Stainless steel is imperishable

Paul Boughton
In order to underline the safety which metal bulk containers (IBC) offer, UCON AG Container-systeme KG commissioned a decisive fire test to be carried out at the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM).
During preparations for the test it was ensured, in cooperation with the BAM, that the worst case was covered. A cubic 1000litre IBC made of 1.4301 stainless steel with a test wall thickness of 2.0mm in the protected version was selected as a test sample. The IBC was made without the standard DN 400 or DN 450 inspection opening so that pressure release via the seals during the fire was prevented. The only openings provided were a DN 125 feedthrough for routing the thermal elements and a pipe connection for pressure measurement, in addition to a DN 25 feedthrough with a PTFE fusible cutout. The floor drain was provided with a DN 50 ball valve and cap nut.
The IBC was filled up to 50 per cent with methylated ethanol (UN 1170, flash point (FF) 10-12 °C, boiling point approximately 78°C). The IBC was ignited via 37 nozzles and liquid propane. The test was broken off after 30 minutes at a conflagration of 800°C. The material was completely undamaged and the medium did not discharge at any location at all.
The metal UCON IBC withstood the extreme fire test without failure. Verification of structural stability in addition to the effectiveness of the fusible cutout was proven.
The main point to be drawn from the test is that a metal IBC provides excellent fire safety during transport and during storage in production halls.
It has been ascertained that metal IBCs have extremely high safety in fires through testing in various accident scenarios. This is of extreme importance since they are also used as active storage containers. In this case, the technical regulations for flammable liquids, especially the German TRbF 20 (technical regulations for flammable liquids), are crucial for warehouses. Further requirements with regard to fire protection are determined by the German Water Management Act.
The test results can be transferred without any restrictions at all to cylindrical IBCs with conventional manhole openings and with venting and ventilating equipment. This reflects the knowledge which has been obtained in the past during a wide range of other fires.
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UCON AG Containersysteme KG is based in Hausach, Germany.