Natural gas production and detecting gas leaks

For those working in the natural gas industry there are few things more important than ensuring the health and safety of your teams as well as the general public and environment. While methane is not the most dangerous of gases under usual circumstances, it has the potential to cause damage, and this means that proper management of the gas is needed, including precautionary measures to prevent leaks and repair them quickly should they take place.

The issue of gas leaks can be so severe that every leak must be taken seriously, and must be thoroughly investigated to find the cause, as well as finding out the best approach in terms of managing the situation. Your first line of defence when it comes to gas leaks is to have a proper management system in place to monitor and analyze the gases you are handling.

As such, it’s vitally important that any premises involved in the production, handling or storage of methane has adequately invested in equipment to monitor, analyze and maintain gas parameters. There are several types of monitoring systems available for commercial and domestic use, and we always recommend that you speak to a professional when looking to upgrade your systems.

Different types of gas monitoring equipment

There are different technologies available to detect methane leaks. Using infrared cameras is the most cost-effective option. Best practice in the UK recommends using infrared cameras, as they are easy to use and are affordable. However, this method has certain limitations. These sensors are available at various prices and are not suitable for all environments, particularly in places exposed to high winds.

Another option would be to install stationary sensors that periodically take air samples and provide analysis of composition over time. This makes it easy to spot when localised air composition is in flux, so operators can quickly notice any trends and can easily identify patterns or events that are concerning and many indicate a leak.

To gain a full picture of your system and the gases it contains you should adopt a variety of techniques. The best approach is to use a combination of gas sensors and other data, such as air flow, temperature, humidity, and other variables such as air pressure. You should use sensors that are capable of providing information on the gaseous composition, as well as information on concentration. If you are wondering how to measure the methane content in biogas you will also need to look into utilising sensors that can give you detailed information on the proportions of the gases that make up this substance.

In effect, this methodology allows utilities to identify leaks quickly and minimise their carbon footprint, as well as being versatile enough to provide accurate information on the composition of a gas. This makes them ideal for gas storage and transportation, as well as for use where gas is produced such as in landfills and other waste management facilities.

Sources of biogas emissions

Among the largest human-made sources of methane and biogas emissions, pipelines are statistically the most common sources as they are widespread and often unmanned. Where these pipelines fail there is huge potential for gas leaks, and by using proper monitoring and analysis equipment, the extent and severity of the leaks can be identified. These leaks contain harmful pollutants, including carcinogens and other harmful gases, making a fast response necessary.

Biogas is produced at landfills through the decomposition of organic matter such as domestic and agricultural waste. While these are strictly controlled environments, leaks can occur when membranes sealing the site are allowed to tear or degrade over time. Not only can biogas escape landfills as a gas, but it can also leach from the site and dissolve into groundwater where it causes widespread pollution in waterways, and can even build up in water supply pipes.

Animal agriculture is another source of biogas emissions, as the digestive process of ruminants such as cows produces high levels of methane. For the most part, these emissions are allowed to freely enter the atmosphere, though capturing it and processing it for use as a fuel is a viable option when it comes to managing emissions from this source.

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