Hydrocarbon Fire Protection

Definition - What does Hydrocarbon Fire Protection mean?

Hydrocarbon fire protection is a strategy to minimize damage to industrial components in the event of a hydrocarbon pool fire or jet fire. Hydrocarbon fire protection is generally passive, although active strategies such as foam sprays are used to extinguish the fire.

Even strong structural components such as steel rapidly lose their strength at extreme temperatures. Hydrocarbon pool fires can generate heat above 1,000°C (1,832°F) and heat fluxes above 150 kW/m2. Jet fires are more localized, but have heat fluxes that may be twice as strong.

There are several strategies to protect structural steel from damage during a hydrocarbon fire. The best strategy depends on the particular application involved.

Corrosionpedia explains Hydrocarbon Fire Protection

In general, passive hydrocarbon fire protection works by insulating the underlying structural steel. Insulation provides thermal protection by slowing the rate at which the steel is heated, providing time to extinguish the fire before severe structural damage occurs

Passive hydrocarbon fire protection strategies include:

  • Cementitious products - Encase the steel inside cement, concrete or other materials. These materials have low thermal conductivity and are thus insulating.
  • Intumescent and epoxy coatings - Spray on coatings that react to a fire to create a thick insulating char.
  • Blanket systems - Wrap steel components inside insulating blankets or fibrous materials.
  • Mineral and fiberboard systems - Use rigid thermally protective materials installed around steel.

One major concern with passive hydrocarbon fire protection systems is corrosion under insulation (CUI), where small amounts of water may accumulate between the interface of the protective layer and the steel. Permanent coverings such as cementitious products and intumescent coatings are not recommended where systems are prone to CUI. In these cases other systems that are easy to remove and replace are preferable.

Active hydrocarbon fire protection is supplementary to passive methods. These strategies include the use of coolants, sprays and foams that cool down overheated equipment and extinguish fires. However, active methods may cause smoke and reduce visibility.
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