Monitoring Gases in the Winery Industry



Gas detection is required in the winery industry for confined space monitoring, particularly for detecting carbon dioxide, oxygen and sulphur dioxide in pits, sumps and fermentation tanks.

Many wineries have not been concerned about gas detection in the past, as carbon dioxide is non toxic and was considered harmless by many. This situation has changed over recent years and the requirements of OSHA legislation demands that all of these plants are now required to monitor hazardous gases.


During the fermentation process, wine grape sugar is metabolised by yeast which converts the sugar to water, alcohol and carbon dioxide. During the active fermentation process, concentrations of carbon dioxide within the headspace of a fermenting tank may reach levels approaching 100% by volume. The danger with this type of build-up includes the displacement of oxygen and the potential asphyxiation of workers as well as the dangers of being exposed to high concentrations of carbon dioxide for an extended period of time. Currently, the OSHA TWA for carbon dioxide is 5000 ppm (0.5% by Vol). In addition, during the active fermentation process, closed buildings require monitoring of the atmosphere for carbon dioxide and oxygen levels before entering as concentrations may exceed safe levels.

In addition to carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide is also present at wineries. Sulphur dioxide is primarily used as an anti-oxidant of fresh grapes, grape juice and wine at low levels to inhibit yeast and mold growth. Sulphur dioxide is also used to sterilize the empty wine barrels to prevent the growth of yeast and mold. Generally, when working with sulphur dioxide, workers wear protective clothing and respirators; however, in the event that leaks occur from the sulphur dioxide dispensing equipment, monitoring instruments can quickly warn workers before sulphur dioxide levels become dangerous.

The Problem

Wineries can pose unique problems when protecting workers from dangerous atmospheres. From the trucking in and crush of freshly harvested grapes to the final aging and bottling process, care must be taken to protect workers from potential hazards. Areas of concern within wineries include pits, sumps, storage tanks as well as fermentation rooms, barrel cellars and bottling rooms. The main gas hazards include carbon dioxide, oxygen displacement, hydrogen sulphide, sulphur dioxide, ethyl alcohol, and carbon monoxide.

Confined spaces in wineries such as pits, sumps and tanks containing wastewater may harbour not only combustible gas and oxygen deficiency but may also contain dangerous levels of hydrogen sulphide as well. High levels of hydrogen sulphide not only desensitize the workers sense of smell but, in high concentrations, contribute to respiratory damage and can be potentially fatal. According to the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, the 8 hour TWA for hydrogen sulphide is 10 ppm. Levels of greater than 100 ppm are considered immediately dangerous to life and health.

Carbon monoxide may also pose a concern in wineries. If gasoline powered generating equipment, vehicles or propane forklifts are used in warehouses, exhaust containing high levels of carbon monoxide can build up creating potential hazards for employees.

The Solution

GMI has a wide range of products specifically designed to meet and exceed all requirements of gas detection applications in the winery industry.

The portable V!SA for confined space monitoring, can be tailored to detect up to five gases with its toxic and catalytic sensors, photoionization detectors and infrared capabilities.

When cleaning wine tanks of settled residue, it is not uncommon to encounter levels of ethyl alcohol approaching the OSHA TWA of 1000 ppm. The portable V!SA can easily monitor levels of ethyl alcohol within this range ensuring compliance and worker safety. It is also capable of monitoring 0-5% carbon dioxide at 0,5%v/v and 1.5%v/v, 0-25% oxygen, 0-100ppm sulphur dioxide and 0-100ppm hydrogen sulphide.

The V!SA features a very loud 95 dBA penetrating audible alarm together with high visibility large area visual alarm. Pre-entry checking can be carried out with the optional internal sampling pump, and diffusion operation ensuring maximum battery life in confined spaces.

Customers from across the globe benefit from GMI representatives who provide an expert consultancy service for gas detection solutions, in addition to maintenance of instruments.