AFEX Exhibiting at DUG East Trade Show: Proactive Fire Protection Makes for Safer Working Conditions for All Involved in the Inherently Dangerous Oil & Gas Business

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Raleigh, NC – AFEX Fire Suppression Systems is introducing its safety accessory product to the hydraulic fracturing industry at the DUG East trade show (Booth 733) in order to mitigate the risk of surface equipment fires engulfing well pads. By suppressing vehicle fires on frac pumps and blenders before they become fully involved, the entire fracturing fleet is protected, in addition to the well itself. An established approach to safety in many heavy industries, including mining, forestry, waste/recycling, and steel, fire suppression systems have a long history of protecting the vehicles they are mounted on, thereby protecting the asset, its operators and the productivity of the machine.

Vehicle fires are often the result of atomized flammable fluids spraying onto hot surfaces once a hose has worn through or been otherwise damaged. With the intense heat, twisting and vibrations found on the average frac vehicle, the stage is set for just this type of fire, especially as its hours spent in the field accumulate. Instances of these surface equipment fires spreading to the surrounding vehicles are not uncommon, such that losing one machine is less likely than losing an entire fleet due to the very tight parking configurations required. Fire suppression systems provide a proven solution to this pressing safety problem.

AFEX to Exponor 2015

AFEX is pleased to announce that we will be joining our distributor Fluitek at the Exponor 2015 show in the Region of Antofagasta of Chile from May 11 to May 15.

With over 1,200 exhibiting companies, it is one of the best shows of its kind. Please be sure to stop by Stand 51 in Pavilion B if you will be there to learn about our robust vehicle fire suppression systems.

AFEX Fire Suppression Systems Exhibiting at INTERSCHUTZ 2015 Trade Fair

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

AFEX Fire Suppression Systems will be exhibiting in the U.S. Pavilion, Booth 38, at the upcoming INTERSCHUTZ 2015 event in Hannover, Germany. Beginning June 8th experts from around the world will gather at the week-long trade fair. The show is one of the world’s leading exhibitions for rescue, fire prevention, disaster relief, safety and security. AFEX will be there to exhibit its product line to the multifaceted, international audience and to show its support for the global fire suppression industry. The company will be taking applications for distributorships while in attendance, in keeping with its continued growth in size and scope.

“As an international company, we are excited to be involved with INTERSCHUTZ as the event draws well over 100,000 highly qualified professionals,” explains VP Rod Cavallaro, who will be working the show. “Continually expanding awareness of our vehicle fire suppression system is key to our year-over-year growth as a company, and rarely do we have the opportunity to speak to so many potential partners in one place. AFEX is known for its rugged, durable product and for being completely focused on heavy duty, off road equipment. These facts resonate well with quality-conscious decision makers the world over, regardless of their industry.”

For questions about heavy equipment fire suppression systems, contact AFEX directly at 919-781-6610 or visit www.AFEXSYSTEMS.com to learn more.

The Impact of Autonomous and Remote-Controlled Off-Road Equipment On Fire Suppression

The advent of unmanned equipment in heavy industries has arrived, and so manufacturers of fire suppression systems need to address how this impacts the type of coverage these units receive. Whether a machine is used in mining, timber, recycling or some other niche, this new (and growing) paradigm requires a modified approach when it comes to fire protection.

Because the human factor is largely being removed from the firefighting equation as a result of this conversion process, the opportunities for an in cab operator to identify a fire and manually actuate a fire suppression system on the vehicle itself are all but gone. Fortunately, fire liability is not drastically increased by going the unmanned route, assuming those responsible for overseeing the vehicles have the ability to actuate the system from a distance.

At the moment not every fire suppression system is remote actuation ready, which is one of the main aspects of protection that will have to change. In keeping with a long-standing position at the technological forefront of its industry, AFEX Fire Suppression Systems incorporated the necessary advancements to its Control Unit over two years ago. As a result, remote actuation of an AFEX fire suppression system is as simple as pushing a button. Another benefit of the Control Unit’s advanced nature is its ability to tie-in with existing telematics, allowing for enhanced fire suppression system monitoring.

