Health & Safety

  • Infrared Camera Sees Sulphur Hexafluoride

Infrared Camera Sees Sulphur Hexafluoride

Feb 12 2008 Read 1801 Times

The introduction of FLIR Systems’ (UK) ThermaCAM® GasFind IR gas leak detector has allowed companies to incorporate infrared into their leak detection and repair programmes (LDAR) providing a far quicker and more efficient method than traditional toxic vapour analysis.

This success has led to further product development and the introduction of an infrared camera specifically for detecting greenhouse gases that are not visible in the mid-wave infrared band; sulphur hexafluoride and anhydrous ammonia are typical examples. This new camera is the ThermaCAM® GasFind IR LW. It is based on the standard model but as its suffix suggests it operates in the longwave infrared band.

Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) is a relatively expensive man-made chemical released by electrical substations where it is used as an electrical
insulator in equipment that transmits and distributes electricity. It is also used as a cover gas in the magnesium industry, in the manufacture of semiconductors, for thermal and sound insulation, as a tracer gas for
ventilation efficiency and in medical applications.

Although SF6 is extensively recycled leakage is still a concern. Excessive exposure can harm human health and of the internationally monitored greenhouse gases it has, by far, the greatest global warming potential – 23,000 times that of CO2.

This gas is included in the European Pollutant Emission Register, a vast database that catalogues European industrial pollution. It requires affected industrial plants to identify leaks from a range of 50 pollutants that they emit into the air or water in quantities over
a given threshold. The ThermaCAM® GasFindIR LW allows plant managers to see, and hence, reduce the emission of sulphur hexafluoride with ease.
Although the detection of SF6 is a key selling point for this new camera it is not by any means the only gas that it can detect.

It is designed to see a wide range of other gases too including anhydrous ammonia that is widely used as a refrigerant in large
cold-storage facilities. The new ThermaCAM® GasFindIR LW actually shows any leakage point or points of sulphur hexafluoride gas in real time. It can detect small leaks from several metres away and big leaks from hundreds of metres away and in trials has proved able to see leaks
that have eluded a traditional active laser system. In addition to making leaks visible, the camera is able to scan large areas quickly,
greatly increasing inspection speed and improving overall plant safety. It can also be used without stopping any operation or process.
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