Can You Depend on Your Fire Suppression System?

A data centre is expensive to build and maintain. It generates significant heat. Every bank with a branch network has hundreds of them. The value of them are very high but the value of their inability to sustain business continuity is far higher than their physical assets. Almost incalculable. And yet Insurers are asked to underwrite them and the fire industry to deliver their protection at the cheapest price. Who today in the security industry would consider installing an alarm system without  monitoring its status not only its actuation and integrating the whole of it to the building management system with central monitoring being an essential part of it ? Who would build a ship or offshore platform and fit it with say power generating auxiliary machinery without installing emergency power systems or monitoring their condition states ? These are basic engineering principles.

Liquefied gases or non-liquefied gases are used to protect high value assets, and are pressurised on actuation. CO2 is permanently under 720 psi or 49 bar of pressure ie nearly 50 times atmospheric pressure (by comparison a cup of water at sea level exists at 1 bar or 14.5 psi). Its state changes under increased temperatures to one that is neither a liquid nor a gas. Gases under pressure are often effectively considered by the industry as single and passive cylinder columns of solid material from the perspective of their monitoring following installation. Whereas being under pressure and constantly changing under temperature they should be considered as active and dynamic systems requiring constant monitoring. These are not passive systems therefore; they are dynamic ones, and all dynamic systems under pressure need constant monitoring.  

All good engineering demands the monitoring of dynamic structures and a highly pressurised cylinder is a dynamic structure. It is designed to protect a critical infrastructure or asset. Without constant monitoring a risk is generated in the very environment for which it is designed to reduce risk. The risk is not only to the asset, but to the people who work in the asset and their ability to enable business continuity in the high value asset under risk.

We are proud to have the ability to establish the liquid contents of liquefied clean agents – through UL-approved Portalevel® MAX and the constant monitoring system, Permalevel® Multiplex. The Portalevel® MAX can inspect CO2, FM-200™, Novec™ 1230, FE-13™, FE-25™, FE-36™,  Halons and a range of other extinguishing agents.  It is safer, faster and cheaper. Plus, it is accepted by regulations as an alternative method. Once we do this we can establish their weight and mass – through Portasteele® CALCULATOR (the world’s first product capable of this).

The fire industry has access to customers who depend on it to deliver fire engineering to protect their risks. Insurance companies underwrite that risk. But the mathematics of its failure are high, whether in the application and understanding of the formulas they use to calculate design concentrations of gases or flow rates or in the deployment of fundamental engineering principles to protect dynamic pressurised systems and the structures they are working so hard to protect against the risk of fire.

Keywords:Data Centre, Fire Industry, Novec, CO2, Ultrasonic Liquid Level Tester, Fire

Numbers in the Fire Industry

Simply put, at the very basis of the fire industry are numbers. These numbers can be complex or not wholly understood and this undermines their value and use within the fire industry.

31˚C - CO2’s critical point: the temperature at which CO2 turns totally from liquid to gas.

CO2 is permanently under 720 psi or 49 bar of pressure ie nearly 50 times atmospheric pressure (by comparison a cup of water at sea level exists at 1 bar or 14.5 psi). Its state changes under increased temperatures to one that is neither a liquid nor a gas.

50-55˚C   -  critical points of FM-200® and Novec™1230 (turning from liquid to gas).

Gases under pressure are often effectively considered by the industry as single and passive cylinder columns of solid material from the perspective of their monitoring following installation. Whereas being under pressure and constantly changing under temperature they should be considered as active and dynamic systems requiring constant monitoring. These are not passive systems therefore; they are dynamic ones, and all dynamic systems under pressure need constant monitoring.

14520 - the ISO standard regarding fire systems from installation with regard to room integrity through to maintenance and inspection of contents

ISO 14520-1:2015(E) specifically states in 6.2.4.2 Contents Indication that - Means shall be provided to indicate that each container is correctly charged and in 9.2.1.1 At least annually, or more frequently as required by the authority, all systems shall be thoroughly inspected and tested for proper operation by competent personnel. Under ISO 14520 where gaseous extinguishing systems have to be designed in relation to the discharging agent hold-time (if the room cannot hold the agent because of leaks the agent will disperse and not extinguish the fire) and discharging agent peak pressure (if the pressure is too high for partition walls or suspended ceilings they will be blown apart or damaged and possibly destroying the room integrity). At the design stage of a fire extinguishing system rooms are tested for room integrity by positively pressurising a room and detecting escaping pressure to verify that the room itself into which the gaseous extinguishant discharges on actuation can both hold the agent after its discharge and hold its pressure on actuation.

5% - loss of agent above which it is deemed unacceptable in liquefied gaseous extinguishing system and thus requires refilling. 10% - loss of pressure above which it is deemed unacceptable in liquefied gaseous extinguishing systems and thus requires refilling

The assumptions in the installation, commissioning and maintenance of gaseous extinguishing systems is that they are highly pressurised but risk leaking and discharging. The regulations that sensibly underpin this assumption aim to identify their leak identification at an interval of every 6 months. Cylinders accidentally discharge. CO2 can cause fatalities if it does. 1% of pressure gauges fail and 25% of valves too. Essentially, it is known in regulations that the gaseous systems leak and need to be maintained. Given that the gaseous systems are designed specifically to the individual need of that room, building e.t.c, then a 5% loss of agent may mean that they would not fully extinguish the fire.

1.5mm - the accuracy which Portalevel® and constant monitoring Permalevel® Multiplex can find the liquid level of agent in cylinders to.

26 seconds – The average test time to identify the liquid level in any liquid gaseous cylinder using the Portalevel® Max.

The UL approved Portalevel® Max is designed to inspect the content of Fire Suppression System Cylinders of CO2, FM-200™, Novec 1230, FE-13, FE-25, NAF S III, CEA410, Halons and a range of other extinguishing agents.

0.06mm  -  the size of leak site able to be detected by Portascanner® 520 in Room Integrity.

0.1mm± - The accuracy tolerance of both the Portagauge® 3 and Portagauge® 4 ultrasonic thickness gauges

The quick, simple and hardy Portagauge® 3 allows accuracy of ±0.1mm even on corroded, challenging and some plastic surfaces. It utilizes single echo technology which allows the unit to maintain accuracy even on corroded or challenging surfaces. It is ideal for corrosion, rust or condition inspections and is a highly dependable unit. The Portagauge® 4 is able to ignore surface coatings such as paint. With easy calibration the Portagauge® 4 is ideal for effective and efficient thickness gauging applications

±1% - accuracy of Portasonic® 2.FL0 portable ultrasonic flow meter of reading at rates >0.2m/s

It is a highly competitive ultrasonic transit time flow meter: able to accurately, reliably and quickly identify the rate of flow in pipework and make clear any obstructions. The benefit of this is that the device is non-invasive with clamp-on external sensors: stopping the difficulties of cutting sections of pipe, risking pressure drop or contamination.

1% - the accuracy of the agent weight calculated by the Portasteele®  CALCULATOR through liquid level identified using Portalevel® compared to weights determined by manual weighing methods

The Portasteele® Calculator 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. 

Coltraco Ultrasonics are a world leading British Manufacturer of Ultrasonic Technology in core areas of watertight & room integrity and gaseous fire suppression systems. Coltraco Ultrasonics are award winning, as Innovate UK Best of British Innovator 2017, Seatrade Cruise Award Supplier of the Year 2017, SHE Award Fire Innovation of the Year Award 2018, amongst many others.

Keywords:CO2, FM200®, NOVEC 1230, FM®200, Gaseous Extinguishing System, ultrasonic thickness gauge, portable ultrasonic flow meter

Are you failing to comply with ISO 14520?

Would you enter a building if you were told as you stepped in that in the event of a fire there was a chance that the extinguishing system wouldn’t put it out because the fire couldn’t be contained?

No! People expect, and rightfully so, that in the event of a fire the extinguishing systems would be in full working order to do just that – extinguish. Given that the gaseous systems are designed specifically to the individual need of that room, building e.t.c, then a leak sites in the room could meant that the comparted area couldn’t withhold the fire. The technology exists right now to support Door Fan Testing in providing a holistic and thorough integrity test of critical infrastructure.

Regulatory Requirements un-Ravelled

APPROVED DOCUMENT B (ADB)

The regulations demand that compartmentation is upheld for the safety of the individuals, who entrust their lives into its integrity. Approved document B, Fire Safety, Volume 2, Buildings other than dwelling house states that: 8.0 Every compartment wall should form a complete barrier to fire between the compartments they separate. 8.35 – any stairway or other shaft passing directly from one compartment to another should be enclosed in a protected shaft so as to delay or prevent the spread of fire between compartments.

ISO14520-1:2015(E)

We will lead with some extracts from the regulations which is why this paper argues that the industry is sometimes minimally compliant or even non-compliant due to a lack of understanding of fire systems and their connection to compartmentation. This blog calls for a more holistic approach to fire safety.

  • 9.2.4.1 At least every 12 months it shall be determined whether boundary penetration or other changes to the protected enclosure have occurred that could affect leakage and extinguishant performance. If this cannot be visually determined, it shall be positively established by repeating the test for enclosure integrity in accordance with Annex E.
  • 9.2.4.2 Where the integrity test reveals increased leakage that would result in an inability to retain the extinguishant for the required period, remedial action shall be carried out.

To understand how fire resistant a compartment is, an inspection of the overall condition of the existing fire compartments is needed, as well as an assessment of the condition and effectiveness of the sealing of wall/soffit interfaces and an inspection of existing fire seals applied to service penetrations through fire compartment lines. Issues in the quality of compartmentation walls can come from maintenance, minor works and refurbishments. Contractors carrying out such tasks can occasionally destroy the compartmentation integrity of the wall, floor or ceilings if they were unaware that the area is a comparted space (as shown in the below image). Therefore, following maintenance it is “good practice” to ensure the fire resistance of walls, floors and ceilings and to safeguard again if necessary.

Ultrasonic room integrity testers provide interpretation of the fire resistance of the desired locations, labelling them either airtight or giving an indication of the overall leakage of the room. The advantages of being able to accurately detect the exact leak locations and size are self-evident when considered alongside the resistance to collapse and transfer of excessive heat. In a case where there is too much leakage in a room, the ultrasonic room integrity tester is an unrivalled ideal for the rapid and accurate  identification of these sites so that they can be sealed. It is lightweight, fast and easy to use, allowing leak site detection to increase its operational efficiency and speed to a degree that has never been seen thus far in the Fire Industry.

Case Study: Oxygen Reduction System - Data Centre, England 2018

Oxygen Reduction System and Need for Monitoring: Oxygen Reduction system works by taking Nitrogen from the air outdoors and pumping this into the room consistently in order to suppress oxygen levels, down to the level where combustion can no longer occur. To ensure the system works safely and efficiently, room integrity is of utmost important for two reasons: (1) A properly sealed room will contain the Nitrogen for a longer period of time, therefore putting less work on the air compressor in order to save energy. (2) If Nitrogen starts to leak from the Server Room, there are safety concerns over where this Nitrogen would leak to as it has the potential to harm occupants in other rooms if the Nitrogen leaks into their room and the oxygen levels were unmonitored.

Testing of the Server Room: The Server Room had an area of about 91 metres square. Several areas were tested with an ultrasonic room integrity tester where leakage was probable and the readings were noted on the drawings. These were the doors, vents, cable penetrations and also sections of the wall where gaps were visible.

Results: The Portascanner® 520 tester identified the main source of leaks for the room, the doors, where full readings were clearly detected. Multiple air vents in the room were also improperly sealed and some leakage was found into the external room. Cable penetrations leading to the area outside the Server Room were also found to be leaking. 

Conclusions: Once the required maintenance was conducted and assuming no changes were made to the room, it is safe to assume that the room retains its integrity, thus comply and exceed current ISO 14520 regulations requiring periodic inspections of room integrity whereby visual inspection is usually specified and is not sufficient. The most suitable way to address periodic inspections is through the use of ultrasound.

Coltraco Ultrasonics are a world leading British Manufacturer of Ultrasonic Technology in core areas of watertight & room integrity and gaseous fire suppression systems. Coltraco Ultrasonics are award winning, as Innovate UK Best of British Innovator 2017, Seatrade Cruise Award Supplier of the Year 2017, SHE Award Fire Innovation of the Year Award 2018, amongst many others.

Keywords:Room Integrity, Compartmentation, ISO14520, Ultrasonic Room Integrity Tester

Mitigate Fire Risk in Wind Turbines

With the size of turbines increasing, the wind industry needs to learn about the importance of fire safety in wind turbines. Fire is the second leading cause of accidents in wind turbines after blade failure. As our reliance grows on wind turbines, keeping them fully operational and at reduced levels of risk becoming more important, and as a result, so does safety management.  10-30% of all loss-of-power-generation incidents in wind power plants are due to fire. Fires in wind turbines not only lead to a loss of business continuity and a negative impact on the company’s reputation but also, most importantly, are a critical safety issue.

With predictions of much taller and more powerful turbines and thus fewer per project, ensuring that the they are in working order is essential, because the larger and fewer the turbines, the more costly they will be to operators in the event of fire damage. Due to the height and location of wind turbines, classic firefighting methods come up against their limits and therefore fire extinguishing systems that use gases such as carbon dioxide, inert gases or clean agents such as FM-200® and Novec™1230, which are especially appropriate for dealing with fires in electrical systems because they extinguish the fire quickly whilst not damaging the electrical systems or the compartment in which they are being discharged. 

