Back to the Basics: Fault Detection

Analyzers designed to industry standards incorporate malfunction indicators and relay outputs for most potential detectable faults, such as: 

  • low sample flow 
  • downscale reading
  • electrical fault in sensor wire 

It is essential to connect these to the control system so that the operator is notified and the process reverts to a safe condition during an analyzer malfunction. 



Back to the Basics: Hard-Wired Relays for Danger and Malfunction

While programmable controls and computers provide a great degree of convenience, unless these controls can be shown to conform to strict standards for the use of programmable devices in safety systems, it is preferable to use hard-wired connections for the critical alarm and analyzer malfunction signals. 

Back to the Basics: Interlocks Between Calibration and Control System

Where an analyzer’s signal controls the ventilation rate, it is particularly important to prevent a false control system during the “zero” portion of calibration, where zero gas is injected to the analyzer, forcing the analyzer’s signal to 0% LFL. 

This would force the control system to reduce ventilation to an unsafe level, since the analyzer, for the duration of the zero calibration, reports a false low solvent concentration.

Back to the Basics: Limit to Adjustment of Calibration

In normal uses, most analyzers will require adjustment to their sensitivity to make up for a gradual reduction in sensitivity over time. 

The normal amount of adjustment of the signal should be well understood by the maintenance personnel so that problems other than loss of sensitivity are not corrected by the improper use of the "span" adjustment. 

For Example:

Back to the Basics: Alarm Investigation

Safety standards often require that, the analyzer must produce an alarm whenever the solvent concentration exceeds 60% LFL or some level that leaves a margin of safety. All analyzer systems should have provisions that prevent alarm levels without enough of a safety margin.

All alarms and deviations from expected operation are opportunities to determine if a fault exists in the process or analyzer system.

Back to the Basics: Rate-of-rise alarm

An alarm which activates when the rate of increase in solvent concentration exceeds the rate alarm level, can give early warning when a severe upset condition exists that is likely to eventually result in a very high solvent concentration. 

Because the alarm triggers on a change in reading per second, and not a reading level, the rate alarm can activate at the very beginning of the analyzer's response time rather than several seconds or more later when the reading has finally climbed above the warning or danger alarm levels. 

Back to the Basics: Routine Testing of Alarms

A positive test for correct operation of critical alarms is essential. 

At a minimum this should be performed as part of a regular yearly audit that includes verification of the alarm relays, alarm annunciators, fault relays and all corrective actions, including:

  • shut-down 
  • emergency-stop 
  • dampers 
  • off-coat 
  • burners 
  • horns 
  • lights

Back to the Basics: Two Alarm Levels

Two alarm levels provide a more complete system less likely to cause unwanted shut-downs. 

Back to the Basics: Operator Training & Visibility of Alarms

Regardless of the amount of automation in the process, it is critical to train all personnel, including operators and maintenance workers, on the exact meaning of the analyzer readings and alarms.

Following any shut-down, the process should not re-start until the alarms have been manually reset and cleared, and the cause of the alarm understood and corrected.

The alarm and reading of the analyzer should also be easily and quickly visible by the operator, so that prompt and clear actions can be taken in response to a dangerous condition. 

Happy Holidays


Warmest thoughts and best wishes for a wonderful holiday and a very Happy New Year from all of us at Control Instruments Corp.


Wishing you the gifts of the season - Peace, Joy, & Hope.