FLIR Optical Gas Imaging Camera to Help Improve Environment and Safety at Borealis Stenungsund

Table of Contents

Introduction
Advantages of Optical Gas Imaging
High Sensitivity Mode
Higher Inspection Frequency
Infrared Absorption
Recording Video Footage
Detecting Leaks in Unexpected Locations
Conclusions
About FLIR

Introduction

Invisible gaseous hydrocarbons are handled by a number of petrochemical plants. There are some sort of safety aspects encountered with most of these gases. They may be poisonous or cause health issues in case of exposure for a long time. Others are explosive, highly flammable, and most of them will have a negative impact on the environment if they enter the atmosphere in large quantities. Hence leak detection is extremely important in these petrochemical plants.

The Borealis high-pressure, low-density polyethylene (LDPE) plant in Stenungsund, Sweden, which produces LDPE products for the cable and wire sector is one such plant and has an annual production capacity of 350,000 t. The main ingredient ethylene is delivered by the Borealis cracker facility, which is converted into polyethylene in a high-pressure polymerization process.

Ethylene is a highly flammable hydrocarbon. An optical gas imaging camera was procured by Borealis from FLIR systems in order to improve the safety within the plant further and bring down the environmental impact.

It is possible to visualize gas leaks in real time using an optical gas imaging camera, which is a quick non-contact measuring instrument. Other measuring instruments present the inspector with a number, optical gas imaging cameras present visual information, making the leak detection process more intuitive. Optical gas imaging cameras can also be used in hard-to-access locations, since they can detect small leaks from a distance.

 

Shift supervisor LDPE Jan Ake Schiller was skeptical at first, but is now convinced of the potential of optical gas imaging cameras.

Leaks show up in the optical gas imaging footage as a smoke-like vapor.

Advantages of Optical Gas Imaging

The advantages of the optical gas imaging camera are:

  • It helps in visual detection of gases
  • The optical gas imaging camera is used to detect the leak and the sniffer is used to quantify the leak
  • The camera has a high sensitivity mode this camera is surprisingly sensitive, it can be used to detect even smaller gas leaks from about 70 m
  • This enables the operator to perform these inspections from a safe distance.

Polyethylene is used to produce a wide variety of plastics, from wiring insulation to car dashboards.

In the control room all gas flows throughout the plant are closely monitored.

High Sensitivity Mode

The High Sensitivity Mode (HSM) is a special feature included in all GF-Series optical gas imaging cameras. This is an image subtraction video processing technique that enhances efficiently the thermal sensitivity of the camera. A percentage of individual pixel signals from frames in the video stream from the subsequent frames are subtracted as per the HSM feature, thus enhancing the differences between frames, which make leaks stand out more clearly in the resulting images. All leaks that need to be repaired are reported to the maintenance crews. In this part of the process the use of optical gas imaging cameras also has an advantage over sniffers, according to Schiller.

The small gas leak detected with optical gas imaging camera is quantified with a sniffer. As the concentration is below the threshold this leak does not get a high priority.

Higher Inspection Frequency

Using the FLIR GF306 optical gas imaging camera ensures that these inspections consume lesser time significantly improving the leak detection frequency.

It becomes important that a tool which is used as often as the FLIR GF306 optical gas imaging camera needs to be lightweight, compact and ergonomically designed to prevent back and arm strain. All FLIR GF-Series optical gas imaging cameras are ergonomically designed. These cameras have a rotating handle, direct access buttons and tiltable viewfinder and LCD screen, The FLIR GF306 optical gas imaging camera is designed from the end-user's perspective, offering advanced ergonomics to improve worker safety.

A sniffer must be held in exactly the right spot to detect a gas leak. Optical gas imaging cameras can detect gas leaks anywhere within their field of view.

Infrared Absorption

The FLIR GF306 optical gas imaging camera includes a cooled quantum well infrared photodetector (QWIP) that produces thermal images with a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels at a thermal sensitivity 25 mK (0,025 °C). The gas visualization functionality of the FLIR GF-Series optical gas imaging cameras is based on infrared absorption.

In the HSM image the leak shows up more clearly than on the image taken in the regular mode.

Recording Video Footage

Other than real time visualization, the FLIR GF306 optical gas imaging camera is also capable of recording both visual light video and thermal video footage. This new plant produces twice as much polyethylene as the old plant did, but the amount of VOC's escaping due to leakage is ten times less.

The GF306 optical gas imaging camera is compact, relatively lightweight and ergonomically designer, to prevent back and arm strain.

The FLIR GF306 optical gas imaging camera can detect even smaller leaks from a distance, such as this leak spotted using the HSM. In the HSM image the leak shows up more clearly than on the image taken in the regular mode. The GF306 optical gas imaging camera is compact, relatively lightweight and ergonomically designer, to prevent back and arm strain.

This valve is leaking ethylene, showing up as white smoke in the black hot thermal image.

Detecting Leaks in Unexpected Locations

The benefits of using optical gas imaging are that it is possible to detect the leaks in unexpected locations. With an optical gas imaging camera, all leaks within the camera's field of view can be viewed. It can spot leaks easily, quickly and it makes the inspections.

This HSM footage clearly shows a gas leak.

Leaks can pop up in unexpected locations, such as in this pipe support.

Another unexpected leak location. Due to a leak in a connection the gas escapes from the insulation material.

Conclusions

It is difficult to identify leaks in unexpected locations hence the use of optical gas imaging cameras will help ensure the safety of personnel and of the inhabitants of the surrounding area and safety is definitely worth investing in.

The plant’s workers also feel more secure because of the use of optical gas imaging. Using optical gas imaging will ensure reduction in the amount og gas lost to the atmosphere. Reducing the leakage, the optical gas imaging camera will earn back its purchase cost.

About FLIR

FLIR was founded in 1978, originally providing infrared imaging systems that were installed on vehicles for use in conducting energy audits. Later, we expanded our focus to other applications and markets for our technology, in particular, designing and selling stabilized thermal imaging systems for aircraft used by law enforcement. We have since grown substantially due to increasing demand for infrared products across a growing number of markets combined with the execution of a series of acquisitions. Today we are one of the world leaders in the design, manufacture and marketing of thermal imaging and stabilized camera systems for a wide variety of applications in the commercial, industrial and government markets, internationally as well as domestically.

Our Thermography business primarily consists of the design and manufacture of hand-held thermal imaging systems that can detect and measure minute temperature differences, which are useful for a wide variety of industrial and commercial applications. Uses for our Thermography products include high-end predictive and preventative maintenance, research and development, test and measurement, leak detection and scientific analysis. A growing distribution network has enabled us to penetrate existing and emerging markets and applications worldwide.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by FLIR.

For more information on this source, please visit FLIR.

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