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Why Acoustic Gas Detectors Make a Difference: The Searchzone Sonik™

Why Acoustic Gas Detectors Make a Difference: The Searchzone Sonik™

When dealing with compressed gasses in outdoor applications or when distributing pressurized natural gas through pipelines, in the event of leaks or fires, the hazards can range from personal injury or death to serious infrastructure damages. Traditional gas detection methods can be influenced by environmental factors like wind, so additional safeguards, such as acoustic gas detectors, should be put in place to help provide continuous monitoring.

Compressed gases are present in a variety of industries like Oil & Gas, Chemical and Petrochemical and Power Generation. These gases may be stored in cylinders or tanks or distributed through a network of pipes. Their contents can vary from inert and harmless to toxic or explosive. Regardless of the gas inside, all compressed gas applications can present health and safety hazards, ranging from oxygen displacement (risk of asphyxiation), fires, explosions, and toxic gas exposure. Compressed gases should be stored, handled, used and disposed of according to the standards set in place by organizations like Occupational Safety and Health Organization (OSHA).

Compressed gas applications can also present a physical, pressure hazard. Even if gas is typically released in a controlled manner, leaks can lead to the accidental release of the contents and gas can escape rapidly.

Besides the danger to worksites and workers, there is also an issue of waste and environmental due diligence, according to the America Pays for Gas Leaks report. In the US alone, “gas distribution companies in 2011 reported releasing 69 billion cubic feet of natural gas to the atmosphere”, which is “equal to the annual carbon dioxide emissions of about six million automobiles”. Nationally in US, consumers paid at least $20 billion from 2000-2011 for gas that was unaccounted for and never used.

Continuous monitoring of worksites, as well as storage and distribution facilities for compressed gases and natural gas pipelines is an important measure in reducing health, safety, waste and environmental hazards. Typically, well-designed and well-maintained ventilation systems, in conjunction with point detectors, detect hazardous gases in the workplace.

But what happens when working with compressed gases outside? Any outdoor application with compressed gas must take into account that the wind can carry the gas away from the point or open-path detector.

There’s a long list of outside applications, from Floating Production Storage and Offloading Vessels (FPSO), to Chemical/Petrochemical process plants, Gas Compressor and Metering stations, Gas Turbine power plants, refineries, offshore Oil & Gas platforms, onshore Oil &Gas terminals, Gas Storage Facilities and so on. In these applications, acoustic gas detectors can add an essential layer of protection to the site along with point, open-path, and flame detectors.

The technology embedded in acoustic gas detectors such as Honeywell’s Searchzone Sonik™  is used to “hear” a gas leak. The gas itself never needs to reach an acoustic gas detector like a point (as in point detector technology) or line (as in open-path technology) between transmitter and receiver. Unlike other technologies, normal wind direction does not affect the Searchzone Sonik™.

1.       Searchzone Sonik’s technology has one of the fastest response times to sense a pressurized gas leak. The Sonik sensor hears the leak which travels at the speed of sound and alerts you. To achieve a more comprehensive gas monitoring capability, a “layered solution” should be utilized – an acoustic gas detector combined with point gas detection, open-path gas detection and flame detection.

Some of the advantages of using the Searchzone Sonik™ gas detector include:

1.       Fast response time so you know there’s a problem quickly

2.       Reduced risk of nuisance alarms because of advanced algorithms and Focus Mode

3.       Easy to use and access from a Bluetooth smartphone from up to 20 meters away

4.       Solid-state sensor without moving parts helps reliability in harsh environments and prevents the need for field calibration

If you are thinking about a gas detector to help you protect your worksite and your workers, here are three criteria to take into consideration related to the capabilities of the Searchzone Sonik™ (and three additional “nice to have” features) as detailed by our expert, Jason Winburn:  

1.       Excellent reliability (robust) – No field calibration; built-in diagnostics and SIL2 certification

2.       Easy to use – Program and access via Bluetooth up to 20 meters. Also test remotely with Honeywell hand test tool.

3.       Meets local regulations - Honeywell’s Searchzone Sonik™ is ATEX, cULus, and IECEx approved for use in Class 1 Zone 1 (gas).

4.       Versatile Mount - Allows for simple installation. It’s a one-person task, unlike heavier devices requiring two-person install.

5.       Separate Wiring Compartment - Protects sensitive electronics from accidental damage from minor incidents. No junction box required, unlike other devices which demand a separate junction box.

6.       Local Indication - High visibility Light Ring gives status at a glance, unlike the blind or difficult to read at a distance alternatives.

“Having that extra layer of protection with an acoustic gas detector perfectly complements a gas monitoring system, together with point detection (and open-path and flame detectors in the case of flammable gases), and can offer increased protection against the hazards of compressed gas,” explains Jason Winburn.

Learn more about Honeywell’s Searchzone Sonik™ and how it can help you protect your worksite.