However, it is important to note that such fire extinguishing systems require maintenance to ensure they are fully operational and ready in event of a fire. ISO 14520-1:2015(E) assumes that these systems accidentally discharge and leak. 6.2.4.2 Contents indication: “Means shall be provided to indicate that each container is correctly charged.” Followed by “9.2.1.3 The storage container contents shall be checked at least every six months as follows. a) Liquefied gases: for halocarbon agents, if a container shows a loss of agent in quantity of more than 5 % or a loss of pressure (adjusted for temperature) of more than 10 %, it shall be refilled or replaced.”

Focused on continued advancement of safety technology, Coltraco have now developed the Permalevel® Multiplex, a fixed fire suppression monitoring system, designed for continuous contents verification. Permalevel® is designed to ensure that fire suppression systems are always fully operational and that no accidental discharge has occurred, which could affect the effectiveness of the overall fire protection system in the event of a fire. With guaranteed systems operations, adaptability for purpose, 24/7 remote access to the systems status, an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and remote real-time monitoring, the Permalevel® offers the efficiency that is needed in a wind turbine.

For regular inspection, the Portalevel® MAX is a handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator, which can service a cylinder in 30 seconds (in contrast to 15 minutes by traditional manual weighing) with accuracy of up to 1.5mm off the true liquid level. Portalevel® MAX builds on Coltraco Ultrasonics’ 30 years’ experience in designing, manufacturing and supporting ultrasonic liquid level indicating equipment, in 108 Countries and numerous market sectors and environments. The development program was born out of the desire to further improve on Coltraco’s existing 8 designs and taking on board feedback and opinions of our customers.

Coltraco Ultrasonics provide smart Firetest® solutions which enable wind turbine owners and operators to improve their fire safety management and reduce the risks to human life, business continuity caused by any downtime and thus minimise risk to reputation by delivering a Safesite®.

Photo: Fire in wind turbine in Isselburg, Germany. Source: https://ifpmag.mdmpublishing.com/fire-safety-in-wind-turbines-there-is-more-to-know/

Coltraco Ultrasonics are a world leading British Manufacturer of Ultrasonic Technology in core areas of watertight & room integrity and gaseous fire suppression systems. Coltraco Ultrasonics are award winning, as Innovate UK Best of British Innovator 2017, Seatrade Cruise Award Supplier of the Year 2017, SHE Award Fire Innovation of the Year Award 2018, amongst many others.

Keywords:Wind, Renewable Energy, Wind Turbine, FireSuppression System,Ultrasonic Liquid Level Indicator

Why Pressure Gauges Alone are Insufficient for Detecting Leaks in Gaseous Suppression Systems

Do you protect your assets with fire suppression systems?

Gaseous extinguishing systems safeguard vitally important infrastructure against special hazards.

Failure to monitor the gaseous extinguishing system which is fundamental to the protection of the workers and asset is inadmissible. It imperils the lives of occupants of the premises. It risks incurring crippling financial and reputational loss to the facility is a fire event comprises the critical infrastructure.

Regulations demand maintenance of the systems to ensure that they are operational in the event of a fire: ISO 14520-1:2015(E) assumes that these systems accidentally discharge and leak. The reality is that gaseous systems are checked for contents annually because they are pressurised and anything that is dynamic offers risk of loss of contents, but this fails to deal with the probability of discharge or leakage for the 364 days per annum in the interim between certification checks.

Using pressure gauges to monitor your systems?

Generally speaking, when a portion of the contents of a pressurised suppression cylinder escapes, the internal pressure inside the vessel will decrease. However, due to the dependence of the internal pressure on the temperature of the agent and the difficulties involved in accounting for this, this can sometimes lead to false negatives, thereby endangering the lives of those in the vicinity. Testing fire suppression systems with an ultrasonic liquid level indicator is therefore a necessary test required to ensure that suppression systems are safe and functioning correctly.

Variation in Pressure Over Modest Temperature Fluctuations

A change in temperature of just 5°C, for example from 17°C to 22°C can lead to significant changes in pressure in cylinders, while the liquid level remains comparatively constant. The below data demonstrates this for three typical super-pressurised cylinders.

Official ISO and NFPA regulations state that if the pressure in a cylinder was to drop by greater than 10% of its initial value it should be replaced, however, if the temperature of the contents increases, the base pressure may increase by up to 5% (or more for greater temperature changes). This means that the equivalent isothermal pressure would have to drop by close to 15% before a leak is recognised.

One should account for the effect of temperature when checking a pressure gauge however it is often difficult to determine an exact pressure value from a gauge (for example gauges frequently consist simply of a green section and a red section with widely-spaced tick marks). In addition to this, sometimes the internal temperature of the cylinder varies with respect to the ambient temperature.

The Solution?
Given that the liquid level in a cylinder tends to vary far less with temperature, using a portable ultrasonic liquid level indicator Portalevel® MAX is a reliable method of detecting leaks in cylinders, even when pressure gauges fail to do so.

Using the Portasteele® CALCULATOR in combination with the Portalevel® MAX enables the recorded liquid level to be converted into agent weight which accounts for the change in ambient temperature. Unlike pressure gauges, using the Portalevel® MAX with the Portasteele® CALCULATOR is negligibly affected by temperature changes and therefore gives an accurate reading of cylinder contents.

Choose smart technology today to ensure your systems will work in the event of a fire and that people and asset are protected. Enquire today for the Portalevel® MAX & Portasteele® CALCULATOR.

Coltraco Ultrasonics are world-leading British designers & manufacturers of ultrasonic technology. Delivering the Safesite®: protecting life, assets & infrastructure on land.

Using sound which others cannot hear, in liquids, air and solids.

Keywords:pressure gauge, fire suppression system, NOVEC™ 1230, FM®200

TRY CYLINDER LEVEL TESTING – PORTALEVEL®

QUOTE “AsiaPacificFire2019” for exclusive discounts on the Portalevel® MAX ultrasonic liquid level indicator.

Q. Why choose “cylinder level testing”?

A. Cylinder level testing compared to manually weighing fire suppression cylinders saves you time, labour and minimises risk.

Q. What is the method?

A. Choose the flagship handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator: Portalevel® MAX to inspect cylinder liquid contents in 30 seconds. See the intro video here: https://youtu.be/8XaG7oM5aHA

Q. How does it work?

A. This innovative technology is designed to be very easy to use. Watch this “how to” video here:https://youtu.be/KpScT_esxnc

Q. What agents does it work on?

A. The Portalevel® MAX can inspect CO2, FM-200™, Novec™ 1230, FE-13™, FE-25™, FE-36™,  Halons and a range of other extinguishing agents.

Q. Why is it better?

A. It is safer, faster and cheaper. Plus, it is accepted by regulations as an alternative method.

Q. Why is it safer?

A. No need to turn off the fire suppression system during inspection. No need to remove the cylinders from the manifold. Portalevel® MAX enables you to test in-situ. Plus, no risk to personnel who may suffer back injuries by lifting heavy cylinders.

Q. How is it faster?

A. Traditional weighing takes 2 people 15 minutes per cylinder. Portalevel® MAX takes 1 person 30 seconds per cylinder.

Q. How is it cheaper?

A. Saving you time so you can carry out more inspections. Saving you labour costs and removing the risk of injuries. Plus, Coltraco Ultrasonics have a “Price Promise” for the most competitive quotes.

Q. What if I still want to know the agent fill weight?

A. If you want the weight of agent as well as the contents verification, you can use the Portalevel® MAX’s perfect partner: Portasteele® CALCULATOR to convert readings – taking just another 30 seconds.

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Keywords: Fire Suppression Systems, CO2, FM 200, NOVEC 1230,

Fires Happen: it’s Time to Act.

At sea, fire pose one the of biggest threat to ships: according to Lloyds List, almost 10% of all total losses at sea for the last ten years have been caused by fire. Sailing alone and at sea throughout the year, and without the ability to call upon the emergency services as a land-based asset might. As vessels become larger and more sophisticated, a greater financial interest is tied up into one ship, meaning that the risks are magnified if the vessel would get into difficulties e.g. a fire.

“Ships are their own fire brigade”

Misunderstanding exists across parts of Shipping regarding the application of a part of the International Maritime Organisation, Safety of Life at Sea, Fire Safety Systems (IMO SOLAS FSS) Code; the need for crew to test the contents of their CO2, FM-200® & NOVEC™ 1230 Gaseous Extinguishing Systems in between the periodic inspection, maintenance and certification intervals. These periodic inspections are conducted annually or biennially, and only by an Accredited Service Agent i.e. an external Marine Servicing Company. As stated above, the reason the IMO requires crew to test for contents in-between these is that the “ship sails alone”; it must act as its own emergency fire service.

What are the risks?

A ship’s gaseous extinguishing system typically comprises between 200 and 600 cylinders each containing 45KG of CO2 under high 720 psi/ 49 bar pressure. (Other suppressant clean agents such as FM-200® and Novec™1230 are becoming more widely used.) One of the highest probabilities of discharge occurs during their maintenance. Some marine service companies estimate that 20% of a ship’s CO2 cylinders have discharged or partially leaked their contents at some point in their lifetime.

Taking CO2 systems through as an example, although random checks may be suitable in some sectors, it is worth remembering that because the normal design concentration of CO2 of 34-72 v/v % is above the nearly immediate acute lethality level, these systems have an extremely narrow safety margin. As these systems work through oxygen dilution rather than the chemical disruption of the catalytic combustion chain (which is the case with other clean agents), insufficient oxygen levels during an accidental discharge may allow a situation to spiral out of hand.

A current, widely acknowledged gap in the reliability of many marine firefighting systems is the way in which the fire suppressant levels are checked. A large number of ship operators are still relying on the crew to remove and weigh the fire suppressant containers at regular intervals in order to measure the quantity of fire suppressant. This introduces several risks associated with human error – containers could be reconnected incorrectly, crew may become bored and skip a few measurements, and accurate readings are not ensured.

 

“CO2 bottles leak”

Yet although this poses high levels of risk to the service companies and the crew, because gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurised, the risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use and this is shown in the regulations that demand their upkeep e.g. IMO SOLAS FSS Ch5. 2.1.1.3:

“Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the container”

Often this is misunderstood, this code specifically states that the crew must test their extinguishing installations in between the periodic inspection, maintenance and certification. Only having the annual inspection by accredited marine servicing companies is not enough – the crew must take responsibility for its own fire protection.  Crew are often not trained or certified to shut-down, dismantle, weigh and re-install the gaseous cylinders – the traditional method. In order to mitigate this risk, technology allowing for accurate measurement and logging of agent fill levels in fire suppression systems should be used particularly if fixed firefighting systems are being relied upon without the extra layer of safety that insulation would provide.

A Call for Crew to Inspect Fire System Cylinder Contents

Using an ultrasonic liquid level indicator, the Portalevel® MAX Marine, is the only way that the crew can safely test their CO2 without disturbing them. If marine companies implemented the IMO SOLAS FSS codes by testing safely and quickly (just 30-60 seconds per cylinder) by using liquid level indicators and marine servicing companies were able to do their work without allowing for time pressures, then marine safety would be far safer.

What About Compartmentation?

Assuming fire suppressant agent fill levels are sufficient to extinguish any fire, the suppressant agent must be contained within the compartment in which the fire is present and the agent is not allowed to disperse to other compartments. In other words, if a gaseous firefighting system is in use, the reliability of such a system is critically dependent on the ability of a compartment to contain the fire suppression agent. Therefore, regardless of the standard of compartment insulation, the integrity of compartments should be verified. This is even more important on older vessels where compartment integrity may have degraded over time.

Compartment integrity is not isolated to fire containment and fire suppression but is also critically important to damage stability and compartment flooding. It is always important to verify that a vessel has been built to specification and certain safety critical aspects have not degraded over time. Compartmentation integrity must be tested so as to ensure that the design analysis for compartment flooding and damage stability reflects the true condition of the ship. It is emphasised that this is even more important on older vessels where compartment integrity may have degraded over time.

Test Your Compartmentation

Ultrasonic compartmentation integrity testers provide interpretation of the fire resistance of the desired locations, labelling them either airtight or giving an indication of the overall leakage of the compartment. In a case where there is too much leakage in a room, a Portascanner® 520 ultrasonic compartmentation integrity tester is an unrivalled ideal for the rapid and accurate  identification of these sites so that they can be sealed. It is lightweight, fast and easy to use, allowing leak site detection to increase its operational efficiency and speed to a degree that has never been seen thus far in the maritime industry.

Ensure Vessel Safety

Bad industry practice is unacceptable when fire risk may have catastrophic results due to risk to life, downtime in operation due to ship safety and repair work and incalculable reputational damage. The crew, cargo and vessel must be protected when at sea because it is it’s own fire brigade without accessibility to typical emergency services. This is a call to respond to regulations with a rigorous attitude, to go above and beyond, to provide security of life and infrastructure.

Keywords:Maritime, Fire At Sea, Fire Suppression Systems, Shipping, IMO SOLAS FSS, CO2

Save Lives. Improve Fire Safety Onboard Passenger Vessels

In 2018 a fire on board small passenger vessel Island Lady in Florida, USA injured 15 passengers and tragically one passenger died several hours after the fire. The vessel suffered a constructive total loss.In a recent U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report as to the cause of the fire, the NTSB concluded that:

“The lack of a requirement for a fire detection and suppression system in an unmanned space containing engine exhaust tubing prevented early detection of, and a swifter response to, the fire in the lazarette.

The Island Lady’s crew had insufficient firefighting training and preventative maintenance program.”

This tragedy must remind us all that passengers, crew and vessel have to be protected from fire.

