Gas sensing systems based on fibre optic linked near infra red absorption cells are potentially a flexible and effective tool for monitoring accumulations of hazardous and noxious gases in enclosed areas such as tunnels and mines. Additionally the same baseline technology is readily modified to measure concentrations of hydrocarbon fuels - notably but not exclusively methane, and monitoring emissions of greenhouse gases. Furthermore the system can be readily implemented to provide intrinsically safe monitoring over extensive areas at up to ~250 points from a single interrogation unit. In this paper we review our work on fibre coupled gas sensing systems. We outline the basic principles through which repeatable and accurate self calibrating gas measurements may be realised, including the recover of detailed line shapes for non contact temperature and / or pressure measurements in addition to concentration assessments in harsh environments. We also outline our experience in using these systems in extensive networks operating under inhospitable conditions over extended periods extending to several years.© (2010) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.