Fires can cripple major petrochemical, oil and gas facilities, so it is imperative to ensure that preventive and post-fire solutions are in place to protect people and property.

If fires strike petrochemical sites, the cost in terms of possible loss of life, disruption and property damage can be devastating. However, adhering to the following rules can minimise risks and downtime for such facilities.

1.           Deploy modern lightning-avoidance systems

Lightning strikes represent one of the biggest threats to petrochemical facilities. While lightning rods have for many decades been the first line of defence, they are yesterday’s technology. Lightning-avoidance systems are the go-to solution today, combining lightning protection, grounding and surge suppression features to create an ‘isolation zone’ that impedes direct strikes to a site and minimises the impact of nearby strikes. A success rate around the world of more than 9 percent in lightning-strike prevention makes then an invaluable safety tool.

2.           Use premium firefighting foams

Synthetic and biodegradable protein firefighting foam concentrates can put out or contain a wide variety of fires, including petrochemical blazes that are often linked to gas and petroleum tanks. Choosing the most appropriate types of foam – the two broad categories are aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs) or pleroprotien foams (FP) which contain fluorinated surfactants, and fluorine-free foams (F3) – is essential for protecting fuel supplies given that such foams are now subject to strict management and containment rules because of the risk of toxin compounds such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) entering waterways. Foams should pass performance and characteristic testing to ensure they are compatible with system designs for fixed and portable firefighting equipment

3.           Insist on quality hardware systems and equipment

When fighting hazardous chemical fires, the best fixed and mobile high-volume foam delivery systems are required. Such fire-suppression tools must be able to withstand a hostile and highly corrosive environment while also being easy to maintain. Firefighting foam is typically applied in two ways – non-aspirated, through water nozzles, sprinklers or deluge nozzles; and aspirated, through foam-making devices such as branch pipes, top pourers, foam cannons, foam sprinklers or high-expansion generators. Getting advice on the best combination of solutions is critical.

4.           Take advantage of gaseous suppression techniques

Gaseous suppression is a highly effective form of fire control that starves a blaze of the air it needs to continue burning. This occurs through the use on inert gases and chemical agents. Such suppression systems are typically used in critical environments where water damage to assets can result in significant financial losses and operational downtime. Such products must meet strict Australian and international standards.

5.           Partner with a reputable fire-suppression expert

There is no substitute for experience when it comes to preventing or suppressing major fires. Given the high stakes associated with possible accidents, downtime and maintenance costs at petrochemical sites, it is wise to seek the advice of fire-suppression experts to develop specific protection measures for petrochemical environments. The best partners offer support throughout the entire process from design and procurement through to commissioning and after-sales service. With people’s lives and high-value assets on the line, there is no room for complacency.

 Delta Fire specialises in the fire protection of high-risk, high-hazard environments such as petrochemical and industrial sites. Visit for more details.

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