New optical gas imaging to detect diffuse emissions

An EU-funded project unveiled advanced infrared gas imaging technology specifically designed for detecting fugitive emissions in the chemical, gas and oil industries (from CORDIS, Results in Brief)

Optical gas imaging is an innovative thermal imaging technology that utilises high-sensitivity infrared cameras for detecting fugitive emissions of industrial gases. The technology allows operators to conduct leak detection surveys in joints, valves or any other kind of devices where there is a risk of gas leak. Infrared imaging cameras have long been viewed as a promising tool to enable the industries to keep pace with the demanding requirements as currently used state-of-the-art equipment is complex, expensive and heavy.

The EU-funded project GaSeS was established to overcome these major shortcomings that limit market acceptance of the technology. The project team demonstrated reliable and cost-effective optical gas imaging systems that can be integrated into a regular maintenance and operation plan to mitigate fugitive gas emissions and contribute to a more secure, clean and efficient industrial production chain.

Mitigating harmful industrial emissions

Fugitive gas emissions from the oil and gas industry are a relevant source of greenhouse pollution, accounting for around 30 and 60 % respectively of the total carbon emissions in industrial plants. An even greater amount of sulphur dioxide emissions – the most significant acidifying pollutants – also stem from industrial activities.

SENSIA’s advanced new prototypes make it possible to visualise a wide range of gases of industrial interest such as methane, propane, sulphur-containing gases, coolants, etc. “The new systems can detect gas leaks that are normally invisible to the human eye thanks to a camera that recognises the infrared signature of these compounds,” explains project coordinator Víctor Gil González.

What’s more, the low-cost cameras are based on high-sensitivity uncooled infrared technology, which until now, has been expensive to acquire. “SENSIA has managed to bring uncooled infrared technology to an excellent operating capacity. This enables cheaper and incredibly efficient products that are more likely to enjoy market acceptance,” says Gil González. Uncooled cameras also have a lower number of moving components and a longer service life compared to cooled cameras under similar operating conditions.

Innovative gas-sensing systems

In coordination with key energy companies, GaSeS conducted a number of tests to validate and verify the maturity of SENSIA’s optical gas imaging systems. In particular, the team has presented a fully functional prototype of a fixed monitoring system designed for detecting gas leaks in large infrastructure. Besides detecting fugitive gases, the system has an additional unit for early and automatic detection of fire, a feature that is very useful in explosive gas installations.

Other project achievements include the development of hand-held portable equipment that allows technicians to make periodic inspections, and a system that can be placed on drones to inspect installations from the sky.

Lastly, project partners designed an instrument for quantifying gas leaks that connects to the compact camera via Bluetooth. As Gil González notes, “First, the optical gas imaging camera detects the leak and then the ‘sniffer’ quantifies the leak. This is a major breakthrough that fulfils the true potential of smart leak, detection and repair technologies.”

GaSeS prototype devices showed excellent results and stood out for their simplicity and usability. Project partners anticipate that the products will enjoy great acceptance in large installations such as the chemical as well as the gas and oil industries.