The Dangers in Oilseed Production

December 05, 2017

We may love them or hate them, but seed oils are between the most widely used products in everyday life. Their versatility means they can be used in a variety of applications, whether as vegetable oils for cooking or as aromatic oils for soothing. Yet extraction of most oils is not as easy as it seems but a rather complicated process.

Modern oilseed operations use solvent extraction to separate the oils from cellular material. This is the most common method used in the oilseed extraction industry, and commercial hexane is the favored extraction solvent. Hexane, however, is a highly flammable and costly gas that is also a major source of Volatile Organic Compound (VOC).

With federal and state safety regulations imposed to avoid workplace hazards, and air quality regulations for the control of VOCs’ emissions, seed oil producers are more and more pressured to take safety measures to protect employees, equipment, property and the environment. All of which include frequent inspection and optimization of the process for identifying hexane leaks. Still, hexane losses can occur anytime throughout the oil extraction operation so rapidly identifying, locating, and repairing any leak is predominant to both worker safety and process integrity. Oilseed producers that take proactive steps to ensure a safe workplace environment and reduce VOC emissions often demonstrate focus on sustainability and create a competitive advantage in the consumer market. In addition, the loss of hexane is one of the major operating costs in an oilseed plant, costing over $1M USD annually. When all these factors are taken into consideration, the control of hexane fugitive emissions makes sense from a safety, economic, and environmental point of view.
Selecting OGI Cameras for Gas Leak Detection
A new hexane and VOC leak detection technique using Optical Gas Imaging (OGI) cameras is becoming highly popular among seed oil producers worldwide. Traditional gas leak detection methods like sniffers are not always successful at finding leaks in hard-to-reach locations, and struggle to geo-locate the actual source of the leak. Whereas OGI has proven to be a reliable technology using passive thermal infrared imaging to make normally invisible gas plumes visible to the camera operator. Plus, the use of optical gas imaging cameras can reduce revenue loss due to downtime during major overhauls. Fixed OGI cameras can highly improve plant safety by providing 24/7 continuous monitoring of VOC gas leaks, and frequent inspections with handheld OGI cameras can aid with in-house leak detection during routine operations.

Governments worldwide are also embracing the use of optical gas imaging cameras for dedicated inspections and regulations of VOCs in the oil and gas industry. In 2011, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the use of OGI cameras in its Subpart W regulation. Also in Europe, the use of OGI technology has been included in the Best Available Technique Reference (BREF) document for the oil and gas refining sector, as part of the new directive on industrial emissions (IED).

With fast ROI yearly payback and high safety ratings reported by major oil seed operations, gas leak detection cameras are the ideal solution for inspections in the seed oil industry. Leak detection studies show that using optical gas imaging cameras are extremely cost effective, in addition, third party analyses have demonstrated that OGI cameras are highly sensitive and can inspect components 5 to 15 times faster than sniffers. Recent federal air quality regulations designate OGI technology as the “Best System of Emission Reduction” with clear advantages over traditional methods.