The latest products available for the gas and water markets
Utilities Middle East reviews some of the latest leak detection products for both the gas and water markets that are now available to local HSE executives
For Middle Eastern utilities, the issue of leak detection – whether it be water or gas – is a potential revenue loser in what is currently a particularly tough operating environment. In the gas sector, however, leakage can result in damage to both infrastructure and staff. Fast, reliable detection systems are therefore a crucial weapon in any HSE manager’s armoury.
In general terms, gas detection instruments are either portable or fixed installation and as life-safety critical detectors, both varieties need to be independently certified to meet international performance and safety standards, with robustness and reliability for portable items especially a key asset.
On the safety side, another major hazard is reduced oxygen concentrations, particularly in confined spaces.
“Generally, gas detector instruments aim to detect flammable gases, toxic gases and lack of oxygen,” says Alaa Ayoub, regional manager at RAE Systems, which manufactures a range of chemical, gas and radiation detection equipment to a number of sectors. The firm introduced a new series of toxic gas monitoring systems in August, and is spearheading the use of seamless wireless connectivity in gas detection.
RAE Systems’ Meshguard is a range of battery-powered toxic gas detectors that link wirelessly through a mesh radio modem. This allows a constant connection by interlinking all relevant units, and in the future will also allow devices such as Blackberrys to be connected, meaning that users will have an email sent to their phones should an alarm go off.
One of the other options that regional companies can pursue is that of infrared cameras, which help to spot leaks, damaged pipes and seals, or faulty valves. “Infra-red imaging now allows workers to ‘see’ volatile organic compounds that are invisible to the human eye,” says John Warburton, a strategic marketing manager at UK-based City Technology. “Infra-red sensors are becoming popular as an alternative to pellistors for detecting hydrocarbons, but they do suffer some limitations. In particular, they measure the concentration of a hydrocarbon, rather than measure flammability.”
In May, City Technology released upgraded versions of its two most popular gas sensors, which the company says is the result of multi-million-dollar investment, and builds on the previous success of the 4CF and 4HS models, which have a return rate from the field of 0.006%.
A key requirement for any gas detection instrument includes the ability to operate within acceptable tolerances over wide variations in temperature and humidity. This is especially relevant for the Middle East, given the swing in variation that could occur for a plant located near the coast, for example.
“Accuracy, stability, response speed and repeatability are also basic requirements,” adds Warburton.
On the water front, there have been three main systems that have been used and developed by manufacturers of leak detection systems recently. These are listening sticks and ground microphones, digital correlators and fixed network leak sensors.
“Each of these categories of leak detection have improved significantly to the point where the physics of the systems have reached boundaries of sensitivity and digital filtering of noise profiles,” explains Jeremy Llewellyn, CEO of Dubai-based Blue Gold Technologies FZE. “Improvements now tend to focus on size and software/ user interface to maintain competitive advantages and refresh the product lines.”
Fixed network sensors such as the Gutermann Zonescan loggers (see box) have moved one step further to the advanced stage of unmanned leak detection, utilising radio, GSM and Wi-Fi for remote monitoring of leaks via web access. Using this type of system the utility company can view all leaks that have appeared on their networks and even pinpoint the leak remotely using sound correlation. Llewellyn believes that this is the top-of-the-range system in terms of leak monitoring, and is deployed by the utilities that have both the budget and the long-term strategy for leakage reduction.
Another product that the Blue Gold CEO is keen to recommend is the Incertameter, produced by the British company of the same name. Already developed and extensively trialled with the UK utility giant Yorkshire Water, the device is designed to lower costs while increasing detection rates and provide more efficient use of leak detection teams and engineering resources.
In both sectors, the onus is on regional utility firms to find the most cost-effective and reliable method to ensure high revenues and safety levels. As newer technologies and upgrades come online, the products becoming available can only be good news for the Middle East sector.
The gas product
Honeywell has recently launched a fixed gas detection device, the Signalpoint Pro. This small detector can be used either indoors or outdoors, and is adjustable for different gas ranges and spans. The device offers excellent reliability and ease of use; its smart gas sensors are automatically recognised when plugged into the detector and access to the sensor does not require opening the main terminal housing. This reduces down-time during the replacement procedure. Signalpoint Pro utilises a magnetically activated switch, permitting initiation of calibration and test routines without opening the enclosure or having to obtain a hot work permit. In addition, on-board diagnostics provide fault and warning codes on the display that are invaluable when troubleshooting an installation.
The water product
Gutermann’s Zonescan 800 ALPHA is a permanently installed, unmanned leak monitoring system, which can be added as a modular upgrade to any network being monitored by standard ZoneScan-800 correlating radio loggers. For clients that prefer to access their data and leak reporting via the internet, Guterman offers a ‘remote access’ module, with secure access. This enables leakage managers or contractors to access the specific leakage data from any point of internet access.