CO2 monitoring in wineries
Carbon dioxide – often referred to as CO2 – is an odorless, colorless and incredibly dangerous gas. Heavier than air, it’s produced in a completely natural way by humans while breathing but it is also the result of most combustion processes.
The importance of adequately of CO2 monitoring in wineries lies the alcoholic fermentation of the must. The alcoholic fermentation in one of the key activities that take place in the cellars and produces CO2.
Dispersion of carbon dioxide is favored by common oenological practices because, usually, fermentation is a process that takes place in non-hermetic containers, allowing for the dispersion of carbon dioxide in the air.
The monitoring of CO2 in wine cellars: a fundamental practice
Therefore, in such circumstances, the monitoring of CO2 in wine cellars must be considered a fundamental practice and should always be carried out with adequate gas detection systems.
We can’t forget that a high concentration of carbon dioxide leads a significant pollution of the involved spaces; however can also cause serious respiratory problems, increased heart rate and even deaths from asphyxiation.
The risks of exposure to CO2 in wine cellars: where and when it occurs
The risks associated with the exposure to carbon dioxide in wineries are concrete: as mentioned, since the fermentation of the must produces significant amounts of CO2, the danger is essentially manifested by working in vats and cellars. Moreover the lowest points of the plants are particularly risky because carbon dioxide, being heavier than air, tends to stagnate on the ground.
However, during the production phase of the wines there are further operations that put operators at risk.
For instance, the extraction of the marc from the fermentation vats at the end of racking can expose to both CO2 and ethyl vapors. This is an operation that involves the introduction of workers into the jars to carry out adequate cleaning.
Another example is represented by the cleaning of the autoclaves which, although it is carried out mainly from the outside, may occasionally also require the entry of the worker for the manual removal of residues not otherwise removable.
Especially for operators who perform these activities on a regular basis, even the slightest drop in attention can contribute to increasing the danger. On the contrary, seasonal workers may be put at risk by insufficient knowledge of the risks associated with fermentation processes.
It is estimated that at least one in three victims remains intoxicated during the rescue. These are risks that should not be underestimated!
How to protect yourself from CO2 poisoning on wineries
Protection from exposure to carbon dioxide in wine cellars is possible first of all through constant and efficient ventilation of the premises, allowing for clean air to circulate regularly.
In addition, it is essential to be able to benefit from the continuous monitoring of CO2 levels with specific gas detectors in all areas of production. However it’s fundamental also paying attention to areas where accumulations due to insufficient aeration could occur.
Finally, here are the CO2 values in figures that it is good to remember:
- 400-500 ppm is the CO2 content in clean air
- 1000 ppm (0.1%): internal comfort limit
- 5000 ppm (0.5%): maximum exposure value according to occupational hygienists (TLV-TWA)
- 10 000 ppm (1%): increased heart and respiratory rate
- 000 ppm (3%): respiratory problems – TLV-STEL value, (15 min)
- 000 ppm (8%): cramps and fainting in minutes
- 200 000 ppm (20%): unconsciousness and death in seconds
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