S E CT I O N 3

A PPLI E D S CI E NCE AN D E NG I N E E R I NG : F I R E DYNAM ICS
David G. Lilley

FI R E PR EVE NTION A N D P R OT E CT I O N

LEAR N I NG OBJ ECTIVE S
Develop an understanding of the phenomena that encompass fire dynamics—from fuel release, dispersion, and ignition through fire spread, growth, and possible flashover—culminating in the devastation produced and the subsequent investigation. Gain an appreciation of safety and loss-prevention issues involved in the occurrence of fires and of factors that can mitigate the extent of subsequent damage. Develop the ability to calculate useful information from empirical equations that describe observed fire phenomena, permitting deductions for other situations that are interpolated or extrapolated from a limited amount of experimental data. Learn to use mathematical modeling concepts related to computer-based calculation procedures known as the zone method and the computational fluid dynamic (CFD) method for simulating fire growth, smoke production, and travel from fires.

THE

ULTIMATE GOAL of this chapter is to improve scientific

understanding of fire behavior leading to flashover in structural fires. Topic areas are release, spread, and ignition of flammable materials; burning rates; radiant ignition of other items; fire spread rates; ventilation limit imposed by sizes of openings; flashover criteria; and fire modeling. Within each topic area is information dealing with background and theory, followed by comments. The references given provide a good cross-section of experimental and theoretical studies related to the understanding of real-life fires. These provide useful test data for development of the theory of fire growth and its application to real-world fire situations. The development of structural fires can be understood more readily when technical knowledge puts the phenomena on a firm scientific footing. The theory can assist in understanding and applying scientific information to real-world fire situations. Recent extensive study, research, experimentation, and field observations and measurements have led to the need for critical evaluation of phenomena associated with fire dynamics—the term chosen to represent topics associated with fire behavior, including ignition, fire development, and fully developed fires. The scientific topics of chemistry, physics, aerodynamics, and heat transfer all play their part. Technical information about fuels, burning rates, fire spread, and flashover and backdraft phenomena is also relevant. These topics are addressed in the light of the relevant equations embodied in such computer programs as FPETool, FASTLite, CFAST, and HAZARD. The references provide further details. The purpose of this chapter is to review a few of the ideas involved in appreciating how technical understanding or engineering analysis can assist in determining “responsibility,” that is, to determine where the blame lies as to why the incident occurred.
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Zukoski (1985). Specific theories. When research. Of particular concern is the source of the fuel for the fire. but was working in an environment where gaseous vapors were (without his knowledge) present. and data about fuel burning properties are given in Lilley (1997a and 1997b). or other workman using an acetylene torch might be responsible for causing a fire by supplying the ignition through negligent actions. F I R E I NVE STIGATION Major structural fires require investigation. plumber. with questions of whether an item was defective and unreasonably dangerous. The present brief contribution concentrates on the phenomena. In field modeling. theory. fire causes and ignition. the fire occurred—what went wrong—and whether it was incendiary or otherwise. Various aspects of safety related to fire protection are addressed in handbooks from the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) (2002) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) (Cote 2003). But the zone method represents a more mature field for fire and smoke transport. The analysis of failure modes is important in determining why F I R E S EVE R ITY Assessment of fire-hazard potential involves more than just enclosure surface area and total fuel load in terms . field models are being developed and applied for the simulation of structural fires. it may be that a welder. This chapter builds on the author’s previous fire-related papers. the technical engineering investigation focuses on the fire scenario and the real cause of the fire. Thomas (1974). At this time. and engineering analysis is often needed. the methods have been developed and applied for many years. dynamics of fuel release and dispersion. computational demands are very large. Why the fire began is the issue in question when responsibility for the fire is addressed. Affixing responsibility for a fire is not always a clear-cut situation. burning rates. with theory and calculation methodology included. and dynamics of fire behavior.2 Section 3: Fire Prevention and Protection Investigators are aided by knowledge of failure modes of appliances. Emmons (1985). Then responsibility may be on the imperfection that caused the release of the gaseous vapors. including his short course (Lilley 1995a and 2004) and his general review (Lilley 1995b). On the other hand. and whether design or manufacturing defects contributed. For example. Carroll (1979). having taken prudent precautions. Appliance operations are discussed in American Gas Association (AGA) (1997 and 1988). Deficiencies are identified with regard to adherence to codes and standards. Berry (1989). Safety engineers are particularly concerned with all these issues. was it an act of arson? If otherwise. Beyond origin and cause of fires. was it a design defect. Fire modeling plays an important role in fire protection engineering and building design engineering. or something else? Engineering analysis is often needed to determine the cause of the fire— what happened. Graphic illustrations are now given to exemplify the theories and their application to real-world situations. the workman might not have been negligent. operating error. and what can be done to prevent future incidents—in short. and elsewhere. specific problems. to assist in having a safer situation in the future. Origin and cause investigations deal with the where and how of the fire. The extensive reference list provides additional information. manufacturing defect. and correct simulation ultimately depends on the empirical specification of things such as ignition. why the incident occurred. installation error. experiments. and so on. Product-liability issues are addressed. a complete and thorough investigation is undertaken. whether installation and maintenance procedures were adequate. as either or both of these might well be associated with responsibility. and graphical illustration of the sample calculations. or calculations are needed to confirm or deny a suggested fire scenario. fire spread. If incendiary. More extensive treatment of the discussion here is given in Lilley (1998a and 1998b). ventilation limitation. Two different modeling techniques are commonly used in fire modeling: field modeling (computational fluid dynamics technique) and zone modeling. repair error. Patton (1994). equations. and other references address technical engineering aspects of fire phenomena. and the ignition source.

