Becker Mining South Africa’s range of safety and communications systems encompasses the high-accuracy Becker Varis Smartsense gas monitoring system, which has been designed for use in industries where the presence of gases may pose a safety or health risk to employees and the environment.
The Smartsense system conforms with stringent quality, safety and environmental specifications, and adherence to intrinsically safe (IS) certification means this system can also be safely deployed in hazardous and potentially explosive areas.
“Becker’s high-accuracy Smartsense system – with integrated features for the detection of ambient temperature, humidity and barometric pressure – forms an essential part of critical communications and safety systems in the workplace,” says Andrew Trentelman, the company’s senior general manager: Electronics. “Some factories make use of manufacturing methods that can produce high levels of poisonous gases, or even explosive gases. In these environments, it is important to monitor gases emitted into the atmosphere in real time and have a reliable system to take immediate, automatic action to eliminate the possibility of poisonous environments, as well as explosions.
“Apart from the accurate detection and monitoring of ambient temperature, humidity and barometric pressure, every device can monitor up to four gases, including oxygen (O2), methane (CH4), carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen sulphide (H2S), chlorine (Cl2), hydrogen (H2) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). The Smartsense unit can be fitted with different gas monitoring heads to suit specific environmental monitoring needs.”
Sources and effects of toxic gases
Environments that require dependable atmospheric and environmental monitoring include general industry and manufacturing facilities, petrochemical, oil and gas plants, and mines. Gases like methane, carbon monoxide and phosphine are critical ingredients used in the manufacturing facilities of semiconductors, including gas cabinets, wafer dryers and wafer reactors. Because these gases are highly toxic and can cause concussions when inhaled, Becker specialists recommend that dependable systems are installed for immediate detection of gas leakages, to prevent catastrophe. Gas monitoring systems not only prevent the spread of dangerous gases, but also identify the source of the leak for immediate repair.
Gases like carbon monoxide, methane and hydrogen sulphide manifest in wastewater treatment plants due to the presence of septic wastewater. Because hydrogen sulphide is highly flammable and can cause an explosion when ignited, the installation of gas monitoring systems is essential to protect workers and prevent accidents.
In the oil and gas sector – whether in offshore exploration or onshore refining of crude oil – there is the danger of highly combustible gases exploding when exposed to high temperatures. Refineries need to adhere to stringent environmental codes and regulations for the emission of harmful exhaust gases. Gas detection systems enable maintenance teams to take quick action to repair the source of a gas leak, thus preventing casualties.
Gas monitoring systems in the mining sector are used to detect the presence of flammable and toxic gases that can cause serious irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, and some gases, when inhaled, can cause unconsciousness and even death. Gases known as asphyxiants displace oxygen in confined areas underground, causing difficulty in breathing and even suffocation. Gas monitoring solutions ensure an oxygen-rich environment for workers, enhancing productivity and safety.
While the threat of gas leakage during the storage and transport of gases in the chemical sector is minimal, Becker specialists recommend the use of portable gas detectors to detect leaks of harmful gases.
Making safety simple
All features of the Smartsense SSFM-100 device are integrated into one compact unit, which is an important advantage over conventional monitoring systems. There is no need for complex cable connections, troublesome programming or difficult calibration. Additional analog/digital input ports provide compatibility with other devices, to accommodate a plant’s expansion requirements. For example, an additional sensor connection point could be used to measure airflow.
Smartsense SSFM-100 gas monitors/controllers allow for localised use, or for implementation into a system-wide installation using industry-standard communication protocols such as Modbus RTU and OPC, or for integration into legacy systems using 4-20 mA signals.
This hybrid system is customisable to all installation requirements, including copper (RS-485/Ethernet), radio frequency (UHF/VHF data radio and Wi-Fi) and fibre-optic data connectivity. There are various graphical representation methods to display data, including the Becker Mining Systems application for smart phones, or integration into existing scada systems. Web-based remote viewing of an entire environmental monitoring system is made possible through OPC messages over a customer’s existing LAN network.
The Becker Varis team designed the system for easy installation and effortless calibration. There is no need to remove the monitoring head for external calibration, since the system can be adjusted even during operation.
The Smartsense SSFM-100 fixed monitor has three fully programmable alarm setpoints for alarm and output controls, with a short-term exposure limit (STEL) and time-weighted average (TWA) displayed on an LCD screen that is large enough to view the reading from up to 5 m away. An adjustable backlight makes this device suitable for both underground and above-ground applications.
An internal battery provides power backup for use in remote areas for up to eight hours, and robust industrial power supplies ensure safe operation in harsh conditions. This system, featuring low power consumption, has an IP67 rating for protection against the ingress of dust and liquids.
The Smartsense system, with its integrated controller functions, operates as a ‘black box’ and stores information which could prove critical in a post-accident investigation. Stored information includes the calibration record, alarm history and data logging.
The ‘watchdog’ feature alerts the user/maintenance team of any system errors, for example, if the system has detected inaccurate measurements or calibration errors. This information is communicated both locally through the maintenance LED and remotely on the supervisory platform.
Preventive maintenance of this low-maintenance system requires simple procedures at intervals from one to three months to ensure optimum performance and extended service life. It is important that sensor intake areas are kept clean, with no obstructions. The unit is supplied with three types of mounting brackets for easy installation: panel, roof bolt or cable mounting.
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