Ammonia, a colorless gas with a strong and pungent odor, is one of the most hazardous gas leaks any worker can face. Causing severe damage to the skin, eyes, and respiratory system, it’s vital that companies in the oil and gas industry as well as other related industries have a plan in place to deal with ammonia leakages. By using a combination of sensors and emergency procedures, a company can keep its workers and equipment free from injury and damage.

Ambient Gas Sensors
Placed near storage areas and other locations where there is a significant risk of ammonia leakage, ambient gas sensors are positioned from four to six feet above ground, which puts them at the optimal breathing levels of employees. Remembering that ammonia is lighter than air, many companies space their sensors based on the hazards that are present and allow for the largest coverage area.

Advanced Ammonia Sensors
Due to many of the latest technological advances, companies have now started using advanced ammonia sensors (AAS) to alert workers to ammonia leaks and allow the incident to be contained as much as possible. Used in harsh work environments both indoors and outdoors, these sensors are made specifically for larger facilities that have the potential for a large ammonia leakage. Able to be calibrated from remote locations, these sensors have proven to be very effective in most situations. However, they can be prone to limitations regarding humidity and temperature, especially in environments where high temperatures and humidity are present. Therefore, they tend to work better in colder climates and work areas, such as on pipelines or on oil rigs.

Fixed-Point and Personal Detectors
While most facilities rely on fixed-point ammonia detectors to signal a leakage, many are now turning to personal ammonia sensors. Allowing workers to carry these devices with them wherever they go, they have proven to be good for maintenance crews as well as workers whose jobs have them in close quarters much of the day. While ammonia does have a strong smell, by the time workers can smell the ammonia, they are already in a dangerous situation, since by that time ammonia levels may be very high. As with most of today’s sensors, an ammonia detection sensor can usually relay data in real-time to a mobile device sometimes hundreds of miles away. This enables calibration and other adjustments to be made, which can sometimes solve the problem. However, in most cases this data is used to implement emergency procedures and alert workers to evacuate the area immediately.

While an ammonia leakage can produce fires as well as cause severe physical problems for those who are exposed to it, today’s technology has produced a number of sensors that can often alert personnel to a problem just as it is beginning. As a result, most ammonia leakages fail to reach dangerous levels. However, when a serious leak does happen, having this technology, as well as an emergency plan in place for employees to rely on, can mean the difference between life and death.