their chemical composition. It is important to know if a potential ignition source is located within the flammable or explosive limits. any combination of finishes. the faster a fire develops. These issues are important because combustible interior finishes. or 76–200. Higher temperatures and/or higher pressures generally increase the range over TAB LE 1 Examples of Flammable Ranges Fuel Gasoline vapor Methane (natural gas) Propane Butane Hydrogen Acetylene Carbon monoxide Lower Limit (%) 1. The relative hazard of an interior finish is usually determined by the so-called Steiner tunnel test in accordance with ASTM E 84-07(b) (2007). at the edge of a fuel-rich vapor cloud will be a region with other more flammable fuel-air ratios.0 74. Computer fire models include the mathematical characteriza- tion of experimental information related to whether flashover will occur. There is a wide range of fuels with different flammable limits. and so on. Generally.5 Upper Limit (%) 7.2 1.5 12. Life Safety Code (2006a) limits the use of interior wall. ventilation capability. and so on are all factors to be evaluated. insulation rating of the walls. hydrogen cyanide.5 75. so that. as such a cloud approaches. ceiling. rates of fire growth. and fire protection facilities. ignition is certainly possible from an igniting source. NFPA 101. Either too much or too little fuel in the vapor-air mixture can prevent burning. ease of ignition. called the LFL and UFL. B. the greater the threat will be. Typical fire loads are given by the NFPA (Cote 2003) for different occupancies. including smoke. Most substances have both a lower (lean) and an upper (rich) flammable (explosive) limit. offer significant factors in fire development permitting a fire to spread to objects far from the origin of the fire. or contents and furnishings that could result in flashover (full-room involvement) in a few minutes represents a severe fire hazard in many types of occupancies. Fire spread over interior finishes therefore deserves special attention. causing life-threatening situations— inhalation of fire gases (toxic products of combustion) being the major cause of death in fires.0 2. this value depending on the extent of ventilation. C OM B USTION The Basic Elements In the release and dispersion of flammable material. and it may be noted that fire spread rates vary enormously. or C according to flame spread rating 0–25.9 4. One can then assess whether an especially hazardous situation exists—whether a given fire scenario has the potential to develop flashover or full-room involvement. 26–75. The arrangement of combustibles. Protection by automatic sprinklers and fire-rated construction separations is often needed and is sometimes mandated by relevant codes. physical state. and so on. hydrogen chloride. for fuel-in-air mixtures on a volume percent basis. in addition to heat and insufficient oxygen. Classification of interior finish materials is A. respectively).6 15. respectively (or LEL and UEL. Some typical values for several fuels are given in Table 1. For these reasons. Smoke development and fuel-contribution ratings are also found in the test via temperature and smoke density recordings. carbon monoxide. such as low-density fiberboard ceilings and plastic floor coverings. Fires that reach flashover or full-room involvement produce acutely lethal products of combustion. and floor finish. these being the percentage (usually by volume) of an in-air substance that will burn once ignited.0 81. But. ceilings. combustible building materials. in addition to room geometry and size.Applied Science and Engineering: Fire Dynamics 3 of mass of equivalent ordinary combustibles per unit area (in kg/m2 or lbm/ft2).6 8.4 5. acrolein. It turns out that a particular fire size is required (in terms of heat release rate in kW or Btu/hr). NFPA 255 (2006b) and UL 723 (2003).0 2. These gases are produced in large quantities and driven to remote areas. nitrogen oxide(s).0 . room size. a vapor cloud is formed that spreads and disperses as the released material mixes and is carried downstream in the atmosphere.0 9. and floors can significantly affect the initial fire growth. Interior finishes of walls.

