Thermal imaging detects leaks in biogas facilities

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A new application note from FLIR Systems describes how their GF320 optical gas imaging camera is being used by IBS GmbH (Bremen, Germany) for inspecting Biogas facilities and finding hidden gas leaks before they can cause significant harm.

Expanding the use of renewable energy sources has become a major issue for European countries looking to reduce their dependency on fossil fuels and lessen the effects of climate change.  The production of biogas (methane), in particular, is expected to play a larger role in the next decade. However, methane is a greenhouse gas that can harm the environment if not contained properly during the production process. Biogas producers face strict regulations regarding how they trace, document, fix, and report leaks of volatile gases.

The application story describes how the sheer size of Biogas facilities can make detecting gas leaks a real challenge. Typically Biogas facilities include huge pieces of equipment, with hundreds of components that need testing. Traditionally biogas detection has involved using leakage spray and gas “sniffers,” but these methods are widely agreed to be time-consuming, especially in hard-to-reach places. As a consequence IBS GmbH sought a safe, efficient and affordable non-contact method for detecting small biogas leaks from a distance.

IBS GmbH. selected the FLIR GF320 for this task because the thermal imaging camera was compact and mobile, and could identify small biogas leaks from several meters away and larger leaks from hundreds of meters away without requiring equipment to be shutdown. Beneficially the GF320 not only detects methane, but a total of 20 gases, including butane, propane and benzene.

The engineers at IBS GmbH have found the GF320 to be a versatile tool for use in each step of the biofuel production process, from the fermentation of agricultural byproduct to the generation of power at combined heat and power plants. The GF320 has been used by IBS GmbH to also detect petrol or diesel fumes, as well as exhaust leaks on the turbocharger. And due to its rugged design, the camera can be used in conjunction with an explosion meter in potentially explosive environments.

Lightweight, compact and ergonomically designed the FLIR GF320 is a thermal imaging camera for optical gas imaging (OGI) that visualizes and pinpoints leaks of VOCs, without the need to shut down the operation. The portable camera also greatly improves operator safety, by detecting emissions at a safe distance, and helps to protect the environment by tracing leaks of environmentally harmful gases. The FLIR GF320 is a proven preventative maintenance solution for spotting leaks in piping, flanges and connections. The camera can rapidly scan large areas and pinpoint leaks in real time. It is ideal for monitoring areas of plants that are difficult to reach with contact measurement tools. Literally thousands of components can be scanned per shift without the need to interrupt the process. It reduces repair downtime and provides verification of the process. And above all it is exceptionally safe, allowing potentially dangerous leaks to be monitored from several meters away.