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Through the Looking Glass: Using Optical Gas Imaging to Identify Leaking VOCs and Gas Emissions Smile, You’re on Candid (Infrared Imaging) Camera By Thomas Maertens

Leakage of volatile organic compounds (VOC) and gas emissions during production, storage and transportation of crude oil can create a number of potential issues. The emission of VOCs leaking from on-site equipment could pose a health

Braun Intertec uses OGI to help clients trace gas leaks, identify faulty equipment, reduce inspection time and gas emissions and help them stay in compliance with environmental regulations. We use the FLIR™ model GF320 24° infrared imaging camera to capture static images and video. OGI can detect a wide range of VOCs including: • Benzene


• Butane

• Ethanol


• Ethane

lost profits as well as being a violation of established rules

• Ethylbenzene

• Octane

• Methane

and regulations.

• Heptane

• Pentane

• Propane

• Hexane

• 1-Pentene

• Ethylene

• Iso-prene

• Toluene

• Propylene

• Methanol

• Xylene

and safety risk, depending on the location and severity of a leak. It may also mean the loss of a precious commodity and

VOCs are not normally visible to the naked eye. Typically, leaks are found through the labor-intensive process of using sensitive gas sampling devices called ‘sniffers’. While infrared imaging cameras can be used to find moisture damage in buildings as well as locating air leaks (for more information, see “Do You See What I See” from the Fall 2013 issue of the Pocket Consultant), new infrared imaging equipment can be an efficient way to find VOC (gas) emissions. This process is called optical gas imaging (OGI).

The camera uses a special filter to compare the energy difference between the background and the gas emission and, when detected, the gas emissions appear as smoke. To build a complete picture of the situation, we capture images in several ways using the infrared (IR), visual image and high sensitivity (HSM) modes on the camera. In addition, we can produce images in a variety of color pallets which create more options continued on next page …

… Through the Looking Glass continued

to generate the best visible image for clear documentation.

OGI offers several benefits for these organizations, including

This can be performed safely in any climate as the equipment

scanning a broader area much more rapidly than ‘sniffers’

is functional at temperatures ranging between -4° F to 122° F.

and checking hard-to-reach areas more easily than contact

Many companies work extensively with chemical

measurement tools.

compounds and gases that are invisible to the naked eye.

The photo on the left is a regular image and the photo on the right is an OGI image showing VOC emissions.

What are VOCs? Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure (low boiling point) which allows it to evaporate into the atmosphere and enter the air as gas. For example, formaldehyde, which evaporates from paint, has a boiling point of only -2 °F.

messages from plants to animals. Some VOCs are dangerous to human health or cause harm to the environment. Anthropogenic VOCs are regulated by law, especially indoors, where concentrations are the highest. Harmful VOCs typically

VOCs are everywhere. Most scents or odors are


important role in communication between plants and

are not acutely toxic, but have compounding long-

from VOCs. Exhaled human breath contains a few

term health effects. Since concentrations are usually

hundred VOCs. They include both human-made and

low and the symptoms slow to develop, research into

naturally occurring chemical compounds and play an

VOCs and their effects is difficult.

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Award-Winning Overpass Helps Community, Preserves Sensitive Environmental Resources Braun Intertec Project Recognized by ACEC/MN

By Jill Mickelson, PE

Braun Intertec, in conjunction with Ames Construction and Alliant Engineering, was recognized at the 47th ACEC/MN Engineering Excellence Awards for the Trunk Highway 13/101 (TH13/101) Design Build project with a Grand Award. The project preserved a rare trout stream and wildlife habitat while improving a heavily congested, high-cost traffic area. The award-winning project focused on constructing a new overpass in Savage, Minnesota. The TH13/101 intersection was integral to the community, yet was ranked #18 on the Statewide-List of Top 200 Highest Crash Cost intersections, with average accident costs totaling $1.3 million per year. The area needed a safer intersection, but the project was complicated by its surroundings. The intersection was located in the middle of several environmental resources including: the Minnesota River Valley wildlife management area, the Savage Fen Wetland Complex, the Eagle Creek trout stream, and numerous wetlands and springs. The groundwater that feeds these resources underlies the project, separated by a thin layer of bedrock. Braun Intertec worked with the

Protecting the Eagle Creek trout population required careful project scheduling. Construction required the entire creek to be diverted through pipes around the project area. Despite the diversion, the stream water quality was not affected.

team to design a plan to mitigate the impact to the artesian groundwater and preserve these vulnerable environmental resources during construction. With numerous environmental concerns for such an intricate project, a skilled team of environmental specialists developed a strategic and environmentally safe plan to manage the delicate site. The TH13/101 project received a Grand Award and the “People’s Choice Award”, voted on by the engineers and clients attending the awards gala on January 31, 2014. ■

As the only Twin Cities metro area trout stream with a self-sustaining, native trout population, Eagle Creek is closely monitored by the DNR.


