Electrical Area Classification in Coal-Fired Power Plants

Electric power production from coal is on a steep rise in major developing countries, including China, India, Indonesia, South Africa, and Vietnam, albeit declining in developed countries such as the United States. Shortfalls in coal production have been reported in some of these countries, but these issues are being addressed by increasing coal production, as well as by use of imported coal from other countries. The major concerns of Pulverized Coal (PC) or Circulating Fluidized Bed (CFB) combustion type coal-fired power plants are fires and explosions in hazardous areas and global warming and other environmental issues. Fires and explosions have caused a significant number of deaths and injuries to power plant staff. Besides other ignitable materials used in coal-fired power plants, coal dust has been identified as the major source of these fires. For coal to remain as a viable fuel in power production in the power generation industry, protective measures are required during engineering, design, construction and operation of the coal-fired power plants, particularly in electrical areas that are often a source of ignition. The Fire Triangle The “fire triangle” (Figure 1) is a well-known tool that illustrates the three conditions that must be present for a fire or explosion to occur at a particular location: Flammable or combustible material must be present; the material must be mixed with air in the proportions and concentration to form a combustible mixture; and the ignition source must supply enough energy to initiate combustion. A spark or flame is not necessary, as temperature alone can supply the energy to cause ignition of the mixture.

1. The Fire Triangle. Oxygen, fuel, and sufficent heat must be present for ignition. Source: Wikimedia Commons/Gustavb

There are three types of hazardous conditions. 1 and 2 Method: Article 505 and IEC/EN60079-10. The “class and zone” method has been used in other countries in accordance with IEC standards. Class I—Gas and Vapor. vapors or liquids are not likely to exist under normal operating conditions. vapors or liquids are not likely to exist under normal operating conditions Similarly. and Class III— Fibers and Flyings. vapors or liquids can exist all of the time or for long periods at a time under normal operating conditions. Zone 0. Hazardous Classified Locations The National Electrical Code (NEC) in United States and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) in other countries define hazardous area locations as those areas. F and G in Class II locations . There are two types of divisions under Class I conditions:  Where ignitable concentrations of flammable gases. C and D in Class I locations  Group E. B. and nature/group. Nature/Groups of Hazardous Substances are:  Group A. The concepts included in the fire triangle have been specified in codes and standards issued by various world organizations providing guidance in the design of electrical systems. Electrical equipment can become a source of ignition in these volatile areas. Where ignitable concentrations of flammable gases. Hazardous areas are classified by types. and construction and operation of power plant facilities. and flammable liquids. Hazardous area locations are categorized by two methods per NEC:  Class I. selection of equipment. division or zone. Where ignitable concentrations of flammable gases.The energies required to ignite various groups of combustible substances have been proven by experimentation. vapors or liquids can exist all or for some time under normal operating conditions  Where ignitable concentrations of flammable gases. The “class and division” method has traditionally been used in the United States. flammable gases or vapors. Where ignitable concentrations of flammable gases. there are two types of divisions under Class II conditions:  Where ignitable concentrations of combustible dust can exist all or for some time under normal operating conditions  Where ignitable concentrations of combustible dust are not likely to exist under normal operating conditions Zones defined per IEC standards are as follows:  Zone 0. and III. and Division 1 and 2 Method: Article 500  Class 1. vapors or liquids can exist some of the time under normal operating conditions.  Zone 1. Class II—Dust. where fire or explosion hazards may exist due to presence of combustible dust or ignitable fibers. II.  Zone 2.

As start-up or alternate fuel. contactors. Electrical equipment failure. Used as start-up fuel. Includes ammonia storage and piping. head chute. gas-relief valve. seal oil unit. coal handling below grade conveyor systems. In addition. . and feed system. coal chutes. totally enclosed portions of coal handling conveyors. and other locations where dust can settle. fuel oil control valve block and fuel oil piping to burners. The fuel oil becomes flammable when heated above its flash point. and where other combustible and flammable materials exist. is exposed to a sufficient source of ignition causing combustion. such as light lamps and lighting fixtures. and gas piping. It can be present in gas cylinders. Some heat producing equipment. gas shut-off valve and filter. Also present in hydrogen gas unit. Can be present in oil tanks. As start-up or alternate fuel. Sources of Ignition: Electrical Equipment There are 3 ways in which electrical equipment can become a source of ignition: Arcs and sparks. dust collectors. Ammonia. The main combustible fuel. flop gate bunkers. control cubicle and piping.g. If this primary explosion occurs. gas control valve block. suspended in air. Aqueous ammonia is used for nitrogen oxide emission reduction by selective catalytic reduction (SCR) or selective non-catalytic reduction (SNCR) method.. Propane. gas relief valve. gas control valve block. e. Electrical equipment can cause explosions in coal dust atmospheres when located in coal conveyor galleries. additional available dust can disperse and secondary explosions can spread throughout the facility. fuel unloading and forwarding pump station. coal dust is a major source of dust explosions in a coal-fired power plant. electric motors and heaters can ignite flammable atmospheres if they exceed the ignition temperature of the hazardous material. fuel oil booster pump and leakage tank. As cooling medium for generator cooling and release from DC system batteries. Gas can be present in gas compressor station. hidden concealed areas. Natural gas. filter and scrubber station. transfer towers. and switches can ignite a combustible or a flammable material. coal silos. Shorting of a terminal could spark ignition. gas shut-off valve. High temperature. Hydrogen. It can cause primary explosion when the right concentration of finely divided dust. motor starters. coal preparation system/crusher house. piping to ignition burner and to combustor. Produced by the normal operation of equipment. gas pre-heater areas.Combustible and Flammable Materials in a Coal‐Fired Power Plant  Many types of combustible and flammable materials can be present in coal-fired plant: Coal. Fuel oil.

