Detecting Gas Leaks with Ultrasonic Technology

Across the hydrocarbon production and processing industries, safety is paramount given the combustibility of oil and gas.

Emerson's Megan McCoy


Ultrasonic-Gas-Leak-WPI saw a recent whitepaper developed by Emerson’s Megan McCoy on ultrasonic gas detection technology. The whitepaper, Ultrasonic Gas Leak Detection – Your First Line of Defense describes how this technology plays an important role in early warning of dangerous gas leak conditions.

She notes in the whitepaper that several gas detection technologies exist:

catalytic bead and infrared point detectors along with open path infrared perimeter detectors.

Megan explains that leak detection systems are the first line of defense against toxic or combustible gas leaks. These can occur in many ways. Some examples include:

…defective seals or gaskets, valve misalignment, or failure of flanges or other equipment.

Ultrasonic gas leak detection technology has several advantages over other technologies including detection before hazardous concentrations occur, weather, wind direction and noise insensitivity, detection not requiring immersion in vapor cloud, and a wider coverage radius up to 40 meters.

Despite the detection technique’s advantages, acoustic sensing technology faces several limitations including; restriction to pressurized systems, distinction on what is leaking (such as air/nitrogen/methane etc.) and time delay adjustments to address pressure release conditions.

Megan describes how ultrasonic sensing has advanced from microphone technology to resonant sensor technology. This advancement means that these sensors:

These sensors have an extremely high chemical resistance and a wide frequency range response band. The unit can be mounted in any orientation required for the application. Its sensor design has no moving parts so wear and tear is completely eliminated.

The Incus Ultrasonic Gas Leak Detector includes four of these acoustic sensors which constantly monitor wide areas for ultrasound generated from the release of pressurized gas.

With most of the noise in the process generated by turbines, motors, compressors, and other equipment in the audible sound range, the ultrasonic sensors listen in the 25 KHz to 100 KHz range where these gas leak frequencies occur.

Safety systems are built upon diversity and layers of protection. For gas leak detection, a:

…combination of Emerson ultrasonic leak detectors, gas detectors, and flame detectors is particularly effective because they are entirely complementary and cover the three defense level of detection. The first stage is the immediate leak stage, the second is during the gas cloud formation or accumulation stage, and the third is during the ignition stage.

Read the whitepaper for more on the advantages of ultrasonic leak detection technology, advancements in this technology and importance of applying diversity in detection technologies as part of your overall process safety lifecycle strategy.

You can also connect and interact with other analytical experts in the Analytical group in the Emerson Exchange 365 community.

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