The White Heat of Fire Safety

Aluminium is used in hundreds of industries, especially in the fields of transportation, aerospace, packaging, building and construction. For this reason, the protection of the plants and development facilities is vital, to ensure competitive business continuity. The industry directly creates more than 155,000 jobs and is adding more yearly. With growing numbers of employees in the aluminium industry, their safety and well being has long been a commitment.

There is a need for comprehensive fire safety measures, specifically the fixed fire extinguishing systems in aluminium production and fabrication, in casthouses, foundries, recycling and reclamation plants. When aluminium is burned, it creates a very intense fire. Within the last four months alone there have been several serious fire incidences internationally, at aluminium plants. In Norton Canes, UK in August 2017, there was a serious fire which led to evacuation and over thirty firefighters tackling the blaze. In Wangara, Australia, just last month, there was a huge industrial fire at an aluminium factory, which spread and developed into a wild fire.  The protection of lives and assets against the dangers of fire is a priority for facilities managers and plant owners.

Gaseous extinguishing systems protect urgently important infrastructure against special hazards, fundamental for the safeguarding of critical facilities. However, gaseous extinguishing systems leak because they are active and dynamic systems and this threatens the consistent and reliable safety that they should offer to the space that they protect.

In fact, in the regulation ISO 14520, which is the “gold standard” of fire suppression systems, it is clearly stated that gaseous systems leak and need to be periodically checked to counter this issue:

9.2.1.3  - “if a container shows a loss of agent in quantity of more than 5 % or a loss of pressure of more than 10 %, it shall be refilled or replaced.”

Given that gaseous systems are designed specifically for a protected space or room e.g. one aluminium foundry factory floor, a 5% loss of extinguishing agent may mean that the system would not fully extinguish the fire.

Technology now exists to improve the reliability of fire suppression systems that affects the safety of all who occupies the building it protects in an event of fire.

To  ensure  that fire  suppression  systems  are  always   full and that no accidental discharge or leakage has occurred, Coltraco Ultrasonics have developed an ultrasonic liquid level indicator, the Portalevel® MAX and  the constant monitoring system the Permalevel ® MULTIPLEX. By testing and monitoring fire extinguishing systems for leaking, facilities managers and factory owners are able to exceed  standards and ensure that the gaseous extinguishing systems are able to extinguish in the event of the fire.

The easy to use Portalevel® MAX uses ultrasonic technology to pinpoint the liquid level of suppressant agent in the cylinders of the extinguishing system which makes testing is quicker and easier. Liquid level identification takes just 30 seconds, needing only one person. Combined with the Portalevel® MAX, the Portasteele® CALULATOR is an advanced calculator application, that converts the liquid level height of C02, NOVEC™ 1230 and FM-200® liquefied gaseous extinguishant agent readings taken on an ultrasonic non-destructive liquid level indicator device into the agent weight/mass.  Furthermore, the Portasteele® CALCULATOR can convert an expected agent weight back to the required liquid level allowing users to anticipate where the level should be.

The Permalevel® MULTIPLEX is designed for permanent contents verification.  Using smart ultrasonic technology ,the Permalevel® MULTIPLEX continuously monitors fixed fire extinguishing systems for leaking agents, 24/7, 365 days a year. With guaranteed systems operations, adaptability for purpose, 24/7 remote access to the systems status, an interruptible power supply and remote real-time monitoring, the Permalevel® MULTIPLEX offers the efficiency that is now a requirement for encompassing protection.

Coupled with the danger of leaking agents, room integrity is often an overlooked aspect of a suppression system installation. Room integrity requires that in the event of a fire, the released fire extinguishant must meets the sufficient “Hold Time”, in order to properly extinguish fires. Buildings age and their internal use changes and because of this,  leak sites develop.  The likelihood of the gaseous system effectively extinguishing the fire gets lower and lower as the protected area becomes larger than the size that the extinguishing system was designed for.

Coltraco Ultrasonics have provided a smart solution for quick and easy assurance of compartmentation and leak detection. The Portascanner® 520 ultrasonic leak detector uses ultrasonic technology to not only pinpoint precise leak locations, but to determine their leak size as small as 0.06mm with a tolerance of +/-0.02mm, and is by far the most mathematically proven accurate device for this function.

With the continuing developments in smart ultrasonic technology, comprehensive fire safety measures are available to aluminium plant owners and facilities managers that are easy to use, affordable and an essential addition to any fire safety management system.

Coltraco Ultrasonics is a leading British company operating in 109 countries across multiple market sectors for over 30 years.

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