Industrial fires cause damage of about R430-million a year. Transformer fires are disruptive, dangerous and may cause loss of life. Depending on the severity of the fire, the likelihood of explosions is very high, says safety solutions provider Sperosens.
Common causes of transformer fires include incorrect or lack of maintenance, ageing equipment, transformer overload, owing to increasing demand, weather conditions such as lightning, and technical sabotage such as cable theft.
In most transformer fires, the transformer and surrounding equipment are damaged extensively or can even be totally destroyed, resulting in significant downtime and costly replacement expenses.
While the frequency of transformer fires and the costs of damages increase every year, protecting transformers against fire is relatively easy, providing a few guidelines are followed, says Sperosens sales manager Jan Mulder.
Sperosens suggests that fire-protection measures should, firstly, be preventive and, failing this, focus on the detection and suppression of fires.
“Typical preventive guidelines that can be followed to prevent damage because of transformer fires include building transformers far away from (critical) buildings and equipment,” he adds.
Additional preventive guidelines include separate transformers with blast and/or firewalls on three sides and funnelling the opening of the blast walls away from sensitive areas. Sperosens further suggests gravel stones in the bunds as “passive” fire protection to absorb any possible burning oil spills, and advises proper security fencing around the transformers to prevent sabotage and uncontrolled access where possible.
“Transformer owners should only allow properly trained and experienced personnel to perform services on the transformers, and ensure that the equipment is always in a good condition, as well as fix oil leaks as quickly as possible, because these pose a fire risk. Sperosens provides only correctly designed and approved fire detection and suppression systems for the transformers,” adds Mulder.
He points out that Sperosens’ transformer fire suppression systems are typically designed in accordance with National Fire Protection Association 13 and 15 regulations, codes or standards, which deal with water spray deluge and sprinkler systems.
“A typical transformer detection medium will be a hydraulic pilot line with fast response sprinkler heads. When the sprinklers are activated by heat, the pilot line will lose pressure and open the fire deluge valve supplying fire water to the pipe manifold with strategically placed open-ended high velocity, as per design requirements,” explains Mulder.
Further, care should be taken to install suppression components, such as sprinklers and nozzles, in such a manner that they are securely fastened in positions where they will provide the quickest possible response time, and adequately cover the most critical areas with sufficient amounts of water when activated. Alarms can also be communicated to control rooms through the correct fire-rated detection panels.
The design of equipment by qualified engineers also takes into account ease of installation, maintenance and the environment. Sperosens has a 25-year record of providing and supporting world-class environ- mental monitoring, fire-detection and fire-suppression solutions to various industries.
“Cutting-edge detection and suppression technologies are applied to ensure safe working and operational conditions, even in harsh environments. This is achieved by installing remote monitoring and controlling detection devices. Our solutions prevent operational stoppages, delays and damage through early detection and appropriate suppression in identiﬁed risk areas,” concludes Mulder.