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What Are the Types and Causes of Fire Hazards in Textile Industry

What Are the Types and Causes of Fire Hazards in Textile Industry

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Published by: Muhammad Asif Idrees on Oct 18, 2009
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What are the types and causes of fire hazards intextile industry?Dust Related Explosion and Fire Hazards
Inflammable and Explosive Dusts
The three ingredients that cause fires are heat, oxygen and combustible material. When all threecomponents are present, combustion takes place. Many dusts and powders that emanate out of theindustrial processes are easily
flammable
. These dusts carry characteristics that differentiate themsuch as:
Dusts that 
explode
easily.
Since they carry an
, they do not need oxygen from theatmosphere to explode. (Eg. Chemicals that pump up automobile air bags, gunpowder)
Dusts that 
ignite
easily.
They require little or no external heat to ignite.An
explosion
is defined as the process in which combustion occurs and spreads so rapidly as tocreate a high pressure. In this case, the fire expands from a source of ignition and develops highpressure when restricted in an area.
Explosions
have lower and upper limits (of dust concentration). A lower limit of explosion indicatesthat the concentration of dust particles is below the lower limit of explosion. Below this level, the dustconcentration will not explode even on ignition. This happens because the heat produced in such acircumstance is not sufficient to affect other dust particles. Alternatively there could be a dustconcentration of explosive levels but there may not be enough oxygen to start the fire.To counter the
hazards
of fire and explosions, it is necessary to know the characteristics of the dust.For example, fine aluminum dusts explode at very low limits of explosion whereas coarse aluminiumdusts do not catch fire even under the influence of another source of heat.
Understanding Explosions
By mixing gas (air) and compound (dust) in concentrations that create an explosion, combustionproceeds at high speed (sonic speed or supersonic speed) from the point of ignition. The face of thisgrowing ball of 
fire
is called ‘flame front. If there are no obstructions, this high pressure flame burnsitself out after traveling a distance. But if it restricted in any way, the pressure increasestremendously. By knowing the rate of increase of this pressure for a particular compound, the hazardthat it can cause can be known.The
bag house
has an inherent advantage with its air cleaning process that may keep dustconcentrations below the lower limit of explosion. On the other hand, shaker 
aresusceptible to explosions since static charges could set off a spark while ‘shaking’ or bag filter cleaning is in process.Explosions are of two types. Primary explosions are those ignited by dust concentrations being atexplosive levels. These primary explosions could take part in one part of the system. But then theymove rapidly along the system ductwork. When the flame front reaches the dust collector it couldcause further explosions (by creating explosive dust concentration by unsettling all dust particles onthe filter bags). This would cause a secondary explosion.
Explosion Vents
To reduce the damages that could be caused by explosion, dust collectors are provided withexhausts or vents that allow the explosion to go out of the system before further damage to other parts. Common designs of explosion vents are:
Membrane:
A membrane that breaks at a preset pressure on the explosion vent to allow theflame front to exit from the vent in high pressure situations (explosion)
 
