A new monitoring solution for natural gas leaks is a boon for both the industry and the environment
In their pursuit of oil, gas and other natural commodities, plants around the world are subject to regular checks under each country’s specific laws. A large-scale natural gas leak could lead to a disastrous outcome for those working in the plant, as well as the loss of billions of dollars and vast environmental damage.
Gas leaks are typically detected during scheduled maintenance checks, sometimes several years apart, but plants will soon be able to monitor their premises in real-time. Drawing on their expertise as one of the world’s leading manufacturers of optics and lenses, Konica Minolta is “making the invisible visible” by combining our high-resolution lenses with cutting-edge far infrared (FIR) technology that can detect leaks that can’t be seen with the naked eye.
With the introduction of technology that allows automated monitoring and detection of gas leaks to an unprecedented degree of precision, we are set to usher in a new era in plant safety.
Using Konica Minolta’s new system, both FIR and regular visibility cameras are positioned high above the plant, enabling monitoring of a wide area. As the FIR camera can detect movement of gas, when the infrared images are superimposed on top of the regular visible images, the location and amount of any leakage can be pinpointed immediately, allowing staff to deal with the situation quickly.
Unlike the black and white images rendered by other monitoring systems, Konica Minolta’s system produces crisp, full-colour images that clearly show the location and density of the leak. Up to eight cameras can be configured within one monitoring system, connected by optical fibre to a central computer that staff can monitor.
“With this system, continuous broad monitoring is possible and gas leakage can be visualised 365 days a year,” says Yasuhiro Okamoto from Konica Minolta’s business development headquarters.
Konica Minolta will promote the monitoring system globally. In the US, methane emissions from the oil and gas sectors accounted for 28 per cent of total methane emissions in 2012. A potent greenhouse gas, methane warms the atmosphere about 30 times faster than carbon dioxide and can cause major harm to the environment. With the rapid expansion of oil and gas plants in the US, the potential risks from leaks there are clear, and according to recent findings from the US Environmental Protection Agency, emissions from existing oil and gas sources could be substantially higher than was previously understood.
On the domestic front, Konica Minolta expects to find a ready market for the new system among Japanese plants. Built during eras of high economic growth, the infrastructure at these plants is ageing and the new technology can help reform gas detection strategies. Konica Minolta is now conducting a trial of the new system with Mitsui Chemicals.
Professor Takahide Sakagami, of Kobe University’s Engineering Department, says Konica Minolta’s cutting-edge technology is in sync with industry trends, with Japan’s economy, trade and industry ministry making a push for smarter and safer plants. “This timely solution fits right in with the concept of ‘smart plant safety’, which is very topical right now,” he says.
Yuji Ichimura, executive officer at Konica Minolta, says the underlying principle behind the gas detection technology – moving from invisible to tangible data – could have far-reaching benefits for the gas and oil industry. “These include less false alarms, improved safety and elimination of dangerous tasks for workers, and enabling the use of predicative analysis for monitoring.”
Konica Minolta is making an impact in a variety of fields with our Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) technology. CPS collects data from networks with advanced computing capabilities and analyses it in cyberspace, making it possible to visualize the invisible. The information collected can play a valuable role in rejuvenating industries and solving social issues. Combined with the firm’s precision optical and microfabrication technology, we are poised to change not only the process of gas detection, but also improve workflow in such domains as security and digital manufacturing.
According to Ichimura, the new monitoring system is just one example of how his firm is adding social value to manufacturing. “The technology for checking for gas leaks was human-driven, not technology-driven. We are connecting people and data in order to improve operations.”
Visualizing the Invisible.
Giving Shape to Ideas