As landfill gas technology has grown over the last decade, Surface Emissions Monitoring (SEM) technology has failed to progress. As recently as a year ago, performing an NSPS SEM event meant strapping a heavy, fault-prone Flame Ionization Detector (FID), pressurized with flammable hydrogen, to the back of a technician who was left to sort through archaic interfaces and aging data collection processes. Consultants and landfill owners have had to deal with everything from shipping potentially explosive hydrogen cylinders to losing hours’ worth of data to generating potentially inaccurate reports. Despite their aging technology and significant shortfalls, FIDs remain the prevailing instrument for SEM events; however, new options are now being offered and FIDs are losing ground.
Using an FID for Surface Emissions Monitoring means dealing with large quantities of high-pressure hydrogen. Using and storing hydrogen presents many problems in the form of liability and logistics. Improperly transporting high-pressure hydrogen can lead to fines as high as $175,000 per incident and present a liability risk for companies and personnel. Properly scheduling and managing hydrogen deliveries and transportation is time-consuming and costly. Technicians are also forced to carry high-pressure hydrogen cylinders in their vehicles and to the field in order to transfer it to their FID’s on-board fuel cylinder.
Given all of the issues that our industry technicians have noted about FID technology for the past 20-plus years, it is now time to drop the H-Bomb. One solution is quickly gaining traction among SEM technicians and Environmental Managers alike. Inficon’s IRwin methane detector, using infrared sensors, paired with the Elkins Earthworks ProSEM software, is quickly proving itself as the cutting-edge solution for Surface Emissions Monitoring for multiple reasons.
First, the IRwin eliminates the need to use compressed hydrogen gas. Not having to purchase, ship, and use expensive and dangerous hydrogen saves companies money and risk. Technicians using the IRwin will not have to worry about carrying hydrogen cylinders and hardware, running out of hydrogen, or filling hydrogen cylinders. Using infrared technology instead of hydrogen-powered FIDs can also reduce warm-up time by a significant margin.
Second, it offers massive weight savings compared to FID technology. The detector weighs in at just 3.5 pounds as opposed to the 15–20 pounds of an average FID. Due to this reduction, SEM technicians have reported much less fatigue and greater speed when performing scans. In addition, the ProSEM software can run on a small handheld device such as an Archer2, allowing the IRwin to be carried in a natural position on the technician’s back instead of in front with the built-in screen visible.
Third, it offers greater reliability compared to FID technology. It eliminates the hydrogen and combustion from the process entirely. It also reduces the number of moving parts and eliminates points of failure compared to an FID. The IRwin simplifies sample processing and data output to reduce glitches and holds calibration accuracy longer and better than FID technology, providing a greater level of data accuracy and consistency. Additionally, it retains its performance better over a wider range of environmental conditions.
Finally, when combined with the ProSEM software, the IRwin reduces user error and improves data collection. The software captures location and sample data in real time and allows for easy manual tagging and reading of data. Then it creates useful outputs with manual and automatic readings, background data, and calibration data. The software guides technicians through Method 21 compliance procedures and provides detailed compliance reports. Integrated proprietary infrared technology and an easy-to-navigate user interface ensure that the IRwin itself is easy to use and calibrate. This translates to fewer technician errors.