Ensuring Industrial Safety through Ammonia Monitoring

 Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula of NH3. It is a colorless gas with that characteristic pungent smell and found in trace quantities in the atmosphere from the decay process of nitrogenous animal and vegetable matter. Ammonia is used for commercial purposes particularly for pharmaceuticals and cleaning products. However, even with the benefits gained from ammonia, it can detrimentally affect the natural environment and human life. Continuous ammonia monitoring will determine high levels of ammonia concentrations and better reduction regulations can be assessed.  

The global industry requirements for ammonia

  • Fertilizer – among the more important environmental issues faced by a fertilizer plant is the atmospheric releases of pollutants like particulates, ammonia, NOX and fluoride. Aside from ammonia monitoring, measurement of carbon dioxide emissions is also a challenge due to global warming issues. Complete monitoring system for all other emissions and ambient air quality monitoring will provide the solution to compliance requirements that the industry needs.
  • Household cleaner – ammonia is a general purpose cleaner for glass, porcelain and stainless steel. Ammonia is among the substances that are closely monitored since cleaning solutions having concentrations greater than 1000 mg/1 (ppm) can cause severe burning and scarring of sensitive skin and mucous membranes.  
  • Refrigeration – ammonia is also used as a refrigerant gas because of its vaporization properties. Ammonia can be a toxic gas under ambient conditions. Many parts of a refrigeration system contain ammonia liquefied under pressure. Releases of large quantities ammonia have a potential harmful effect to workers and the public which requires strict ammonia monitoring to minimize the risks.
  • Fuel – ammonia is proposed to be as a practical alternative to fossil fuel for internal combustion engines. Achieving this scenario will depend upon the availability of the gas and the ability of the transport sector to use the system effectively. However, the cheaper cost of natural gas as fuel is a powerful incentive though it requires gas monitoring for the protection of the environment.

How to minimize the hazards of ammonia in an industrial facility

Every facility dealing with large quantities of ammonia should be aware of the potential risks of ammonia releases and that steps should always be undertaken to prevent such releases. Furthermore, proper steps must also be prepared to respond immediately in case of ammonia releases.

  • Training programs must be established in the plant to ensure that workers know and understand how to handle ammonia. Workers must be informed about the hazards of ammonia if inhaled in large quantities which can range from irritation to severe respiratory injuries with possible fatalities at higher concentrations.
  • Consider installing ammonia monitoring devices in areas where possible leaks may occur. The ammonia detectors must be closely monitored and tied into a call down system.
  • It is also essential to regularly calibrate the ammonia monitoring devices and detectors against a known standard.
  • Maintain a leak-free system with a leak test on all piping, valves, seals, flanges, etc.

Establish emergency shutdown procedures and what to do in case of an ammonia release

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