Thursday, November 29, 2012

Responding to Bulk Storage Combustible Dust Related Fires



Firefighting Piercing Rod Kit



Justin Clift, Industrial Marker Manager from Hazard Control Technologies shares with readers in this article the intricacies in combating combustible dust related fires. Justin emphasizes these fires can be safely extinguished with the correct equipment and fire fighting agent while following a six-step hazard elimination procedure.

1) Understand, Assess & Identify Incident Hazards
2) Eliminate Secondary Dust Hazards
3) Eliminate Primary Dust Hazards
4) Eliminate Flash Fuel Hazards
5) Eliminate Smoldering Hazard
6) Eliminate Injuries

You must use the micelle encapsulating agent, F-500 and you may require a Piercing Rod Kit for deep seated hot spots (>10ft below surface). Foam caps the material trapping the combustible vapors and will not penetrate. For instance, water will not penetrate or saturate the material.

Deep Seated Fires
When a deep seated hot spot burns it dries out the material surrounding it forming a crust. As the temperature increases the crust becomes thicker and thicker. 95% of the time, the crust will adhere to the sides of the structure so attempting to run it out is not an suitable option. This crust will continue to slowly expand until the weight of the material above it causes it to collapse.

This collapse will typically result into a flash fire, which hits the structures ceiling adding confinement and triggering the primary explosion. The primary explosion disperses the float dust on surrounding structures and equipment, which contacts the primary explosion's flame front and triggers a catastrophic secondary explosion.

You can't flood the structure with water because water will not penetrate this crust. If enough water is applied, it's weight will allow it to penetrate the material but it still can't penetrate the hot spot's crust. Thus it runs off to the sides and starts washing away the foundation of the hot spot, causing it to collapse and triggering the chain of events as discussed above.

The root cause of the problem is a lack of knowledge on combustible dust related fires and explosions. Emergency Responders need to be rebooted for a lack of a better term. The actual fire or smoldering material is not their problem, their problem is the environment surrounding the fire and the nature of a deep seated hot spots.

Firefighters have the equipment and training to be very successful at extinguished fires, they can see. However, it's extremely difficult to fight a fire no one can see and if you can't see it then you can't confirm it's been extinguished and you can't let your guard down. Our Emergency Response Team knows to never trust a fire you can't see. It's not a safe scene until we have confirmed extinguishment to the best of our abilities and all material has been completely removed from the structure.

Presentation and Videos
If you’re interested, here is a hyperlink where you can download some videos and a presentation I delivered recently at Coal Industry Conference. Unfortunately, I can’t get the videos to link properly with the presentation but you can view them separately. The file is 482MB so it may take a couple of minutes to download completely. If you have any questions or problem with the hyperlink please feel free to contact me  anytime.

The presentation is about preparing for the unexpected and discusses some lessons learned during a few recent Emergency Response Services HCT performed. Procedures are important but just having a good playbook, doesn’t mean you’re ready to take the field. There is no shame in having a fire from time to time, it’s the nature of the coal and the inherent hazards of a power plant.

What is remorseful, is when a plant is ill-prepared and gets caught with their pants down which may jeopardize the health and safety of plant personnel and Emergency Responders. Plants must be prepared for the unexpected, they must have the proper procedures which are practiced, revised, and reviewed in effort to be prepared as possible. If a plant doesn’t properly prepare and practiced they shouldn’t be awestruck when they fall short of their expectations.

About the Author

Justin Clift is the Industrial Market Manager for Hazard Control Technologies, headquartered in Fayetteville, GA.  He is originally from Ohio and transferred to Georgia to start working for HCT shortly after graduating from Ohio State University in 2005.
Justin Clift
Mr. Clift provides loss control solutions for the power industry, specializing in fire detection, suppression, and prevention. He also conducts class room training for emergency responders on the hazard of combustible dust and silo fire fighting through the use of piercing rods and a micelle encapsulating agent.

Justin has visited hundreds of industrial facilities and has first-hand experience extinguishing coal fires throughout the US, as HCT Emergency Response Team’s Incident Commander. He has also worked side by side with engineering and plant personnel, specifying upgrades to the plant’s fire protection system utilizing F-500 concentrate control systems.

Frequently Justin is asked to assist in the development of emergency response procedures, specifically applicable to the handling of a combustible dust. He is often called-upon to speak at industry meetings and events that focus on power generation and industrial safety, and on the hazards associated with combustible dust. Contact Information: Justin Clift , Industrial Marker Manager, Hazard Control Technologies C: 770-318-1805 O: 770-512-5112 E: jclift@hct-world.com






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