Time’s running out to meet next AB 617 deadline

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Petroleum refineries in California need to act fast to meet next year’s deadline for the state’s clean air law, Assembly Bill 617 (AB 617), as CEO Steve Billingham explains:

“With less than six months to go, time is running out to make sure you have an adequate air monitoring strategy in place by the time the next deadline hits. This is not something to leave until the last minute. Air monitoring strategies are complex and must consider the needs of all stakeholders, including people working on, or living near, a petrochemical facility.”

AB 617 requires industry and local government to take a ‘community focused’ approach to improve air quality in California. The next deadline, 1 July 2019, relates to the implementation of air monitoring plans and will apply to any business located within the boundaries of a specified Community Air Protection Programme (CAPP), including petroleum refineries.

To comply with the legislation, businesses will need to invest in real-time monitoring equipment that measures fenceline levels, both at and near a refinery’s boundaries. Any data captured must then be communicated with residents and stakeholders.

“Businesses must consider, therefore, not just how air quality will be measured, but also how and where this information will be shared,” Steve said. “Luckily, significant progress has been made in the tools needed to measure and report on air quality, including technologies based on photo-ionisation detection (PID), gas chromatography (GC) and UV absorption spectroscopy.

“Duvas Technologies, however, is one of the few companies to have created a solution that’s based directly on the needs of Californian refineries with regards to AB 617 compliance.”

“Air monitoring strategies are complex and should not be left until the last minute.”

The DV3000 is a portable analysis unit capable of measuring a large variety of gases, including benzene, a volatile organic compound that has been linked to cases of chronic leukaemia. The unit is equipped with proprietary software and algorithms that analyse real-time readings and generate concentration levels to parts-per-billion (ppb). It is already being used by petrochemical companies to deliver fast, accurate air quality data.

“By embracing AB 617, adopting technologies like the DV3000 and working collaboratively with local stakeholders, the petrochemical has a great opportunity to become a world leader in best-practice for air quality monitoring,” Steve said. “It’s my sincere hope that other industries will soon follow suit.”

Why Government action is critical to overcoming the air quality crisis

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With research highlighting that an estimated 400,000 deaths occur every year in Europe alone due to air pollution, the case for immediate action is clear.

Statistics around the issue of air pollution deaths provide stark insight into the problems we currently face. According to the EU Court of Auditors, air quality is now considered the biggest risk to public health in Europe, accountable for 400,000 deaths every year. Closer to home, research from the Royal College of Physicians suggests that 40,000 people die each year in the UK due to poor air quality. Against this bleak backdrop, governments are failing to act and deal with this crisis, either at a national or international level.

Limits and monitoring

To effectively tackle air pollution, governments need to set stringent standards and police these effectively. We’re currently in a situation where pollution limits are weak, guidelines are too high, and many countries fail to comply, often with no redress. Essentially, pollution is escalating out of control, there’s a real lack of uniform legislation and governments worldwide are disengaged.

So, how can we move forward and tackle this crisis? As a global leader in air quality monitoring solutions, Duvas specialises in the development of innovative products to intricately monitor emissions, but the situation we find ourselves in is often frustrating. Air quality technology is capable of providing hugely valuable insight to help develop solutions to the air quality crisis, but while legislation is simply ineffective, we’re unlikely to see things change on a significant scale.

As an example, our world-leading analysis device – the DV3000 – uses state-of-the-art ultraviolet differential optical absorption spectroscopy (UV-DOAS) to detect precise concentrations of 14 different gas species, to within parts-per-billion (ppb) levels. But, without government engagement and legislation to outline and enforce acceptable standards, any action to monitor and tackle air quality is instead falling to safety-conscious companies, employers and local communities, rather than being centrally-led.

Government action is sporadic, inconsistent and its inaction is placing thousands of lives at risk every year. We need this situation to change, and quickly.

A case in point

One of the biggest challenges to our air quality is benzene, a carcinogenic volatile organic compound (VOC) present in exhaust fumes, numerous household chemicals and widely used in manufacturing processes. Its presence in our everyday environment is widespread, and the implications of exposure can be severe. Benzene has been linked to acute myeloid leukaemia, and understanding workplace benzene concentrations is an essential occupational health and safety requirement.

However, while the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that ‘there is no safe level of benzene’, safe concentration levels are currently set as 5 µg/m3 (in specific situations and as a time weighted average). What’s more, despite Europe’s Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) calling for a reduced occupational exposure limit (OEL) for those working with benzene, this is yet to be adopted.