Underground Forensics: Getting Back to Good

Construction Issues

3 Reasons Why Geothermal Systems Underperform

construction quality should be held to an even higher standard

The performance of a GHX, like any other component in a building’s mechanical system, is highly dependant on the quality of its construction. Considering that it may be buried under a parking lot or expensive landscaping features, its as repairs can be difficult and expensive. A poorly prepared or constructed GHX can reveal itself in many forms, most commonly including: • Excessively high or low entering water temperatures

By Lucas Evenson

Regardless of its often higher first costs, savvy building owners understand that a ground source or “geothermal” HVAC system can provide tens of thousands of dollars in savings each year due to lower life cycle costs and reduced operating costs. Despite these benefits though, the addition of the ground heat exchanger (GHX) necessary for these systems adds a unique set of risks to a project and can result

due to air trapped in the system — caused by inadequate purging flow rates • Plugged strainers on interior equipment due to debris in the heat transfer fluid (HTF) — results from improper GHX flushing • Loss of piping pressure due to a leak in the ground heat exchanger — results from poor fusion quality and a lack of proper GHX piping integrity testing These issues can be apparent from day one of building

in headaches during construction and possibly throughout the

operation or can develop over time, even years after the

life of the building if not dealt with properly.

building has been commissioned.

Design Issues

Heat Transfer Fluid Issues

The two most relevant factors when it comes to GHX design: • Evaluation of the heating and cooling loads for

A ground source HVAC system’s lifeblood is the HTF that continuously flows from the ground heat exchanger to the

the building • Site geology and programming options Underestimating heating and cooling loads or improperly evaluating site thermal properties can make it very difficult to appropriately design a ground source HVAC system. This can result in an improperly sized GHX, the trademark of which is entering water temperatures that are either too warm or too cold causing decreased equipment performance and even equipment shutdown due to high or low pressure. Although most design software and practices typically incorporate a healthy amount of safety, changes in the building’s heating and cooling requirements over time (due to increased plug load, use/function of the building, etc.) can lead to this same poor equipment performance and uncomfortable space for inhabitants.


Debris in the heat transfer fluid found in plugged strainers.

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interior equipment and back again as it absorbs or rejects heat. In our region, HTF is typically a mixture of propylene glycol (PG), deionized water and corrosion inhibitors. The concentration of these three items plays a key role in the longevity and performance of the geothermal piping system.

Braun Intertec Underground Forensics The above described issues can be minimized with proper design techniques, thorough site characterization, specification of GHX commissioning, and meticulous construction processes. However, we will always have to deal with the human element and even the best designed and constructed GHX is no match for a utility contractor boring where they shouldn’t be and causing a breach in your system. To help owners and contractors diagnose and repair their underperforming geothermal systems with minimal expense and downtime, Braun Intertec has developed several unique and proprietary processes utilizing purpose-built equipment. From patented flushing and leak testing equipment to a pinpoint leak detection process, we offer many options to thoroughly evaluate the health of your system and help you get back up and running. For more information on our geothermal Underground Forensic services, please contact Lucas Evenson at 952.995.2414.

Cracked pipe resulting in loss of piping pressure due to a leak in the ground heat exchanger.

For example, the formula used by engineers to calculate turbulent flow, which is necessary for maximum heat transfer in a GHX, is directly affected by PG concentration. Any discrepancy from the calculation can result in inadequate flow and thus poor heat transfer. Lack of proper inhibitor levels and use of anything other than deionized water are also known to cause pipe scaling and degradation, precipitate formation, pump seal failure, and even equipment malfunction. To summarize, if the system HTF is not properly specified, improperly installed or inaccurately mixed, major issues can develop which can cripple the mechanical system’s ability to heat and cool the building and potentially lead to significant downtime and costly repairs. Braun Intertec engineer, Doug Bergstrom, performs on-site diagnostics and inspection.


©2014 Braun Intertec Corporation

Our Iowa Office has Moved! You can find us at: 1901 16th Ave SW, Suite 2, Cedar Rapids, Iowa far more complex and diverse. The state hosts a variety of industries, including advanced manufacturing, biosciences and insurance and financial services. In addition, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Iowa has unemployment rates more than 33 percent lower than the national average. Since opening the Cedar Rapids office in 2009, both the number of projects and staff has grown exponentially. Photo courtesy of the City of Cedar Rapids,

Cedar Rapids Office Moves to New Location

In the past year alone, the amount of staff has nearly doubled in size. The new facility will better suit the needs of this growing area with more amenities and space.

Our regional Cedar Rapids, Iowa office has moved to a new location. The Cedar Rapids team of Braun Intertec provides a range of services to a variety of clients in Iowa. This move will better position the Cedar Rapids team to serve the state’s growing industries. While Iowa is frequently categorized by many as an “agriculture state,” it boasts a healthy economic landscape that is


The Cedar Rapids Logo is a registered trademark of the City of Cedar Rapids. Used with permission.