Why does fire safety need to be improved?

“Safety isn’t something you have, it’s something you do,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt.

According to Lloyds List, almost 10% of all total losses at sea in the last decade were caused by a fire on board.

When lives are at stake, a lack of fire systems and maintenance of them is unacceptable.

What protects passengers from fire?

A ship’s gaseous extinguishing system typically comprises between 200 and 600 cylinders each containing 45KG of CO2 under high 720 psi/ 49 bar pressure. (Other suppressant clean agents such as FM-200® and Novec™1230 are becoming more widely used.)

How are we failing to protect passengers with these gaseous extinguishing systems?

Because gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurised, the risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use and this is shown in the regulations that demand their upkeep.

IMO SOLAS & FSS Code Chapter 2.1.1.3 - “Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the containers.”

Some marine service companies estimate that 20% of a ship’s CO2 cylinders have discharged or partially leaked their contents at some point in their lifetime also know that occasionally marine “servicing companies” unintentionally leave it disabled.

What is the solution?

The crew must take responsibility for its own fire protection.

Using an ultrasonic liquid level indicator is the only way that the crew can safely test their CO2 without disturbing them. Coltraco Ultrasonics designed the Portalevel® MAX Marine & Portamarine® ultrasonic liquid level indicators, as radioactive units were being phased out. If shipping companies implemented the IMO SOLAS FSS codes by testing safely and quickly (just 30-60 seconds per cylinder) by using liquid level indicators and marine servicing companies were able to do their work without allowing for time pressures, then vessels would be far safer.

Solutions for the monitoring of the vessels gaseous extinguishing system exist:

  • Portalevel® MAX Marine liquid level indicators used by the crew weekly to test for contents
  • Portasteele® CALCULATOR converts the liquid level readings into a weight measurement, logging the recorded data with easy exporting via email. By reducing time needed for reports, more time can be spent on ensuring the safety of the vessel.
  • Portascanner® WATERTIGHT, watertight integrity test indicators used by the crew to test for compartmentation
  • Portapipe® pipework integrity indicators used to test for pipework obstructions and the Portagauge® thickness gauges for pipework corrosion

Keywords:Passenger Vessel, Cruise, Ferry, Fire, Marine

Do More for the British Undergraduate

With almost half of employers studied in a recent survey by the Sutton Trust, offering unpaid placements, students who cannot afford to take unpaid roles are losing out in the job market. Coltraco are proud to invest in student development and only offer paid roles.

The UK business community is doing little to access this talent pool at an early stage. Bright undergraduates are often hungry for work while studying, but businesses make little effort to engage. 

At Coltraco, we devised a special internship programme to do just this. Coltraco Ultrasonics exports 89% of its output to 108 countries, with 40% of our exports going to Asia alone. We work with four UK universities and, for more than five years, have had as many as 25 undergraduates working with us annually. Typically, they work with us for 6-8 hours a week in term-time and a little more during the Christmas and Easter holidays. 

They are paid weekly to reinforce the connection between work and reward. On Thursday evenings they are encouraged to write a short report summarising their work. Those that do so consistently over two years secure two things: their first-class degree and their first career choice. We offer five of them the opportunity to join our eight-week full-time paid summer internships. On graduation, one of them is recruited to a full-time position. 
It enables them to contribute to business, generate income during their studies and make more meaningful their university experience. It dramatically improves their employment opportunities and, because we work with senior departmental leadership at the universities to implement these programmes, it strengthens their relationships with top academic staff.
The very best of British undergraduates are the finest I have seen in my career. They have much to contribute from a young age, and business leaders would be wise to offer something in return.

See the Sutton Trust Research Paper: https://www.suttontrust.com/research-paper/internships-pay-as-you-go/

 See Dr Hunter’s Article: https://www.finito.org.uk/2018/11/21/businesses-should-do-more-for-the-british-undergraduate/

Keywords:Student Engagement, Universities, Internship, Employment

Do you want to improve safety, save time and labour?

Our innovative product range addresses two main causes of vessel loss: fire and sinking. The award-winning FLEETSAFE™ package includes 5 regulation-compliant products to improve safety, whilst saving time & labour.

Our products are accurate, reliable and intuitive. Integrity is the central value for our relationships. We promise to never be beaten on price.

Supporting customers in 109 countries, including:
- 17% of the world's ships,
- Top 15 navies,
- 50% of oil & gas operators - 1 Top wind turbine O&M.

CHOOSE THE FLEETSAFE™ PACKAGE: 5 products in 1 toolkit.

Stop weighing CO2. Inspect fire suppression systems contents with ultrasound.

Weigh with Technology. Convert level height to weight & download results.

Stop hose/chalk testing. Choose ultrasonics for pinpoint precision.

Bearing wear & tear. Choose instant, reliable condition monitoring

  • Portamonitor®. Monitors bearing condition in rotating machinery for damage or lack of lubricant.

Metal corrosion & thickness. Choose cost effective or metal-only advanced results

  • Portagauge® 4. Inspects metalwork & pipework for rust, corrosion and thickness available in two models.

Coltraco Ultrasonics are world-leading British designers & manufacturers of ultrasonic technology. Delivering the Safeship®: protecting life, assets & infrastructure at sea.
Using sound which others cannot hear, in liquids, air and solids.

Keywords:Shipping, Marine, Watertight Integrity, Condition Monitoring, Corrosion, Fire Suppression Systems

A Gift For Now, A Gift For Later and a Gift For Another.

Purchase your new time-saving Coltraco unit then choose your 3 Christmas gifts from us.
GIFT FOR NOW: Free delivery for all orders in December.

GIFT FOR LATER: Free calibration for next year of new units. We offer through-life maintenance. Free global training. And we hope this offer begins our 20 year relationship together.

GIFT FOR ANOTHER: Feed a child for an entire school year by simply adding GBP13.90 to your order. Join us at Coltraco Ultrasonics in fundraising to feed an entire year at Gawamadzi Primary School, Malawi. We send your donation to: Mary's Meals.

Marys Meals provides school means for 1.3million children in many of the world’s poorest countries. Two of our colleagues are supporting a school of 980 children in Malawi by running the full 84mile length of Hadrian’s Wall in May next year. It costs just £13.90 to feed a child for an entire year so even the smallest donation would be of huge value.

We will send you a personalised and signed certificate of your donation to frame or share on social media!

Visit our Christmas Shop Now: http://www.coltraco.com/christmas/

Terms & Conditions: we like to keep these simple!

To redeem your gift place an order for any new Coltraco product within December 2018. 

To find the products click here to explore our range of technology: http://www.coltraco.com/products-page/ e.g. including all models of Portalevel, Portascanner, Portagauge, Portasonic, Portamonitor, Portasteele

  • Free delivery for all orders in December 2018. 
  • Free calibration of new units valid for one year from date on your product’s calibration certificate – expire 30.12.2019 latest. 
  • Coltraco Ultrasonics will pay the donation to Mary’s Meals charity for you to ensure it is paid to the correct fundraising project. By donating £13.90 to global charity Mary's Meals your gift will to feed 1 child for 1 year at Gawamadzi Primary School, Malawi. We will send you your personalised and signed certificate. 

Valid on orders for new products placed 01.12.2018-31.12.2018 only.

Offers may not be used in conjunction with other offers unless agreed with one of the Sales team.

Thank you and Merry Christmas from us all at Coltraco Ultrasonics!

Keywords: Christmas, Charity, Offers, December, Calibration, Maintenance, Customer Care

Italian Marine Industry recognise fire safety risks

Italian Marine Industry recognise fire safety risks in a SPOTLIGHT from Alberto Faravelli, Coltraco’s Italy Country Manager.

The Italian Marine industry have found that the fixed fire systems on ships are at risk due to C02 cylinders leaking from the valves - particularly the leading classification societies ABS & RINA and the Italian Coast Guard.

  • ABS have reported multiple cases in which CO2 cylinders in fixed fire systems were found empty and thus would not be able to suppress a fire event. ABS have hence recommended that all shipowners need to conduct a risk assessment of their CO2 systems.
  • Furthermore the Italian Coastguard sent a letter to major shipowners supporting the assessment and called for ship owners undertake a risk assessment. 
  •  As per the Ministero delle Infrastrutture e dei Trasporti: “In considerazione delle necessità di assicurare la continua funzionalità del richiamato sistema antincendio di tipo fisso e di prevenire un inatteso rilascio di CO2 nell’ambiente di lavoro, si dispone che  - codeste Società eseguano, per le unità gestite che risultano dotate del predetto impianto, una specifica e documentata valutazione del rischio, tesa a delineare eventuali, necessari interventi per la tutela della sicurezza e della salute dei lavoratori.” 

This recognises the evidence in the IMO SOLAS FSS Code & other regulations which assume the risk of CO2 and agent leakage or accidental discharge from the fixed fire suppression system cylinders. If there is less gas than the design concentration, there is a risk it will not extinguish a fire event. IMO SOLAS FSS CH.5 2.1.1.3 which recommends the crew must have the means to test the contents on board, not just rely on 3rd party service companies to come for annual checks. Liquid Level Indicators provide the crew with an easy to use, reliable, intuitive tool. 

This is why Coltraco Ultrasonics invented the Portalevel® 30 years ago and remain the world leaders today. Like Hoover™ for vacuums, Portalevel® is synonymous with level indication; using ultrasonic technology innovatively to deliver the Safeship® protecting crew, assets and vessel.

Why do CO2 fire system cylinders leak?

  • Approximately 20% of a ship’s CO2 cylinders may have discharged or partially leaked
  • If the contents are not there, they will not extinguish in a fire event
  • A ship’s gaseous extinguishing system typically comprises between 200 and 600 cylinders each containing 45KG of CO2 under high 720 psi/ 49 bar pressure
  • The risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use because gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurised
  • This is shown in IMO SOLAS & FSS Code Chapter 2.1.1.3 - “Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the containers.”

What is the solution?

ABS Type Approved Portalevel® MAX Marine ultrasonic liquid level indicators. 

  • BETTER – most accurate unit on the market +/- 1.5mm & safer as no need to turn off the system or dismantle the cylinders
  • FASTER - combined with the MAX Marine, the Portasteele® CALCULATOR is an advanced app, that converts the liquid level of C02 into the agent weight/mass
  • CHEAPER – just one person needed to test safely and quickly (just 30 seconds per cylinder)

Would you like pricing or further information about the Portalevel® MAX MARINE & Portasteele® CALCULATOR?

Keywords:Italy, Marine, Fire System, ABS, Italian Coastguard, IMO SOLAS FSS, CO2

Comply with BS9990:2015: Use the Portasonic® 2.FL0 for Fire Hydrants & Pump Testing

In accordance with BS9990:2015 a regulations for fire hydrant and pump testing, the Portasonic® 2.FL0 flow meter is a simple & accurate means to measure and record flow rates in wet fire mains and pumped water pipelines.

For pressure regulating valves, according to BS9990 there is an allowable tolerance for flow and pressure at the landing valve of (750 ±75) L/min at (8 ±0.5) bar. Equally for pumps for wet risers, the pumps have to be capable of delivering 1 500 L/min which is enough to supply each of two fire service hoses with 750 L/min. For water tanks an on-site supply of stored water must be capable of supplying enough water to provide two landing valves with not less than 750 L/min each for at least 45 minutes.

It is essential that wet risers must operational in the event of a fire. The flow is calculated so that there is always enough to control a fire taking into account the size and construction of the building and the goods stored in it or its use. Accurate flow data provides the chance to make energy saving measures by fine tuning the systems. Corrosion and obstructions can cause a wet fire mains and pumped water pipelines to fail due to blockages.

The ability to conduct spot checks on the wet fire mains and pumped waterlines at mandated intervals ensures the full integrity of the sprinkler system. The ease of use and accuracy of Portasonic® allows for improved business continuity and safer office buildings and industrial facilities across a variety of industry verticals. Reducing maintenance downtime reduces disruption to a commercial operation at the same time as improving life safety particularly in high risk environments and industries will help to further educate the industry and reduce fire incidents.

The Portasonic® 2.FL0 ultrasonic flow meter is used to measure flow rates of clean liquid in pipe. The device comes with clamp on transducers for non-invasive measurement. The Portasonic® 2.FL0 utilizes two transducers, one that acts as an ultrasound transmitter and the other as a receiver. There are three principles of operation; V-method, W-method or Z-method referring to transducer positioning based on pipe sizes. The internal software calculates the time it takes for the ultrasonic pulse to pass from the transmitter to the receiver, which is dependent on the liquid flow rate.

With no moving parts and an easy digital set up, it’s a cost and time effective maintenance solution. Reduction of maintenance time and cost is a driving factor within any business operation with pipework installed. Accurate flow data provides the chance to make energy saving measures by fine tuning the systems.

Portasonic® 2.FL0 can be used for spot checks using the internal, rechargeable battery or for extended continuous operation as a 4-20mA flow transmitter with AC power input.  The ease of use and accuracy of Portasonic® 2.FL0 allows for improved business continuity and safer buildings and industrial facilities across a variety of industry verticals. With the ability to conduct spot checks at mandated intervals, flow rates in pipework can be maintained to ensure they meet the required standard.

Keywords:Shipping,Fire Safety,Fire And Sea,Ultrasonic Liquid Level Indicators

Decibel Measurement in Hatch Covers with the Portascanner® WATERTIGHT

DNV GL - Service Suppliers Performing Tightness Testing of Hatches With Ultrasonic

Equipment on Ships, High Speed and Light Craft and Mobile Offshore Units .