This is clearly unacceptable. Until tighter legislative controls are introduced, the increasing prevalence of benzene use within industrial applications (forecast to grow at 3% annually) means millions of workers around the world are dying through over-exposure every year.

The next steps

There’s no doubt that the recent report findings we’ve outlined are shocking but, it’s a sad fact that they’re not surprising. We’ve made good recent progress when it comes to some pollutants (such as No2, NoX, etc.) but we can’t ignore the hazardous effects of less well-known VOCs, such as benzene. We need to act quickly, unify global legislation and ensure the right processes are in place to reverse the devastating impacts of air pollution.

With strict legislation, clear guidance and reinvigorated action from our governments, there’s the opportunity to drive real change and safeguard the thousands of lives currently being lost to air pollution. Put simply, it’s not a ‘nice to have’ – it’s essential for public health.

Duvas CEO exposes ‘next asbestos’ at Clean Air Expo

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Steve Billingham, CEO of Duvas Technologies, exposed benzene as the ‘next asbestos’ during a keynote speech at this year’s Clean Air Expo. The event, which took place at Birmingham’s NEC (12th to the 13th September), brought together leading businesses and representatives from across the global air quality industry.

 

Billingham called on industries around the world to protect workers by embracing state-of-the-art air quality monitoring technology. During his speech, Steve identified the health risks associated with prolonged benzene exposure, as well as the latest progressions in ultraviolet differential optical absorption spectroscopy (UV-DOAS) equipment.

 

“The World Health Organisation has stated – in no uncertain terms – that there is no such thing as a safe concentration of benzene,” Steve explains. “Prolonged exposure to even low levels can leave workers with numerous chronic illnesses. Like asbestos, however, benzene-related symptoms can take over two decades to become visible.

 

“Presenting at the Clean Air Expo provided the perfect opportunity to raise awareness of benzene and its health risks.  We hope our insight has spurred government and industry to act quickly and protect workers from what is, essentially, the next asbestos.”

 

Duvas Technologies also exhibited its highly-acclaimed DV3000 unit at the event. The state-of-the-art system uses ultraviolet absorption spectroscopy technology to provide real-time analysis of up to 14 gas species at concentrations of as little as two parts per billion (PPB). Originally conceived by researchers at Imperial College London, the DV3000 is now used by businesses worldwide, particularly those involved with petrochemical plants and oil refineries.

Benzene class-action lawsuit is a warning shot to the industry, says Duvas

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Every business involved in the oil and gas industry, including refining, processing and chemicals manufacturing, should be investing in the latest gas detection expertise or face the likelihood of major high court action. That is the stark warning from Steve Billingham, CEO of Duvas Technologies, who believes a current lawsuit in America will have significant repercussions for the global petrochemical sector.

 

Following the leak of 100,000 metric tonnes of methane at Aliso Canyon in California nearly three years ago, 9,000 residents are now pressing a class-action lawsuit against Southern California Gas Co., asking for up to $2.5 billion in damages.

 

According to reports, residents were not only exposed to harmful methane gas, but also benzene, at levels 9,000 times higher than that the state deems acceptable. The chemical is found in many household products, even reaching the USA’s top 20 list of most widely-used substances – with the same level of adoption across Europe and the rest of the globe.

 

In the wake of the US law suit, Billingham explained: “The important consideration is around the levels of Benzene in the products or the atmosphere. Identifying ‘safe levels’ is not simple. But getting it wrong can cause serious health issues – and potentially catastrophic class actions for corporations operating in the gas exploration or chemical manufacturing sectors.

 

“Systems, such as the Duvas DV3000 analyser, are already being used by companies across the petrochemicals industry to deliver fast-response, accurate, real-time benzene data – not just in a leak crisis scenario, but offering a routine solution to detect levels early. However, with the capability of monitoring for up to 13 additional species, its application can play a far wider part in the global air quality market.”

 

Until tighter legislative controls are introduced, the increasing prevalence of benzene use within industrial applications means millions of workers around the world are facing ill-health or early death through over-exposure every year. While California’s Bill 617 and cases such as Aliso Canyon are acting as catalysts to positive change, responsible business should be taking action now to ensure their monitoring and management of dangerous substances such as benzene is under control.

 

Duvas showcases gas monitoring technology at US exhibition

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In August, Duvas Technologies showcased its state-of-the-art developments in gas detection technology at the Environmental Protection Agency sponsored 2018 National Ambient Air Monitoring Conference  in Portland, Oregon.

