Natural gas is less expensive and more earth-friendly than other energy production options like PRB coal. Naturally, a need to transport and store it safety and concisely has arisen. To meet this need, liquefied natural gas (LNG) has been a go to. Natural gas is converted from gas to a liquid form. By liquefying it, the natural gas takes up approximately 1/600th the volume of gas.
Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Fire Risks
While in the liquid form, LNG isn’t a fire risk. However, when LNG or refrigeration gasses like propane, methane, or ethylene are accidentally released and create a vapor cloud, they do become flammable. LNG facilities see static pool fires, two-dimensional flowing fires, three-dimensional spill fires, pressurized spray fires, and explosions from vaporized LNG. The vapor cloud will mix with oxygen, causing the natural gas to become flammable. A flash fire can happen if the LNG spills or releases, or, if the released LNG is confined, it could cause an explosion.
The Cause of LNG Fires
The fire triangle is oxygen, fuel, and ignition source. When the vapor cloud mixes with oxygen, it needs an ignition source to complete the triangle. In LNG facilities electrostatic discharge is usually the culprit. Electrostatic discharge can happen easily when electrically charged objects, such as machinery or tools, are near a conductive object.
How to Protect LNG Facilities from Fire
There are various fire hazards in a Liquefied Natural Gas facility – natural gas, propane, methane, ethylene – that is why several different fire suppression and gas detection devices are needed. F.E. Moran Special Hazard Systems recommends LNG facilities use flame detectors, gas detectors, low temperature spill detectors, heat detectors, elevated oscillating monitors, fire pumps, and clean agent systems to protect workers and the facility from fire.
We Know the Difficulties that LNG Facilities Face
F.E. Moran Special Hazard Systems is contacted often about their inspection, testing, and maintenance programs for liquefied natural gas facilities. Project Technical Engineers, Program Managers, and other facility managers deal with out of service systems and false alarms due to the overwhelming number of systems needed for all of the different kinds of hazards. We have seen open path gas detectors blocked because of construction or maintenance activities. We have seen water intruding the systems because of its location near ports or the coast. Keeping track of the maintenance needs of the different systems is overwhelming. We always recommend implementing a robust inspection, testing, and maintenance schedule to ensure that the systems are in top shape and ready to activate in case of an emergency.