fuel oil. may be used for equipment in Class 1. oil emersion. Many of these methods apply to AC-powered circuits. or dust-air mixture. NFPA 70. but few are used for instrument wiring circuit wiring. Division 2 and Class II. where flammable conditions exist. or flame paths required for equipment in Class I. dust ignition proof. It must function at a temperature below the ignition temperature of the surrounding atmosphere providing a way for the burning gases to escape from the device as the gases expand during an internal explosion. combustion and explosion within electric equipment and circuit wiring enclosures in hazardous areas are due to hot surfaces and arcs/sparks. operate below the ignition temperature of hazardous substances. shipping. and allow for a dust blanket. protect the equipment.Similarly. non-incendiary and hermetically sealed construction. vapor-air. Class II equipment is called dust-ignition proof. and resist and prevent fire and explosion hazards. natural gas. it is imperative to ensure that all flame paths are protected during handling. or combustible material entering the enclosures. Equipment protection methods include flameproof. . junction boxes and conduit as per ANSI/NFPA 496. and be explosion proof. non-sparking. The ideal electrical enclosure should be installed and removed easily. encapsulation. hydrogen gas and ammonia gas areas. UL 508A. UL 50. Division 1 equipment is used with the assumption that hazardous gases or vapors will be present and eventually seep into the enclosure. NEMA 250. construction of such equipment must be strong enough to contain an explosion within. Further. Electrical Equipment for Class I Applications (gas/vapor) Class I. Division 1 equipment is designed and constructed such that it must seal out the combustible dust. Nonincendive circuits. Canadian Standard Association CSA 22. there is no need for heavy explosion-proof construction. powder filled. electrical equipment can cause explosions in propane gas. pressurization is often used to maintain the classified area safety. Selection and Installation of Electrical Equipment for Hazardous Locations Ignitions. Therefore. may be used in hazardous classified locations. allow the components housed inside it to be accessed easily. Electrical Equipment for Class II Applications Class II. Intrinsically safe circuits in which any spark or thermal effect is incapable of causing ignition of a mixture of flammable or combustible material in air. installation and maintenance of explosion proof material and equipment. storage. Division 2 hazardous classified locations. in which any spark or thermal effect produced under intended operating conditions is not capable of igniting the gas-air. only after they have been cooled off and their flames quenched. Therefore.2. When installations are not explosion proof or intrinsically safe. The escape paths could be ground surface or threaded flame path. NFPA 79. NEC Article 504 requires that conductors and cables of intrinsically safe circuits shall be physically separated from non-intrinsically safe circuits. Division 1 locations. dust tight. and IEC 60529 provides guidance in the selection of specific type of enclosure to match the environmental protection. Wiring and enclosures are protected using a positive pressure maintained within the enclosure.

Division 2/Zone 1 type or totally enclosed pipe-ventilated type. meeting temperature rise limitations. fixtures and enclosures that are suitable for Class I. Installation Considerations Proper installation of electrical equipment in a hazardous location requires use of seals. burning material or hot metal particles resulting from failure of equipment. located and provided. There are many devices. sparks. Low Ambient Conditions Considerations Explosion proof– or dust ignition proof–equipment is generally suitable for use in an ambient temperature range of -25°C (-13°F) to +40°C (+104°F). prevent escape of sparks. Equipment must be selected so that its maximum surface temperature will be less than the ignition temperature of the coal dust. Also. Equipment that is approved for Class I and Class II or Zone 0 and Zone 1 should be marked with the maximum safe operating temperature. II and III locations. Class III equipment is generally not used in coal-fired power plants. or heat generated inside of the enclosure will not ignite . The two most common ways are explosion-proof equipment and dust-ignition proof equipment Electric motors should be totally enclosed fan-cooled. a Class I device would have to prevent dust entering the enclosure to be suitable for Class III application. Coal handling buildings that have dust explosion hazards. or ignite a layer of dust on the equipment. Additionally. Special fittings are required to keep hot gases from travelling through the conduit system igniting other areas if an internal explosion occurs in a Class I device. Class III equipment must minimize entrance of fibers and flyings. where accumulation of coal dust and its suspension in air are sources of potential hazards. unless they are identified for lower temperature service. medium voltage switchgear and low voltage switchgear enclosures should be fully gasketed and be provided with filtered and screened air. Qualification of Electrical Equipment in Hazardous (Classified) Locations There are a number of ways of protecting electrical equipment so that it does not cause an explosion when used in a surrounding flammable atmosphere. proper pressure relieving vents and wall panels should be selected. In Coal handling areas. structural members should be carefully reviewed for explosion pressures. Such equipment may not be suitable for use at temperatures lower than -25°C (-13°F).Electrical Equipment for Class III Applications There is very little difference in the design between Class II and Class III equipment. Dust ignition–proof equipment should be enclosed in a manner that will exclude dust and constructed so that arcs. Class II. and operate at a temperature that will prevent the ignition of fibers accumulated on the equipment.

