A review of fugitive emissions
By Adem Onat – Sakarya University, Sakarya, Turkey Worldwide, fugitive emissions from industrial applications amount to over a million metric tonnes per year. Many emissions are the result of the actual industrial process, and as such, can be controlled by operators. However, a considerable proportion of emissions are unanticipated – usually referred to as ‘fugitive emissions’. Elimination or reduction of fugitive emissions could save industry many millions of dollars and prolong scarce resources. This feature reviews some of the key literature and techniques involved.
fugitive emissions. Furthermore, the major proportion of fugitive emissions comes from only a small fraction of the sources. [5, 6] Losses from leakage are often hard to determine, as there are many potential sources and they are very dependent on how well the installation is operated, maintained and inspected. Some important causes of leakage are: • • • • • • • • • Improperly fitted seal components. Installation faults. Construction faults. Wear and tear. Ageing. Equipment failure. Contamination of the seal. Excursions out of normal process conditions. Poor maintenance procedures.

The average surface temperature of the globe has warmed appreciably since the late 1800s, by about 0.6°C. Since this warming cannot be adequately explained by natural phenomena such as increased solar activity, human-induced increases in industrial emissions such as exhaust gas concentrations appear to be at least partly responsible. The particular gases that lead to this warming, the socalled ‘greenhouse gases’, include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), ozone (O3), and water vapor.[1] A portion of the emissions to atmosphere is represented by combustion products, along with known losses of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and steam. In general, these are all emissions anticipated from industrial processes, under the control of a plant operator.[2] Fugitive emissions are often defined as follows: any chemical, or a mixture of chemicals, in any physical form, which represents an unanticipated or spurious leak in an industrial site.[3–5] It also covers all of the losses of materials (usually volatile) from a process plant, through evaporation, flaring, spills and unanticipated or spurious leaks.[3] Fugitive emissions – especially VOCs – cause significant environmental concern because some offer Photochemical Ozone Creation Potential (POCP), Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP), Global Warming Potential (GWP), toxicity, carcinogenicity and local nuisance from odor.[2] These

properties mean that VOCs are a major contributor to the formation of ‘summer smog’. The prevention of VOC emissions is therefore one of the most important issues facing the operation of many industrial processes.[3, 6, 7] Irrespective of any environmental impact, they may result in tremendous financial burdens on industry, because they represent a huge loss of potentially valuable materials, and a cause of plant inefficiency.[6] Yet in many cases, the true costs are not appreciated, as many of the costs associated with fugitive emissions are invisible (Figure 1). The value of fugitive emissions will depend on:[2–4] • • • • • • • • • Equipment design. Age and quality of the equipment. Installation standards. Vapor pressure of the process fluid. Process temperature and pressure. Number and type of sources. Method of determination. Inspection and maintenance routine. Rate of production.

The implementation of legislation in the US governing emissions of volatile organic compounds, together with EU directives, has provided a stimulus for work aimed at reducing fugitive emissions. Industry has responded through improvements in valve sealing technology and testing to identify high performance packings. [8] Improvements to overall valve design and technology, sealing technology and maintenance techniques have significantly reduced valve emissions in process


A significant proportion of fugitive emissions can be losses from unsealed sources, including storage of liquid and gas tanks, open-ended, non-blanked, lines, pressure-relief valves, vents, flares, blow-down systems, spills and evaporation from water treatment facilities. These are part of industrial processes, and usually anticipated by the process operator. In other cases, these losses may be caused by leaks in the sealing elements of particular items of equipment, such as: • • • • • • Agitators/mixers. Compressors. Flanges. Pumps. Tank lids. Valves.