2.9 Operational procedures

Fail/pass criterion:

—  from 1 dB to 10% of OHV shall mean that the hatch cover is considered weathertight, subject to verifying

the design and the condition of the hatch cover, the coaming and the drainage arrangements

—  above 10% of the OHV shall mean that the hatch cover is considered not to be weather tight and that  corrective action to gaskets and drains is required.”

DNV GL states that anything under 10% of the open hatch cover reading is considered weathertight. This reading must be reported in decibel (dB) to comply with regulations.

As explained below, calculating 10% of the decibel scale can be complex. To counteract this problem, the Portascanner® WATERTIGHT can test for leak sites in both decibel (dB) and in the linear scale.

As you can see, in the below graphs showing both the linear and dB scales, the linear scale increases at a constant rate, unlike the decibel scale. It is easier to work out 10% in the liner scale because of this. Therefore, we suggest testing in the linear scale and then converting to dB as this is easier for the crew. The converted linear reading can then be used to comply with regulations, as per the above. The Portascanner® WATERTIGHT has a “MODE” button which instantly converts linear readings into dB readings, which is designed so that the crew can really easily comply with regulations.

Keywords:Shipping,Fire Safety,Fire And Sea,Ultrasonic Liquid Level Indicators

Ensure your crew are protected from fire risk.

New data from the Liberian Register

New data from the Liberian Register has highlighted that fire is still a major threat to life, to those in the shipping industry.

Ensuring that the crew are protected from risk is paramount. Tragically fire at sea still claims lives that it should not. Between 2018-2018, 7 people tragically lost their life to fire. Scott Bergeron, CEO of the Liberian Registry quotes “It is vital that we share and talk about this information and that we continue to highlight where improvements need to be made

This comes as EMSA released a report in November 2018, that 25% of accidents on Ro-Ro’s are fire related. According to Lloyds List, almost 10% of all total losses at sea in the last decade were caused by a fire on board.

How to protect your crew

This is unacceptable, with the advanced technology and engineering in 2018, the crew must be protected from fire. Yet gaseous extinguishing systems which are installed onto ships to protect crew in the event of a fire, are not a final solution. Because gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurised, the risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use and this is shown in the regulations that demand their upkeep.

IMO SOLAS & FSS Code Chapter 2.1.1.3 - “Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the containers.”

In 2018, the ABS released advice that there have been multiple cases reported in which CO2 cylinders in fixed fire systems have been found empty. Because of this, ABS have recommended that all shipowners need to conduct a risk assessment of their CO2 systems. Following this, the Italian Coastguard in a communication to its members stated that: “To prevent an unexpected release of CO2 into the work environment, it is established that companies perform, a specific and documented risk assessment, aimed at outlining any necessary measures to protect workers' health and safety.

Some marine service companies estimate that 20% of a ship’s CO2 cylinders have discharged or partially leaked their contents at some point in their lifetime also know that occasionally marine “servicing companies” unintentionally leave it disabled.

If the gaseous extinguishing systems are partially empty, due to leakage or discharge, they will not be available in the event of a fire. This a risk that no shipping company can afford, both with the cost of life and cost of vessel loss.

What is the solution?

Using an ultrasonic liquid level indicator is the only way that the crew can safely test their CO2 without disturbing them. Coltraco Ultrasonics designed the ABS Type Approved Portalevel® MAX Marine & Portamarine® ultrasonic liquid level indicators, as radioactive units were being phased out. The Portalevel® MAX MARINE allows crew to implement IMO SOLAS FSS codes by testing safely and quickly (just 30-60 seconds per cylinder).

The Portalevel® MAX Marine allows the crew to be in charge of checking the CO2 systems, as many times as needed: ensuring that the systems will be working when they are needed.

  • ABS Type Approved Portalevel® MAX Marine is designed primarily for the vessels’ crew to inspect large fire suppression systems of up to 600 cylinders.
  • The ease of operation in comparison to weighing, increases the ability of more regular and frequent checks, improving fire safety management onboard.
  • Coltraco’s innovative method of inspecting leaking cylinders with ultrasonics, enables identification in under 30 seconds using Portalevel® with one person, instead of the traditional 15 minutes, with two people laboriously weighing.

Combined with the MAX Marine, The Portasteele® Calculator is an advanced  application, that converts the liquid level height of C02, NOVEC™ 1230 and FM-200® liquefied gaseous extinguishant agent readings taken on a Portalevel® device into the agent weight/mass.  The Portasteele® CALCULATOR can convert an expected agent weight back to the required liquid level allowing users to anticipate where the level should be

Shipping must continue in its mission to improve safety of life at sea, for the crew’s protection. It’s time to conduct your risk assessment and start maintaining your gaseous extinguishing systems. Choose the quickest, easiest and effective way to maintain your fire systems: The Portalevel® MAX Marine and Portasteele® CALCULATOR.

Coltraco Ultrasonics’ mission delivering Safeship® solutions to improve safety of life, assets and vessels at sea. They do by manufacturing high quality British instrumentation, supplied to over 100 countries worldwide, since 1987.

Discover more about Coltraco Ultrasonics’ commitment to customer care and safety on www.coltraco.com.

Protect your staff against accidental discharge

Do you protect your assets with fire suppression systems?

Gaseous extinguishing systems protect urgently important infrastructure against special hazards, fundamental for the safeguarding of critical facilities.

If you protect critical infrastructure, then this article applies to you.

The neglect of continuous monitoring - of the fundamental protection provided by the gaseous extinguishing systems - is to the peril of the lives of occupants of the premises and at the risk of crippling financial and reputational loss to the facility comprising the critical infrastructure.

Did you know accidental discharge of fire suppression systems is dangerous?

When a person is maintaining the fire suppression system in the cylinder room and there is accidental discharge by the manual release valve, the Permalevel® MUTLIPLEX provides immediate notification.

This protection is essential, as the pressure switch and select valve may not be working, if broken. This is a prevalent issue; there is regularly cases when the select valve does not open i.e. fused and therefore the pressure switch on the delivery pipe will not be able to notify about this manual accidental discharge. If and when this select valve does not open, there is potential that accidental discharge will case the agent in the fire suppression system to accumulate. This built up pressure may cause the manifold to burst.

In cases where the select valve opens, but the pressure switch is broken – no notification will be given about the discharge. If maintenance is being carried out in the protected enclosure as well, accidental discharge would cause the protected enclosure to be filled with agent thus affecting the occupants but no notifications could be given about the discharge because the pressure switch is broken. 

High profile accidents relating to accidental discharge:

  • August 2011: An accidental discharge of carbon dioxide on board SD Nimble resulted in serious injury to a shore-based service engineer at Faslane Naval Base
  • May 2010: An uncontrolled release of fire extinguishing gas occurred on board Marsol Pride, while working in the Tui oil and gas field off New Zealand’s west coast. A valve on one of the CO2 pilot cylinders developed a leak and charged the system ready for release. A second leak in the main control valve then caused the entire system to activate, flooding the vessel’s engine room with the gas.
  • September 2004: Preparing for a routine inspection, a crew member on a Hong Kong registered ship accidentally triggered the fixed fire extinguishing system, releasing 5,060kg of CO2. Attempts to fix the situation led to the death of four officers.
  • November 2008: At least 20 people died in an accident on K-152 Nerpa, a Russian Akula II class nuclear submarine, when a Halon-based fire extinguishing system was activated by mistake during sea trials.

Having a Permalevel MULTIPLEX to monitor cylinders at it’s source will be able to address all issues related to accidental discharge.  The Permalevel® MULTIPLEX can also provide immediate notification if the cylinder has been discharged, quicker than the notification from the pressure switch on delivery pipe which could take up to 3 – 4 seconds later

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® offers the efficiency that is now a requirement for encompassing protection.

Constant monitoring of gaseous extinguishing systems and must be implemented, people’s lives depend upon it. We are here to help you ensure critical safety.

Discover more about Coltraco Ultrasonics’ commitment to customer care and safety on www.coltraco.com.

Create a Safer Ship with Coltraco Ultrasonics®

The shipping industry,  calculates fire engineering designs based on formulas that its technicians have no way of understanding or verifying are accurate. Fire engineers do not always understand the physical properties of the clean agents they use. Some do not wholly appreciate the impact of temperature on the state of an agent or its pressures. Novec™ 1230 for instance is an organic compound which deteriorates quickly to a point of non-effectiveness if poorly handled and stored. These problems and many more can be solved in the fire industry by the application of fundamental scientific and engineering principles. But they can only be proved by the application of the mathematics of them.

A ship’s gaseous extinguishing system typically comprises between 200 and 600 cylinders each containing 45KG of CO2 under high 720 psi/ 49 bar pressure. (Other suppressant clean agents such as FM-200® and Novec™1230 are becoming more widely used.) One of the highest probabilities of discharge occurs during their maintenance. Some marine service companies estimate that 20% of a ship’s CO2 cylinders have discharged or partially leaked their contents at some point in their lifetime. Taking CO2 systems through as an example, although random checks may be suitable in some sectors, it is worth remembering that because the normal design concentration of CO2 & marine CO2 systems of 34-72 v/v % is above the nearly immediate acute lethality level, these systems have an extremely narrow safety margin. As these systems work through oxygen dilution rather than the chemical disruption of the catalytic combustion chain (which is the case with other clean agents), insufficient oxygen levels during an accidental discharge may allow a situation to spiral out of hand. Yet although this poses high levels of risk to the service companies and the crew, because gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurised, the risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use and this is shown in the regulations that demand their upkeep.

Coltraco Ultrasonics focus on benefitting the crew; designing innovative ultrasonic solutions which promote safety culture, which the crew will be happy to use by being easy to operate, quick, accurate and a better method to traditional techniques.

The Portalevel ® MAX Marine is designed primarily for the vessels’ crew to themselves inspect large fire suppression systems of up to 600 cylinders. The ease of operation in comparison to weighing, increases the ability of more regular and frequent checks, improving fire safety management onboard. Coltraco’s innovative method of inspecting leaking cylinders with ultrasonics, enables identification in under 30 seconds using Portalevel® with one person, instead of the traditional 15 minutes, with two people laboriously weighing.

This can be in-between the statutory annual maintenance and certification intervals provided by shore-based contractors. Thus, increasing the likelihood of tests being regularly conducted, in line with regulations and even going above and beyond for more frequent testing. By so doing, the crew will be creating a safer ship.

Ensure Critical Safety

The Permalevel®  Multiplex    is  designed  to  ensure  that fire  suppression  systems  are  always  fully operational and that no accidental discharge has occurred, which could affect the effectiveness of the overall fire protection system in the event of a fire at a nuclear power plant.

The application of the Permalevel® reaches further, with customers using this equipment in alternate specialist and confidential manners to ensure safety in the station. 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® offers the efficiency that is now a requirement for encompassing protection. The likes of the Atomic Energy Authority asked Coltraco Ultrasonics to tailor make them a solution to constantly monitor a special application using the Permalevel® Single Point for over 10 years.

There is no use in waiting or denying the problem, continuous monitoring and Safesite technologies must be adopted now. Technological development is inevitable and that can’t wait for regulations any longer. We will not stop until the ungoverned space is fully recognised and dealt with. There is no room for the industry to fall back into old habits. The ungoverned space must be recognised, the science is clear and it shows that the risk to people and infrastructure is real and high. Constant monitoring of gaseous extinguishing systems and must be implemented, people’s lives depend upon it.

Think again. Are you being passive toward active fire protection? If you are, we are here to help you ensure critical safety.

Protect Urgently Important Infrastructure

Simply put, the ‘ungoverned space’ is the area in the fire industry where either the regulations or the protecting systems of the critical infrastructure are not effectively providing consistent and reliable safety. Coltraco repeatedly push for this life-threatening issue to be dealt with, with specific regard to loss of contents in fixed fire extinguishing systems.

Gaseous extinguishing systems protect urgently important infrastructure against special hazards, fundamental for the safeguarding of critical facilities.

Although many in the fire industry work towards meeting better standards, in their experience, Coltraco have numerous concerning anecdotes of non-compliance: systems portrayed and installed by contractors as NOVEC™ 1230 but filled with sand or water… room integrity testing with questionable results and with the room integrity remaining un-monitored after testing… liquefied extinguishants being confused by installers with Inert gas systems… service engineers asking how to test the liquid level indicator in powder… the list goes on.

Coupled with these anecdotes, currently the regulations are not extensive enough to deal with the risks presented in gaseous systems. In 9.2.1.3 the regulations explains that the storage container contents shall be checked at least every six months as follows. : a) Liquefied gases: for halocarbon agents, if a container shows a loss of agent in quantity of more than 5 % or a loss of pressure (adjusted for temperature) of more than 10 %, it shall be refilled or replaced. b) Non-liquefied gases: for inert gas agents, pressure is an indication of agent quantity. If a container shows a loss of agent quantity or a loss of pressure (adjusted for temperature) of more than 5 %, it shall be refilled or replaced. Essentially, it is known in regulations that the gaseous systems leak and need to be maintained. Given that the gaseous systems are designed specifically to the individual need of that room, building e.t.c, a 5% loss of agent may mean that they would not fully extinguish the fire.

Can one annual check account for the probability of discharge and leakage for the other 364 days of the year between certification checks?

No.

The neglect of continuous monitoring - of the fundamental protection provided by the gaseous extinguishing systems - is to the peril of the lives of occupants of the premises and at the risk of crippling financial and reputational loss to the facility comprising the critical infrastructure.

