Clive Jones talks about the best way to ensure compliance with the fire and explosive environments regulations
"A watched pot never boils" is a common idiom in the UK. It means if you concentrate on something happening, the wait will seem longer than if you distracted yourself with other matters. But if the boiling was a bad thing, you'd obviously keep a diligent watch wouldn't you?
The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) of 2002 and the Explosive Atmosphere Directive (ATEX 137) are mandatory requirements for minimising safety risks and protecting workers from fire and explosion where flammable or explosive materials are present.
The use and storage of heat transfer fluids is covered by DSEAR. Many industries, from oil and gas to food and beverage face risk of closure, should they be found in serious breach of regulations.
Like looking after yourself, the best way to care for a plant - and therefore ensure DSEAR compliance - is to take a proactive maintenance approach. Regular check-ups are the key to spotting dangers.
Unfortunately, when it comes to heat transfer systems, it's often a case of out of sight and out of mind. Thermal fluid is often neglected until it's degraded so much that it causes issues in the system such as reduced fire and flash point and carbon build-up. These can lead to a reduction in efficiency, increased energy costs, pipe blockages and pump issues – ultimately resulting in possible fire and explosion risks.
As thermal oils age within a system, they degrade and crack producing contaminates, solids and volatiles and carbon. If left untreated, these deposits bake onto the inside of the system. Carbon is an excellent insulator and, if residue builds up around the heater coil, can create hot spots that can burn through thick metal pipes, causing fire and explosion risk, or at the very least reducing efficiency.
Most heat transfer applications have an incredibly high internal temperature in which the oils operate. Extreme examples can be found in the solar, plastics production and chemical industries, where thermal fluids need to work effectively up to a whopping 400˚C and beyond. Even a small hole in the metal pipes of a system containing thermal fluids at these temperatures means the plant runs a severe fire risk.
The best way to comply with DSEAR regulations and keep your plant, employees and business safe is to take a proactive approach to thermal fluid maintenance. You wouldn't leave a frying pan unattended at home would you, so why ignore your heat transfer system?
Carrying out checks every month to ensure both the fluid and the system are in optimal condition reduces the risk of downtime and damage to applications, while ensuring safety and DSEAR compliance. Overall, by committing to regular and relevant representative testing and monitoring carried out by a qualified company, you could reduce costs by up 75%, but the peace of mind you'll receive from knowing your system and staff aren't at risk is invaluable.
Clive Jones is Global Heat Transfer's CEO.