Source: Burns and Roe Enterprises. should be used with NEMA 9 (dust ignition–proof) enclosures with watertight seals (O-rings). which together with the enclosed equipment in each case. evidence of equipment evaluation from a qualified testing laboratory or inspection agency. Codes and standard applicable to hazardous classified areas. . Group F locations. or evidence acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction.8 (A) states that the suitability of identified equipment shall be determined by the equipment listing or labeling (for example. NEC Article 500. Table 1.exterior accumulation or atmospheric suspension of a specified dust on or in the vicinity of the enclosure. Division 1. solenoids. Electrical devices including switches. Applicable Industry Codes and Standards In the United States. codes and standards have been developed that are applicable to hazardous classified areas as shown in Table 1. UL). shall be as complete assembly for Class II. panels.

density and how and where handled. indicating process flow. Brief description of the process. and other data used to prepare area classification. Cable tray and cable. flash point. references. and the boundaries of area classifications. Electrical equipment should preferably be located outside hazardous area. A list. Approved equipment by UL or other appropriate agency should be preferred. practices. A complete set of electrical area classification drawings. standards. Electrical equipment must have temperature ratings or operating surface temperatures below the AIT of the hazardous substance present. maintenance and cleaning procedures. A listing of each room or area and its determined area classification. process equipment. and assumptions. . along with the rationale for making such determination. provided the specific rules of NFPA 469 are followed. under certain conditions. operation. along with their pertinent properties. are permitted in Division 2 areas. such as ignition temperature. and if they are installed per NEC article 504. The design basis document and design drawings should include:      A listing of all combustible and flammable materials used in the facility. General-purpose equipment is permitted for certain applications in Division 2 (Zone 2) areas. the normal leakage sources. Rigid metal conduit is the allowable wiring method in Division 1 areas. Purging and pressurization of enclosures are permitted to prevent entrance of flammable and combustible materials. including dates and/or editions of all the codes. and the selection of electrical equipment that must meet requirements for each classified area. Instrument enclosures may be general-purpose type if they are part of intrinsically safe systems. The design basis document also provides the necessary guidance to interdiscipline team of engineers in the design of their systems and design drawings for classified areas.Design Basis Document (DBD) and Drawings A design basis document is an engineering document that defines the basis of engineering and design. The following is a list of NEC rules that are intended to convey an awareness of the complexity of electrical design in hazardous areas:          Explosion proof and dust-ignition proof equipment is required in Division 1 (Zone 0) areas and for certain types of equipment in Division 2 (Zone 1) areas. Practical Guidelines Table 2 provides general practical guidelines for classification of electrical areas where combustible and/or flammable materials are located and processes are performed in a coalfired power plant.

Source: Burns and Roe Enterprises. .Table 2. Guidelines for classification of electrical areas.


  . roads. the area should be boxed out as an overall 3 dimensional shape covering limits of extreme leakage points. The first shows a typical example of a pulverized coalfired power plant coal handling system process flow diagram. such as in a manifold having several instruments.Sound engineering judgment should be applied and additional areas. piping layouts. It also helps the plant operation personnel to take protective measures that ensure safety of operation and maintenance of plant and better understanding to inspectors and insurance personnel. and vendor supplied equipment drawings Two examples may be illustrative. valves and flanges. or if there are several pieces of equipment with potential leak sources. walls. the construction contractor and the plant operators for their understanding of the affected areas. coordinates. not mentioned in Table 2. In addition to the recommended distances from sources. Examples of recognizable boundaries are column lines. etc. equipment outlines. Equipment manufacturer’s recommendations for area classification of specific equipment should be followed. equipment general arrangements. ceilings. if they are more stringent than the guidelines provided in Table 2. Project Documents Project documents prepared and used in establishing hazardous areas include process flow diagrams of the systems containing the hazardous materials. and the second shows boiler general arrangement with classified hazardous locations. Areas identified by recognizable boundaries are helpful for plant installation. should be identified. considerations should be given to use easily recognizable boundary limits when defining the horizontal and vertical extent of classified locations. The design basis document and the associated design drawings that show the extent of horizontal and vertical boundaries of each classified area should be discussed with the owner. When there is more than one leakage source in an area. dikes. precaution should be taken to verify that boxing an overall area or extending a classified area to recognizable boundaries does not include electrical equipment that would otherwise not be included in the hazardous area. operation and maintenance personnel. To avoid undue expense.