The examples of where continuous monitoring are essential are many, extensive and varied. If you protect critical infrastructure, then this article applies to you.

However to exemplify the integral nature of continuous monitoring; incidents in nuclear power plants around the world have continued to demonstrate the vulnerability of safety systems to fire and its effects. The potential danger from an accident at a nuclear power plant is exposure to radiation to the people in the vicinity of the plume from the cloud and particles deposited on the ground, inhalation of radioactive materials and ingestion of radioactive materials. The International Atomic Energy Authority state clearly in the Fire Safety in the Operation of Nuclear Power Plants standards that the effects of a single failure in fire safety systems, such a system not performing its required function, can be detrimental. With fires at nuclear power plants still occurring, such as the technical issue which led to a blast at the 2017 power plant at Flamanville, deemed “very serious” by industry experts, the call for advanced technology is of most importance.

Focused on continued advancement of safety technology, Coltraco have now developed the Permalevel® Multiplex, a fixed fire suppression monitoring device, designed for permanent contents verification. The Permalevel®  Multiplex    is  designed  to  ensure  that fire  suppression  systems  are  always  fully operational and that no accidental discharge has occurred, which could affect the effectiveness of the overall fire protection system in the event of a fire.

How are we failing to protect the crew by maintaining hatch covers?

Wrongly applied and poorly maintained cargo hatch covers and sealing systems increase the risk of cargo becoming damaged by water. The most common wet cargo problems include leaking cross joints, and compression bars, rubber gaskets, hatch coamings, drain channels and cleats in poor condition.

The importance of continually maintaining seal integrity must take a more prominent position in ship maintenance scheduling as demanded by regulations:

SOLAS Reg II-1/11.1  it states that hatches and watertight seals must be regularly tested: “Where a hose test is not practicable [sic] it may be replaced by [sic] an ultrasonic leak test or an equivalent test. In any case a thorough inspection of the watertight bulkheads shall be carried out.”

How have hatch covers been tested traditionally?

Chalk testing is used traditionally for visual inspection of the compression integrity of doors and hatches on vessels that hold the potential for flooding. Chalk is applied evenly around the knife edge, coaming compression bars or panel cross seams of doorways. The door/hatch is then closed and sealed. Once re-opened the rubber gasket which pushes against the knife edge is visually inspected for the chalk line. Any breaks in the chalk line indicate a lack of compression in that area. It must be noted that chalk testing is NOT a leak test, but only provides an indication of potential compression issues

 The International Association of Classification Societies states that a chalk test must be followed by a hose test. The hose test is used in conjunction to determine the weather tightness of doors and hatch covers. The spray from a nozzle of 12mm diameter is sprayed from a distance of 1 to 1.5 meters with a water jet pressure of 0.5 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." width="30" height="14" /> This test should help identify any leakage from the hatch joints, although the exact location of the leakage sight cannot be pinpointed.

Why are these methods no longer recommended by P&I clubs?

 Various drawback come with chalk and hose testing, for instance;

  • The hold is required to be empty as cargo can be damaged by water. This is not always possible and certainly poses more issues once the ship is laden with goods. 
  • The test requires drains to be opened posing a genuine pollution risk. 
  • Two people are required to carry out the test effectively. 
  • Cannot be performed in sub-zero conditions.
  • Water pressure and distance can affect results.
  • Time-consuming.

Both of these hatch cover maintenance tests are time-consuming and sometimes completely impractical. Some circumstances have been highlighted that prevent this test from being conducted such as the hose test if dry cargo is within the hold being tested but these tests conducted at port or in dry dock will never reproduce conditions when the ship is at sea and therefore cannot expect to achieve the same standard. Claims resulting from water damage due to leaking hatch covers still contribute a huge part of the overall loss figures on dry cargo ships. This method is neither accurate nor time effective.

What is the alternative?

Ultrasound.

The Swedish P & I club recommend using Ultrasound. As stated in their 2018 report “A much more effective method is to use an ultrasonic device, which is designed for this purpose and can pinpoint the area which is leaking, and if the compression of the gasket is sufficient. The advantages of using this type of equipment are evident, since ultrasonic tests can be carried out during any stage of the loading without risking cargo damage. The test can also be completed in sub-zero temperatures. The ultrasonic test should be carried out as per the class requirements.” 

 Ultrasonic testing is a dramatically more sensitive, accurate and reliable method for testing cargo hatch covers, bulkheads and doors for watertight integrity on all vessels. A multi-directional ultrasound emitter is placed in a hold. The opening being tested is then sealed and the receiver switched on ready to receive any leakage of ultrasound via a set of headphones. An increased reading of ultrasound signal signifies an issue with the integrity of the door/hatch. Further, and closer inspection will allow identification of any specific leakage sight along with the severity. This test will take approximately 10 minutes and requires only one operator. watertight compartment doors testing

AMTRAK Protect Their Passengers with Coltraco Ultrasonics

The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, AMTRAK, chose to protect their trains against the risk of fire with Coltraco Ultrasonics industry leading Portalevel® MAX.

Serving more than 500 destinations, in 46 American States and 3 Canadian provinces, operating over 300 trains daily, AMTRAK needed to ensure that their trains are operational at all times. A fire event proposes a serious threat to the safety of the passenger, staff, and to the operational success of AMTRAK.

AMTRAK used FE-13™ fire suppression cylinders to protect their high speed rail against fire. However, AMTRAK are aware that fire suppression systems leak and knew they had to counter this problem, so that they could comply with regulations and protect their passengers, staff and trains.

It is important to note that such fire extinguishing systems require maintenance to ensure they are fully operational and ready in event of a fire. ISO 14520-1:2015(E) assumes that these systems accidentally discharge and leak. 6.2.4.2 Contents indication: “Means shall be provided to indicate that each container is correctly charged.” Followed by “9.2.1.3 The storage container contents shall be checked at least every six months as follows. a) Liquefied gases: for halocarbon agents, if a container shows a loss of agent in quantity of more than 5 % or a loss of pressure (adjusted for temperature) of more than 10 %, it shall be refilled or replaced.”

To counter this issue, as AMTRAK are dedicated to their passenger’s safety, they purchased the Portalevel® MAX. This handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator can service a cylinder in 30 seconds (in contrast to 15 minutes by traditional manual weighing) with accuracy of up to 1.5mm off the true liquid level.

Using the Portalevel® MAX to service the cylinders, Manager of Technical Training & Development at AMTRAK was able to identify a leaking cylinder:

“We had one isolated incident where one FE-13™ cylinder was found empty during the central block overhaul; that bottle had been tested using the Portalevel® MAX instrument, a few months earlier, and – then – the suppressant agent level within the cylinder was found within limits. That cylinder was sent to the company that handles the refilling for us (a contractor), for investigation. Apparently, a leak developed, and the agent escaped the cylinder.”

Discover more about Coltraco Ultrasonics’ commitment to customer care and safety on www.coltraco.com.

What is the Safeship® intiative?

Coltraco Ultrasonics implemented the Safeship® initiative, to promote protecting critical infrastructure at sea. The two main causes of vessel loss are sinking and fire. A lack of proper servicing of watertight and weathertight seals can lead to deterioration which can endanger the ship, cargo and lives of the crew through flooding and the potential of capsizing. Secondly, bad industry practice is unacceptable when fire risk may have catastrophic results due to risk to life, downtime in operation due to ship safety and repair work and incalculable reputational damage. The crew, cargo and vessel must be protected when at sea because it is it’s own fire brigade without accessibility to typical emergency services.

As a result, Coltraco designed the FLEETSAFE™: a package of innovative safety tools to combat the above and comply with regulations

With this package the hatch-covers, doors, MCTs, compartments, pipework, hulls, bulkheads, rotating machinery, pumps, sprinkler systems and gaseous extinguishing installations are protected. The package is based on integrity, from design, through to life-time support, and is accurate, reliable and easy to use for any crew members.

To promote the Safeship® Coltraco Ultrasonics have been raising safety awareness and gaining recognition by winning and being nominated for several awards. In 2017 Coltraco won the Seatrade Cruise Award for Supplier of the Year and was nominated for the IHS Markit Safety at Sea Award 2017. Coltraco were also invited to speak at 16 conferences in 2017 to raise safety awareness and to educate, including at the International Maritime Organization, Royal Institution of Naval Architects Smart Ships Conference, IMPA London, Marine Maintenance World Expo and Pacific Sydney. Coltraco Ultrasonics speak at these events to raise their goal of holistic ship safety, in the form of the Safeship®.

The Safeship® initiative has also achieved recognition through engagement in association work such as the Society of Maritime Industries, at the House of Commons in Parliament, Maritime London and the International Maritime Industries Forum seminars and the UK Chamber of Shipping’s Safety Culture Working Group.

Through initiating the Safeship® Coltraco have contributed to safety at sea by building the FLEETSAFE™ capability that can be used easily and safely by the crew and in routine maintenance of the vessel Safety Management System (SMS). This can be in-between the statutory annual maintenance and certification intervals provided by shore-based contractors.

The initiative will continue to work over the longer term by ensuring regulations are implemented and encouraging operators, owners and managers to go above and beyond to secure the Safeship® through minimising risk. Coltraco Ultrasonics focus on benefitting the crew; designing innovative ultrasonic solutions which promote safety culture, which the crew will be happy to use by being easy to operate, quick, accurate and a better method to traditional techniques. This can be in-between the statutory annual maintenance and certification intervals provided by shore-based contractors. Thus, increasing the likelihood of tests being regularly conducted, in line with regulations and even going above and beyond for more frequent testing. By so doing, the crew will be creating a safer ship

What is one of the core challenges in the coal mining industry? Saving people, assets and infrastructure from fire.

In the coal industry, there are continual challenges that owners and operators face in ensuring consistent plant safety.

Some of the key challenges presented to the staff are fire prevention and control, corrosion in pipework and structures, and ensuring that vital power sources such as transformers are always operational.

The case studies below exemplify the challenges in the mining industry and how these can be overcome.

Fire & Explosion:

WHO? NRG Energy

WHERE? The Morgan Town Plant is a coal powered power station based in Maryland. NRG own the USA’s largest and more diverse power generation competitive portfolio. NRG are dedicated to smart and reliable energy sourcing, and emission reductions although coal is a significant part of the electricity generation.

WHAT? Fires and explosions pose a constant threat to the safety of miners and to the productive capacity of mines. Mine fires and explosions traditionally have ranked among the most devastating industrial disasters. The prevention and control of fire and explosion in mines is fundamental. On a mine site, fire hazards may occur in and around process plants, underground conveyors, static and mobile plants, draglines, workshops, substations, monitored control rooms and switch rooms. All mines have highly expensive and mission critical equipment that typically operate day and night under extremely hostile conditions, in vast, remote and difficult to access environments, especially on underground equipment.

Gaseous fire suppression systems are the preferred systems installed to protect the high value asset and safeguard operators and processes so as to guarantee business continuity.

WHY? Gaseous extinguishing systems are pressurised, and therefore exist in a dynamic state i.e. they can leak. As supported by the BS EN ISO 14520 regulation, if clean agent cylinders leak beyond 5% of contents or 10% of pressure they will not extinguish a fire, as they will be below their design concentration.  As the “golden standard” of clean agent systems,  BS EN ISO 14520 highlights the asset owner’s responsibility to check that the clean agents contents exist; that the protected space can be sealed; that the pipework used to discharge the clean agents are clear of particulates that can clog up the nozzles which reduces the amount of clean agent to the point where it cannot operate in the event of a fire.

HOW? After witnessing fire service experts undertaking ultrasonic liquid level indication in just minutes, NRG Energy were keen to change from their previous method of weighing which took over 15 minutes. The Portalevel® Max is an example of the technologically advanced techniques that the company are implementing to lead the way in safe and sustainable coal sourcing.  Portalevel® MAX is a handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator to inspect CO2, clean agents and more liquefied gaseous agents, by one person in just 30 seconds  As a safety critical asset, the Morgan Town Plant saw the necessity in investing into their fire safety.

CASE STUDY 2: Corrosion in Metal Work

WHO? Vales Point Power Station

WHERE? Delta, Australia. The coal fired power station is at the southern end of lake Macquarie. This power station was built in the 1960’s as a four-unit station, but now operates two 660 MW generating units. The power station is owned and operated by Power International, with the capacity of around 1,320 megawatts, providing 24 hours of around the clock electricity.

WHAT? Corrosion in power plants leads to costly repairs, prolonged maintenance, material losses, poor performance and, if left untreated, failure. In power plants, corrosion is the primary factor leading to costly and critical downtimes. When corrosion affects systems carrying steam or hot water—such as pipes—material or welds may fail, causing bodily injury or death. Water, steel and dissolved oxygen within boiler units causes boiler tubes to oxidize and corrode. The corrosion forms grooves within the tubes that lead to cracks and boiler failures. Corrosion can account for up to 75 percent of a plant’s arrest time during maintenance and up to 54 percent of production costs.

HOW? To protect against the threat of corrosion, Vales Point Power Station bought a Portagauge® for testing normal structure and stainless steel, so that they could monitor corrosion rates. The Portagauge® 3 is a single-echo portable ultrasonic thickness gauge. The quick, simple and hardy Portagauge® 3 allows accuracy of ±0.1mm even on corroded, challenging and some plastic surfaces. With a 50 hour battery life, measuring thickness ranges between 1.5mm to 99.9mm and a variety of verified testing materials such as steel, quartz and glass PVC, the Portagauge® 3 provides the great amount versatility needed to suit a diversity of safety needs. The handheld highly dependable unit is ideal for a wide range of industrial applications such as fire cylinders, bulk heads, pipework, chemical equipment and oil storage tanks.

