Ethanol Vapour Leak Inspection at a Distillery

Non-instrusive Gas Find thermographic survey of Lagavulin and Caol Ila distilleries on Islay. Checking external vents outside the distilleries buildings for venting Ethanol Alcohol that is a known loss from the production stream.


Inspectahire were tasked with carrying out a non-intrusive Gas Find Thermographic survey, using the FLIR GF camera, of Lagavulin and Caol Ila distilleries on Islay for Diageo.

Such surveys can be done during a normal daily production routine at the distillery. The aims of the survey was to check the external vents outside the distilleries buildings for venting Ethanol Alcohol Vapour that is a known loss from the production stream. Other vessels and pipework which form part of the of the process were also included in the survey.


The non-intrusive Gas Find Thermographic survey revealed extensive vapour loss during certain parts of the process at the Lagavulin distillery. Caol Isla survey revealed extensive vapour loss which was observed from the roof top vents. Other vapour loss was observed in the SRWV transfer mainly from the wooded tank lid and hatch as well as the vent. Vapour loss was also recorded in the transfer to tanker from this vessel.

The leak spotted at Lagavulin, from the Fines tank in the Sprit Safe room was easily fixed using a temporary wooded wedge to seal the hole where the dip stick had previously been located. This cut down the vapour loss immediately. The vents that vapor was seen emitting from were functioning correctly but further engineering will be required to reduce the volumes of Ethanol venting into the atmosphere. As is standard good practice whilst working in potentially hazardous areas, personal Gas monitors were used during the surveys, however this did not appear sensitive enough to detect the vapor emission, unless held directly in the vapor stream. A better gas monitoring process was recommended i.e. pump style monitors and or fixed gas detection systems.

At Caol Ila, the main area looked at during the inspection was the roof top vents, these showed high volumes of vapour loss during transfers and production, again some engineering solution will be required to reduce these losses. Other losses were observed in the transfer from the IBC to the SRWV. On the SRWV the wooded hatch on the vessel was seen to be leaking extensively and loses from the tanker hatches was also noted during transfer. Again the Gas Monitors used during the work did not detect any gas in the atmosphere and in one event the monitor was placed directly on top of the hatch on the SRWV during transfer without it detecting any gas or going into alarm mode. Although a small volume leak was observed from the dip stick in the Sprit Safe area during the survey.


At both distilleries surveyed engineering changes were made to re-route pipework and change filling practices for vessels to reduce the agitation of the spirit and cut down the vapour produced this resulted in significant savings for both sites, amounting to thousands of equivalent bottles of product per year and improvement in the HSE potentially explosive vapours were minimised in being allowed to vent to the workplace atmosphere.

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