Figure 1. The tip of the iceberg: sources and costs of fugitive emissions. [Source: ESA]

As can be seen in Figure 2, valves are considered to account for approximately 50–60% of

Figure 2. The proportion of fugitive emissions from different sources: (a) Fugitive emission percentages versus type of industrial equipment, and (b) fugitive emission percentages versus type of industry. [Source: ESA]

Sealing Technology October 2006


This is not a direct method of valve mass emission measurement. It is safe in use. regular inspection and maintenance must be considered for low or zero emission requirements. However.[12] • Shell MESC SPE 77/312 Industrial Valves: Fugitive Emission (FE) Measurement. careful selection appropriate for the specific application. This may vary in significance from innocuous fluid loss such as steam and water up to nauseous.00. Currently the most widely recognized standard is the International Standard. Qualification Procedures and Prototype and Production Tests of Valves. Sniffing Sniffing is a direct method of measuring the concentration of test gas close to the valve stem. Some also consider that graphite seals perform better when sealing methane. and can be readily detected using a mass spectrometer in either the mass measurement mode or the sniffing mode. in the latter case it is not only financially inefficient but also environmentally dangerous.FEATURE Mass measurement Vacuum method Mass measurement of leakage can be carried by the vacuum method (Figure 3).[14] Discussion It is recognized that industry must reduce its impact on the environment if we are to continue global development for future generations. A seal’s primary purpose is to contain a fluid and so protect the immediate environment from contamination and vice versa.[11] • ISA – 93. Site measurements For site measurements there is no choice of test gas. Measurement of valve emissions by the vacuum method test setup. Methane has advantages in that a sniffing measurement on methane using an organic vapor analyzer (OVA) can be directly compared to site values. • Choice of measurement method: mass measurement or sniffing. In most cases. Flushing method Figure 3. Measurement of the concentration of the test gas in the flush stream enables the mass emission of the test gas to be determined. measurements can be made by the flushing (or bagging) method. there are two fundamental choices to be made: • Choice of test gas: helium or methane. The major contributing factor through the lowering of fugitive emissions will be sealing systems. Mass measurement on methane usually requires use of the flushing method. correct installation and operation according to the performance envelope. reproducible and is not equipment-dependent. and a flush gas is passed through the enclosure.01 Standard Method for the Evaluation of External Leakage of Manual and Automated on-off Valves. ISO 15848 Industrial Valves – Fugitive Emissions – Measurement Test and Qualification Procedures. and the development of production acceptance tests for valve assemblies. and it is also detector-dependent. the cost of the actual sealing technology is infinitesimally small when compared with the investment made in the plant Figure 4. Schematic diagram of the flushing method test setup for the measurement of valve emissions. and so this is a fairer test of performance on hydrocarbons. the loss of such innocuous fluid will lead primarily to reduced plant efficiency for the operator. Alternatively. toxic or hazardous leakage. They also play a vital role in the environmental performance of industrial installations. In the former case.[13] Fugitive emission measurement methods In carrying out fugitive emission measurements. it does require modification to the valve top works to enable a vacuum to be created to collect emissions. although mass measurement by bagging can be carried out on a limited number of valves. although some mass spectrometers can carry out measurements on methane. Sniffing is the only practicable method. a requirement is recognized for standardized methods of qualifying the emission performance of valves. Clearly. It is subject to errors in operator method and as a result of external effects such as wind speed. where the valve top works are enclosed within a vacuum chamber and all gas leaking from the valve passes to the mass spectrometer. Other commercial instruments are available to measure helium concentrations by the sniffing method. [Source: BHR Group] 8 Sealing Technology October 2006 .[9] In order to assist industry in responding to the challenge of reducing valve emissions. leading to environmental improvements through reduced hydrocarbon emissions and cost savings through a reduction in discharges. The valve top works are enclosed. as shown in Figure 4. This measurement method has several advantages as it is accurate. [10] Other valve emission standards are: • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Method 21. This method has to be used if an OVA is used to carry out mass emission measurements on methane. although they may still present hazards such as leakage of high-pressure water or steam. [Source: BHR Group] plant. Classification System. the hydrocarbon gas in the valve has to be used. Test gas Helium is the widely preferred choice for the test gas. Consequently.