Of course this new reality also puts more of a premium on the use of automatic systems that self-actuate once sensors have determined a spike in temperature indicative of a fire. These types of systems have the advantage of being “on guard” at all times, monitoring those areas of the machine that are difficult to see, like the inside of an engine compartment. This fact would be equally helpful whether the scale of the operation is a fleet of autonomous haul trucks or a single, remote-controlled grinder.

Ultimately, the transition to unmanned vehicles will bring about a new look to the average fire suppression system. Remote actuation will need to become a default, allowing a remote machine supervisor to react to a fire immediately upon identification, while at the same time automatic systems will become necessary to account for the lack of an onboard operator. Identifying and understanding these basic truths has allowed AFEX Fire Suppression Systems to prepare for the job of protecting the next generation of heavy equipment.

AFEX Fire Suppression Systems Annual Training School A Tremendous Success

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Visitors from around the world received two days of intensive training on the AFEX product line and the state of the fire suppression industry recently. The annual event, held once again at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel and Convention Center in Durham, NC, had outstanding participation, which included a night out to the Durham Bulls ballpark for participants to take in a game while fostering relationships.

A broad range of topics ranging from various system applications, to correct system configuration, to appropriate system sizing, was covered by Presenters at the School. Among the specifics discussed were the continuing emergence of dual agent systems, which use both dry chemical and liquid suppression agents together, and the importance and value of third party certifications. Training sessions included extensive hands-on exercises with the telematics-compatible AFEX Control Unit, as well as a review of a number of industry technology trends, such as Tier 4 engines and autonomous vehicles.

The presentation was supplemented with a number of videos, including a segment focused on fire suppression from the History Channel produced “Rise of the Machines” television program. A focus again was placed on customer service, including an emphasis on thorough documentation for the end user and operator training. A certification test was given to all attendees at the closing of the event.

“The Training School gives our partners the opportunity to meet with their peers and discuss their field work in a more direct way than they otherwise would, which is something we always hear is much appreciated,” said VP Rod Cavallaro. “AFEX would like to thank the participants for the commitment they have shown through their attendance. As an organization, we truly appreciate the chance to share with our network of service providers the most current and relevant trends and insights we’ve identified across the many disciplines of our industry.”

Assessing Fire Risk

AFEX Fire Suppression Systems tells Mining Magazine about the impact of fire risk assessments on vehicle fire suppression system designs.

When determining how best to protect a piece of heavy off-road equipment from the threat of fire, a fire risk assessment is the most indispensable procedure one can use. This process entails an evaluation of the main hazards of a specific machine and its operating environment.

It provides a decision-making framework to help one evaluate a vehicle’s risk potential, implement changes to mitigate those risks, and, when deemed necessary, to design and install a fire suppression system that appropriately addresses those risks. It is so helpful, the US National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has a guide it publishes to explain and encourage its use.

A thoroughly executed analysis is required for proper system design, installation and performance. A common fire risk assessment ‘checklist’ includes, but is not necessarily limited to:

  • The engine size;
  • Normal operating temperatures;
  • The amount of hydraulics on-board;
  • The type and size of after treatment components;
  • The hazards related to the operating environment; and
  • Any potential impact fire would have on personnel’s safety.

System recommendations

Determining how these aspects affect system recommendations are a combination of industry experience, the system manufacturer’s recommendations (which ought to be based on third party testing results), and industry standards such as those of the NFPA and the US Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).

To begin with, the high temperature areas of a machine need to be accounted for, such as the exhaust manifold, turbocharger, hydraulic pumps, torque converters, brakes, and gears. Other ignition sources are electrical components such as batteries, fuse panels, generators, alternators, electrical wiring and starters. These areas are potential ignition sources for a fire because any flammable liquids which come into contact with them are likely to flash, or because they can catch fire themselves due to malfunction.

Once the ignition sources have been accounted for, one should evaluate the potential fuel sources, which are divided into three separate classes of combustible materials:

  • Class A materials are referred to as debris, which would include coal dust, electrical insulation, upholstery, tyres etc;
  • Class B materials are fuels such as gasoline, diesel fuel, hydraulic fluid, grease, oil, or battery acid; and
  • Class C hazards are electrical in nature. These result from electrical shorts, defective wires, defective wire insulation and the like.