Save lives! How & why to improve water mist maintenance.

Despite the difficulty that shipping businesses are subjected to, fire safety standards on board cannot begin to slip. Fires on board ships can be devastating, to crew, vessel and cargo. There is a call to respond to regulations with a rigorous attitude, to go above and beyond, to provide security of life and infrastructure. Water mist fire suppression systems must be maintained so that they can provide the protection that they are intended for: protecting lives, assets and vessels whilst at sea.

Assessed by FM Global, one of the main causes of failure to water mist systems derives from human error, commonly the water tank being empty. If there is a lack of water supply, the system will be dysfunctional when required, such as failing to extinguish the fire and thus,resulting a significant risk in safety and high-asset applications. Organisations such as the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) have called for the correct installation and maintenance of Water Mist systems. 

For a system that fully relies on the supply of pressurized water, if there is no availability of this source of water, there is no possibility of fire depletion exemplified by the MCA: “effective fire-fighting can only be achieved when the water mist is released promptly on demand.” This is demanded by the IMO regulations MSC.1/Circ 1432, Ch 5.4: “Verify that sprinkler pressure tanks or other means have correct levels of water”. Further to the NFPA 750 regulations state that “Water Storage Vessels must be equipped with a means of checking the level of water inside during a weekly or monthly inspection. Some high-pressure storage cylinders do not have a means to confirm water levels. If such cylinders are present in a system, extra measures should be implemented.” There is an industry wide recognition that these cylinders need monitoring for the safety of the crew and vessel. Ultrasonics is an innovative technology to answer this call.

To ensure that Water Mist systems are fully operational in the event of a fire, and to avoid the serious risk of empty cylinders, the liquid level indicator of the cylinders should be checked non-invasively using ultrasound. One of the sciences being harnessed by innovators in the fire safety sector is that of Ultrasound: i.e. acoustic (sound) energy in the form of waves of high frequency that are above the human audible range. By utilising a sensor which acts as a transceiver, an ultrasonic measuring device is capable of detecting liquid levels within any single-skinned container through transmitting an ultrasonic pulse and analysing the strength of the returned signal to determine the level of contents. As sound behaves differently in air and liquid, so will the strength of the returned signal be different in the liquid allowing us to identify the level of contents accurately.

Better maintenance of water mist fire suppression systems will save lives. Innovative ultrasonic technology enables the crew to be in full compliance of the regulations at all time, delivering a Safeship to protect the lives of crew/passengers/cargo and vessel, quicker, better and more effectively than other traditional methods.

Why don’t gaseous systems always extinguish the fire?

To extinguish a fire, ships need:

  • the correct amount of gas in the fire suppression system cylinders to extinguish the fire
  • compartmentation integrity to starve the fire of oxygen
  • pipework integrity to ensure the gas discharges correctly

To ensure vessels sail safely these points must be implemented, meaning:

  • the crew must have the means to test the cylinder content themselves ie. liquid level indicator, as the crew is not qualified to traditionally weigh
  • there is a need to educate the crew about fire engineering to protect against risk of CO2 actuation in manned areas and to ensure compartmentation etc
  •  

As stated in IMO SOLAS FSS Ch5. 2.1.1.3: “Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the container”. Often this is misunderstood, this code specifically states that the crew must test their extinguishing installations in between the periodic inspection, maintenance and certification. Only having the annual inspection by accredited marine servicing companies is not enough – the crew must take responsibility for their own fire protection.  However, what must be noted is that the crew are often not trained or certified to shut-down, dismantle, weigh and re-install the gaseous cylinders. To overcome this, ships need to test their CO2 systems for contents in-between the annual certification checks by marine servicing companies. Using an ultrasonic liquid level indicator is the only way that the crew can safely test their CO2 without disturbing them. Coltraco Ultrasonics designed the Portalevel® handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicators, because radioactive units were being phased out. If shipping companies implemented the IMO SOLAS FSS codes by testing safely and quickly (just 30-60 seconds per cylinder) by using liquid level indicators and marine servicing companies were able to do their work without allowing for time pressures, then marine safety would be far safer.

  • Examples of accidents where CO2 discharge failed

There are numerous example of fire at sea, with just a few included below. In each of these examples, the actuation of the CO2 system failed to control the fires on the vessels, some with devastating results. If gaseous extinguishing systems were at their full concentration at all times, then in the event of a fire, they should be able to extinguish the fire. However, as demonstrated below, they were not able to. Why is this?
In every fire marine accident report they nearly always say the CO2 discharged on actuation. If it did the fire should have been extinguished. The only reasons that it did not must be that:

  • The system did not exceed the design concentration:
  • Either because insufficient CO2 was installed;
  • Or that the compartment doors/hatches were left open so no compartment integrity was achieved to starve the fire of oxygen;
  • Or that the CO2 leaked or discharged.

 (a) MSC Flaminia, 2012

In July 2012, the container ship was exposed to an uncontrollable fire which tragically lead to three fatalities and two severely injured crew members, as well as dire damage to the ship structure and its cargo. In this example, the actuation of the CO2 system failed when it actuated without instruction in the engine room, although the discharge was intended for cargo hold 4, which turned off the auxiliary boiler and auxiliary fan for the main engine. This led to an out of control fire which required three salvage tugs to deal with the effects of the explosions and fire. However, the extent of the fire meant that the salvage teams could not enter the vessel for 4 days. Cargo areas 3-7 in the ship were significantly damaged and the ships structure was weakened, requiring replacement. Under the pressures, the hatch covers lost their integrity and bulkheads were severely damaged which led to water ingress in all the cargo. The ruling from this event has stated that $280 million of liability will be shared as a result of the incident .

(b) Barzan, 2015

On September 2015, a fire was detected inside one of the cargo holds of Barzan, a Maltese registered container ship. The fixed CO2 system was used but due to a number of leaks in the CO2 line, the required amount of gas did not reach the cargo hold to be effective to smother the fire. The starboard fire main line then developed a large leak at a joint in the under deck passage way and had to be isolated. This restricted the fire-fighting efforts to only the port side, and rendered the starboard side water drenching system unusable. The safety investigation concluded that although the CO2 system and fire mains had been tested satisfactorily prior to the vessel’s delivery in May 2015, the quality of the workmanship had contributed to the subsequent failure of both systems .

(c) CCNI Arauco, 2016

A major fire broke out in an after hold of the container ship CCNI Arauco at Hamburg’s Burchardkai terminal in September 2016. A fire department spokesman said that over 100 emergency services personnel, four fire engines and two fire boats were on site to fight the blaze on the day of the incident. Early efforts focused on cooling the hull to prevent structural damage. An initial attempt to smother the fire with CO2 was not effective, and firefighting operations continued through night. The depth of the fire’s location within the hold added complexity to the response. Repeated CO2 discharges from the ship's own fixed firefighting system were not sufficient to halt the blaze in the Arauco's hold, and a major shore-based intervention was required instead . 

The risks of the “ungoverned space” & how to mitigate

Coltraco Ultrasonics is aware of that there is failure to fully implement the regulations. Coltraco supply Marine Servicing companies globally share anecdotes - that at any one time the average merchant vessel in non-UK port visits has over 20% of its CO2 cylinders empty on inspection plus another 10-20% which have contents loss and also know that occasionally marine “servicing companies” unintentionally leave it disabled.

This is a result of the time pressures that are placed upon marine servicing companies. It is well known that vessels are kept at the dock for a minimum amount of time, which reduces time for repairs and thus efficiency without compromise of safety is key. Most marine servicing companies only have 4 hours on a vessel in a port to test up to 600 cylinders. It is known that it takes 15 minutes for a 2 person team to shutdown, dismantle and weigh a single CO2 cylinder, which is equal to 16 cylinders in 4 hours. Yet despite this, every CO2 cylinder on the vessel receives a “tested and certified sticker” and the CO2 & marine CO2 systems is certified and a certificate is issued.

This is the “ungoverned space” in the shipping industry in marine fire protection. Those in the shipping industry do understand that they must hydrostatically test its CO2 cylinders every 10 years (sometimes 5).  Many just do not unless the marine servicing companies demand it – which they often can because the regulation for it exists. However, it is not the hydrostatic testing that matters. The number of cylinders that fail that test is very low, unless they are heavily corroded which the monthly crew inspection under IMO SOLAS FSS Code Ch 5 should have spotted years before it became in such a condition.

Fire System Designers routinely apply an excess of 20% to the design concentration required in the CO2 system to account for safe limits in the space being protected, which has merit in a new system. This is only has meaning when the space is fully compartmented and sealed fully, which a new vessel probably is.

Figure 1: Room Integrity Explained by the Standard P&I Club

However, the excess of 20% does not account for an ageing ship and an ageing fire system, coupled with the weaker compartmentation capability as seals degrade. The fire system itself will degrade at the same pace as the vessel, but with the obvious exception that an older fire system rarely tests itself fully and therefore when it actuates, it has to cope with a one off “burst” of pressure at the time of the fire event.

This risk is amplified by the misunderstanding of the technical operator of the vessels and ships’ officers and crew.  The technical operators understand what the CO2 & marine CO2 systems is designed to achieve but does not understand its physical properties sufficiently enough to maintain it at sea, in between the statutory certification check or able to spot the signs of its future failure before it may be required to attack the fire.

Any vessel with a Marine Gaseous Extinguishing system needs to consider 3 factors :

  • Unless compartmentation exists the gas will not be able to concentrate
  • Unless the contents exists in sufficient quantity design concentration will not occur
  • The pipework and flanges must be tested to be free of corrosion-generated particulates which block the nozzles and must be tested to be able to withstand the shock of gas discharge on actuation

Conduct Your Risk Assessments: CO2 Systems Leak

Confirmed by ABS & Italian Coastguard

Gaseous Systems Leak: confirmed in recent communications from American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) and the Italian Coastguard.

In July 2018, the ABS released advice that there have been multiple cases  reported in which CO2 cylinders in fixed fire systems have been found empty. Because of this, ABS have recommended that all shipowners need to conduct a risk assessment of their CO2 systems.

As per the Ministero delle Infrastrutture e dei Trasporti, The Italian Coastguard in a communication to its members: “In consideration of the need to ensure the continuous functionality of the aforementioned fixed fire protection system and to prevent an unexpected release of CO2 & marine CO2 systems into the work environment, it is established that - as of the date of receipt of this Circular - these companies perform, for the units managed with the aforementioned plant, a specific and documented risk assessment, aimed at outlining any necessary measures to protect workers' health and safety.” (translated from Italian).

Why do they leak?

A ship’s gaseous extinguishing system typically comprises between 200 and 600 cylinders each containing 45KG of CO2 under high 720 psi/ 49 bar pressure.

Because gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurised, the risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use and this is shown in the regulations that demand their upkeep.

IMO SOLAS & FSS Code Chapter 2.1.1.3 - “Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the containers.”

Some marine service companies estimate that 20% of a ship’s CO2 cylinders have discharged or partially leaked their contents at some point in their lifetime also know that occasionally marine “servicing companies” unintentionally leave it disabled.

What is the solution?

Using an ultrasonic liquid level indicator is the only way that the crew can safely test their CO2 without disturbing them. Coltraco Ultrasonics designed the ABS Type Approved Portalevel® MAX Marine & Portamarine® ultrasonic liquid level indicators, as radioactive units were being phased out. The Portalevel® MAX MARINE allows crew to implement IMO SOLAS FSS codes by testing safely and quickly (just 30-60 seconds per cylinder).

The Portalevel® MAX Marine allows the crew to be in charge of checking the CO2 systems, as many times as needed: ensuring that the systems will be working when they are needed.

  • ABS Type Approved Portalevel® MAX Marine is designed primarily for the vessels’ crew to inspect large fire suppression systems of up to 600 cylinders.
  • The ease of operation in comparison to weighing, increases the ability of more regular and frequent checks, improving fire safety management onboard.
  • Coltraco’s innovative method of inspecting leaking cylinders with ultrasonics, enables identification in under 30 seconds using Portalevel® with one person, instead of the traditional 15 minutes, with two people laboriously weighing.

Combined with the MAX Marine, The Portasteele® Calculator is an advanced  application, that converts the liquid level height of C02, NOVEC™ 1230 and FM-200® liquefied gaseous extinguishant agent readings taken on a Portalevel® device into the agent weight/mass.  The Portasteele® CALCULATOR can convert an expected agent weight back to the required liquid level allowing users to anticipate where the level should be.

As advised by ABS and Italian Coastguard, it’s time to conduct your risk assessment and start maintaining your CO2 systems. Choose the quickest, easiest and effective way to maintain your CO2 systems: The Portalevel® MAX Marine and Portasteele® CALCULATOR.

Monitor Your Highly Corrosive Scrubber Systems With Ultrasonic Technology

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulated that ships must cut their sulphur oxide emissions by 2020. As a result of this, shipping companies have turned to scrubber systems, which reduce the amount of sulphur emitted from burning fuels. Scrubber systems allow a ship to continue using cheaper bunker fuel than low sulphur fuel which reduces the switching cost to an entirely new fuel system. The sulphur in exhaust gas is neutralised in the scrubber tower by the absorbent used such as sea water and passed out from the discharge pipe.

Unfortunately, scrubber systems come with their own issues. The piping in the scrubber system is very prone to corrosion, particularly in the discharge valve. This is due to the elevated temperatures of the exhaust gas scrubber discharge which creates a very corrosive environment. The risk is that a reduction in wall thickness would mean that corrosion is present.

