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Improve process safety with fire & explosion prevention and inerting control

06 August 2020

Chemically, a fire is simply the oxidation of a fuel with an explosion being the oxidation of the fuel at an extremely fast rate. While not all fires will result in explosions, the effects of either can be devastating in terms of injury or death to personnel and destruction of equipment and other property.

This article makes reference to fires or explosions only when dealing with flammable or combustible materials and does not take into account other causes, as for example, the explosion of a tank or vessel due to hydraulic or pneumatic overpressure. Here’s how inerting control can help prevent fires/explosions and improve process safety.

For a fire to start, three elements must be present. First, some type of fuel must be available. Second, the presence of oxygen to oxidise the fuel. Finally, an ignition source that will kick start the oxidation process in the form of a spark, a heated surface or anything else that can supply the energy to initiate the chemical reaction. These three elements are commonly referred to as the fire triangle (see Figure 1). Since all three are needed for a fire, it is only necessary to remove just one of them since the others will not be able to complete the reaction. Once the fire has started, as long as there is sufficient fuel and oxygen available, the reaction will be self-sufficient and there will be no need for an external heat source (the flames themselves are the heat source). So, the idea is to stop a fire before it happens.

Click here to read the full article by Gus Rolotti and Bill Carlson of Neutronics in the August issue of Hazardex

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