Home > 10 tips to get the most out of your Optical Gas Imaging (OGI) camera

10 tips to get the most out of your Optical Gas Imaging (OGI) camera

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article image The FLIR GF320 Optical Gas Imaging Camera can visualise most hydrocarbons used in the petrochemical industry

Optical Gas Imaging technology is an efficient way to safely visualise gas leaks. Optical Gas Imaging (OGI) cameras use spectral wavelength filtering and sterling cooler cold filtering technology to visualise the infrared absorption of VOC/Hydrocarbon, SF6, refrigerants, Carbon Monoxide and other gases whose spectral absorption matches the response of the camera.

OGI technology allows industry to incorporate a ‘Smart LDAR’ (Leak Detection and Repair) program that enables operators to safely and efficiently visualise gas leaks. The technology not only helps industry reduce industrial emissions and conform to future regulations but also saves money, increases efficiency and improves the safety of assets and personnel.

Top 10 tips to get the most out of your Optical Gas Imaging (OGI) cameras

1. Understand the application and needs.

The one-size-fits-all rule doesn’t apply to Optical Gas Imaging (OGI) cameras because different applications will require different cameras. Since a single camera may not see all the gases, the operator will need to first understand what type of gas needs to be detected. For example, a VOC/Hydrocarbon OGI camera will not see SF6 and a CO camera will not see refrigerants.

2. Take into account the environmental conditions.

Environmental conditions also need to be considered for the success of passive optical gas imaging. The greater the background energy differential, the easier it will be for the camera to visualise the gas leak and pinpoint its source. Active optical gas imaging, which uses a laser based backscattering technique, relies on a reflective surface in the background. This presents a significant challenge when the camera is pointed skywards to look at components high up. Additionally, rain and strong winds can make a difference, though in different ways; while rain can make detection very difficult, wind can actually help visualise the gas because it makes the gas move.

3. Remember that optical gas imaging is qualitative, not quantitative.

An OGI camera will not be able to quantify the amount of gas leaking or even what gas it is, due to factors such as environmental variants, background energy differential and variations. However, it will be able to pinpoint the source of the leak in the most efficient and effective way.

4. Combine an optical gas imaging camera with a sniffer probe.

Use an OGI camera to visualise the leak and trace its source, and a sniffer probe such as a Toxic Vapour Analyser (TVA) or Organic Vapour Analyser (OVA) to quantify the leak. Combining an OGI camera with a sniffer probe is referred to as Smart LDAR.

5. Use all the features and functions on your OGI camera.

Certain OGI cameras including FLIR’s GF-Series cameras are dual use systems that can also be employed for industrial maintenance inspections such as high- and low-voltage electrical installations, mechanical installations, pipework and insulation, ovens and many more. For instance, the thermographic function on the OGI camera can help determine the background temperature/ energy being absorbed by the gas. Since the object of detection (gas) has no visual representation and is moving constantly, a continuous focus is most important and so is the thermographic capability to determine the temperature range settings. An OGI camera also allows you to record a movie to capture the movement and pinpoint the leak.

6. Keep it safe.

Safety is one of the major advantages of optical gas imaging cameras, being a quick, non-contact measuring instrument that can also be used in hard-to-access locations. The OGI camera can detect small leaks from several metres away and big leaks from hundreds of metres away. By visualising leaks on moving transport vehicles, the camera greatly improves the safety of both the inspector and the plant. Thanks to the excellent performance and sensitivity of the cameras, the user can scan for leaks from a safe zone or even from a greater distance, compared to traditional gas detection methods.

7. Consider future industrial emissions regulations.

Fugitive gas emissions contribute to global warming and pose deadly risks to both workers and people living close to these facilities. FLIR Optical Gas Imaging cameras detect dozens of volatile organic compounds, including the greenhouse gas Sulphur Hexafluoride (SF6), thereby efficiently contributing to a better environment. Optical gas imaging cameras also facilitate compliance with industrial emissions regulations and procedures as set by the new EU Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) and by some EPA regulations in the United Sates.

8. Keep track of your return on investment

Industrial facilities investing in the OGI camera will see almost instant payback within the very first survey or with the detection of the very first leak.

9. Work with permits.

OGI cameras do not come with Zone 1 ATEX certification, which means the operator has to apply for a ‘Hot Work Permit’ or use it under a ‘Permit to work scheme’.

10. Follow training.

It’s important to acquire the right training for operating the camera from experienced and qualified OGI users to maximise its benefits. A training course by quality organisations such as the Infrared Training Centre is recommended. 

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