Insights from industry

Industrial Flare Gas Monitoring

Dr. Frank DeThomas, Vice President of Sales and Technical Support at Extrel CMS, talks to AZoM about the benefits their MAX300-IG Industrial Gas Analyzer can bring to flare-gas monitoring.

Could you please provide our readers with a brief introduction to Extrel and your activities?

For over 50 years, Extrel has been recognized as the worldwide leader in quadrupole mass spectrometry (MS) products for research, laboratory and process applications. The Company began in 1964 as Extranuclear Laboratories, created to provide innovative power supplies for mass spectrometry by Ted Brackmann and Wade Fite, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh. In 1985, Extranuclear Laboratories became Extrel Corporation to focus further on analytical mass spectrometry products. In 2004, the Company changed its name to Extrel CMS, LLC.

Extrel’s quadrupole mass spectrometers have been used by three Nobel laureates and thousands of users globally. The Company has grown to become the premier worldwide supplier of research-grade quadrupole mass spectrometer components in ion chemistry, cluster chemistry, surface sciences, atmospheric research, inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) and secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS).

Mass spectrometry is an analytical technique that utilizes the molecular mass of substances for identification and quantification, and is used to analyze gases or substances that can be vaporized. Extrel’s product line utilizes this technique and includes the MAX300-IG—a quadrupole mass spectrometer designed specifically for industrial process control.

Why is mass spectroscopy used in flare gas monitoring?

Under regulation 40 CFR 60, Subpart Ja, the EPA has mandated that all refineries install flare-monitoring systems before November 2015. Mass spectrometry provides some unique advantages to the end user when applied to the flare gas application. A flare stream in a refinery represents the refinery’s waste and safety bypass stream, and the composition can vary rapidly over time. Extrel mass spectrometry offers some unique advantages to the end user. The Company’s MAX300-IG mass spectrometer can monitor:

  • changes in stream composition from ppb to percent levels in seconds
  • All the stream compounds simultaneously to provide the required measurements of hydrogen sulfide, total sulfur and BTU.

There are some additional advantages for the end user in using quadrupole mass spectrometry. The new EPA regulation requires a root-cause analysis report on any measurements outside of acceptable, mandated emission limits. Since the MAX300-IG can report all of the compounds in a stream as individual percentages, a spike of a specific chemical can point back to the source of the emission and facilitate easy reporting. Additionally, Extrel’s MAX300 is able to measure highly corrosive acids, such as hydrofluoric acid which is potentially present in many refinery flares.

Could you tell our readers a little bit about how this process works?

There are normally multiple flares in a refinery. Each flare is associated with a number of refinery processes and relief valves. Extrel works with the refinery to document the stream composition at each relief valve and map it to the appropriate flare. The MAX300-IG samples a flare stream and yields real-time updates on any changes in stream composition.

How does this process benefit the industry?

Refineries are required by law to meet 40 CFR 60, Subpart Ja to maintain their operating licenses. The industry’s objective is to comply with the new EPA regulation with the most cost-effective solution available. Extrel’s MAX300-IG offers lower installation, utilities, maintenance, and life-cycle costs compared to other flare solutions.

What are the main benefits that the MAX300-IG brings to your customers for flare gas analysis?

The MAX300-IG is the only single-analyser solution. Without our product, multiple analysers are required to examine the continuously changing, dynamic flare stream composition. Additionally, if a component concentration spikes close to 100 percent, the MAX300 will keep reporting accurate data while other analyser solutions will be off scale.

What flexibility does the MAX300-IG offer the industry compared to other equipment on the market?

The MAX300-IG offers speed-of-analysis, dynamic range and dynamic response to the industry. This mass spectrometer can monitor more than one flare (depending on distance), and still meet the 15-minute reporting cycle. Its extensive range allows for a single analyser to measure from ppb to percent level changes, and the product’s agility allows the system to respond to rapid changing sample compositions.

With increased emphasis being placed on environmental impact, what is Extrel doing to meet the rules set out by the Environmental Protection Agency with regards to flare gas?

Extrel is currently working with end users and the EPA to identify ways to improve the safety of flare measurements. The daily calibration requirements for hydrogen sulfide require an installed system to have calibration cylinders above the safety limit of the gas. This requirement makes the system installation more complex and costly for the end user.  It also requires special personal protection when working at the site.

Extrel has proposed two alternatives for safer calibration. The first option is to use carbon dioxide as a surrogate for hydrogen sulfide in this measurement. Carbon dioxide is similar in mass to hydrogen sulfide, and confirms that the analyser is functioning properly. It is also readily available in ultra-high purity (UHP) and is safe to handle.   

Another calibration option would be the use of a single-point calibration using safe levels of hydrogen sulfide and extrapolating to higher levels based on the demonstrated linearity of the mass spectrometer's response.

How has the industry changed over recent years?

With greater emphasis placed on environmental protection, all industries are operating under greater scrutiny and increased regulation. Compliance with the increased regulation and reporting requirements places additional costs on industry. These costs will eventually find their way back into the products we use every day.

The media fallout from pollution events is rapid, and in some cases, results in product boycotts. A company’s industrial and environmental reputation is critical to its stock price and ability to conduct business.  No Western company wants the negative press from failing to meet pollution standards or accidental harmful emissions.

How do you see the market developing in the future?

Environmental regulations will continue to change our industry. New research will lead to more compounds being added to safety lists and human exposure limits being reduced. Extrel’s MAX300-IG provides the industry with an extremely flexible gas analysis system that can be reconfigured through software to meet new environmental requirements, while other technologies will require the complete replacements to meet changing standards.

Where can our readers find out more about Extrel and your involvement in flare gas analysis?

The best place to find out more about Extrel and the MAX300-IG is from or our through our local channel partners.

About Dr. Frank DeThomas

Dr. Frank DeThomasDr. Frank DeThomas has served as Vice President of Sales and Technical Support for Extrel CMS since April 2013. He has successfully managed and grown multi-million dollar analytical laboratory and process businesses with experience in the emission, refining, petrochemical, chemical, pharmaceutical, semiconductor, and food and beverage industries.

Managing an expert team at Extrel, Dr. DeThomas oversees the sale and support of mass spectrometers for research and industry application to more than 30 channels in 20 countries. His efforts focus on expanding Extrel’s application base into other process gas measurements and increasing the geographic distribution of the products.

Before joining Extrel, Dr. DeThomas held a number of senior positions at ABB, Inc. and Foss NIRSystems.   During his tenure at ABB, he managed global product development, global sales and general management for the Analytical Products Group. He led the modernization and integration of the analytical products, which lead to Analytical Products Group doubling in market share and revenue. At Foss NIRSystems, Dr. DeThomas was responsible for the development of the industrial application and sampling techniques, which are now common to suppliers.


Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.

Stuart Milne

Written by

Stuart Milne

Stuart graduated from the University of Wales, Institute Cardiff with a first-class honours degree in Industrial Product Design. After working on a start-up company involved in LED Lighting solutions, Stuart decided to take an opportunity with AZoNetwork. Over the past five years at AZoNetwork, Stuart has been involved in developing an industry leading range of products, enhancing client experience and improving internal systems designed to deliver significant value for clients hard earned marketing dollars. In his spare time Stuart likes to continue his love for art and design by creating art work and continuing his love for sketching. In the future Stuart, would like to continue his love for travel and explore new and exciting places.


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