Natural gas processing plants, such as the Al Hosn Shah Plant in Abu Dhabi, purify raw natural gas by removing certain contaminants. These contaminant gases are often very dangerous for human exposure and therefore, gas pipelines and other infrastructure need to be carefully monitored for leaks. An innovative combination of UAV and optical gas imaging technology was tested and turned out to be a very efficient way of monitoring vast gas fields.
The Shah sour gas field is located around 180km southwest of Abu Dhabi, in the UAE. The new Shah Gas Processing Plant is designed to process 1,000 MMSCFD (million metric standard cubic feet per day) of sour gas. The plant is located in three adjoining low flat areas on the East-Central side of the Shah Field with an East to West span of about 6 km. The processing of sour gas with a high concentration of dangerous hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas – the so-called sweetening process – is confined to the Western Area.
In spite of the many safety measures for the Al Hosn Shah Plant staff, the Western Area, marked as the red zone, still presents a significant health and safety risk for maintenance professionals and other operators.
Some gases are very poisonous, corrosive, flammable, and explosive.
The sniffer is a hand probe that produces an audio-signal when in proximity of a leak. Although this is a relatively affordable detection method, the sniffing test requires the operator to approach closely to the leak source, which can be dangerous. Sniffers do not allow operators to see a leak, so there is always some guesswork involved and time lost in the search for the source.
Optical gas imaging cameras from FLIR can visualize and pinpoint gas leaks that are invisible to the naked eye. With an optical gas imaging camera it is easy to continuously scan installations that are in remote areas or in zones that are difficult to access.
The FLIR G300a optical gas camera contains a cooled Indium Antimonide (InSb) detector that produces thermal images of 320 x 240 pixels. With its low F-number (quantitative measure of lens speed) and high sensitivity, the G300a detects the smallest of leaks. The camera also has FLIR’s High Sensitivity Mode (HSM) which further enhances the detection level of the camera so that the smallest gas leaks can be detected. The FLIR G300a is very easy to control from a safe distance over Ethernet and it can easily be integrated in a TCP/ IP network.
“The gas market will really be able to benefit from this technology. Gas plants are usually very wide, so with our UAV solutions you are able to scan these large areas very efficiently and also to provide a good overview. They can take you to places that are hard to reach or that would take a lot of effort to go to. Gas processing plants usually have risky areas, like the red zone at the Al Hosn Shah Plant. Optical gas imaging cameras like the FLIR G300a can scan these hazardous areas without any risk for human operators.”