Carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen gas (N2) and are both used throughout the food and beverage sectors. Carbon dioxide is most commonly used to add the refreshing effervescence in our favorite soda or draught. Nitrogen is used for a number of purposes including providing rigidity to containers, maintaining the carbon dioxide solution, or enabling “smooth” type beers such as Guinness. In the food sector, nitrogen gas is also used to displace oxygen to improve life-shelf.
The Impact of CO2 and Nitrogen Leaks
CO2 and N2 are invisible, tasteless and odorless gases which, if leaked, can have a direct effect on employee safety. Although nitrogen is not toxic, it can reduce the concentration of oxygen in the air. CO2, on the other hand, can result in headaches, dizziness, and even laboured breathing.
A single CO2 leak can cost a beverage company between $3,000 - $10,000 (USD) per year.
While production plant gases are typically stored alongside other specialist gases in safe, well-ventilated areas which contain dedicated systems to monitor for leaks, the same cannot be said about the distribution system. Distribution lines carry the gases from the storage areas to the numerous points of use throughout the factory. Valves and connection points throughout the system can loosen and fail, unknowingly leaking CO2 or nitrogen into the production environment. Because the distribution system is vast and spread across the full production area and the leaks are typically small, constant monitoring is not feasible. The leaks are likely to impact the overall effectiveness of the distribution system and, are essentially, wasting money.
Leak management techniques can and should be used.
Detecting Leaks in the Distribution System
Have you seen an increase in gas usage versus production output? Have you encountered equipment failures or reduced efficiency? If so then there could be leaks in the distribution system.
Leaks with a decibel of >60 can typically be heard by the human ear when close by. Sometimes, visual cues will indicate that air is leaking. In many cases, gas leaks are not audible or visible because the sounds blend in with the production plant environment or they are located at a point in the distribution system which is hard to reach.
Ultrasonic equipment can be utilised to “hear” leaks in the distribution system. The decibel output coupled with the pressure can be used as a method of quantifying the intensity of the leak, calculating the financial impact of each leak, and prioritising remedial maintenance.
Predictive leak detection should be undertaken every three to four months to ensure leaks are identified and repaired before they begin to cause problems. Making staff available to undertake the process of leak detection can be difficult as there are many competing priorities on the production floor. But the leaks will only intensify over time which increases costs and the likelihood of possible equipment failures.
AirCheck is a compressed gas leak detection program from the Diversey Knowledge-based Services portfolio. Compressed gases (air, CO2, Nitrogen, etc) silently escape and leaks can go unnoticed for years. An AirCheck survey can be performed by our sector specialists without disruption to production.
Benefits Received as a Result of Leak Management
- A safer working environment
- Improved equipment effectiveness
- Product quality control
- Cost management and control