Therefore, DNV GL has introduced a requirement whereby piping in scrubber systems should be annually checked for their thickness.

As stated in 2017 by DNV GL: “Newer SOx scrubber systems often are equipped with diffusers inside the distance piece. These diffusers themselves are vulnerable to corrosion attacks, but more important, their fixation to the distance piece, either welded or bolted, often forms a weak spot in the corrosion protection of the distance piece. For the safety of the crew and the vessel, we believe it is necessary that the condition of the distance piece be confirmed on a yearly basis.”

DNV, GL - Survey requirements for fleet in service Part 7, Chapter 1, Section 2, 3.1.9:“The wall thickness of distance piece(s) for SOx scrubber system discharge valve(s) shall be verified to be undiminished.”

The recommended solution is UTM (ultrasonic thickness measurement). Ultrasonics is the simple and effective solution for testing for corrosion, required by DNV GL. Coltraco Ultrasonics are proud industry experts in ultrasonic technology. Coltraco manufacture two industry leading ultrasonic thickness gauges, ideal for the regular testing of scrubber systems.

Portagauge® 3 is a low cost single-echo portable thickness gauge. The quick, simple and hardy Portagauge® 3 allows accuracy of ±0.1mm even on corroded, challenging and some plastic surfaces. With a 50 hour battery life, measuring thickness ranges between 1.5mm to 99.9mm and a variety of verified testing materials such as steel, quartz and glass PVC, the Portagauge® 3 provides the versatility  to suit a range of safety needs. This easy to use ,highly dependable handheld unit is ideal for scrubber systems.

For more advanced requirements - identifying the metal only thickness - Coltraco Ultrasonics also have the Portagauge® 4 which is an advanced thickness gauge. Offering unparalleled accuracy, the Portagauge® 4 uses triple echo technology which allows operators to inspect the underlying metal thickness, independent of any surface coatings such as paint. For applications where true metal readings and a higher degree of accuracy is required, the Portagauge® 4 is the ideal solution. With a variety of sensor options available and underwater variants, this range of units can easily be adapted to a variety of different roles and requirements.

Discover more about Coltraco Ultrasonics’ commitment to customer care and safety on www.coltraco.com.

Leading British Ultrasonics Technology Manufacturer

Coltraco Ultrasonics are a leading British Ultrasonics Technology Manufacturer.

Coltraco Ultrasonics strive towards creating innovative, reliable and effective technology to provide a level of safety that goes beyond minimal compliance of regulations for true safety – this is the Safeship® initiative at sea, and Safesite® initiative on land. This is supported by lifetime after sales customer care. Coltraco Ultrasonics are proud exporters, with 89% of export output going to 109 countries: 40% to Asia, 10% to the Middle East, 15% to Europe, 17% to North America and the balance to South America and Africa. At Coltraco’s core is exporting and is a consequence of the global appeal of its high-end science and technology R&D and manufacturing capability in the UK.

Coltraco Ultrasonics operate in multiple market sectors: Shipping, Fire, Naval, Offshore, Power Generation, Electricity Distribution, Data Centres, Banks, Telecommunications, Marine Surveying, Rail, Mining, Pharmaceuticals and Food Processing and most recently in Renewable Wind Energy. Today, Coltraco are aboard 17% of the world’s shipping fleet (nearly 10,000 ships), the top 15 Navies and sell to 50% of the world’s offshore oil and gas companies, and in the last year, in service with one of the major 4 wind companies.

Coltraco Ultrasonic’s expertise is focused upon 3 core technology strands which are “cheaper, faster and better” and their support:

  1. Liquid level indication: Specifically inspecting fire extinguishing systemsprimarily pressurised liquefied gaseous ones as well as sprinklers, by a flagship UL and ABS approved Portalevel®MAX range of products and our unique fixed monitoring system, Permalevel® and a whole range of other industrial liquids in cylinders and tanks.
  2. Seal integrity: Watertight integrity of marine structures such as hatch covers tester, multiple cable transit areas, operational citadels and watertight compartment doors with ABS Type-approved Portascanner®Watertight and compartmentation testing in buildings and civil engineering structures to supplement Door Fan Testing with Portascanner® 520.
  3. Condition monitoring: Through bearing monitoring, thickness gauging and flow monitoring.
  4. After Sales: Support for the lifetime of customer equipment, recommended annual calibration at our authorised Organisational Delegated Authorities (ODA) service centres and optional Portacare® total care programme.

Test Your CO2 Safely

As stated in IMO SOLAS FSS Ch5. 2.1.1.3: “Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the container”

Often this is misunderstood, this code specifically states that the crew must test their extinguishing installations in between the periodic inspection, maintenance and certification. Only having the annual inspection by accredited marine servicing companies is not enough – the crew must take responsibility for its own fire protection.  However, what must be noted is that the crew are often not trained or certified to shut-down, dismantle, weigh and re-install the gaseous cylinders. To overcome this, ships need to test their CO2 systems for contents in-between the annual certification checks by marine servicing companies.

Using an ultrasonic liquid level indicator is the only way that the crew can safely test their CO2 without disturbing them. Coltraco Ultrasonics designed the Portalevel® MAX Marine & Portamarine® ultrasonic liquid level indicators, as radioactive units were being phased out. If shipping companies implemented the IMO SOLAS FSS codes by testing safely and quickly (just 30-60 seconds per cylinder) by using liquid level indicators and marine servicing companies were able to do their work without allowing for time pressures, then marine safety would be far safer.

Solutions for any vessels marine gaseous extinguishing system exist:

  • Portalevel® MAX Marine liquid level indicators used by the crew weekly to test for contents
  • Portascanner® WATERTIGHT, watertight integrity test indicators used by the crew to test for compartmentation
  • Portapipe® pipework integrity indicators used to test for pipework obstructions and the Portagauge® thickness gauges for pipework corrosion
  • Compressed air testing of the pipework and flanges to test the pipework system’s ability to withstand the pressures of the gas on actuation (and this is the only test which recommended to be solely the responsibility of a  “responsible” shore-based contractor)

Ultrasonic Liquid Level Indicator Guarantees High Maintenance of Fire Extinguishing System

Tragedies gone up against by the ship proprietors are never off the news channels. There's an overabundance of going on a ship constantly that something will without a doubt occur sooner or later. Additionally, a ship or a ship's section going up ablaze is as of late ordinary news now. However, it isn't essential for the ship proprietor since he needs to stand up to a huge amount of burdens. There's an impressive proportion of illumination to do at the police home office, answer the ungraceful request of the prosperity experts and to worry over the setbacks. For sure, even the protection organization attempts to avoid paying up for the setbacks and fights to find all possible ways to deal with reject a portion. In addition, if all odds are against the ship proprietor, he is foreordained indeed.

Confirmation against fire is a basic thing. It is the essential thing each ship proprietor should start worrying throughout the moment he gets one. If the ship is a payload transport send, it is definitely not hard to expect that in the end there will be flares on board and they ought to be overseen in their most dependable stages to maintain a strategic distance from the mind-boggling disasters that could run even the best association to request of for liquidation. You can't rely upon your staff to deal with the issue without letting any damage to occur. The moment they will come to think about it the flares will be presently excessively fit, making it impossible to manage.

Your staff isn't checking the water crafts each and every piece without stopping for even a minute. There are times when no one is around except for the security ensure which is simply or two. He can't deal with the flares free from any other individual and it is also possible that he may get captured in the blasts and would be unprotected. The NOVEC 1230 gas suppression system would be his life gatekeeper blessed messenger in such a period when his life would be being referred to and the association's regard would in like manner be being referred to. The gas would act quickly and bring the condition under control saving fundamentally something other than dollars.

To discover a feeling of satisfaction, you'll need to name someone to screen the gas barrels in any occasion once reliably with the ultrasonic liquid level indicator. This would enable you to be prepared about the weight inside the barrels and you will be calm understanding that there is a considerable measure of gas to kill even the best fire. In case that individual prompts you around a change in the weight, in all probability a dive, have the barrels supplanted or refilled rapidly.

Know Your Numbers: Mathematics of Gaseous Extinguishing Systems

By starting with the numbers and mathematics of gaseous extinguishing systems, Coltraco are leading the way in the fire industry.

31˚C - CO2’s critical point: the temperature at which CO2 turns totally from liquid to gas.

CO2 is permanently under 720 psi or 49 bar of pressure ie nearly 50 times atmospheric pressure (by comparison a cup of water at sea level exists at 1 bar or 14.5 psi). Its state changes under increased temperatures to one that is neither a liquid nor a gas.

50-55˚C   -  critical points of FM-200® and Novec™1230 (turning from liquid to gas).

Gases under pressure are often effectively considered by the industry as single and passive cylinder columns of solid material from the perspective of their monitoring following installation. Whereas being under pressure and constantly changing under temperature they should be considered as active and dynamic systems requiring constant monitoring. These are not passive systems therefore; they are dynamic ones, and all dynamic systems under pressure need constant monitoring.

14520 - the ISO standard regarding fire systems from installation with regard to room integrity through to maintenance and inspection of contents

ISO 14520-1:2015(E) specifically states in 6.2.4.2 Contents Indication that - Means shall be provided to indicate that each container is correctly charged and in 9.2.1.1 At least annually, or more frequently as required by the authority, all systems shall be thoroughly inspected and tested for proper operation by competent personnel. Under ISO 14520 where gaseous extinguishing systems have to be designed in relation to the discharging agent hold-time (if the room cannot hold the agent because of leaks the agent will disperse and not extinguish the fire) and discharging agent peak pressure (if the pressure is too high for partition walls or suspended ceilings they will be blown apart or damaged and possibly destroying the room integrity). At the design stage of a fire extinguishing system rooms are tested for room integrity by positively pressurising a room and detecting escaping pressure to verify that the room itself into which the gaseous extinguishant discharges on actuation can both hold the agent after its discharge and hold its pressure on actuation. The fire system is then installed and commissioned. However,  over the next 10 years no further tests are made on room integrity and the cylinders merely hydrostatically tested to ensure they can cope with their design pressure limits. How can one be sure therefore that on actuation the room will hold the discharged agent to extinguish the fire and its partitions and ceilings are capable of withstanding the pressure of the agent on discharge?

5% - loss of agent above which it is deemed unacceptable in liquefied gaseous extinguishing system and thus requires refilling. 10% - loss of pressure above which it is deemed unacceptable in liquefied gaseous extinguishing systems and thus requires refilling

The risks of accidental discharge or leakage is recognised within the regulations.  BS EN ISO 14520 -1:2015(E) reasonably assumes that the execution of its provisions is entrusted to people qualified and experienced in the specification, design, installation, commissioning, testing, approval, inspection, operation and maintenance of systems and equipment, and who can be expected to exercise a duty of care to avoid unnecessary release of extinguishant. The assumptions in the installation, commissioning and maintenance of gaseous extinguishing systems is that they are highly pressurised but risk leaking and discharging. The regulations that sensibly underpin this assumption aim to identify their leak identification at an interval of every 6 months. Cylinders accidentally discharge. CO2 can cause fatalities if it does. 1% of pressure gauges fail and 25% of valves too. Essentially, it is known in regulations that the gaseous systems leak and need to be maintained. Given that the ultrasonic gaseous systems are designed specifically to the individual need of that room, building e.t.c, then a 5% loss of agent may mean that they would not fully extinguish the fire. What if there are also leak sites in the room? The likelihood of the gaseous system effectively extinguishing the fire gets lower and lower.

Oxygen Reduction System in a Data Centre

WHERE? Oxygen Reduction System, England

WHAT? A data centre is a facility that stores, manages and disseminates data.  Data centres are now supporting a variety of heavy industries such as mines.

WHY? Oxygen Reduction system works by taking Nitrogen from the air outdoors and pumping this into the room consistently in order to suppress oxygen levels, down to the level where combustion can no longer occur. To ensure the system works safely and efficiently, room integrity is of utmost important for two reasons: (1) A properly sealed room will contain the Nitrogen for a longer period of time, therefore putting less work on the air compressor in order to save energy. (2) If Nitrogen starts to leak from the Server Room, there are safety concerns over where this Nitrogen would leak to as it has the potential to harm occupants in other rooms if the Nitrogen leaks into their room and the oxygen levels were unmonitored.

HOW? Several areas were tested with an ultrasonic room integrity tester where leakage was probable and the readings were noted on the drawings. These were the doors, vents, cable penetrations and also sections of the wall where gaps were visible. The ultrasonic room integrity tester identified the main source of leaks for the room, the doors, where full readings were clearly detected. Multiple air vents in the room were also improperly sealed and some leakage was found into the external room. Cable penetrations leading to the area outside the Server Room were also found to be leaking. Once the required maintenance was conducted and assuming no changes were made to the room, it is safe to assume that the room retains its integrity, thus comply and exceed current ISO 14520 regulations requiring periodic inspections of room integrity whereby visual inspection is usually specified and is not sufficient.

WHAT? The most suitable way to address periodic inspections is through the use of ultrasound. The Portascanner® 520 uses ultrasonic technology to not only pinpoint precise leak locations, but to determine their leak apertures as small as 0.06mm with a tolerance of +/-0.02mm, making it by far the most accurate device for this function. Portascanner® 520 also provides interpretation of the fire resistance of the desired locations, labelling them either airtight or calculates the overall leakage of the room. The advantages of being able to accurately detect the exact leak locations and size are self-evident when considered alongside the resistance to collapse and transfer of excessive heat. In a case where there is too much leakage in a room, the Portascanner® 520 is an unrivalled ideal for the rapid and accurate identification of these sites so that they can be sealed. It is lightweight, fast and easy to use, allowing leak site detection to increase its operational efficiency and speed to a degree that has never been seen thus far in the Fire Industry.

