Fire Protection for Oil Refineries in Houston
If you own or manage a petroleum refinery, you undoubtedly know how dangerous a fire could be if one starts at your facility. About 228 refinery fires broke out per year between 1994 and 1998, reports the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). While only 20% of these fires were structural fires, with the remainder started on the property outside the building, more than half of the monetary loss resulted from these types of fires.
Fire Risks in Houston Refineries
Processing, handling, and storing petroleum products presents an inherent fire risk. According to the American Petroleum Institute, hydrocarbon materials produced in refineries present several unique fire hazards:
- Boilover: This sudden overflow of contents from an oil storage tank is caused by a heat wave reaching water at the bottom of the tank. The water flash-boils into steam, and the resulting expansion can send contents of the tank boiling over the edge.
- Slopover: This occurs when a stream of water is applied to the surface of boiling oil, and the oil’s temperature exceeds the boiling point of water.
- Frothover: This describes an overflowing container resulting from water boiling beneath the surface of hot oil.
- BLEVE (boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion): This is a catastrophic failure of a container when its contents are well above boiling point.
How We Can Help Reduce Fire Risk in Houston Refineries
As a refinery owner or manager, you must take fire mitigation seriously. Petroleum refineries pose a serious fire threat, so implement these tips to mitigate risk and help prevent a disaster from occurring on your property.
Install Fire Protection Equipment
- Foam fire suppression systems are the most important part of Houston refinery fire protection. The system activates automatically when sensors detect a fire, covering the surface of flammable liquid with air-filled bubbles to stifle the fire and extinguish it quickly.
- Water mist systems are desirable in refineries because they spray water droplets less than 1,000 microns across to create a gas-like mist. This minimizes water damage while still putting out the fire.
- Fire extinguishers put firefighting power in your employees’ hands. ABC fire extinguishers are appropriate for refineries because these all-purpose models extinguish ordinary fires, electrical fires and, most importantly in this setting, flammable liquid fires.
- Fire alarm systems (complete with smoke detectors, pull stations, strobe lights, sirens and more) alert building occupants of the emergency so they can evacuate. An up-to-code fire alarm system is crucial for keeping your Houston refinery safe.
Maintain Fire Protection Equipment
After selecting and installing the proper fire protection equipment, don’t forget about maintenance. Without regular inspections and testing from a qualified company in the coming years, you could be left without a functioning fire suppression system if a fire breaks out. Make fire suppression system maintenance a yearly priority (or as often as required for different types of equipment according to Houston fire codes).
Train Your Personnel
- Hold classroom training sessions to educate your personnel on fire safety, special hazards in the workplace, firefighting tactics and how foam systems work.
- Train any personnel expected to respond to a fire how to use specific firefighting equipment, such as fire extinguishers and foam hose lines, as well as how to activate water-spray systems, foam equipment and deluge sets.
- Hold simulated fire drills to practice firefighting responses and evacuation.
Please contact Kauffman Co. online or call (713) 893-1090 for all your Houston refinery fire protection needs. As a full-service company, we offer everything you need to safeguard your business from fire, including system design, installation, repair, replacement, testing, inspection and maintenance, as well as fire extinguisher training for your personnel.