All About Optical Gas Imaging (OGI) – Part 1: Complying with regulations

All About Optical Gas Imaging (OGI)

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The pressure to process natural gas and oil quickly, safely, and cost effectively while complying with environmental LDAR legislation is constantly building, requiring a more comprehensive monitoring approach to safety and regulatory practices. Newly enforced regulations by governments around the world to reduce emission levels push companies in oil and gas and other sectors to adopt rigorous gas leak monitoring methods.

In the US, for example, natural gas and petroleum operations account for, roughly, 30% of methane emissions. This is the reason why the US government’s policy regarding greenhouse gases (GHGs) calls for steep reductions in emissions through a rigorous gas leak monitoring and detection.

Gas leak detection has been named by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the most effective method for complying with new regulations. EPA have found out, through research and comparison with traditional technologies, that Optical Gas Imaging is the best available method of gas leak detection today.

Optical gas imaging (OGI) is a modern thermal imaging technology that utilizes high-sensitivity infrared (IR) cameras to detect very small fugitive emissions of industrial gases. Due to the many advantages of this technology over legacy methods like Method 21 “sniffer” technology, OGI has quickly become de facto method for effective gas leak detection across industries.

Major market segments utilizing OGI solutions include Chem/Petrochem plants and refineries, oil and gas (offshore platforms, oil refineries, natural gas processing plants, biogas plants), power generation plants, and other facilities.

Other industries that benefit from using OGI include: Water and wastewater, emergency services, semiconductor, pulp and paper, food & beverage, pharmaceutical, mining, steel, aviation and transportation labs, and universities.

In this new blog series on Optical Gas Imaging, we will look at reasons why this technology is in such a demand today and will help you make a decision whether it’s worth adopting it.

Why detect gases

First of all, why do companies spend thousands and thousands of dollars yearly in their gas detection efforts?

Because those companies realized that in the long run, gas leaks will backfire and hit their wallets. This is because gas leaks lead to lost perishable products, lost equipment, lost revenue, fines, safety hazards, court cases, and more.

It’s not hard to see why OGI translates to higher safety on the ground.

Factories dealing with explosive and/or toxic materials will face huge consequences should anything go wrong and those hazardous materials escape. OGI cameras are specifically designed to detect, quickly and from a safe distance, harmful volatile organic compounds (VOC) which can critically harm the personnel and environment.

Detecting gas leaks early helps companies to reduce environmental imprint by detecting fugitive greenhouse gases (GHG) and avoid harm and fines. Your personnel will be able to immediately see when a dangerous gas leak occurs and take a swift action, as OGI infrared (IR) cameras provide constant monitoring and can detect very small amounts of fugitive gas.

Besides the above, early gas leak detection leads to operational efficiency, facility uptime improvement, cost reductions, and more.

Last but not least, it speeds up the process of regulations compliance.

New EPA regulation, OOOOa

Speaking of regulations, there are new standards that you should be aware of, whether your company operates in the US or has business with another US company.

Because amounts of GHGs emissions continues to rise each year, the EPA in the USA is currently taking action and enforcing tighter emissions standards for GHGs, such as methane and VOCs, and enforces OGI monitoring across the industry.

In 2016, the EPA released a regulation, called Subpart OOOOa, or Quad Oa (part of EPA Oil & Gas Sector New Source Performance Standards (NSPS)), that recommends leak detection and repair (LDAR) for oil and gas operations sites (well heads, gas plants, compressor stations, transmission, underground gas storage etc. that have been constructed after 18 September, 2015) performed quarterly or bi-annual surveys using OGI cameras (or a Method 21 device).

In effect since 2 August 16, this rule requires the use of OGI to conduct surveys in order to detect methane and VOC leaks that might occur at any facility (improperly fitted connections, poorly sealed hatches, or worn out gaskets).

EPA defines OGI as BSER (Best System of Emission Reduction) for this kind of monitoring. OGI allows the operator to “see” smallest emissions from a safe distance so they can be addressed in a prompt manner.

Per EPA studies, OGI leak detection is estimated to be 9 times faster than equivalent Method 21 procedures.

Speed of detection is only one advantage of OGI cameras. In the next posts, we will talk about available technologies for gas detection, their respective pros and cons, and why OGI shines when compared with other technologies.