Case Studies: Ultrasonics in the Mining Industry

The importance of ultrasonic technology to the mining industry has been demonstrated by its use thus far. NRG Energy have been using the Portalevel Max since 2015 at the Morgan Town Generation Plant in Morgantown, Charles County in Maryland, US. The Morgan Town Plant is a coal powered power station based in Maryland. NRG own the USA’s largest and more diverse power generation competitive portfolio. NRG are dedicated to smart and reliable energy sourcing, and emission reductions although coal is a significant part of the electricity generation. The Portalevel Max is an example of the technologically advanced techniques that the company are implementing to lead the way in safe and sustainable coal sourcing.   After witnessing fire service experts undertaking ultrasonic liquid level indication in just minutes, they were keen to change from their previous method of weighing. As a safety critical asset, the Morgan Town Plant saw the necessity in investing into their fire safety. This was the same as at the Vales Point Power Station at Delta, Australia.  The power station is at the southern end of lake Macquarie. This power station was built in the 1960’s as a four-unit station, but now operates two 660 MW generating units. The Power Station is owned and operated by Power International, with the capacity of around 1,320 megawatts, providing 24 hours electricity. In 2013 they bought a Portaguage for testing normal structure and stainless steel.

The Call For Continuous Monitoring Can No Longer Wait

Continuous monitoring is no longer an option; it is essential for the protection against special hazards in critical infrastructure. Clean agents are designed to operate in limited spaces where there is a need for speed of suppression given the asset risk and where the space is occupied by people. They deliver the infrastructural resilience our advanced society requires. The assumptions in the installation, commissioning and maintenance of gaseous extinguishing systems is that they are highly pressurised but risk leaking and discharging. ISO 14520 specifically guides our industry as to these risks; In 9.2.1.3 The storage container contents shall be checked at least every six months as follows. : a) Liquefied gases: for halocarbon agents, if a container shows a loss of agent in quantity of more than 5 % or a loss of pressure (adjusted for temperature) of more than 10 %, it shall be refilled or replaced. b) Non-liquefied gases: for inert gas agents, pressure is an indication of agent quantity. If a container shows a loss of agent quantity or a loss of pressure (adjusted for temperature) of more than 5 %, it shall be refilled or replaced. Therefore, at a standards level it is known that gaseous systems can become ineffective through accidental discharge and leakage and thus they do not serve to protect the critical infrastructure in such a case. To know the contents, you need to monitor it, and checking it every 6 months is not monitoring it.

 Should we not just constantly monitor all of them and be in full compliance to the regulations and the risks that are so clearly described in our own core standards? If it is known and accepted that these are dynamic systems that are prone to leaking, but they are expected to deliver resilience and protection, then why are they left unattended for 6 months of the year? We would not do the same to an alarm system without monitoring it 24/7, so why are we not monitoring gaseous extinguishing systems? Let us apply 21st century science to a 100 year old issue and be done with it. A dynamic system needs monitoring. The neglect of continuous monitoring of the fundamental protection provided by the gaseous extinguishing systems is to the peril of the lives of occupants of the premises and at the risk of crippling financial loss to the facility comprising the critical infrastructure. To ensure that dynamic gaseous systems are protecting critical infrastructure in a safe and diligent manner, 6 monthly monitoring and maintenance is no longer enough. There is a call for continuous monitoring and this is something that cannot wait any more.

ACT NOW: Nuclear Power Plants Are Safety Critical

Continuous improvements and maintenance are required of the fire safety systems at nuclear power plants due to the safety critical nature of the site.  Incidents in nuclear power plants around the world have continued to demonstrate the vulnerability of safety systems to fire and its effects. The potential danger from an accident at a nuclear power plant is exposure to radiation to the people in the vicinity of the plume from the cloud and particles deposited on the ground, inhalation of radioactive materials and ingestion of radioactive materials. It is for this reason that the safety demands of the Atomic Energy Authority must be met.

The International Atomic Energy Authority state clearly in the Fire Safety in the Operation of Nuclear Power Plants standards that the effects of a single failure in fire safety systems, such as a system not performing its required function, can be detrimental. One example of this is the Chernobyl disaster a catastrophic nuclear accident which cost approximately 18 billion roubles and had a huge human impact. In this disaster a  combination of inherent reactor design flaws, together with the reactor operators arranging the core in a manner contrary to the checklist for the test, eventually resulted in uncontrolled reaction conditions that flashed water into steam generating a destructive steam explosion and a subsequent open-air graphite fire.  This fire produced considerable updrafts for about 9 days, that lofted plumes of fission products into the atmosphere, with the estimated radioactive inventory that was released during this very hot fire phase, approximately equal in magnitude to the airborne fission products released in the initial destructive explosion. Over thirty years later and investment into the site is still required, with Flamgard Calidair providing fire shut off dampers to the Chernobyl, as part of an €1.5 billion multinational engineering project. With fires at nuclear power plants still occurring, such as the 2017 power plant explosion at Flamanville, deemed “very serious” by industry experts, the call for advanced technology is of most importance. A significant technical issue led to a blast in the turbine hall in the unit, although there was no radioactive leak, a thorough investigation is being conducted into the concerning event.

Faced with this problem, a leading UK Nuclear family approached Coltraco Ultrasonics in 2003 and commissioned the first Permalevel™. Focused on continued advancement of safety technology, Coltraco have now developed the Permalevel™ Multiplex, a fixed fire suppression monitoring device, designed for permanent contents verification. The Permalevel  Multiplex™    is  designed  to  ensure  that fire  suppression  systems  are  always  fully operational and that no accidental discharge has occurred, which could affect the effectiveness of the overall fire protection system in the event of a fire at a nuclear power plant. The application of the Permalevel™ reaches further, with customers using this equipment in alternate specialist and confidential manners to ensure safety in the station. 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 offers the efficiency that is now a requirement at nuclear energy sites.

Get to Know Coltraco Ultrasonics

Coltraco Ultrasonics design and make ultrasonic equipment for monitoring. We want to save you cost and time, whilst helping you improve safety.

This equipment is for:

You deserve 24/7 care. You will get lifetime support. Each unit comes with 3 year warranty on main units and 1 year warranty on sensors. Arrange a phone call at a time that suits you.

Faster: our ultrasonic technology is designed to be the simplest, most effective method to inspect quickly

Better: we are committed to integrity from design, manufacture, supply and after sales support. We are world-leaders.

Cheaper: We offer cost effective solutions. We will never be beaten on price. Send us competitor quotes and we will match or beat them.

A CALL FOR CONSTANT MONITORING OF WIND TURBINES

A dynamic system needs monitoring.  The reality is that gaseous systems are checked for contents annually because they are pressurised and anything that is dynamic offers risk of loss of contents, but this fails to deal with the probability of discharge or leakage for the 364 days per annum in the interim between certification checks.

If the hazard is special and the infrastructure critical then this is the case for the constant monitoring of the suppression systems that aim to deliver the protection of them. Inspection should include an evaluation that the extinguishing system continues to provide adequate protection for the risk.

Coupled to this is a complete lack Room Integrity testing after the gaseous system has been installed. As buildings age or their internal use is changed leak sites develop. If the gas cannot be ‘held’ in the room on discharge during a fire event the probability of its suppression diminishes in direct proportion to the size of the leak sites.  Room integrity tests are imperative for the determination of both the hold time and the peak pressure needed for successful fire suppression.

The level of leakage is carefully monitored in order to ensure the correct agent concentration is achieved; room integrity must be ‘tight’ enough to ensure sufficient retention time according to NFPA Standards or ISO 14520, yet remain ‘loose’ enough to prevent enclosure damage at discharge.  The presence of undesired and unregulated leak sites reduces room integrity and will hence dramatically impact the hold time and peak pressure, placing room contents and potentially wall structures at risk.

It is accepted that in wind turbines vibration can loosen connections while dirt, dust, and temperature extremes are known to cause unwarranted discharge. Additionally, openings in the turbine housing significantly inhibit achieving the designated agent concentration. Devising a solution to overcome these challenges can add significantly to the weight in the turbine.

For regular inspection, there are solutions such as the Portalevel® MAX. This handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator can service a cylinder in 30 seconds (in contrast to 15 minutes by traditional manual weighing) with accuracy of up to 1.5mm off the true liquid level.

Coltraco Ultrasonics provide smart Firetest® solutions that enable wind turbine owners and operators to improve their fire safety management and reduce the risks to human life, business continuity caused by any downtime and thus minimise risk to reputation by delivering a Safesite®.

Turn Risk To Reward : know your upfront costs + maintenance costs = lifecycle cost

We know that the most important factor for our customers is to minimise risk. In fast paced businesses, downtime can be costly, financially, reputationally, and for the maintenance of safety practices. For safety critical environments, we understand that it is essential that the equipment used to improve protection must be fully operational at all times. So, take the chance to transfer the maintenance risk of your new Coltraco Ultrasonics equipment back to the original manufacturer with the Portacare® package

What is Portacare® ?

  • Portacare® is a total care package that provides enhanced after sales support
  • It goes above and beyond Coltraco’s Customer Care Commitment (CCC)
  • It offers a world leading support programme to our products over a 5 year term length. Coltraco Ultrasonics operates with integrity - from design to after sales care - to best support customers and provide enhanced after sales support. 

What is the CCC?

  • Customer – we invite you to benefit from Coltraco’s ethos of integrity from design to lifetime support
  • Care – we think care is better if its personal so you can arrange a phone call any time that suits you worldwide to answer your queries
  • Commitment – we want to save you cost and time, whilst helping you improve safety.

How can you cut risk with the Portacare® Package?

Know your upfront unit cost plus maintenance cost when buying new equipment. The package includes:

  • Fixed costs for 5 years – All calibration costs within the first 5 year period (total of 4) – saving £250/year
  • Free replacement – If a component becomes obsolete, you receive a free replacement unit of similar life
  • Free repair – First line repair is free – saving £100 (repairs over £100 must be paid for. Please note that Portacare® excludes customer-induced damage). After the first repair, 25% discount is given on any further repairs and accessories. Priority assistance will be given in spares and repairs
  • Upgrades – Upgrades are available at 25% discount – transfer existing Portacare® to the new unit so no loss of fee.
  • Discounts – 25% discount on upgrade options, 10% discount of a second product and exclusive offers personalised to you
  • Flexibility – Coltraco understand that every companies requirements are different, and are pleased to tailor a Portacare® package to your needs

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Keen to learn more about the Portacare®? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for pricing, the brochure and frequently asked questions.

Portacare® is designed for customers using liquid level testing, seal integrity and condition monitoring equipment for in high value applications such as power plants, data centres and naval vessels.  Coltraco Ultrasonics is a leading British designer and manufacturer of innovative ultrasonic technology operating in 109 countries across multiple markets such as the offshore, marine, fire, renewable markets, for over 30 years. www.coltraco.com/news.

Fires Cause Turbine Failure

Fires Cause Turbine Failure Turbine fires are expensive. They attract negative publicity. It is estimated that 0.3-0.5 fire incidents occur per 1000 wind power stations (onshore and offshore) every year (Technical Research Institute of Sweden). What it more, wind turbine fires tend to cause losses equal to or above the original cost of the wind power plant - especially offshore!

WHAT ARE THE RISKS?

Introducing fixed fire extinguishing systems as fire protection is becoming more prevalent because of the increased rate of fire incidents and the rising value and sizes of turbines. While there have been occasional articles written over the last couple of years about the importance of wind energy and the problems of fire, they have not addressed how fire systems themselves can be constantly monitored to ensure operational efficacy and to reduce risk, saving costs and increasing revenues.

Potential ignition sources are mainly inside the nacelle where there is fast moving machinery (generators, gearboxes e.t.c) which creates heat and combustible oil and solid material in the. Even with the incredible engineering and safety measures in place, a fire can ignite and develop, leading to the possible complete destruction of the turbine. A study conducted by SP Safety at the Technical Research Institute of Sweden showed that 10-30% of all loss-of-power-generation incidents in wind power plants are due to fire.

CRITICAL TURBINE INCIDENTS

The fires in wind turbines not only lead to a loss of business continuity and a negative impact on the company’s reputation but also, most importantly, are a critical safety issue. Possibly harmful debris can be drifted by the wind in the event if a fire and there is also a significant risk to human lives. When turbines are under erection, commissioning maintenance and repair, escape routes for operators are often long and vertical. Three out of six incidents involve a human presence in the nacelle; hence, a fire becomes a safety concern. In 2013, a crew of four engineers died in Ooltgensplaat, Netherlands in a wind turbine fire. This devastating loss of life calls for improved review of fire safety to minimise the risk to engineers.

Daniel Kopte, expert for safety systems, renewables certification at DNV GL, estimates that worldwide 120 wind turbines suffer fire damage (not necessarily causing total loss) annually. There have been several high-profile cases on wind turbine fires in the UK within the previous 6 years. An 100-metre tall turbine caught fire during hurricane-force winds at Ardrossan in North Ayrshire in December 2011, reportedly due to a lightning strike. The wind turbine was completely burnt out and debris scattered over large distances due to the strong wind. With predictions of much taller and more powerful turbines of 13-15MW to be implemented by the middle of the next decade, and thus fewer per project, ensuring that the they are in working order is essential, because the larger and fewer the turbines, the more costly they will be to operators in the event of fire damage.

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