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Fugitive Emissions: How to reduce it to protect the environment and improve plant safety

The European Union and United States and other countries are focusing on tracking fugitive emissions for certain industries. Today, fugitive emissions have become a major challenge to the environment as they are capable of harming the environment and even contribute to global warming.

Fugitive emissions are emissions of vapor or gasses from pressurized equipment mainly because of leaks or other irregular releases of gasses, mostly from industrial activities. In essence, fugitive emissions occur when an unintended leak of a hazardous substance takes place in a system, and the discharge fails to be contained in a stack, vent or duct. This may primarily be caused by poor servicing, component failure or breakdown in the normal industrial process. For example, when a system containing certain refrigerant leaks, the substances cause significant damage to the atmosphere. In most cases, such refrigerant gasses are not broken down in the atmosphere, and it inadvertently enters the stratosphere and ends up destroying the protective ozone layer overtime.

Fugitive emissions also come with other risks and hazards. For instance, emission of unstable substances such as benzene from oil refineries and chemical plants pose a significant health risk to both workers and local communities. Moreover, in situations where massive amounts of flammable gasses and liquids are contained under pressure, leaks in such cases also increase the risk of fire and explosion.

Leaks from pressurized process equipment typically occur through mechanical seals, pipe connection, valves as well as other related equipment. Fugitive emissions also take place at evaporative sources such as storage tanks and wastewater treatment ponds. Due to the high number of possible leak sources at large industrial facilities coupled with the difficulty in identifying and fixing some leaks, fugitive emissions can be a significant percentage of total emissions. Even if the quantity of leaked gasses is small, it can have a serious impact on worker’s health as well as the environment as a whole.

How to reduce Fugitive Emissions?

There’s no doubt that fugitive emissions can contribute substantially to pollution as well as climatic change. So how can this be controlled? Generally, process facilities operators conduct regular leak detection as well as repair activities. Routine inspections of process equipment with gas detectors can be useful when it comes to identifying and estimating the leak rate in order to take the appropriate corrective action.

When it comes to reducing fugitive emissions, it’s recommended that process facilities utilize industrial valves with special sealing technology; the type tested by ISO 15848 standard. In most cases, these valves are not used on plants for Instrumentation Valves and Manifolds.

There are different types of ISO 15848 type tested industrial valves available on the market, and the best part is that they are cost-effective. If the valve is designed to comply to such low emission rates, it is technically very durable and long lasting. You would not just consider reducing the emissions, but as a by-product you get a longer lasting technically better valve ensuring health of operators and plant safety.

Here are some of the best industrial valves that can help reduce fugitive emissions and protect the environment from harmful gasses. If the valves have been tested according to ISO 15848 standard:

  • Hand, Gauge and Needle Valves
  • 2, 3 and 5-Valve Manifolds
  • Double Block and Bleed Valves
  • Monoflanges

How to ensure you Buy the best product available?

Pay attention of how the valves are tested and always compare the manufacturer certificates. Some manufacturers conduct the tests at room temperature or reduced temperature and pressure only. It is obvious that the stress on the valve packing and material is much higher at real operating temperatures of up to 200°C [329°F] and under pressure of 420 bar [6092 PSI]. Do also compare the number of cycles the valve has gone through to pass the test under the test temperature conditions.

It’s also noteworthy to mention that you have to always go for quality when it comes to choosing the right valves for your facility process plant. State of the art design technique achieves the highest peak of seal integrity and maximum process compatibility. Good manufacturers can provide flexible configurations with a vast variety of body types, end connections and valve technologies for all kinds of critical piping applications.

Remember: ISO 15848 Fugitive Emission Type tested valves are excellent at controlling fugitive emissions which in turns improve plant safety, reliability and protects the environment.

A more detailed explanation about the ISO 15848 Standard also in comparison to TA-Luft can be found here: ISO FE Series – The New Valve Technology for maximum leak tightness demands

(Image source: © Calin Tatu / shutterstock)