A key annual event for the global air quality community, the conference brought together key stakeholders and decision-makers from around the world. On stand 216, Duvas exhibited its DV3000 gas analyser; a unique, real-time air quality solution capable of monitoring 14 different species of harmful pollutants.

Speaking about the conference, James Matley, global sales executive at Duvas, commented: “Recently, there has been a raft of new reports into the health implications of VOC exposure, such as benzene, including pioneering research by the EPA and the University of Colorado. Coupled with this, we have seen the introduction of far-reaching air quality legislation in the State of California, which now mandates oil and gas facilities to provide detailed information to the public about their levels of air pollution and VOCs they produce. The case for technology, which can measure this is in real-time, is therefore clear.

“This conference was a fantastic opportunity to discuss the importance of benzene monitoring in further detail, as well as talking delegates through the latest advancements in gas monitoring technology.”

The conference was organised by The Ambient Air Monitoring Group (AAMG) in partnership with National Association for Clean Air agencies (NACAA) and the Association of Air Pollution Control Agencies (AAPCA).

The case for cleaner air

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Compiled three years ago but only published in July 2018, the UK government’s report into shale gas extraction indicates a direct link between fracking and higher incidences of air pollution.

The report, written by the government’s Air Quality Expert Group (AQEG), estimated that a nationwide fracking industry of 400 wells would increase national emissions of air pollution. The findings include a growth in nitrogen dioxide by as much as 4%, while harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) could grow by 3%.

Responding to the report, Steve Billingham, CEO of air quality monitoring specialist Duvas Technologies, says he isn’t surprised by the findings: “The AQEG’s research into the pollutant risks attached to fracking further corroborates a raft of studies into fracking sites and the wider petrochemicals industry carried out both in Europe and North America.

“Earlier this year, for example, the University of Colorado published a ground-breaking report into the potential health implications of living near to an oil or gas facility. The study examined the effects of long-term exposures to hazardous air pollutants for those living near to oil and gas facilities. The results showed that the lifetime cancer risk was more than eight times higher than the US Environmental Protection Agency’s upper risk threshold for those living within 500 feet of a well.

“These latest findings are a stark reminder that oil and gas facilities must invest in robust air quality monitoring provisions. Fortunately, there have been major advancements over the past decade in the development of air quality monitoring technology. Alongside proven photoionization detection and gas chromatography technology, advances in UV Differential Optical Absorption Spectroscopy (UV-DOAS) are delivering unprecedented levels of precision and flexibility.”

Duvas itself has recently launched a next-generation monitoring solution, the DV3000, which quickly and clearly analyses gas type and concentration to within parts per billion (PPB) range. There has already been significant take-up for the system across the petrochemical industry, with the system able to monitor for more than 13 species of gases, including benzene.

Duvas launches pledge to tackle global benzene emissions

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To coincide with this year’s Clean Air Day (21 June), Duvas Technologies has pledged its support to tackle the growing global issue of over-exposure to benzene emissions. Through its Guide to Benzene, the Oxfordshire-based air quality specialist aims to raise awareness of the chemical, legislative exposure limits and the technologies available to monitor dangerous levels.

The company is committed to improving public health and is already using its industry-leading DV3000 UV spectroscopy system to monitor real-time benzene emissions from petrochemical facilities worldwide. Via mobile fenceline monitoring surveys, Duvas provides detailed insight into parts per billion (ppb) concentrations of 13 hazardous species.

“When quizzed about common air pollutants, most people consider exhaust emissions such as CO2 and NOX as the greatest public health risk,” commented Steve Billingham, CEO of Duvas Technologies. “While these toxins must be prioritised, it’s important to also consider the less well-known (but no less dangerous) airborne emissions – benzene, for example.

“A chemical released in the production of petroleum, but also widely present in exhaust fumes, tobacco smoke and even household detergents, regular exposure (even in microscopic levels) can lead to severe health implications. At Duvas, we are committed to raising awareness of the dangers of over-exposure and providing innovative technologies to help monitor levels and protect public health.

“Initiatives like Clean Air Day are important to raise further awareness of air quality issues. It is essential that the dangers of less well known emissions, such as benzene, are more widely understood – this is key to protecting public health for the future.”

For more information about Duvas Technologies, visit www.duvastechnologies.com. To download a free copy of the Duvas Guide to Benzene, visit www.duvastechnologies.com/markering-collateral.

