Chemical process monitoring with low false alarm rate

| Environmental Testing

Falco fixed continuous photoionisation detector in use in chemical industry
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Monument Chemical is using Ion Science PID intrument to provide high reliability continuous monitoring of pump seals for leakage.

In a move to further strengthen its good manufacturing practices (GMP), petrochemical manufacturer, USA-based Monument Chemical has installed several Falco fixed continuous photoionisation detectors (PIDs) from Ion Science. Chosen for its humidity resistant design and accuracy, the high performance instruments are monitoring pump seals for potential leaks of different grades of solvents in the C6-C9 total aromatic compound (TAC) range.

Headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, Monument Chemical serves the speciality chemicals industry with locations in the heart of manufacturing hubs in the USA and Europe. The company produces a variety of solvents, intermediaries, speciality fuels and other products, as well as industry leading custom manufacturing services.

False alarms on its lower explosive level (LEL) sensors and the need to improve its GMP prompted Monument Chemical to purchase Ion Science’s Falco fixed continuous PIDs to ensure reliable and accurate monitoring of potentially dangerous levels of combustible gas or solvent vapour, expressed in parts per million (ppm).

Steam quench around LEL sensors often causes false alarms even where no event has occurred. Offering the ultimate in safety, Falco eliminates false readings found with other competing PID technology.

Unlike some facilities that are legally required to have leak seal detectors based on the type of pumps in use or within areas of concern, Monument Chemical wanted to further improve the monitoring of pump seal leaks as part of its GMP programme.

Keyton Payne, Manager of Regulatory Affairs and Quality, Monument Chemical comments: “My background in industrial hygiene and experience of the PID technology market meant I knew that LEL detection on our pump seals could be improved using an alternative fixed continuous gas detection solution.”

Ion Science’s Falco boasts fast response times and several innovative design features. The instrument’s ‘typhoon’ technology prevents condensation forming on the sensor and removes the risk of the system short circuiting – making it ideal for use in high humidity and harsh weather conditions. Simple to operate, Falco has an externally located, intrinsically safe sensor which facilitates quick and easy servicing without the need for a hot work permit.

Keyton continues: “When assessing the potential hazards involved in our day-to-day operations it became evident that Ion Science’s Falco fixed PID was the perfect solution for our application. We were particularly impressed with the instrument’s patented humidity resistant fence electrode technology and ability to work continuously in condensing atmospheres.

“The operations team were concerned that a more sensitive reading in parts per million (ppm) would lead to further false alarms. However, since experiencing the unit’s performance, they have been very impressed by its stability.”

The Falco PID incorporates Ion Science’s patented Fence Electrode Technology which virtually eliminates the effects of airborne humidity and protects from contamination. This advanced feature ensures ultimate reliability and accuracy in the field, while reducing drift issues and extending run time.

Falco utilizes a diffusive sample technique resulting in less contamination issues compared to pumped systems, reducing lamp cleaning and servicing requirements. Pumped models are available for applications where a sample needs to be drawn to the unit.

There are eight models in the Falco series offering detection ranges as low as 0 – 10ppm with parts per billion (ppb) sensitivity or as high as 0 – 3000 ppm.

The Falco is operated via an intuitive user interface with OLED display and five magnetically activated LED switches – up, down, left, right and enter – which are back lit to help confirm the correct button is being pressed. For added convenience and ease of use, brightly coloured red, amber and optional pulsing green status indicators are clearly visible in sunlight allowing checks to be conducted from a distance of up to 20 metres.

Talking about the benefits of the user interface, Keyton adds: “We really like the visual display with green, amber and red indicators. Basically green is a ‘no leak’ status of the pump seal while red shows a ‘leak’ is present. This feature gives operators the chance to visually check and verify the status of the area for potential leaks from a good distance without being inadvertently or unknowingly in the hot zone.”

The Falco PIDs send data back to the DCS every minute. The DCS software allows Monument Chemical to monitor trends and identify potential problem areas on a plant wide basis.

The Falco’s flame and explosion proof enclosure is certified to EX d IIC T4 II and the external sensor to EX ib IIC T4 Gb II. A 4 – 20 mA analogue output enables Falco to be easily integrated into a DCS control system to give warning or control of high VOC levels in the working environment. Two relay outputs means it can be connected remotely plus RS485 output with Modbus protocol included as standard allows the instrument to be connected to a network.

Keyton concludes: “The Ion Science sales and technical support team was always available to answer questions and provide the help needed to set up and calibrate the PIDs in a very timely and concise manner. As a result, we would rate the service as excellent, easily a 9 out of 10, and happily recommend the company and Falco to other petrochemical businesses.”

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