The threat of fire is ever present in recycling plants – a reality reflected in the ever-more stringent regulations and insurance requirements governing the industry. Stored paper, plastic materials and glass pellet processing all have high associated risks and fires that result can be both devastating and costly; causing total asset loss, pollution to the local environment and disruption to nearby urban settlements at worst and unnecessary process downtime, combined with the costly redirection of contracted waste coming on to a site at best.
The potential ferocity of waste recycling fires is highlighted by two recent incidents – the first occurring at a Manchester (UK) plant in March 2015, which lasted for several days before being extinguished by 40 firefighters. One month later a devastating blaze took place at a Lancashire (UK) plant, requiring 15 fire engines and over 100 firefighters.
Today’s recycling plant safety managers really do have a tough remit; not only are the fire risks considerable, but waste recycling plants present some of the most challenging environments for fire detection technologies, due to a variety of adverse conditions; a high prevalence of dust, environmental transients and high humidity can cause frequent false alarms in many traditional systems. Many plants experience a high frequency of false alarms (multiple events on a weekly basis), which has historically led some operators to implement solutions that only offer “bare minimum” coverage when application risks demand the highest safety provision and most accurate, earliest detection to ensure adequate protection. This is a trend that has no doubt helped catalyse the emergence of new regulations designed to improve site safety, such as those issued in 2014 by the Waste Industry Safety and Health Forum (WISH) in the UK.
Responding to challenging fire safety issues
Despite the pressure of costly insurance stipulations, evolving regulatory compliance requirements and mounting costs that threaten to put many firms out of business, it appears that there is a solution in the form of new emerging fire detection technologies.
Aspiration Smoke Detection (ASD) – cited as one of the most effective and safest fire detection technologies recommended in the WISH guidelines – presents one of the most effective methods in terms of safety and performance. Advanced, next generation ASDs like FAAST from Honeywell, go one step further, by addressing application challenges and removing false alarms and historic detection issues, providing welcome relief to every recycling plant safety manager’s concerns.
Premier Waste (UK) PLC is a UK-based plant that has seen a dramatic improvement from the recent integration of Honeywell’s FAAST ASD system. The 200,000 ft2 facility, located in Birmingham, represents one of the most challenging the industry has to offer, with an extreme high-dust atmosphere and moisture prevalence; a misting system is in constant use to damp down dust and odour issues. 24/7 operation and processing for the recycling of construction and commercial waste, including packaging, creates considerable fire hazards. In fact, in addition to damping down materials, Premier Waste (UK) PLC has over 15 fire marshals carrying out fire checks every 60 minutes, as well as an on-site fire engine and water tank holding in excess of 620,000 litres of water, along with five fire hydrants. Having previously used heat detectors to monitor the site, Premier Waste (UK) PLC was experiencing a high instance of disruptive false alarms; as frequently as every other day, along with a potential timing delay from awaiting heat spikes to trigger the system.
Challenges and requirements
Premier Waste’s Operations Director, Wayne Clark, describes the fire detection challenges on site and why aspiration smoke detection technology was the only solution capable of mitigating risks effectively. “We had been experiencing a high incidence of false alarms and the use of heat detectors didn’t provide the earliest warning that would allow us to minimise fire events. Aspiration smoke detection is the only technology that can cope with the extreme environments we face with high particulate levels; a device offering the earliest fire detection was essential. The waste industry is growing and safety concerns are catalysing the rapid evolution of legislation and insurance requirements; today you need to ensure you are doing all you can to exceed the guidelines – we wanted to implement a solution that offered the highest safety provision.
“Environmental conditions can fluctuate considerably from area to area and we required a whole plant monitoring solution. Ease of integration, installation and ongoing use were also key prerequisites; systems can be complex to commission and they need to be set up and maintained properly to be effective – especially under the conditions of high dust and constant water ingress. The maintenance of heat detectors by third party providers was not ideal for us – we needed an easy, cost-effective solution we could regularly maintain in-house.”
The benefits of next generation ASD
Having decided smoke aspiration technology was the only truly effective method, Premier Waste (UK) PLC installed Honeywell’s FAAST ASD; a ground-breaking, next generation solution offering the earliest, most accurate fire detection and incorporating advanced technologies specifically designed to meet the World’s most challenging monitoring environments like waste recycling plants.
FAAST’s ability to accurately identify low levels of smoke (down to invisible concentrations) – even in high dust/moisture atmospheres – made it stand out from the competition, as Wayne explains. “The combination of accuracy, ultra-sensitive detection and proven false alarm immunity in high dust/moisture environments made FAAST the most attractive option for us from a safety perspective. Added to this was the devices ease of installation, use and ongoing maintenance by in-house personnel. Designing the pipe infrastructure and commissioning the system was easy with the user-friendly PipeIQ software provided. FAAST is also great because it auto-learns the environment and can be used across the whole plant – it remains stable even in fluctuating conditions.”
A perfect fit at the perfect price?
It is only natural to assume that such an effective and technologically advanced fire detector would come with a high associated cost, but interestingly, this is not the case; Premier Waste (UK) PLC achieved maximised plant detection coverage with just eight units and FAAST also reduced the operational cost of fire detection on site. Wayne explains how flexible configuration, testing and ongoing use provided the perfect fit for the plant in terms of both safety provision and affordability. “The system was installed with water traps, which prevented issues from water ingress and the system was designed with ground level testing. The use of airlines and pressure vents at ground level meant that we could easily test the system ourselves (with no need for process downtime or the use of access towers), in just 15 minutes. FAAST’s unique technology helps prevent pipe blockages and local airline and pressure release valves at ground floor ensure that dust/water ingress into the pipework can be handled without the device going into fault.
“FAAST has helped us reduce our operational costs, whilst enhancing safety. We now have no disruptions when testing/maintenance is taking place, no site downtime from false alarms or faults, no third party costs to keep the device maintained and we’ve replaced the heat detectors with just eight devices. When a fire event occurs, we can now respond much quicker, and this reduces business interruptions as well as risks. FAAST exceeds all expectations and lives up to its claims; false alarms used to be a regular annoyance, but I can’t remember the last one we had with FAAST. Its ability to provide the earliest fire event warning gives our marshals more time to implement counter measures and reduce the impact of an incident. We can easily maintain the system ourselves and achieve maximised uptime – no matter what the changing environmental conditions. FAAST has provided us with a solution designed to exceed insurance and legislative requirements for many years to come and we are really delighted with its result.”
Premier Waste (UK) PLC’s experience highlights most effectively the real-world value that ASD technology can bring to challenging fire detection environments, as Tim Checketts, Business Manager for Honeywell Fire Safety comments. “Recycling and waste management safety managers have a tough remit and seemingly unsurmountable issues to overcome. This is why we innovated FAAST, and evolved the concept of ASD into one that can truly meet the needs of the World’s most challenging fire detection applications, through the application of pioneering three-stage filtration techniques, unsurpassed environmental transient stability and user-friendly features like simplified ground level testing and remote monitoring capability with automatic system updates via email to smart phones or portable devices.
“FAAST has been independently tested by the University of Maryland and is proven to be 300 times more effective than any comparable detection method. Industry feedback from recycling plants like Premier Waste (UK) PLC proves that our technologies provide greater protection of people and processes, combined with affordability and ease of use. This is great news for a vital and growing industry that has been historically plagued by safety challenges, high fire risks and mounting operational costs.”
For more information, go to www.faast-detection.com