Gas detection in the food industry Envirotech Online

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Shawvillein partnership with Crowcon, provides specialist gas detection solutions for toxic, flammable and oxygen depletion hazards to protect food industry workers and assets.

Food and beverages can be divided into two major segments: production and distribution. Production includes the processing of meats and dairy products, or the manufacture of soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, packaged foods and other modified foods.

The food production process can be divided into three subgroups. First, food processing involves converting raw foods into commodities, for example: grinding wheat into flour and creating cheese from milk. The second subgroup is food processing which transforms ingredients into edible products, for example creating bread from wheat. The third category is the commercial production of ready-to-eat foods, such as frozen pizzas – or any other prepared meals.

Many food production processes involve fermentation, heating, cooling, dehydrating or cooking, all of which create potential gas hazards. Food cooking, especially with steam boilers, is mainly heated with LPG or natural gas or a mixture of oil and gas. Natural gas is largely composed of methane, which is a particularly flammable gas that is lighter than air. LPG, on the other hand, consists mainly of propane, which is also highly combustible, but heavier than air. This requires on-site storage tanks, which in turn require forced mechanical ventilation in the event of a leak. Naturally, these processes require reliable and accurate gas detection instrumentation.

Gas detection systems are a requirement for all gas powered structures as well as underground basements and boiler rooms. The gas detection system will trigger alarms and actuators in the event of a gas leak, as well as shutting off the gas and electrical supply, except for devices designed for operation in explosive atmospheres, low voltage supply or emergency lighting.

With strict regulations, operators in the food industry must ensure that hygiene standards are met; the slightest contamination can create a perfect breeding ground for germs. Cleaning and disinfection, to comply with industry standards, is therefore a crucial aspect of food production. Chlorine-based compounds are widely used to disinfect food preparation equipment or surfaces – these compounds are very effective, cost effective and rapid as disinfection, but they are also potentially hazardous and even exposure to levels of parts per million can cause extremely harmful health problems. It is therefore crucial to deploy a gas detection system, with a relay system to activate the ventilation fans or any other safety mechanism once a significant level of chlorine has been detected.

Food packaging also presents potential pitfalls. Nitrogen flushing methods are used to preserve and store many products. Nitrogen is not toxic, odorous or reactive and is used to prevent spillage while stopping the growth of dangerous bacteria and the oxidation of fresh foods containing fats and/or sugars. On-site generators or cylinders can provide nitrogen to operators, but this gas is an asphyxiant which, when displacing oxygen from the air, can be extremely dangerous, especially since it is odorless. and therefore impossible to detect by personnel without appropriate gas detection equipment. To protect workers in food packaging, an oxygen depletion monitor will notify them if and when oxygen levels reach dangerously low levels.

Refrigeration facilities are used to keep food cold for long periods of time. Larger scale food storage facilities often use systems based on the use of anhydrous ammonia (>50% NH3) because it is both efficient and inexpensive. Ammonia is toxic, flammable, and lighter than air in the absence of moisture, but becomes heavier than air in humid environments and quickly fills enclosed spaces. Ammonia can burn in an enclosed space where there is an ignition source or when a container of anhydrous ammonia is exposed to fire. Ammonia is stored as a compressed gas or liquid, without the presence of moisture.

Ammonia is detected using electrochemical sensors for toxic gases and catalytic sensors for monitoring flammable gases. Portable and portable detection devices, which include single-gas or multi-gas detectors, can monitor instantaneous and TWA exposure to toxic levels of ammonia.

Fixed detection systems combine toxic and flammable gas detectors linked to local control panels. These systems are usually supplied with the cooling system. These systems can also be used to control process overruns and ventilation control. Ammonia quickly fills the breathing spaces, so detector placement must be carefully considered and performed.

Situations that generate gas hazards in wineries and breweries include carbon dioxide emissions from fermentation, cooling, covering and recovery as well as disinfectants such as chlorine dioxide, ozone and sulfur dioxide widely used for equipment cleaning, argon and nitrogen used for gas blanketing to create inert gases. atmospheric conditions, ammonia from refrigeration equipment and oxygen levels in confined spaces.

Wine and beer often spend a lot of time in storage with distribution companies, warehousing and, in the case of beer, carters. Beer and soft drink suppliers use carbon dioxide or a mixture of carbon dioxide and nitrogen to deliver a drink to the “tap” and to improve the beer, its taste and give it a longer lasting foam.

Gas hazards occur everywhere with compressed gas cylinders, this is caused by the risk of increased carbon dioxide levels or depleted oxygen levels caused by the presence of high levels of nitrogen.

Carbon dioxide is found naturally in the atmosphere, it is both colorless and odorless, heavier than air and so if it leaks it will usually sink to the ground. Carbon dioxide accumulates in cellars, at the bottom of containers and in confined spaces such as tanks or silos. It is generated in large quantities during the fermentation process and added to beverages during carbonation.

Shawcity’s bespoke gas detection systems for the food and beverage industry can be designed, installed, commissioned, approved and handed over by their in-house team. The output from the controllers will notify a central control room or building management system (BMS), either from an entirely new system or integrated into an existing setup.

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