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How to Safely Sample Hazardous Chemicals During Production

Posted by Kevin Kirst on 9/7/16 11:06 AM
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Sampling within a chemical plant can mean operators must obtain samples of a toxic chemical mixture that can include diisobutyl phthalate, ethanol, hexane, mineral oil, toluene and titanium tetrachloride.

  1. Diisobutyl phthalate (C16H22O4) is an oily, colorless liquid with a slight odor. It is denser than water and insoluble in it. It is a phthalate and additive used to keep plastics soft or more flexible, often in combination with other phthalates, and is used in nail polish and lacquers. It has low toxicity.
  1. Ethanol (CH3CH2OH or C2H6O) kills organisms by denaturing their proteins, and often is used as a topical disinfectant, solvent and preservative in pharmaceutical preparations. It also is the primary ingredient in alcoholic beverages, and as such, is relatively safe in moderation.
  1. Hexane (C6H14 or CH3[CH2]4CH3) is a significant constituent of gasoline and is used to extract edible oils from seeds and vegetables, as a special-use solvent, and as a cleaning agent. Acute, short-term inhalation exposure can cause central nervous system effects, including dizziness, nausea, and headache, while chronic exposure through inhalation can cause numbness in the extremities, muscle weakness, blurred vision, headache or fatigue.
  1. Mineral oil includes several colorless, odorless, light mixtures of higher alkanes from a mineral source, particularly a distillate of petroleum, used as a lubricant. Depending on the level of refining and the grade, toxicity ranges from a Group 1 (carcinogenic to humans) to Group 3 (not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans).
  1. Toluene (C6H5CH3 or C7H8) is added to gasoline, used to produce benzene, and used as a solvent. Acute or chronic exposure via inhalation affects the central nervous system, with symptoms including fatigue, sleepiness, nausea, irritation of the upper respiratory tract and eyes, sore throat, dizziness, headache and central nervous system depression.
  1. Titanic chloride, tetrachlorotitanium, TiCl4, titanium chloride, T-4, titantetrachlorid or titaantetrachloride (TiCl4 or Cl4Ti) is a metal halide that is highly volatile. Upon contact with humid air, it forms spectacular opaque clouds of titanium dioxide (TiO2) and hydrogen chloride (HCl). It is a strong Lewis acid, exothermically forming adducts with even weak bases such as THF and explosive with water, releasing HCl, which forms white fumes of hydrochloric acid upon contact with atmospheric humidity. It is a corrosive irritant to skin, eyes and mucus membranes and requires the utmost care in handling. As the chemical is extremely hazardous to health, operator safety precautions require extreme care using full protective clothing, including self-contained breathing apparatus, rubber gloves, boots and bands around legs, arms and waist – no skin surface can be exposed.


When the chemical mixture being sampled included tetrachlorotitanium, one of the world’s leading specialty chemical companies needed an ultra-safe solution to protect operators and the environment when sampling. When the sample bottle was removed for analysis, it was imperative that the samples remain inert and not be exposed to air and moisture. 

To address this need, the Sentry® MFV low-emission manual samplers were custom engineered. Each sample station used nitrogen to purge the isolated sample loop in each cycle for safety, providing an inert atmosphere in the sample bottle assembly. Two zero-dead-volume, three-way valves are controlled via an external gear box that initiates multiple valve positions with one lever, simplifying operation. For the liquid samples obtained with the Sentry MFV sampler, a non-coring needle punctures the sample bottle and allows for full resealing of the septum when the sample bottle is removed. For the slurry samples, a tube stub version of the Sentry MFV sampler is used, ensuring that all sample stations use the same sampling procedure. 

To meet the critical safety consideration of the project, this solution featured a unique, removable bottle assembly that could contain the sample with the inert atmosphere during transport to the laboratory for analysis. The laboratory used a fume hood to safely remove any hazardous vapor while the bottle containing the sample was removed from the assembly for sample analysis. More than 30 sampling stations are equipped with this solution.

With safe, representative sampling, plant leadership can make strategic operational decisions with confidence. Our sales and engineering teams are ready to meet any application, anywhere. Learn more about our sampling, monitoring and measuring solutions for the chemical industry.

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Topics: Downstream

Written by Kevin Kirst

As industry manager for the refinery market, Kevin employs his 25-plus years of experience in engineering, application support and sales to develop new ways to sample, monitor and measure customers’ processes, with a primary focus on the crude oil refining industry. Like all our company employee-owners, Kevin is committed to developing technologies and equipment that allow customers to operate their processes at optimal efficiency while maintaining high levels of safety and product quality.

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