Beyler (2002) gives an extensive table of values for many gaseous fuels. great volumes of gases are produced. Chemical Reactions This discussion is restricted to two typical types of fuel: hydrocarbon fuels of the form CxHy and alcohol and other oxygen-containing fuels of the form CxHyOz. the figure is incomplete. using. which are unstable and chemically highly reactive. the following conditions must exist: there must be a fuel.” or “uninhibited chain reaction. Explosions are produced when oxygen-fuel mixtures are within flammable limits and an ignition source is present.” Note that uninhibited chain reaction occurs when excess heat from the exothermic reaction radiates back to the fuel to produce vapors and causes ignition in the absence of the original ignition source. Certain combinations of elements. which functions by interrupting the chain reaction. Research identified this fourth ingredient as the chemical or uninhibited chain reaction. Gases that do not burn include nitrogen. sound. or oxygen. heat. These observations suggest there is another basic ingredient necessary to sustain fire. Very rapid burning will cause explosions. there can be no fire. fuel. and Babrauskas (2003) provides a wealth of information about the ignition problem. While the fire triangle is useful in teaching the basic elements of fire. In like manner. the observed phenomena and the research performed on the theory of fire suggests a more complicated reaction taking place within the flame than can be accounted for with simply the fire triangle. carbon dioxide. that fuel must be heated to its ignition temperature. Slye (2002) concentrates on flammable and combustible liquids. Stoichiometric m = ms 2. are produced in all flames and are a necessary part of the burning reaction. and discusses temperature and pressure effects on the LFL and UFL. Mixtures of gaseous or vapor fuels with air can be too lean or too rich in the relative amount of fuel to permit burning. A need for a fourth side of the triangle became evident. steam. thus breaking the tetrahedron and extinguishing the fire without removing either heat. chlorine or nitrous oxide that interact with the fuel. the fourth side is labeled “chemical chain reaction. For a fire to be produced. Fuel rich m < ms and f = ms/m > 1 . Similar to the edges of the fire triangle. limits of flammability of gaseous mixtures. and there must be sufficient oxygen. Crowl and Louvar (1990) address chemical safety issues of. The reaction is then classified as 1. The Fire Triangle The fire triangle illustrates the interdependency of the three ingredients necessary to sustain fire. helium. From this tetrahedron theory has come the halon extinguishing system. The model chosen to illustrate this fourth side is the fire tetrahedron. Some chemical reactions occur without oxygen.4 Section 3: Fire Prevention and Protection which a given fuel-air mixture is capable of being ignited and burned. Halon is a coined and generic name for several halogenated hydrocarbon compounds that have found significant use as fire-extinguishing agents. if one of the three ingredients (oxygen. or fuel) of fire is missing. which is associated with motion. light. and carbon tetrachloride. The fire-extinguishing mechanism is that heat breaks down the halogenated compound into reactive hydride radicals that interrupt the chain reaction of the combustion process. Most gases and vapors burn with a chemical reaction that uses the oxygen readily available in the surrounding air. and kinetic energy. In explosions. temperature and pressure effects. Drysdale (1998) discusses the chemistry and physics of fire. Each side of the tetrahedron is labeled with one of the four ingredients of fire. These burning gases expand so rapidly and violently they produce heat. among other things. The Fire Tetrahedron The tetrahedron is a three-dimensional. resulting in the production of free radicals. If one side of the triangle is missing. four-sided pyramid with each side being a triangle. Two concepts are used: the fire triangle and the fire tetrahedron. for example. and explosions. The general burn involves the air-bracket multiplier (m) and how this compares with the correct or stoichiometric multiplier (ms).

