Utilities Company Tests Handheld Gas Detection Devices

Wales and West Utilities (WWU) distributes gas to one sixth of the UK, through approximately 35,000 km of pipeline across Wales and South West England. This is an area of 7.5 million people with 2.5 million gas supply points.

WWU were using three types of gas detection equipment. All of them work by pumping a sample from potential leak sources across a sensor. Then catalytic or flame ionisation technology is used to detect flammable gases. The readings show parts per million (ppm), % gas in air and % lower explosive limit. A handheld probe is then attached to these devices and used to scan an area. This method has dominated the UK market for decades, very successfully.

The main drawbacks with this is that the user is unable to visually observe any leak. Therefore, they can’t work from a safe distance. In some places the leak could be out of arm’s reach, such as across a river or train tracks. There is also a delay in the device readings.

Efficient surveying saves time and increases safety. So WWU trialled some new technologies to see how they could deliver the best results while supporting their existing methods.

The trial showcased three different technologies. Optical gas imaging (OGI) camera technology, which shows a visual representation of the leak point. Laser detection technology to detect methane from a distance. And infrared technology to potentially reduce bar holing.

These technologies were put to the test in seven different scenario surveys: pipelines, above-ground installations, multi-occupancy buildings, gas storage facilities, leaks on made and unmade ground, above-ground crossings and aerial surveys.

The results showed that there would be benefits to implementing a laser methane detector. These are accurate from a safe distance of up to 100 metres. Some models even have Bluetooth in order to sync with a mobile device’s location data.

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