Gas Detection in Petrochemical Industry

There are multiple hazards when processing oil and gas, from combustibility to harmful and deadly gases. Therefore, obtaining a reliable early warning of a potential risk of explosion or fire event is a major desire. Gas and flame detectors are critical to protecting people and property from these hazards. This article provides some insights about the petrochemical Industry and hazards associated.

Refineries and Maintenance Shutdowns

In a refinery, hazardous chemicals can come from many sources and in many forms. In crude oil, there are not only the components required for processing, but impurities such as sulphur, vanadium, and arsenic compounds. The oil is split into many component streams that are further altered and refined to produce the final product range. Most, if not all, of these component stream chemicals are inherently hazardous to humans, as are the other chemicals added during processing. Hazards include fire, explosion, toxicity, corrosiveness, and asphyxiation.

Exposures to hazardous substances often occur during shutdown and maintenance work, since these are a deviation from the refineries routine operations. Any plant shutdown requires a complete plan in writing to cover all activities, the impact on other operations, safety and emergency planning. Care should be exercised at all times to avoid inhaling solvent vapours, toxic gases, and other respiratory contaminants. Constant monitoring is therefore required. This includes warning systems such as gas and flame detectors, emergency procedures, and permit systems for any kind of potentially dangerous work.

Confined Spaces

On most jobsites there are potential confined space hazards. These hazards are multiplied, however, on a refinery site because of the complex collection of tanks, reactors, vessels, and ducts combined with a wide variety of hazardous chemicals and emissions, often in enclosed areas. Many of these chemicals can produce oxygen deficiency, toxic, or explosive atmospheres.

Hydrogen sulphide (H2S) is a potential problem in the transport and storage of crude oil. The cleaning of storage tanks presents a high hazard potential. Many confined-space entry problems can occur here, including oxygen deficiency resulting from previous inerting procedures, rusting, and oxidation of organic coatings. Inerting is the process of reducing the oxygen levels in a cargo tank to remove the oxygen element required for ignition. Carbon monoxide can be present in the inerting gas. In addition to H2S, depending on the characteristics of the product previously stored in the tanks, other chemicals that may be encountered include metal carbonyls, arsenic, and tetraethyl lead.

Prevention of Potential hazards

The installation and correct placement of gas detection equipment is a key part of the safety plan for reducing risks to personnel. In additional, it’s important that your gas detection fleet is regular checked, tested and calibrated. Reliable equipment, safe user behaviour and adequate training are the three components required for an effective gas detection system.

Training is just as important to gas detection as having the appropriate equipment. A holistic approach needs to be adopted when looking at the functionality of a device. There are a large number of variations with products and as you would expect, there is often a cost implication with increased functionality. Again, this is where working with a gas detection specialist can help by identifying the additional spec that could be valuable. Contact us for more information.

Areas with Hazardous gases:

  • Acid production
  • Emission testing
  • Confined space entry
  • Hydrocarbon production
  • Inert gas blanketing
  • Shutdown and turnaround
  • Valve and flange check points
  • Exploration
  • Specialty chemical production
  • Drilling
  • Transportation, storage and distribution
  • Refining
  • Perimeter/fence-line monitoring

Potential hazards

  • Ammonia (NH3)
  • Carbon monoxide (CO)
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2
  • Chlorine (CI or CI2)
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Hydrogen sulphide (H2S)
  • Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)
  • Particulates
  • Sulphur dioxide (SO2)

Documents and References

  • AS 1596-2014: LP Gas – Storage and Handling
  • AS 1715-2009: Selection, use and maintenance of respiratory protective equipment
  • AS 1940-2016: The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids
  • AS 2030: Series Gas cylinders
  • AS 2714-2008: The storage and handling of hazardous chemical materials
  • AS 2865-2009: Safe Working in a confined space
  • AS 3780-2008: The storage and handling of corrosive substances
  • AS 3961-2005 The storage and handling of liquefied natural gas
  • AS 5601-2013: Gas installations
  • AS 4332-2004: The storage and handling of gases in cylinders
  • AS/NZS ISO 31000-2009: Risk Management
  • AS 4655-2005: Fire Safety Audits
  • AS 4801-2001: Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems
  • NFPA 59A: Production, Storage & Handling of LNG
  • NFPA 30: Flammable & Combustible Liquids Code
  • NFPA 58: Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code