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Technical Paper

Alternative to Hydrogen/Helium as Flame Ionization Detector Fuel

Flame ionization detector (FID) analyzers used in emission testing to measure total hydrocarbon emissions have been operating for the last forty years on a fuel mixture of 40% H₂ and 60% helium. These mixtures were selected based on research studies reported in the literature indicating that this particular mixed fuel combination gave the best sensitivity and relative response of the different hydrocarbons present in vehicle exhaust with respect to propane, the calibration gas. During the past few years, it was announced that there is a worldwide shortage of helium which triggered the automotive industry to look for alternatives for helium to be used in FID fuels. Helium which is produced as a byproduct from natural gas fields is non-renewable, expensive, and extremely rare on the earth. Current supply cannot keep up with demand. There are only few natural gas fields producing helium and unless new natural gas fields are found, current helium amounts will continue to dwindle.