Hinged/ Restrained panels:
By installing Hinged or Restrained panels with springs thatopen at preset pressure, the flame front is allowed to exit the system
NFPA – 68 Guide for Venting Deflagrations
Information on controlling explosions and reducing their structural effects on dust collectors can beobtained in the NFPA – 68 guide ‘Guide for venting of Deflagrations’ prepared by the National FireProtection Association. Deflagration is defined as the propagation of a combustion zone at a velocitythat is less than the speed of the unreacted medium. Simply put, deflagration is nothing but burningwith great heat.Early vent designs used an assumed vent ratio of 40:1 (vent ratio is). In time however, many dustsand powders have been analyzed for their individual rate of combustion (burning) and combustibility.Based on these analyses, a value of ‘Kst’ has been assigned to each dust, which indicates thedeflagration index of the dust (expressed as bar-m/second). Higher ‘Kst’ value indicates faster rateof combustion.The NFPA – 68 guides is a useful document that provides ‘Kst’ values for varieties of dusts andpowders. It also provides the method to calculate vent area for various applications.
Shaker Collectors and Explosions
Shaker collectors carry the hazard of explosions due to the ‘shaking’ of the bags that could causestatic charge on the bags to set off a spark, leading to an explosion. Since dust concentrationsinvariably reach explosive limits during cleaning operations in shaker collectors, precautions need tobe taken to avoid explosions. A common method is by coating bag fibers with a conductive coatingthat grounds the static charge thus neutralizing danger from static charge.Shakers are prone to secondary explosions as well because these bags tend to accumulate moredust (combustible material or fuel) when compared to other collectors.
Fabric Jet Collectors and Explosions
These collectors posses an inherent advantage in mitigating explosion risk due to static charge sincetheir design uses reverse flow of air. This reverse flow of air (that is not ionized) through the dust,depletes all static charge from the dust particles. The cleaning system is thus, constantly cleaning upany charges from building up as well. Fabric jet collectors also have the design capability to retardsecondary explosions.Assume a cylindrical bag in a high ratio reverse air system (4 ½ inch diameter and 96 inchlength). The total air pumped into the bag during a cleaning cycle is one cubic foot. This air forms a hollow cylinder, lined with one-inch thick dust.
Controlling Secondary Explosions
The energy produced in the primary deflagration must be reduced to control secondary explosions.This can be achieved by controlling factors that contribute to explosion i.e. fuel and oxygen. Some of the methods are:
1.
Reduce oxygen in the air:Use of new generation compact high ratio fabric designs and use of multiple hoppers (reduceshopper volume at product end) reduces oxygen levels in the system considerably.
2.
Reduce fuel (dust particles) in the air:Smooth finish filter media (such as eggshell or singed) on bags, reduces dust accumulation onbag surfaces. Use of PTFE laminated bag with frequent cleaning reduces dust concentrations.It is also advisable to remove dust from hopper as it could form a potential concentration for explosive levels. Another method of reducing dust concentration (fuel) is by maintaining a lowpressure drop (indicated by the magnehelic gage) through the filter media by frequently pulsing
 
air cleaning valves. In centrifugal and pleated bag media the pressure drop must be kept lowby cleaning the media frequently.
3.
Other techniques:By mixing inert air produced in another part of the system with the combustible dust of another machine a less combustible mixture can be formed.
Fire Hazards
Collectors are highly susceptible to fires due to the presence of fuel (dust particles) and oxygen.Collectors have fan flow that further contributes to the fanning of a fire and helping it grow. Sincecollectors contain all these fire-friendly characteristics it is necessary that proper filter media ischosen and operating techniques are followed with care. There are many dusts that burn (form afire) but they have a low rate of combustion.
Causes of Fire
The main causes of fires are (I) sparks and (ii) spontaneous combustion.Sparks:Sparks find their way into dust collector systems from the industrial process. They enter through thehoods and ducts in the collector system. One way of tackling sparks was by having a long duct.Traveling along the long duct would enable the spark to burn itself out or cool off. However it is notan effective solution since sparks are known to travel over a 100 feet and survive the cyclone beforeigniting the bags and dust in the dust collector. Fires in dust collectors start when the system is inprocess.To understand the nature of the sparks we may look at the example of a campfire where sparks flyover the fire. Though sparks consist of a heavy particle, they ‘fly’ because they are surrounded by alayer of ‘hot air’. This layer of hot air around it makes the spark behave like a hot air balloon and ittravels long distances easily. Dust collector systems have a smooth flow duct design which helpssparks to travel unaffected by gravity and centrifugal forces of the system.
Spontaneous Combustions
Fume dusts are a classic case of fine dusts that have large surface areas. Fume dusts are known tooxidize and the process of oxidation produces heat which is a factor that can start a fire. Oxidationdoes not cause a problem when the dust collector is in operation since the heat is removed by theflow of dust through elements. However when the dust collector is not in operation, heat generatedby the oxidation of these dusts forms hot spots on the filter cake. These hot spots in the filter cakecould ignite when the flow is restarted in the system. Once ignited the fires are fanned by theairflows and cause extensive damage.
Ways to Control Sparks
To extinguish sparks, it is essential that the layer of hot air surrounding the spark is removed. Thiscan be achieved by creating a change in air velocity. The change in air velocity creates eddies in theair stream and removes hot air from the spark. Once the layer is disturbed, sparks can be cooled ina fraction of a second. The eddies can be created by
abrupt change in duct sizes in the system
single/multiple plates with orifices placed near the hood inlet
change in direction of duct such as a square elbow instead of a smooth turning vane
spark trap
Sprinkler Systems
Water sprinkler systems could be installed in collectors in the area where clean air is recycled intothe work place. However, one must remember to turn off the water sprinkler system when the fire isput off because water could collect in the hopper and bins. If a large amount of water accumulates,the structure of the dust collector could be affected badly involving expensive reconstruction.
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