Choosing the right foam-dosing model to combat petrochemical fires can provide safety benefits for industrial-site workers while also protecting the environment from toxin compounds.
Petrochemical sites are a perfect storm when it comes to fire risks.
Typically storing combustible liquids such as fuel, diesel, oil and gas, they are vulnerable to random threats such as electrical faults and lightning strikes.
Fortunately, technological advances are aiding the fight against such fire threats. Synthetic and biodegradable protein firefighting foam concentrates can put out or contain a wide variety of fires in tandem with the use of quality extinguishers and hoses. An aqueous foam targets flammable or combustible liquid fires through the combined effects of cooling, separating the ignition source from the surface of the blaze, suppressing vapours and smothering the fire.
Water, on the other hand, is much heavier than foam and can sink when applied to the fuel surface, which hinders vapour suppression and extinguishment of the fire.
Foam Induction Technology
When considering their fire-suppression efforts, petrochemical site operators have to weigh up a range of choices.
The international trend in fire suppression favours fluorine-free foams because they are the newer technology, as well as being a fluorine-free product that is safer for the environment.
Another key development is the rise in popularity of water-driven pump proportioners for fire-fighting because they are a reliable and easy-to-use system. In the past, traditional bladder tanks, balance pressure proportioners and in-line inductors have been used, but they have often come in for criticism because they are complicated including set up, ongoing maintenance etc. In addition, it is not possible to test some of these systems without consuming foam concentrate and having to then incur the cost of clean-up and disposal.
The popular Firemiks range is an example of the water-driven systems, which have some clear advantages with regard to testing and efficiency. A foam return valve can enable fast testing of the Firemiks model without consuming foam, and it offers an uninterrupted system as long as water and foam concentrate are available. By contrast, bladder tanks must be stopped for refilling when they are empty.
The consensus, too, is that the water-driven proportioners are a greener alternative to bladder tanks, balance pressure proportioners and inline inductors, with the former using an efficient system for dispensing foam that makes it cheaper and greener.
Seek specialist advice when choosing foams
Firefighting 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.
These fluorinated foams have been linked with poor health and environmental outcomes and are progressively being phased out and banned. Any foams being used on petrochemical sites should pass performance and characteristic testing to ensure they are compatible with system designs for fixed and portable firefighting equipment. Accidental contamination, dilution, or unfavourable storage conditions can also adversely affect the firefighting foam performance, so international standards highly recommend that foam stocks be tested at least annually.
Given the complexity of the issue, overhauling firefighting-foam systems may require time and some cost because the older foams have to be safely removed and destroyed. As a result, facility managers are advised to seek the assistance of experienced fire-protection services to ensure their sites comply with all regulations and that they benefit from the latest in fire-suppression technology.
There is no doubt that foam concentrates can put out fires faster and with lower product volumes than similar agents, which can substantially lessen property damage on petrochemical sites.
So, with the right foams and the right advice, site owners can rest more easily knowing that their properties and staff are as safe as possible. So, get started – schedule a call with one of our expert consultants.
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