and there is no excess oxygen in the products. there is enough oxygen that no carbon monoxide is in the products unless there is inadequate mixing of the fuel and oxygen. n6 = 0 for all cases considered. propane C3H8. then CxHyOz + m(O2 + f N2) → n2CO2 + n3H2O + n4N2 + n5O2 (5) Here m determines the amount of oxidant supplied relative to the amount of fuel supplied. The symbol f = ms/m is the equivalence ratio.76 gives the familiar combination that represents standard air. and the partial break up of H2O to H2 and O2). Examples are methanol CH3OH and ethanol C2H5OH. The n1. If stoichiometric burning occurs. on a volume basis. Alcohol fuels have the form CxHyOz. the equation becomes CxHyOz + (x + y/4 – z/2)(O8 + f N2) → n2CO2 + (3) n3H2O + n4N2 and it is clear that this amount of oxidant produces entirely CO2 and H2O in the product stream. The most familiar paraffins have y = 2x + 2. Minimum oxygen m = mmin Here m is the multiplier of the air bracket in the chemical balance equation. Other well-known fuels.Applied Science and Engineering: Fire Dynamics 5 3. are of the form CxHyOz and can be handled in the same fashion. The value of f = 3. Focusing on 1 kg-mole of fuel (an amount of fuel equal to its molecular weight written in kg). Neglecting dissociation (the partial break up at higher temperatures of CO2 to CO and O2. The value of f determines the amount of nitrogen relative to the amount of oxygen in the air. with 21 percent oxygen and 79 percent nitrogen. the equations that follow apply. where x and y are known for the fuel of interest. which is a nondimensional number representing the degree of fuel richness that the reactant mixture has with respect to fuel and oxygen. n6 values are the molar (kg-mole) amounts of product species from the burning of 1 kg-mole of fuel. Hydrocarbon fuels have the form CxHy. Examples are methane CH4. With this correct multiplier. n2. Also ms is the correct or stoichiometric multiplier of the air bracket. their amounts are easily determined. Hydrocarbon fuels: CxHy + m(O2 + f N2) → n1CO + n2CO2 + n3H2O + n4N2 + n5O2 + n6H2 Alcohol and oxygen-containing fuels: CxHyOz + m(O2 + f N2) → n1CO + n2CO2 + n3H2O + n4N2 + n5O2 + n6H2 (2) (1) such as cellulose (C6H10O5). and there is no CO or O2 or H2 in the products with m = ms = x + y/4 – z/2 n2 = x n3 = y/2 n4 = mf n1 = n5 = n6 = 0 If fuel rich burning occurs. n4. the equation becomes CxHyOz + m(O2 + f N2) → n1CO + n2CO2 + n3H2O + n4N2 (4) and it is deducible that there is no O2 or H2 in the products. and butane C4H10. Hence n1 = 2(ms – m) n2 = 2(m – mmin) n3 = y/2 n4 = mf n5 = n6 = 0 with the following formulas for stoichiometric and minimum air-bracket multipliers: ms = x + y/4 – z/2 mmin = x/2 + y/4 – z/2 If fuel lean burning occurs. for which there is just enough oxygen to complete the carbon and hydrogen reactions to carbon dioxide and water vapor. n3. n5. Now there is no CO or Hz in the products and the product stream amounts are n1 = 0 n2 = x n3 = y/2 n4 = mf n5 = m – ms n6 = 0 . Fuel lean m > ms and f = ms/m < 1 4.

