Nitrogen oxide (NOx) may sound like just a chemical compound, but the implications of how it is created and the health effects of the gas are important to understand as contributors to the industrial and chemical sectors of the market. In order to understand the importance of NOx gas, we will discuss its chemical composition, formulation process, its impacts and how to control NOx gas exhaust.

NOx formation explained

NOx gas is a chemical compound of nitrogen and oxygen that is distinguished by the specific way it is created. It is formed when nitrogen and oxygen react with each other during the combustion process, which occurs at high temperatures. The two chemicals do not react at room temperature, but when it is increased, NOx is formed. This mostly occurs when fossil fuel is combusted, especially oil, diesel and gas.

NOx is a common designation of nitrogen oxides NO and NO2, so either compound is covered here. Nitrogen oxide (NO) is colourless and has a very specific smell while nitrogen dioxide has a brown color and a similar sharp smell. 

NOx gas is produced in any combustion process where nitrogen is present, mostly in vehicle engines, and its emissions can be dangerous at high volumes. Here, we will focus on the effects NOx gas created from diesel engines has on Australian air quality.

Impacts of NOx

The environmental impacts of NOx gas hurt air quality and can be extremely hazardous. According to the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment, air quality is one the most important factors affecting public health. It cites air pollution as a major contributor to health problems, even if there is only short-term exposure. Its website says that, “Children, the elderly and people with existing heart and lung conditions are especially affected by air pollution.”

Why are NOx gases dangerous to your health?

A NOx emission is a greenhouse gas in all three forms, N2O, NO2 and NO, all of which are produced by the combustion process. NO2 is a major component of photochemical smog that is a result of air pollution, which, as mentioned earlier, can severely damage human health. Exposure to air pollution causes about 5,000 deaths in Australia each year, according to Environmental Justice Australia. The side effects of NOx as an air pollutant include stroke, heart disease, and asthma. In a time where respiratory health is more important than ever, air pollution can pose an even larger threat to public health.

How does NOx gas impact the environment?

Aside from the health of its citizens, the planet suffers negative impacts from NOx emissions. As a greenhouse gas, these gases get trapped in the atmosphere and contribute to the “greenhouse effect,” in which the earth warms too quickly. NOx gases deplete the ozone layer, which protects the globe from the harmful radiation from the sun.

Industries that contribute to NOx emissions

While private individuals’ transportation certainly contributes to NOx air pollution, corporations and industrial processes are the most common emission sources. According to Australia’s climate council, “there are eight major sectors responsible for Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.” Some of the sectors are:

  • Electricity
  • Transport
  • Stationary energy
  • Agriculture
  • Fugitive emissions
  • Industrial processes
  • Waste and land use
  • Forestry
  • Chemical Industry (the production of nitric acid)

As leaders in any of these and related industries, you should be aware of your company’s contribution to NOx emissions. For example, the policy think tank group, Grattan Institute found that Australia’s industrial sector contributed 30% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2019. Much of the machinery used in the industrial sector relies on diesel fuel, one of the major creators of NOx pollution. As a result, government policies will most likely be put in place to control these effects and having the right measuring equipment can help you prepare for these legislative changes.

Efficient ways to measure NOx gases

Measuring exhaust gas is a requirement and the testing is done by different government agencies. Having the right tools to protect your workers and to measure the different emissions, including fuel NOx gases, is vital. Exhaust gas analysis for diesel and petrol engines is required for transportation and industrial machinery. The emissions results will inform the managers and leaders if they need to invest in more efficient equipment.

Nearly every industry uses gas analysers of some kind, as fossil fuels are used in their combustion processes. The first step to reducing emissions is proper monitoring of different emissions, especially NOx. Most analysers use infrared, chemiluminescence and electrochemical components to measure gas emissions.

Reducing NOx emissions can either be a requirement after receiving poor emissions results, or you could be striving to keep ahead of the developing legislation. There are several different ways to reduce gas emissions. Here are a few examples:

  • Lower peak temperatures
  • Spend less at peak temperatures
  • Reduce overall nitrogen

While burning fossil fuels may be an unavoidable process in most industrial applications, being more conscious of NOx emissions can help you reduce your carbon footprint, which requires top-of-the-line measuring tools.

Choose a Testo exhaust gas analysis system

Testo exhaust analyser systems combine easy-to-use interfaces with complex and intricate technologies that produce reliable and traceable results. The testo 350, for example, is a tool that is used for industrial emissions measurement on industrial engines, burners, gas turbines and in thermal processes, including NOx gas.

Testo 350 is an easy-to-use exhaust gas analyser that was created to complete precise industrial emission measurements and provide proper data administration, making it the ideal tool for staying on top of emissions.

Testo products always use the most comprehensive and effective technology in our measurement equipment, giving you the edge you need to stay on top of your emissions. Reach out to a Testo representative today to learn more about Testos’ reliable emission analyzers.

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