Insight

Electronic noses sniff away in Rotterdam

In the port of Rotterdam, an area where industry and city are fused together, a unique air monitoring system is used to optimize the living and working environment. A network of nearly one hundred electronic noses, planned to be expanded to 300 e-noses by 2016, constantly monitors changes in air composition throughout the port. Tank storage provider Vopak is one of the early adopter of the groundbreaking technology used in the we-nose network. Jos Steeman, Managing Director at Vopak, explains why.

Why did Vopak join the we-nose network?
“In 2009 we experienced that our operations were causing odour nuisance. We came into action but struggled to control the stench our work caused. We tried different solutions in the past years and more recently took precautions like closing off storage tanks, replacing filters and next to that we decided to embrace new technologies to improve air quality. We got involved into developing the e-nose together with the Comon Invent early on, and installed e-noses on our site. What we needed was a device that could detect problems quickly and objectively and the e-nose does just that. We already had around 25 of them on our premises before the port wide network was rolled out. By joining the network and placing 12 e-noses in our surroundings we get an insight in factors that have influence on the spreading of odours. It is complex matter. With the we-nose network we can better interpret possible nuisance and they enable us to take action before stench or hazards occur.”

How does it work?
“The e-noses in the network are wirelessly connected to our control room as well as the monitoring system of the joint environmental protection agency DCMR. The noses pick up on changes in air composition. When there is a change, an alarm goes off. This happens before a human nose can pick up on a smell. When our private e-noses indicate a possible problem, we send one of our certified odour specialist to see what is going on, otherwise the DCMR team will check on it. When the alert is genuine we are able to act immediately.”

The e-noses have been in use for a while now. What are the results?
“The number of complaints has dropped drastically in last couple of months. By comparison: in the first six months of 2013 we caused 364 odour complaints. During that period we were still in the process of implementing a number of control solutions such as incinerators and closing off the tanks roofs. After June 2013 this resulted in 26 complaints for the remaining six months of that year. So far this year we have not had any complaints. The e-noses have played their part in achieving this because they help us to monitor the surrounding areas so we can act quickly whenever necessary.”

Vopak is the first company in the port of Rotterdam to join the network, next to the Port of Rotterdam Authority, the municipality of Maassluis and port, logistics and industry association Deltalinqs. What are the benefits of a network?
“The port of Rotterdam is an area where industrial and residential areas go hand in hand. These e-noses are objective indicators that enable us to better understand odour nuisance. And as the spreading of odour and gases does not stop at the borders of our premises, we cannot stop there either. By working together we are able to keep our working and living environment in optimal condition.”

Vopak’s e-noses are part of a network of 94 e-noses in the port of Rotterdam. The Port of Rotterdam Authority placed 77 electronic smelling devices, the municipality of Maassluis has 4 and Deltalinqs 1. The plan is to expand the network to 300 e-noses in 2016.

Jos Steeman

Managing Director - Vopak

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