is determined by M = [n1MWCO + etc] The specific gas constant for the product mixture R is a constant and can be calculated from the relation – R = R/MW (8) where – R is the universal gas constant. respectively. where nT = n1 + n2 + n3 + n4 + n5 + n6 The adiabatic flame temperature is defined as the temperature of the combustion products when all the energy released by the fuel on burning goes to heat up the products. etc M. The adiabatic flame temperature (AFT) of the products is AFT = 298 + ΔT where ΔT = temperature rise = (heat liberated)/[(total mass) (CPm)] ΔT = hrp/[(M)(CPm)] Here M is the total mass (in kg) of the product per kg-mole of fuel. Approximating this mean specific heat at 1000 K requires individual species values of specific heat CP at 1000 Kelvin. Higher temperatures and/or higher pressures TAB LE 2 Molecular Weight and Specific Heats CP at 1000K (J/kg K) Species CO CO2 H2O N2 O2 H2 MW 28 44 18 28 32 2 CP (J/kg K) 1185 1234 2290 1167 1090 1510 . in J/kg) and MWfuel is the molecular weight of the fuel (in kg/kg-mole). Lilley (2007) gives the details. the no-dissociation assumption prohibiting hydrogen from occurring in the products. and hrp is the heat liberated (from reactants to products) per kg-mole of fuel (in J/kg-mole of the fuel). then CxHyOz + (x/2 + y/4 – z/2)(O2 + f N2) → n1CO + (6) n3H2O + n4N2 It is seen that this amount of oxidant is just enough to oxidize all the fuel to CO and H2O and there is no CO2 or O2 in the products (minimum amount of air required) with m = mmin = x/2 + y/4 – z/2 n1 = x n3 = y/2 n4 = mf n2 = n5 = n6 = 0 Note that n3 = y/2 and n6 = 0 occurs in all the cases. CO + etc]/M where MWCO = Molecular weight of CO. where Hc is the heat of combustion of the fuel in mass units (that is. as the total mass of the product per kg-mole of fuel (kg). the value of which is 8314 J/kg-mole K MW is the mean mixture molecular weight of the products in kg/kg-mole K (7) Flammability Limits As introduced above. most substances have both a lower (lean) and an upper (rich) flammable (explosive) limit. for fuel-in-air mixtures on a volume percent basis. hrp for the fuel is equal to Hc × MWfuel. called the LFL and UFL. The mean specific heat can be expressed as CPm = [n1MWCO CP.6 Section 3: Fire Prevention and Protection If minimum oxidant burning occurs. That is. CPm is the mean specific heat of the products (in J/kg K). Table 2 provides these values along with the molecular weight (MW) of the product species of interest. MW = [n1 MWCO + etc]/nT. (9) Temperature of the Combustion Products The mean specific heat of the products CPm( J/kg K) can be calculated by taking the molar weighted average of the molar specific heats of the products. Some typical values are given in Table 1. Either too much or too little fuel in the vapor-air mixture can prevent burning.

via multiplication by C0 (called the discharge coefficient. Lees (1980). and from a large variety of other sources. Problem parameters come into play in determining the amount of release or rate of release. The purpose of the source model is to determine the form of material released (solid. for some alkanes.6 percent. topics addressed in SFPE (2002). and analysis of failures. These and other authors discuss the many principles.Applied Science and Engineering: Fire Dynamics 7 generally increase the range over which a given fuelair mixture is capable of being ignited and burned [see discussion and figures in Slye (2003). 6. For example. a number less than one). A mechanical energy balance describes the various energy forms associated with flowing fluids.55 Cst UFL = 3. (Equation 3) via 1 Cst = __________ 1 + ms/0. it may be necessary to estimate the flammability limits without experimental data. Crowl and Louvar (1990) and AIChE (1990). guidelines. 7. the estimates are very good compared with accepted data. In fact. which represent the physicochemical processes occurring during the release of materials. the estimate for the UFL is higher than found in practice. including the rate of material release. the total quantity of material released. health and loss prevention. 3. and the physical state of the material. Source models are constructed from fundamental or empirical equations. 2. Several basic source models are available. NFPA (Cote 2003). with propane C3H8 the estimates compute as 2. For some situations. . A correction factor is introduced to cater for the flow being less than ideal.1 percent. for example]. and resulting velocities depend on the density of the fluid (liquid or gas). including fires and explosions. these being the values given by NFPA (Cote 2003) and elsewhere.2 to 14. vessel overpressure protection. and dispersion modeling. and calculations that are necessary for safe design and operation. hazards identification and risk assessment. material may be released from holes and cracks in tanks and pipes. the total quantity released. whereas the familiar values are 2. For many fuels. whether or not the fluid is compressible. from leaks in flanges. source models. pumps. However.2 to 9. each applicable to its particular release scenario: 1. liquid. and whether or not choking (maximum flow) conditions occur. and the rate at which it is released. Then the approximate expressions are recommended by Crowl and Louvar (1990): LFL = 0. although the estimate of the LFL is reasonable. or vapor). and valves. 5.50 Cst (10) (11) Source models represent the material release process. For example. Cst may be found directly from the stoichiometric chemical balance equation. Energy Balance Equation Source releases are driven by pressure differences. dP ∫ ___ r where P = the pressure (N/m2 = Pa or lbf/ft2) r = the fluid density (kg/m3 or lbm/ft3) g V2 + Δ ____ + __ Δz + F = 0 gc 2agc (13) E VOLUTION The Basics OF F LAM MAB LE M ATE R IAL The release of flammable material falls within the science of chemical process safety. 4. flow of liquids through a hole flow of liquids through a hole in a tank flow of liquids through pipes flow of vapor through holes flow of vapor through pipes flashing liquids liquid pool evaporation or boiling where Cst is the stoichiometric volume percent of fuel in fuel plus air.21) (12) and then estimates of the lower and upper flammability limits follow from Equations 10 and 11. They provide useful information for determining the consequences of an accident. The volume flow rate (m3/s or ft 3/s) and mass flow rate (kg/s or lbm/s) may be determined via introduction of the flow passage crosssectional area and density of the flowing material.

