Summarizing the fundamentals of fugitive emission tracking

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Courtesy of Verisae

Fugitive emission tracking for a number of key industries is now a focus for the United States and a number of other countries. When a hazardous leak occurs it is important to identify and gauge the amount and type of substance emitted. Officials will gain a better understanding of the challenge posed by greenhouse gases, as they affect global warming. When an unexpected leak of a hazardous substance occurs, and is not contained in a stack, vent, or duct, this is classified as a fugitive emission. Such an occurrence could occur as a result of an equipment leak, a breakdown in the processing procedure, or a problem with maintenance. Leakage can cause harmful gases to enter the environment. Some compounds prove resilient and when transferred to the stratosphere, damaging our protective ozone layer.

Fugitive emission tracking is important because over 300,000 tons is emitted in the United States alone. It is expected that other countries are responsible for similar outputs. Strict laws must be implemented to control and reduce the harmful effects to the ozone layer, with the goal of elimination over time.

The EPA has established a set of rules to address the fugitive emission problem. The rules apply to a number of different industries including existing and newly constructed facilities with operations which utilize refrigerant gas in their heating and cooling systems. Industries affected include those involved with chemical manufacturing, pulp and paper mills, electrical services and petroleum.

Facilities that use or produce known harmful substances are required to keep track of the fugitive emission problem and monitor any service events related to the resolution. The EPA defines a variety of dangerous compounds, including hydrofluorocarbons, chlorofluorocarbons, methyl bromide, methyl chloroform, halons and carbon tetrachloride.

Refrigerant gases contain two primary contributors to the weakening of the ozone layer, namely chlorofluorocarbons and hydrofluorocarbons. Refrigerant gas is used in many industries in refrigeration and cooling units, ventilation, air conditioning systems and fire protection systems and is thus of particular concern when it comes to fugitive emission.

If a fugitive emission takes place, businesses need to track leakage rate and report to the EPA. Full details are required, including the severity of the leak and the repair process completed. New regulations require regular inspections, wherever volatile chemicals are involved.

The US Clean Air Act established thresholds, which are now clarified and standardized by the new fugitive emission regulations. For example, these include continuous monitoring, leak tracking and reporting requirements for repair and containment. The first reports are due in early 2011. Many companies would choose automated rather than manual processes, including tracking software programs and web-based applications. Such automated systems reduce the likelihood of noncompliance.

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