Practical and Entertaining Since 1997

Ask the Professor

ventured into stability assessments of oil pad sites in the North Dakota Badlands. How do you adapt to, keep pace with and succeed in the face of new technological, geographic and geologic challenges while also controlling risk? For me, it’s a matter of focus – not so much on the

By Charles Hubbard, PE, PG

technology available to solve our problems but on the mechanisms that drive them. What am I getting at? Think of the proverb, “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach him to fish and feed him for a lifetime” and you’ll begin to get

Dear Professor: I’m trying to get my entry-level/lessexperienced staff to apply their design tools more effectively to their projects. They’re quite skilled with the methodologies, formulae, etc., they learned in school and have refined them on the job but they struggle to apply them effectively and develop workable designs. Any advice for me? For them? – Tired Den Mother

the picture. Successful designs, whether for architectural, civil, mechanical, or geotechnical projects, require an understanding of the project’s components, the environment in which the project functions, and the internal (project-specific) and external (environmental) hurdles that must be overcome. While this kind of thinking takes years to mature, a sound platform for its growth can be established early on by encouraging staff to consistently and effectively answer: • What is the project’s function? • Are there stability and/or performance limits to be met?

Focus on Project Drivers to Become a Skilled Advisor

• What are the stakeholders’ expectations? • What are the project’s “drivers”?

Dear Mama Bear:

• How will those “drivers” best be evaluated and qualified?

You’re not the only one with growing pains, and in this day

• What are the available design/mitigation options?

and age time is a luxury. We need to on-board and train new employees quickly to keep up with the latest industry booms, the challenges we face in the consulting business are growing as technology lets us go bigger, faster, stronger and into more hazardous terrain, and the available number of experienced people is limited.

• Which options are ultimately feasible? These are questions that are answered at various stages throughout the entire scope of the project, meaning there is never a time when a designer/engineer is not concerned with where they are headed. It’s not possible to have every architect, engineer or

In 2014, I’ll start my thirtieth year as a consulting geotechnical engineer and geologist and I’m still learning how to deal with the challenge of applying complex technologies to new and hazardous geotechnical/geologic problems. For a long time, small slope and retaining wall failures and swamp crossings were my meat and potatoes. In 2008, flood control exploded and we helped convert more than nine miles of roads to dams within the Spirit Lake Reservation on Devils Lake, North Dakota, from 2009 to 2012. More recently, we’ve

scientist on track to being a skilled advisor within two, three or maybe even five years. But we can accelerate their growth and value – to us and to our clients – by helping them more consistently identify the critical factors, combinations of factors, and processes that make their projects “tick” and ultimately drive their project’s success. Questions such as those offered here are part of, but by no means the sum of, the advice we can offer to grow skilled fisher-persons.

- Still learning after all these years!


11001 Hampshire Ave. S. Minneapolis, MN 55438 Minneapolis 800.279.6100 Bismarck 701.255.7180 Cedar Rapids 319.365.0961 Dickinson 701.225.7090 Duluth 218.624.4967 Fargo 800.756.5955 Hibbing 800.828.7313 Jourdanton 210.426.0987 La Crosse 800.856.2098 Mankato 800.539.0472 Milwaukee 262.513.2995 Minot 701.420.2738 Rochester 800.279.1576 Saint Cloud 800.828.7344 Saint Paul 800.779.1196 Williston 701.609.5363

Questions, requests and comments Charles Hubbard, PE, PG Braun Intertec Corporation 11001 Hampshire Ave S. Minneapolis, MN 55438 Phone: 952.995.2000

This newsletter contains only general information. For specific applications, please consult your engineering or environmental consultants and legal counsel.

©2014 Braun Intertec Corporation

Geothermal Coverage Continues with The Pocket Consultant During 2014, each issue of The Pocket Consultant will explore the world of ground source or “geothermal” HVAC and the nuances associated with ground heat exchanger (GHX) design, construction, commissioning, and troubleshooting. The upcoming issues of The Pocket Consultant will include articles exploring geothermal topics, including: • New Formation Thermal Capacity Evaluation Techniques — Watch for this article describing an innovative new method in which project sites are being evaluated and how this technique is aiding in the optimization of GHX design and initial construction cost reduction. • Ground Source for a Senior Living Complex — This case study will dig into the design features and challenges associated with the implementation of a GHX serving a 275,000-square-foot senior living facility in the Twin Cities. • Ground Heat Exchange Method Comparison: Findings from the Braun Intertec Research and Development Program — This article will discuss the research and data recorded by the Braun Intertec Geothermal test lab. The test lab uses four different ground heat exchanger styles, including two which are new to the industry.

The Pocket Consultant Winter 2014  

Through the Looking Glass: Using Optical Gas Imaging to identify Leaking VOCs and Gas Emissions -VOL 17, Issue 1 - Winter 2014

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