5. The Equipment and Protective Systems Intended for Use in Potentially Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 1996 SI
1996/192 The Stationery Office ISBN 0 11 053999 0
6. Gas detection and calibration guide The Council of Gas Detection and Environmental Monitoring 1999 COGDEM
Hitchin
7. COSHH essentials: Easy steps to control chemicals - Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations
HSG193 (Second edition) HSE Books 2003 ISBN 0 7176 2737 3
8. COSHH a brief guide to the regulations: What you need to know about the Control of Substances Hazardous to
Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) Leaflet INDG136(rev2) HSE Books 2003 (single copy free or priced packs of 10
ISBN 0 7176 2677 6)
9. Control of safety risks at gas turbines used for power generation Plant and Machinery Guidance Note PM84
(Second edition) HSE Books 2003 ISBN 0 7176 2193 6
10. Safe work in confined spaces. Confined Spaces Regulations 1997. Approved Code of Practice, Regulations and
guidance L101 HSE Books 1997 ISBN 0 7176 1405 0

Health and safety inspectors seek to secure compliance with the law and may refer to this guidance as illustrating good
practice.

The above reference list was current at the time of publishing this document but should always be checked for updates
and amendments. Extronics Ltd is not liable for any changes made and this document is intended as an overview and
guide to assist in understanding the application of flammable gas detectors in hazardous areas.

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