Duvas in the news!

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Steve Billingham, CEO of Duvas Technologies, recently sat down with Engineer Live to discuss the latest global research linking benzene exposure to Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) and explain how recent progressions in ultraviolet spectroscopy is helping to improve occupational health and safety for workers operating across the petrochemical industry.

To read the full article, click here.

Duvas Technologies launches air quality guide

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International air quality monitoring specialist, Duvas Technologies, has launched the industry’s first global guide to benzene. Available to download from https://duvastechnologies.com/marketing-collateral/, the digital resource will help petrochemical professionals understand their air quality impact.

A volatile organic compound (VOC) that ranks among the top 20 chemicals produced in the US by volume, benzene has been linked to severe health issues – including anaemia, impacts on fertility and even acute myeloid leukaemia. The Duvas guide aims to raise awareness of these effects, as well as the limited and disjointed global legislation surrounding benzene emissions.

Alongside providing a comprehensive introduction to the chemical, detailing its use in industry, emission from liquid petroleum and regulated levels of exposure, the guide profiles next-generation technologies capable of accurately monitoring airborne benzene levels to within parts per billion (ppb) levels.

Steve Billingham, CEO of Duvas Technologies, commented: “Air quality must clearly rise further up the global priority list but, even more, accurate monitoring and reporting. If we fail to understand the true magnitude of VOCs, implementing solutions to minimise impacts will be unachievable.

“Fortunately, there have been major advances in the development of air quality monitoring technology – in particular, when it comes to the accurate detection and reporting of VOCs. Alongside proven photoionization detection and gas chromatography technology, advances in ultra-violet absorption spectroscopy are delivering new levels of precision and flexibility.”

To help companies across the petrochemicals industry to deliver fast, accurate, real-time benzene data, Duvas has launched the DV3000 detection analyser. Portable and easily fitted into bespoke vehicles, the system delivers multiple mobile readings every second. Providing ppb-level detail, this analysis delivers detailed, immediate insight.

Billingham concluded: “It is essential that we recognise the health and safety implications of benzene. As the World Health Organisation says, there are no safe concentrations. We are keen to help petrochemical companies take action on air pollution, thus safeguarding the health of workers and the general public.”

Pioneering study highlights need for consistent air quality monitoring

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Earlier this month, the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus published a groundbreaking report into the potential health risks of living near to an oil or gas facility. The study, conducted in Colorado’s North Front Range, sought to understand the levels of hazardous air pollutants (including carcinogens such as benzene) residents near to oil and gas facilities were exposed to.

Using ambient air samples to estimate and compare risks for four residential scenarios, the study found that the lifetime cancer risk of those living within 500 feet of a well was eight times higher than the U.S Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) upper level risk threshold.

The research by the University of Colorado is the latest in a long line of damning studies into air quality. In March of this year, the University of Innsbruck published a paper revealing the world’s first ‘fingerprint’ of urban emissions VOC sources, finding that the levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are even higher than previously reported. Furthermore, the US EPA issued a report last year which found that long-term exposure to benzene levels as low as 1ppm could lead to long-term health conditions, such as anaemia, immune system damage and acute myeloid leukaemia.

Responding to the research, Steve Billingham, CEO of gas monitoring specialist Duvas Technologies, commented: “Fortunately, there have been major advancements over the past decade in the development of air quality monitoring technology. Alongside proven photoionization detection and gas chromatography technology, advances in UV Differential Optical Absorption Spectroscopy (UV-DOAS) are delivering unprecedented levels of precision and flexibility.

“Next-generation monitoring solutions, such as the Duvas DV3000, quickly and clearly analyse gas type and concentration to within parts per billion (ppb) range. The system has already been adopted by businesses across the petrochemical industry to deliver fast, accurate and real-time benzene data. With the system is capable of monitoring for up to 13 additional species, its application can play a much more prominent role in the wider global air quality market.”

Billingham continues: “The recent academic studies highlight the need for a unified, global agreement on legislating against hazardous air pollutants. A great example of this can be found in California, which takes a particularly progressive approach to legislating against benzene and other VOC emissions. I’d like to see other states throughout America – and governments across the world – make serious commitments to improving air quality.”

“The findings from the University of Colorado are hugely concerning, for both those living near to an oil and gas facility, and those working at said facilities. A joined-up approach is critical to future progress and engendering legislative change, and we now have the technology to make accurate, real-time gas monitoring a reality.”