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How Does Vapor Recovery Work?

Vapor recovery is an essential process in various industries, particularly those involving the storage, transportation, and handling of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). By capturing and containing these emissions, vapor recovery systems help protect the environment, reduce air pollution, and conserve valuable resources. In this blog post, we will explore the basic principles of vapor recovery, the different types of vapor recovery systems, and their applications in various industries.


Principles of Vapor Recovery


Vapor recovery is a process that captures VOCs and HAPs before they are released into the atmosphere. These emissions are often generated during the storage, transfer, or handling of volatile liquids, such as gasoline, crude oil, or chemicals. Vapor recovery systems work by creating a closed-loop system that captures and recirculates these vapors, preventing them from escaping into the environment.


Environmental and Economic Benefits


Vapor recovery offers several environmental and economic benefits, including:


Reduction of air pollution: By capturing VOCs and HAPs, vapor recovery systems help to reduce air pollution and improve overall air quality.


Conservation of resources: Recovered vapors can often be processed and reused, conserving valuable resources and reducing waste.


Compliance with regulations: Many industries are subject to strict emissions regulations, and the implementation of vapor recovery systems can help businesses remain compliant and avoid penalties.


Types of Vapor Recovery Systems


There are two main types of vapor recovery systems: active vapor recovery and passive vapor recovery.


Active Vapor Recovery Systems


Active vapor recovery systems use mechanical means, such as pumps or compressors, to capture and transport vapors from their source to a processing unit. These systems often incorporate sensors and control devices to monitor and regulate the vapor recovery process, ensuring maximum efficiency and safety.


Some common active vapor recovery technologies include:


Vapor recovery units (VRUs): VRUs are typically used in the oil and gas industry to recover vapors from storage tanks, using a combination of compressors, condensers, and scrubbers to process and recover valuable hydrocarbons.


Carbon adsorption systems: These systems utilize activated carbon to adsorb VOCs and HAPs from vapor streams. Once the carbon becomes saturated, it can be regenerated or replaced, allowing for continuous vapor recovery.


Passive Vapor Recovery Systems


Passive vapor recovery systems rely on the natural pressure and flow of vapors to capture and contain emissions, without the need for mechanical devices. These systems are typically less complex and require less maintenance than active systems but may be less efficient in certain applications.


Some examples of passive vapor recovery technologies include:


Vapor balancing: Vapor balancing is often used during the transfer of volatile liquids, such as gasoline, between storage tanks and delivery trucks. This process involves connecting the vapor space of the receiving tank to the source tank, allowing vapors to flow back into the source tank and preventing their release into the environment.


Membrane separation: This technology uses semi-permeable membranes to separate VOCs and HAPs from vapor streams. The captured vapors can then be recovered and processed for reuse.


Applications of Vapor Recovery Systems


Vapor recovery systems are used across various industries to capture and contain VOCs and HAPs, protecting the environment and conserving resources. Some common applications include:


Oil and Gas Industry


In the oil and gas industry, vapor recovery systems are used to capture vapors generated during the storage, transfer, and processing of crude oil, natural gas, and petroleum products. These systems help to reduce emissions, comply with environmental regulations, and recover valuable hydrocarbons for reuse.


Chemical Industry


In the chemical industry, vapor recovery systems are employed to capture and contain vapors generated during the production, storage, and handling of various chemicals and solvents. By capturing these emissions, chemical plants can reduce air pollution, comply with environmental regulations, and minimize the loss of valuable chemical products.


Landfill Gas Recovery


Landfills produce large amounts of methane and other VOCs as organic waste decomposes. Vapor recovery systems can be installed to capture these gases, which can then be processed and used as a renewable energy source or flared to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


Gasoline Distribution and Refueling


Vapor recovery systems are commonly used at gasoline distribution terminals and refueling stations to capture vapors generated during the transfer and dispensing of gasoline. These systems help to reduce emissions of VOCs, such as benzene, toluene, and xylene, which can contribute to smog formation and have negative impacts on human health.




Vapor recovery is a critical process for industries dealing with volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants. By understanding the principles of vapor recovery and implementing appropriate vapor recovery systems, businesses can protect the environment, conserve valuable resources, and remain compliant with emissions regulations. As technology advances, we can expect even more efficient and effective vapor recovery solutions to emerge, further reducing the environmental impact of various industries.

Please see the following resource for ways those in the energy industry can maintain a high level of safety on their plants.

Provided by Titanium Processing Center – a titanium company