Detecting Benzene in a refinery – why you need to take Benzene seriously!
Benzene remains an important industrial chemical, but is well known as extremely hazardous and recognised as a carcinogen. Legislation across the globe has been put in place to ensure exposure of Benzene at plants where it is produced is minimised. Modern PID instruments offer the means to monitor Benzene concentrations down to 10 ppb or better.
Benzene is a natural constituent of crude oil. Assuring safety of personnel working on oil refineries generally in the extraction of Benzene in particular depends on keeping exposure within tightly specified limits. European law requires that benzene exposure at refineries be reduced as far as is practically possible, with levels no higher than 1ppm averaged over a time weighted average (TWA) eight hour day, or 5 ppm for 15 minutes as a short term exposure limit (STEL). Production facilities must monitor pipework, seals and valves, and measure emissions from process equipment. Similar regulations exist in the USA and in fact in most jurisdictions.
Regular monitoring of benzene concentrations
One of the aromatic hydrocarbons, Benzene is extremely hazardous. Detecting Benzene in a refinery is important as the immediate effects of high exposure include headache, dizziness, nausea and tiredness, while long term exposure of excessive levels is a direct cause of leukaemia. As well as being a known carcinogen, Benzene is also associated with various blood disorders (such as anaemia) and pre-cancers of the blood. It also attacks the liver, kidneys, lungs, heart and brain, and can cause DNA strand breaks and chromosomal damage.
But Benzene is also an industrially important chemical, being an intermediate in the manufacture of various plastics, nylon, resins and various pharmaceuticals. As such it is separated from other hydrocarbons as part of the petrochemical refining process in many plants and extracted as raw benzene.