Ammonia is one of the best-known chemicals regarding safety measures for handling and storage in order to prevent hazardous releases. Yet no reliable measures have been developed for early warning and situation assessment in case of such incidents. The inherent risk was taken into account upon construction of todays facilities. Many of which are at least 40 to 60 years old. But growing productivity demands and ever-growing neighbouring cities constantly increased this risk. Warning for ammonia releases becomes an ever more urgent problem considering increasing worldwide demands for ammonia. And the prospect of ammonia playing a major role in the transportation and storage of hydrogen fuel as green fuel will eventually catapult the demand for ammonia storage and ammonia production to new heights.

Automated early detection of gas leaks and tracking of moving gas clouds in case of an incident – this combination of risk prevention and incident mitigation was the design task for the early warning solution that was installed at CHEMELOT industrial park in Geleen, The Netherlands. In the first phase the scanfeld early warning solution safeguards the OCI melamine and urea complex. The site in close vicinity to a densely populated campus requires the warning of a release incident at any point within minutes. Once ammonia is in the air, the propagation of the moving cloud must be tracked and mapped live until it reaches the fence. The remote monitoring solution covers large areas and can locate a gas anywhere within sight. The early warning solution is based on spectroscopic analysis (FTIR spectroscopy) that allows safe identification and mapping of hundreds of different chemicals – both flammable and toxic – from large distances of up to 4 km.

While the detection and visualization of an ammonia cloud was the primary target of the first phase installation, the design goal of the solution is to eventually cover the entire CHEMELOT north site.

This paper was presented at the Nitrogen + Syngas 2021 Virtual Conference & Exhibition 1-3 March 2021.