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HANDLING LIQUEFIED PETROLEUM GAS FIRES

OBJECTIVE Learning Outcome 2 Explain the Correct Fire Fighting Techniques in Dealing with Un-Ignited and Ignited LPG Leaks and Spills.

Assessment Criteria

1. 2. 3. 4.

List out the properties and characteristics of liquefied petroleum gas. Identify the hazards posed by liquefied petroleum gas. Define BLEEVE and explain the sequence of events BLEEVE takes place. Explain the correct fire fighting techniques in dealing with un-ignited and ignited LPG leaks and spills.

REFERENCES 1. 2. 3. 4. Fire Service Manual, Volume 2, Fire Service Operations-Firefighting foam. Storage Tank Emergencies Guidelines and Procedures-Michael s. Hildebrand&Gregory G Noll. Liquefied Petroleum Gases Handbook Wilbur L.Walls (NFPA). Liquefied Petroleum Gas Safety Code Applied Science Publishers Ltd.

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HANDLING LIQUEFIED PETROLEUM GAS FIRES INTRODUCTION The term Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) refers to varieties of hydrocarbons derived from crude petroleum processes. These varieties are gases at normal temperature and pressure but become liquid with either a moderate increase in pressure or decrease in temperature, or both. These hydrocarbons include Propane, Butane and Butadiene. Less common examples are Propylene, Iso-butane and Butylene. LPG fires are spectacular and at the same time the most dangerous that a Fire Commander has to deal with. Past LPG fires have resulted in the deaths of many people, including Fire Fighters and the destruction of considerable amount of property. PROPERTIES AND CHARECTERISTICS OF LPG 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. It is colourless in the liquid or vapour phases. Pure LPG is practically odourless. It is non toxic but death may be caused. Small quantities of liquid can give rise to large quantities of vapour. Small quantities of LPG vapour in air can form a flammable mixture. LPG is readily liquefied under pressure. LPG when vaporized leaves little or no residue. LPG has no lubricating properties. Butane is used for domestic purposes while Propane is used for industrial purposes being largely confined to oxygen cutting apparatus (oxy-propane). Butadiene is chiefly used in the rubber industry and not as a constituent of LPG fuels.

HAZARDS OF LPG 1. 2. LPG is usually stored as a liquid under pressure. Leakage, especially of liquid, can, by rapid vaporization, release large volumes of flammable gas. A Container which has held LPG and is empty is potentially dangerous. In this state the internal pressure is approximately atmospheric and, should the valve be leaking or left open, air can diffuse into the container and form a flammable mixture. LPG is highly flammable with a very low flash point and a low explosive limit. Confined space defines as any area that has limited or restricted means for entry or exit; is large enough and so configured that an employee can bodily enter perform assigned work; and is not designed for continuous employee occupancy. Both petroleum storage tanks and dikes area can be classified as confined space. Storage tanks and dikes area can pose three potential hazardous atmospheresflammability, toxicity and oxygen deficiency. Hydrogen Sulfide is a common hazard at petroleum storage facilities. Hydrogen Sulfide is a respiratory paralyzer, which upon entering the human body wills short circuit the respiratory nervous system. Failure to wear positive pressure or air supplied respiratory protection is primary cause of death. Boilover is a phenomenon that is often misunderstood by underestimated the area that would be affected by it. Boil over defined an event in the burning of certain oils

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in an open -the top tank when, after long period of quiescent burning, there is sudden increase in fire intensity associated with expulsion of burning oil from the tank.

BLEVE A BLEVE is an acronym for a Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapour Explosion. BLEVE can occur in pressurized vessels containing the liquefied version of the gas under pressure. A BLEVE will produce blast and projectile hazards. If the contents of the tank are toxic, then health and exposure hazards may occur. If the contents are flammable, then a fireball may occur with associated thermal radiation and fire engulfment hazards. Following is the sequence of event that causes a BLEVE to occur. a. A tank or container with a liquefied gas under pressure has a combination of the liquid and gas inside (fig. 1). The tank contains a relieve valve to relieve normal access pressure. The tank could also contain a flammable liquid in a closed container. There will also be gas in a vapour space of the tank, under somewhat less pressure.
Pressure Relief Valve .

Gas Liquid

Figure 1. Liquefied gas under pressure

b. The flame of the fire external to the tank or container impinges on the tank as an exposure. (Fig. 2).

FLAME

Figure. 2 Flame impingement on liquefied gas tank c. The exposure fire causes a heat rise within the tank. The liquid begins to heat up, creating an increased amount of gas. This, in turn, increases the pressure within the tank, opening the relief valve when the set pressure is reached.

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Figure. 3 Relief valve operated by increased pressure d. If the exposure fire continues to heat the liquid, more and more gas will be generated and escape from the relief valve. Eventually, the liquid level will fall below the point at which the flame is contacting the container. If the heat continues then weakening of the metal will be occur (Fig. 4), because the liquid is no longer there to remove the heat.
GAS

Figure. 4 Exposure fire striking only gaseous area. e. Finally, when the metal has fatigued sufficiently so that the internal pressure exceeds the breaking strength, a BLEVE occurs (Fig. 5). The break up occurs violently, releasing the remaining liquid at a single instant. The part of the shell can rocket for thousands of feet.

Figure. 5 Conditions in which BLEVE occurs

FIRE-FIGHTING TECHNIQUES 1. Unignited Leaks a. Use water spray from upwind and push vapour away from hazards such as heated exhausts of engines or other machinery. b. Close valves and starve at the source, either by crimping or plugging.

c. Use Gas Detection Meter or Combustible Gas Indicator (CGI) to check that the concentration is below the explosive limit. d. In large leaks, the area may have to be evacuated.

e. Where the leak is from cylinder and is liquid form the cylinder should be uprighted and valves closed.

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2.

Ignited Leaks a. Fire should not be extinguished until leaks has been stopped.

b. Cool cylinder or tank with long streams and then with spray curtains when moving in to shut off valves. c. The tank vapour space, the area above the liquid level is the most critical and is the high priority area for cooling. d. Attack from sides of the tank, never the ends. The objective is to achieve maximum surface area and avoid injury should the end rupture. e. For tanks fires, at least 3 hose-line must be used-2 for cooling and 1 for fire fighter protection. Must in the slowly movement. f. If there is fire from the tank or cylinder relief valves this indicates that contents are under high pressure and in danger of a BLEVE. Continue cooling until the fire from the relief vent disappears. g. h. Shut-off valve when within reach and extinguish the flames. Area should be checked for explosive concentrations before leaving.

i. During fire-fighting operations, constant surveillance should be kept for sign of a BLEVE. If imminent, the area may have to be evacuated.

CONCLUCION Petroleum storage tanks fire fighting is an inherently dangerous activity that exposes fire fighters to wide variety of risks and hazards. Many advances had been made in methods to protect fire fighter from different hazards ranging from to more effective method fighting fires, to better procedures for managing fire incidents. Although all of these advances have been made, the dangers still exist and continue to evolve.

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