“We’re starting with a blank slate for our new gas detection laboratory,” notes Patrick Byrne, FM Approvals assistant vice president and technical team manager. Byrne, a 19-year FM Approvals veteran, oversees the current gas detection lab at FM Approvals’ headquarters in Norwood, Massachusetts, USA. “With our new laboratory, we will not only have greater capacity to do more preliminary testing, but also can test for about 40 toxic gases. That’s going to save manufacturers time and money.”
Byrne is referring to a new gas detection lab that will be included in the new Electrical Hazards Laboratory at the FM Global Research Campus in West Glocester, Rhode Island, USA. The 37,200 ft2 (3,455 m2) electrical hazards laboratory will enable FM Approvals to provide expanded space and capabilities for all laboratories that provide testing for certification of products and systems for use in hazardous (classified) locations.
The new electrical hazards laboratory will include multiple labs dedicated to specific requirements for hazardous location certification, including labs for metrology, corrosion and chemical compatibility testing, electrostatic testing, environmental testing, explosion testing and gas detection testing.
Gas detection technology is widely used in industry to protect facilities, processes and personnel from unexpected leaks and discharges of combustible or potentially harmful or toxic gases and vapors. Gas detectors can trigger alarms, record events, provide time for intervention or evacuation, activate ventilation, or even release water mist or CO2 to suppress ignition if a gas cloud is forming.
“Our new lab will allow us to test for more than 40 different gases.”Patrick Byrne, FM Approvals assistant vice president and technical team manager, FM Approvals
Fixed point and open path (line of sight) gas detection systems are typically used by oil, gas, power generation, chemical process and waste facilities to create layered protection. Gas detection technologies include catalytic or electrocatalytic, electrochemical cell, solid state sensors, ultraviolet or infrared (IR) detectors.
“Safety is our highest priority with the new gas detection laboratory,” Byrne emphasizes. “Of course, we will be using FM Approved gas detection systems to monitor the room air and the test equipment. The entire facility will have an advanced HVAC system that will allow us to exhaust gases from the test chambers at the parts-per-billion level—that is not only well below safe limits, but below the point where you can even detect it.”
One of the key new capabilities of the new gas detection lab will be the inclusion of equipment and safety systems to accommodate the testing of toxic gas detectors. “In our current Norwood lab, we are not equipped to handle toxic gases,” Byrne says. “We provide certification, but our engineers have to travel to the manufacturer’s facility to witness the testing there, assuming the manufacturer has their own test equipment. That necessity adds time and expense.
“We will have a dedicated space that is almost double the capacity that we have at the moment, so we’re making it as future-proof as possible,” says Byrne of the planned gas detection lab. “Our new lab will allow us to test for more than 40 different gases, including many exotic gases.”
In addition, the new gas detection laboratory will provide manufacturers with improved access to accuracy verification and other preliminary evaluation services—also known as contract services. “In our current Norwood laboratory, we can carry out contract services for combustible gases and oxygen depletion, but not exotic (i.e., toxic) gases,” Byrne explains. “Preliminary testing is a fraction of the cost of a full certification program, but still allows the manufacturer to verify the operation and accuracy of their systems before they submit them for a full test program. They can avoid costly failures that can delay the certifications required by global markets.”