Gas Hazards and Gas Analyzers in Brewing Industry


Beer brewing is often viewed by many as an art. This art, however, is a science in fact, and a very important one at that. The beer brewing industry has grown increasingly and needs highly accurate and stringent safety standards; much like the standard of its drinks. The gas hazards especially CO2-related risks in the brewing industry are well known, yet in tragic and completely avoidable incidents in breweries, people still die needlessly each year.

So it has been a concern for this industry to focus on air monitoring and reduce the amount of gas hazards. Many companies such as MRU Industry produce instruments that can be used in various industries to overcome air monitoring issues. For instance, NOVAplus BIOGAS is one of the handheld portable gas analyzers of MRU Industry.

History of Brewing in Canada

Brewing in Canada developed from a domestic need into a commercial industry that grew rapidly under British rule, although short lived in New France.

The brewing industry has transformed and adapted to the tastes of Canadians from its regional origins to national expansion, and the emergence of the craft beer movement. Apart from a short period of Prohibition, it was also a large, reliable source of tax revenue for governments. Beer accounted for about $13.6 billion of Canada’s GDP in 2016, or 0.7% of the economy.

The first settlers and merchants started Brewing in Canada. In New France, where European varieties of grapes used for wine and brandy did not flourish, beer was produced out of need and not for desire.

In colonial era, milk and even water were full of dangerous micro-organisms which often caused serious illness to people. Yet, of those risks, beer was relatively free. Nearly every disease-causing agent died of the long boils involved in brewing. Furthermore, the specific combination of high acidity, hops and alcohol from beer has been a brew in which harmful bacteria barely survived.

General Gas Hazards in Brewing

The brewing system includes these steps:

  • The Malting Process
  • Preparing the Wort
  • Fermenting Process
  • Packaging and Distribution

During these stages, and specially in the last two steps, multiple hazardous gases are produced.

Among the most frequent hazardous gases in breweries are:

  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
  • Ammonia (NH3)
  • H2 (in forklifts)
  • CH4 (in boiler rooms)
  • Nitrogen
  • Oxygen deficiency

Carbon Dioxide or CO2 and Ammonia or NH3 are the most hazardous gases of this list.

MRU Industry has another gas detector named SWG 100 CEM which can do 6 true gas measurements simultaneously.

CO2 is a by-product of the fermentation phase and, since this hazardous gas is heavier than air, it fills at the bottom of containers and confined spaces such as tanks and cellars, and can even spill from fermentation tanks and fall into the brewery floor where it forms toxic, invisible pockets.

Exposure of carbon dioxide can cause a wide range of problems, varying from shortness of breath and sweating at low levels of exposure; to drowsiness, vomiting and even death at higher levels.

Since CO2 is absolutely odorless and colorless, until it is usually too late there is no physical sign of the risk.

It shows the importance of air monitoring in this field and many in brewing industry equip their facilities with air monitoring systems such as an AMPRO 2000 Combustion / Emission analyzer. It’s an analyzer from MRU Instrument and is an industrial emission monitoring handheld portable gas analyzer. This device can measure various gases: carbon monoxide, oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, nitric oxide and sulfur dioxide

Ammonia is even more harmful than that. Even at the lowest levels of exposure, workers are at risk of inflammation of the eyes, skin and lungs. Pulmonary Edema, where fluid fills lung tissue, can occur at just twice this amount of exposure. There is a high risk of permanent damage to vision and the lungs at rates greater than 100 ppm.

Solution of gas hazards: Gas Analyzers

For breweries, either portable gas analyzers and fixed gas detectors can be used to track the gas. Fixed gas analyzers typically consist of one or more heads of detectors linked to a separate control panel. If a detector registers a dangerous CO2 level, it automatically triggers extractor fans and it can also cause sirens or visual beacons to alert staff to vacate the area. This kind of installation suits larger spaces such as cellars and plant rooms.

In the brewing industry, however, most confined space work takes place in more restricted areas such as fermentation tanks, where fixed gas analyzers cannot be mounted. This means that they need small portable gas analyzers.

The portable gas detector should be easy to use due to the challenges of operating in a confined space, maybe under poor lighting. Regardless of how advanced the internal architecture or data management options of a gas analyzer, field staff should be confronted with nothing more intimidating than clear display, easy, one-button activity and bright/loud alarms.

In every portable gas analyzer certain features are to be expected. for instance, using infrared and electrochemical cells for long time measurements. Vario Luxx portable emission analyzer uses 3-gas (infrared) and 6-gas (electrochemical cells) for long time measurements. So, this portable gas analyzer is very favorable for industrial usage to measure gas emissions of turbines, furnaces, gas engines and big size boilers.

Obviously, life-saving resources have to be as durable as possible for challenging conditions, with solid electronics contained in impact-resistant casings.

Since the need to leave gas analyzers (both fixed gas detectors and portable gas analyzers) exposed to the atmosphere means that no instrument can be completely sealed; it is important to have a high level of protection against dust and water input. Despite hardness, a well-designed gas detector will also be lightweight and compact enough to wear during a whole shift.


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