customary units and = 1 kg-m/N-s2 in SI units) and Pg is the gage pressure pushing the fluid through the hole to an ambient zero gage pressure. lbf/lbm) For incompressible liquids the density is constant and the first term in Equation 13 is replaced by ΔP/P. C0 approaches the value 0. because of losses associated with the flow going through the area reduction.61. this number being called the discharge coefficient (C0). there is an additional hydrostatic pressure due to depth acting as well as the pressure in the region just above the liquid’s surface level. the contour of approach to the exit. = 0. only the pressure and kinetic energy (by virtue of the square of the velocity) terms remain. For short sections of pipe attached to a vessel (with a length-diameter ratio not less than 3). The resulting equation for the instantaneous velocity (m/s or ft/s) of fluid exiting the leak is V = C0 gc Pg 2 ____ + ghL r (16) and the mass flow rate Q m (in kg/s or lbm/s) due to a hole of area A (m2 or ft 2) is given by Q m = rV = AC0 A 2rgc Pg (15) where hL (m or ft) is the liquid surface height above the leak. the exit velocity of the fluid is independent of the size of the hole. The instantaneous mass flow rate Q m (in kg/s or lbm/s) due to a hole of area A (m2 or ft 2) is given by Qm = rV = rAC0 A gc Pg 2 ____ + ghL r (17) The total mass of liquid spilled is dependent on the total time the leak is active. in U. 2. There is a trade-off between pressure energy and velocity produced. For sharp-edged orifices and for Reynolds numbers greater than 30. That is.0 for turbulent flow with almost a flat velocity profile g = the acceleration due to gravity (= 9. use a value of 1. The discharge coefficient is a complicated function of the Reynolds number of the fluid escaping through the leak.000. Flow of Liquid Through a Hole Because no altitude change occurs. This is taken into account by multiplying the ideal answer by a number less than unity. the discharge coefficient is approximately 0. the liquid height decreases and the velocity and mass flow rate will decrease. 1.2 lbm .8 Section 3: Fire Prevention and Protection V = the average instantaneous velocity of the fluid (m/s or ft/s) gc = the conversion factor constant (= 1 kg-m/N-s2 or 32. high pressure and zero velocity inside the container.2 lbm-ft/lbf-s2 As the tank empties. 3. For a well-rounded nozzle the discharge coefficient approaches unity. and the diameter of the hole. In these equations gc is the familiar conversion factor (= 32. 4.2 ft/s2) z = the height above some datum (m or ft) F = the net frictional loss term (J/kg or ft . In practice the driving pressure gives a lower exit velocity than the idealized equation gives. ft/lbf-s2) a = the unitless velocity profile correction factor with the following values. The resulting equation for the velocity (m/s or ft/s) of fluid exiting the leak is V = C0 2gc Pg _____ r (14) Flow of Liquid Through a Hole in a Tank When the hole in a tank is below the liquid surface level.5 for laminar flow = 1.0 to maximize the computed flows. The following guidelines are suggested. Some advice is given after Equation 15 about the value to use for this coefficient.81. with the resulting liquid escaping into zero gage pressure at a high velocity.81 m/s2 or 32. For cases where the discharge coefficient is unknown or uncertain. For these conditions. .S.