Gasket Engineering Manual. Relative cost of the different gasket types versus environmental impact. Importantly.L. 5. R. Stephens: New directions: Fugitive emissions identified by chemical fingerprinting.cfm 2. Contact: Adem Onat. Sealing systems play a vital role in the environmental performance of industrial plants. Harrison: Valve fugitive emission measurement standards. correct installation and operation according to the performance envelope. 54188 Sakarya. Jones and B. This will be driven by a combination of public pressure. 014/05. Manchester. Standard method for the evaluation of external leakage of manual and automated on-off valves. B. Industrial valves – Fugitive emissions – Measurement test and qualification procedures. 7. Qualification procedures and prototype and production tests of valves. let alone plant downtime. for the sake of completeness. Determination of volatile organic compound leak. Billington: Evaluation of graphite valve packings to reduce fugitive emissions on hydrocarbon duties. handling and installation than previous asbestos equivalents. June 2005. ESA/FSA Publication No. D. Conclusions It is now recognized that industry must reduce its environmental impact to allow sustained global development. USA. First European Conference on Controlling Fugitive Emissions. September 1994.F. 11. October 1995. Email: ademonat@gmail. available online at: w w w. Washington.01. 8. and a major contributing factor will be through lowering emissions. Sealing Technology (November 2000) 9–11.J. Consequently. Figure 6. T.B. Guidelines for safe seal usage – Flanges and gaskets. 16. Armstrong Industry Products Division. W. Code of Federal Regulations. After careful selection appropriate to the specific application. UK.00. 14. Szweda: Fugitive emissions: The matter of imperfect seals. but are usually less forgiving. Frankfurt. Vocational School of Sakarya. the actual cost of the sealing device is immaterial in terms of economic considerations for Best Available Techniques (BAT). 3. However. ITC. E. Progress in Energy and Combustion Science 25 253–273 (1999). Belgium. Kirkman: Winning the battle with leaky valves. EPA Method 21. 009/98. Classification system. Indeed. the cost per unit may be in the region of a few cents.M. References 1. J.com Figure 5. 15. September 1998. completely insignificant when the total plant costs are considered. 6. June 1997.w a r m i n g basics/basic_science/wigley. p e w c l i m a t e . the unit cost of sealing technology is completely overwhelmed by the labor cost to fit the seal. o r g / g l o b a l . B. Alkidas: Combustion-chamber crevices: The major source of engine-out hydrocarbon emissions under fully warmed conditions. Turkey. [Source: ESA] as a whole (Figure 5). Revised June 1990. Part 60. National Center for Atmospheric Research. Peters and A. 1987. The new sealing technologies and materials can require more careful selection. 4. Seth: Asbestos-free gasket materials for turbines. DC. for many sealing technologies. Kirkman. Sealing Technology (February 2004) 9–12. Sakarya University.S. (DIS) ISO 15848. European Sealing Association. Shell MESC SPE 77/312. USA. 10. 9. Smith and M. environmental legislation and internal company requirements to minimize the loss of valuable feedstocks. Harrison. The cost of the sealing technology in proportion to overall plant costs. Atmospheric Environment 35(7) 1347–1348 (2001). Valves & Actuators International Conference. Antwerp. Germany. B. Title 40. Sealing Technology – BAT Guidance Notes. 12. Appendix A. ESA/BHR Group. ISA–93. 13. International Seal Forum at Achema 97. Figure 6 provides an overview of the relative cost of different types of gasket and the environmental impact of sealing system. Industrial valves: Fugitive emission measurement. These new materials can offer improved performance. Ellis: Emission legislation – Development and progress. Journal of Testing and Evaluation 21(1) (1993). ESA Publication No. Sealing Technology October 2006 9 .FEATURE which means that users must exercise more care in selecting the right material for the job and assembling the seal. C. Wigley: The science of climate change: Global and US perspective. D. there must be regular inspection and maintenance to ensure low or zero emissions.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful