Optical Gas Imaging (OGI) Considerations for Fugitive Emissions Monitoring and LDAR Programs

Posted on February 7, 2017

As Optical Gas Imaging (OGI) technology continues to advance, the world of fugitive emissions monitoring and Leak Detection and Repair appears to be trending in this direction as a replacement for EPA Method 21. EPA has deemed OGI the Best System for Emissions Reduction (BSER) and made OGI an option for LDAR and Fugitive Monitoring compliance for recent NSPS regulations. In addition, the CDC has also deemed OGI a best management practice as it allows inspectors to see potential gas releases from a safe distance therefore not exposing them to harmful vapors. Over the past years, Environmental 360 has performed OGI vs. Method 21 comparison studies in various industrial environments to understand the important nuances to consider when each method is used for LDAR and fugitive monitoring compliance. There are many considerations to be made when electing to use OGI technology for your fugitive monitoring program.

As the title of this article suggests, OGI is not as simple as looking through a camera and being able to see all the leaks. OGI training via an expert in thermal imaging technology is paramount in order for a technician to fully understand the techniques for camera functionality, monitoring methods, and key environmental conditions during surveys.

Survey Conditions:
The effectiveness and settings of the OGI camera are largely dependent on the type of weather and industrial environment that is being monitored. Conditions will change between each monitoring event and with each seasonal change, and OGI operators must use the camera’s flexibility in order to properly identify fugitive emissions during the inspection.

There is no doubt that viewing components with an infrared camera is more efficient compared to probing each component per Method 21. As discussed earlier, there are factors that require OGI monitoring from close distances, and each viewing area may require the settings of the camera to be toggled multiple times in order to detect leaks.

Cost Effectiveness:
Determining the cost effectiveness of OGI monitoring vs. Method 21 may be a little tricky. Most new OGI cameras such as the FLIR GF 320 price in the neighborhood of $85,000 compared to the newer models of Flame Ionization Detectors (FIDs) like the ThermoScientific TVA-2020 at a price around $12,000 – $14,000. Insuring the OGI camera during shipment is also extremely expensive, and repairs to a piece of equipment like this are never cheap. Even with these costs, the cost effectiveness of OGI is made up in the monitoring efficiency and the time saved using OGI. Additionally, some of the newer NSPS regulations allow programs that use OGI to forego the burden of creating databases of every component or tagging the components. The ability to exclude this requirement from a fugitive emissions monitoring program will translate to long-term savings.

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