If you work at a large industrial plant or mine, you may have noticed those hydraulic lubricating oil packs, or perhaps the diesel generator sets, oil store rooms, pump rooms or flammable liquids stores, and transformers. And in particular on mines, you may have noticed the winding gear. These areas are all potential sources of fire that if not controlled can result in major incidents occurring, even serious injury or death. These areas are where hydrocarbon fires can occur, which ignite quickly and spread rapidly.
If not checked immediately, damage can translate into millions of Rands. The common thought behind tackling such applications is to use a water-based approach. This usually means piping and pumping extinguishing water from a large tank, leading to significant cost due to civil works, pipe fabrication, transportation costs, design fees, labour, testing, commissioning and the like. Some other approaches include costly water mist systems, but all require an electronic-based automatic fire detection system.
PyroStorm – the low cost alternative option
Alien Systems & Technologies (AST) offers a low cost, autonomous alternative option. PyroStorm is a range of impulse dry powder, modular type fire suppression units designed for industrial type applications. These non-pressurised units can be configured to virtually any application. They are light weight, easy to install and transport, and no pipework is required. In normal applications they are also maintenance free for 10 years. The cost-effective PyroStorm units are hermetically sealed thus preventing contamination by dust or by water of the Furex ABC extinguishing powder contained in the unit.
When the module is activated during a fire situation, a chemical reaction occurs within the PyroStorm module creating a positive pressure. The discharge diaphragm then expands and ruptures, expelling the extinguishing powder at a rate of up to 35 m/s. This occurs in less than half of a second from the initial activation. Large volumes of powder are then discharged into the protected area in less than a second – putting out the fire rapidly and effectively.
Dry powder from the PyroStorm module attacks the fire in a combination of two extinguishing methods. Chemically, by the removal of the fire propagating ‘chain carriers’, and physically, via four processes:
1. The removal of heat via endothermic processes of powder particle heat absorption, particle evaporation and decomposition.
2. Dilution of the flame zone with the powder cloud and its subsequent decomposition products.
3. The creation of physical barriers in the fire zone.
4. The creation of a ‘fire blanket’ on the surface of the burning materials, which then smothers the fire.
Units can be used as stand-alone or configured into a system using the voltage free heat activation devices (HADs), which provide reliable electrical activation via temperature sensing without the need for batteries or electrical supplies. HADs will detect an increase in temperature i.e. a fire, and automatically, at a pre-set temperature, activate the PyroStorm units. Furthermore, these devices can be used to signal a fire panel as well as provide an additional output designed to shut down the electrical equipment or activate a separate alarm.
AST also offers a variant of the HAD unit known as a manual activation device (MAD), which can be placed at emergency exits and other strategic points.
PyroStorm systems are a preferred solution currently used by many mining houses in South Africa, and also across the rest of Africa, in both surface and underground applications. Due to the low maintenance requirements, a rugged design and minimal independence from an electrical power or water supply, PyroStorm offers a simple and cost-effective solution when it comes to protecting industrial control equipment.
All systems are engineered by AST’s in-house design team and fabricated to ensure maximum effect. They can also be implemented as part of a more complex fire protection system should that be required.
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