and 1. using dispersion coefficients that empirically specify the rates of spread of the dispersing material. the airborne material is carried away by the wind in a characteristic plume or a puff. The gas obeys the ideal gas law – P = r RT/M (18) where P = the absolute pressure (N/m2 = Pa or lbf/ft2) r = the fluid density (kg/m3 or lbm/ft3) – R is the universal gas constant (= 8314 J/kg-mole K or 1545 ft-lbf/lbm-mole °R) T = the absolute temperature (degrees K or °R) M = the molecular weight of the gas (kg/kg-mole or lbm/lbm-mole) For the isentropic (no heat transfer and no mechanical losses) expansion of the gas P/r g = constant where g is the ratio of the heat capacities. For high-pressure ratios (with upstream absolute pressure greater than about twice the downstream absolute pressure). that is flows with upstream absolute pressure less than about twice the downstream absolute pressure (which is usually the atmosphere).Applied Science and Engineering: Fire Dynamics 9 Flow of Vapor through Holes Free expansion leaks for gas (vapor) through holes differs from that of liquid flow because of the much lower density of the fluid and because it is compressible.0 is recommended when the maximum (worst) possible scenario is being estimated. driving. water. wind speed atmospheric stability ground conditions. and R g = R stands for the universal gas constant. Dispersion models describe the airborne transport of materials away from the accident site. and R g the universal gas constant. or triatomic. T0 the absolute temperature of the source. 2. 1. Concentrations downwind are less. which is given by (Qm)choked = C0 AP0 ggc M 2 _____ _____ RgT0 g + 1 (g+1)/(g–1) (20) Two types of vapor cloud dispersion models are commonly used: the plume and puff models. In general g is the specific heat ratio of the gas emerging. the discharge coefficient increases as the downstream pressure decreases. z) as a function of time (t) after initial . 3. D I S PE R S ION The Basics OF R E LEAS E D M ATE R IAL The information about source release is required for any quantitative dispersion-model study. For these flows and for situations where C0 is uncertain. y. The plume model describes the steady-state concentration of material released from a continuous source.67. absolute pressure (P0) and the mass flow rate (in kg/s or lbm/s). trees height of the release above ground level momentum and buoyancy of the initial material released P – __ P0 (g+1)/g (19) where P is the absolute pressure of the external surroundings. However. g = Cp/Cv .40. a conservative value of 1. due to turbulent mixing and dispersion of the substance with air.32 depending on whether the gas is monotomic. the flow becomes sonic at the hole. which may or may not be at ground level. collectively known as the Pasquill-Gifford model. The above equation holds only for flows that are not choked. a constant discharge coefficient C0 of 0. For sharp-edged orifices with Reynolds numbers greater than 30. A wide variety of parameters affect atmospheric dispersion of toxic materials: 1. The puff model describes the temporal concentration of material from a single release of a fixed amount of material. buildings.000 (and not choked). The maximum concentration occurs at the release point. for choked flows. P0 is the absolute pressure of the source – (both in N/m2 or lbf/ft 2).61 is indicated. respectively. which is equal to 1. After a release. 5. yields the equation for mass flow rate (in kg/s or lbm/s) as 2 gc M g P Qm = C0 AP _____ ____ __ 0 RgT0 g – 1 P0 2/g where M is the molecular weight of the escaping vapor or gas. 4. diatomic (or air). Models are available that permit concentration (kg/m3) and volumetric concentration percent (%) to be calculated at location (x. Then the flow rate only depends on the upstream. Introducing the discharge coefficient and keeping absolute pressures.

95 4 B: Unstable 100–500 500–2 × 10 100–105 100–500 500–10 5 log10 sz = –1. ASME (1973). neutral. It is important to determine if the mixture is within the flammability limits at a nearby ignition source. in the case of fuel release.195x 0.37 log10 x – 0.92 sy = 0.91 sz = 0.91 sy = 0.80 log10 sz = –1.88 sy = 0.091x 0. Lees (1980).90 Stability Class A: Unstable x (m) 100–300 300–3000 sy from fitted equation (m) sz = 0.61 sy = 0.25 + 1.06x 0. Useful references include AIChE (1990).) .05x 0.89 (Data and equations adapted from well-known sources.119(log10 x)2 C: Neutral D: Neutral E: Stable 100–500 500–105 F: Stable 100–500 500–10 4 Equations for Puff Releases Stability Class A and B: Unstable C and D: Neutral E and F: Stable sy from fitted equation (m) sy = 0. see Lilley 2004) TAB LE 4 Equations and Data for Pasquill-Gifford Dispersion Coefficients Equations for Continuous Plumes Stability Class A: Unstable B: Unstable C: Neutral D: Neutral E: Stable F: Stable sy from fitted equation (m) sy = 0.67 + 0.10 Section 3: Fire Prevention and Protection release. and vertical TAB LE 3 Atmospheric Stability Classes for Use with the Pasquill-Gifford Dispersion Model Day Radiation Intensity Night Cloud Cover Wind Speed (m/s) Strong Medium Slight Cloudy Calm and Clear <2 2–3 3–5 5–6 >6 A A–B B C C A–B B B–C C–D D B C C D D E D D D F E D D Stability classes for puff model are A and B. including air resistance and wind effects. sx. and sz.90 sy = 0.135x 0. Sprays of liquid droplets and particles may be handled via computation of particle trajectories.92 sz from fitted equation (m) sz = 0.10 log10 sz = 1.112x 0.88 sy = 0.14x 0.85 log10 sz = –1. unstable.181(log10 x)2 sz = 0.128x 0.493x 0.082x 0. (Adapted from well-known sources.73 sz = 0.22 + 1.087x 1.19 + 1.070(log10 x)2 sz = 0.067x 0.09 log10 x + 0. as outlined by Chow (1979) and Lilley (2008).02x 0. Crowl and Louvar (1990). Hanna and Drivas (1987). see Lilley 2004. These represent the standard deviations of the concentration in the downwind. C and D. sy .91 + 1.70 sz = 0.337x 0. E and F.04 log10 x – 0.82 log10 sz = –1.057x 0.08 log10 x – 0. it is common to utilize the dispersion coefficients.0018(log10 x)2 sz = 0.902 log10 x + 0.06(log10 x)2 sz = 0. crosswind. In both plume and puff models.90 sy = 0. stable. and Lilley (1996).53x 0.093x 0.15x 0.

The ground-level concentration along the x-axis is given at additionally imposing that y = 0 and Equation 23 reduces to Q *m _ x – ut C(x. and sz are also utilized for puff release of material. y. y. The PasquillGifford dispersion coefficients (sx = sy for horizontal dispersion and sz for vertical dispersion) for a continuous source are given in Table 4.Applied Science and Engineering: Fire Dynamics 11 (x. 0. 0. y. 0. Thus. 0) = ______ exp – _ __ psyszu 2 sy 2 (21) This equation gives the mass concentration (kg/m3) of the released material at a distance x downstream in the direction of the wind. The atmospheric conditions are classified according to six different stability classes shown in Table 3. and sz are functions of the downstream distance x. The concentration along the centerline of the plume directly downwind is given at y = z = 0 and reduces Equation 21 to Qm C(x. The stability classes depend on wind speed and quantity of sunlight. the ground concentration is given at z = 0 by Qm 1 y C(x. The concentration can also be transferred to volumetric concentration.2 kg/m3).t) = ____________ exp – 1 _____ 3/2 s s s sx 2 2p x y z 2 where C represents mass concentration (kg/m3) of the released material in air.0. This simplifies immensely the resulting equations for ground-level concentration further downstream and sideways from the source. z) location.t) = ____________ exp – 1 _____ + __ (23) 2 3/2 s s s sy sx 2 2p x y z Plume Model Consider only release at ground level. sy . and z = 0 is the vertical direction. For a plume with continuous steady state source (at ground level) of constant mass release rate Qm (kg/s) and a wind velocity u(m/s) in the x-direction. This concentration can be transferred to mass concentration (comparing with the density of the carrying medium air being approximately 1.0. via introduction of the molecular weights of the dispersed material and the air (molecular weight of air being about 29 kg/kg-mole K). the distance x = ut. 0) because. dispersion coefficients sx. This is due to a change in vertical temperature profiles from day to night. Puff Model As with the plume model. Again. only ground-level release is considered for simplicity. and hence to parts (24) The center of the cloud is found at coordinates (ut. per million (ppm) by volume. 0. and z) directions. it is clear that the concentration given by Equation 21 reduces with downstream distance x and sideways distance y. increased wind speed results in greater atmospheric stability. at time t. and a crosswise distance y to the side (both x and y being distances in meters). Here x is in the wind-driven direction. This is at the (x.y. During the day. 0) = ______ (22) psyszu Observe that for continuous ground level release the maximum concentration occurs at the release point. Because the values of the dispersion coefficients sx. and described further with examples of their use in Lilley (2004). sy . t) = ____________ 2p 3/2 sx sysz (25) B U R N I NG R ATE S Background The burning rate is usually expressed either as a mass loss rate (kg/s) or as a heat release rate (kW) with the .0. respectively. while at night the reverse is true. The downstream concentrations on the ground (z = 0) for a puff of mass release Q*m (kg) with a wind velocity u(m/s) in the x-direction is given by 2 Q *m y2 _ x – ut C(x. y is sideways. with the values given in Table 4 and figures in Lilley (2004). and to parts per million (ppm) by mass. The dispersion coefficients are a function of atmospheric conditions and the distance downwind from the release. the concentration at the center of this moving cloud is given by Q *m C(ut. showing fitted curves simplified from data in Lees (1980) and Crowl and Louver (1990).

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