After the fuel sources have been evaluated, one must then determine the probability of their co-existence with the ignition sources. Part of making a thorough job of this step is to have some base familiarity with the fire and maintenance history of the vehicle model in general.

An assessment should be made of existing areas where lubrication, hydraulic oil, fuel lines, rubber and plastic, and other combustibles are in proximity to an ignition source. An evaluator will also look for areas where fuel sources might leak, drip or spray fuel onto hot surfaces or potential spark generators. The presence of accumulations of combustible materials, such as oil-soaked waste and fuel spillage, represent potential fire hazards as well. One should also account for cooling fans and/or air flow to determine how it might impact flame propagation. With these factors in mind, a picture of a properly sized and configured system will emerge.

Another significant consideration when determining a fire suppression system’s design is the machine’s operating environment. When the product itself is flammable and/or there is debris created, the fire risk assessment, and therefore the fire suppression system design, will be impacted. How any by-product materials influence a system design will depend on their relative flammability, which of course impacts the chances of a fire starting.

This is where the ‘housekeeping’ of a machine comes into play. A machine that is kept clean and relatively debris free is less at risk than one which has build-up on it. End users must be reminded that machine cleanliness is always the first line of defence against a fire in any industry.

By the same token, regular mechanical upkeep can prevent fires caused by part failures. Keeping an eye out for damaged hoses is especially important in mining as the majority of vehicle fires in that industry are caused by high pressure flammable liquids spraying upon a hot machine surface.

Worker safety

The exposure of personnel to fire is obviously a significant concern, and one which cannot be over emphasised. To properly account for this critical issue, one must determine the number of persons involved with the machine under fire risk assessment and their location during operation and maintenance.

Beyond that, the exposure to potential fire risks for each person and whether fire and smoke could impair safe egress needs to be determined. There is a broad range across which operators’ risk goes from practically non-existent to high. Determining where along the continuum a particular job falls is also part of a fire risk assessment.

An example of a high-risk situation would be the driver of a large haul truck whose cab is 20ft (6.1m) above the ground, essentially sitting atop the engine, with a ladder required for egress.

Once personnel concerns have been assessed, one should fully evaluate the cost of repair or replacement of a vehicle, the cost of damage to a site, and the potential issue of site clean-up. These economic risks, along with the cost of vehicle down time and lost production, can significantly impact the amount of suppression deemed appropriate for a given machine. So too can the cost of any potential loss of natural resource.

System options

Once these steps have been taken to determine the need for fire protection, one can then begin to select fire suppression system hardware and agent types. This process includes determining the number of nozzles required to cover the high-risk areas, and, accordingly, the number of agent tanks required in the system.

There are two options for fire-fighting agents to choose from: dry A:B:C powder and A:B liquid. A third option, combining the two and taking a dual agent approach, is often the most efficient and appropriate because it utilises the benefits of each type and doesn’t take up as much space physically (or cost as much) as a liquid-only system. It should be noted that choosing the appropriate agent for the hazard is a process which should involve the suppression system supplier as there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Other configuration particulars that need to be determined at this point are whether an automatic or manual system is most appropriate; the type, number and placement of fire detecting sensors; and the number and location of manual actuation points. System options like engine shutdown, remote alarms, and telematics integration can also be chosen at this point to complete a system configuration.

It is important that a right-sized system is settled upon once this stage is reached. It is easy to subscribe to a ‘more is better’ mentality at this point, but sufficiently sized systems are the most desired outcome for the end user. On the other hand, undersized systems that are insufficiently sized might seem attractive due to their lower price points, but their effectiveness when discharging is suspect at best.

To find the appropriate solution, one which is aptly sized yet economical, one should request that a copy of the system manufacturer’s recommendation be provided. If a specification sheet is not available, one should ask the service provider if the basis of its recommendation is founded on a solid fire risk assessment, thereby ensuring it is not arbitrary in nature or that non-certified components are not being offered.

Whether the result of a legal requirement, an industry standard or a proactive machine owner, every fire suppression system needs to be at least sufficient for the task at hand. AFEX Fire Suppression Systems believes in an open and honest assessment of the particular situation to establish its recommendations, the basis of which is a fire risk assessment. End users should be aware of this tool and be sure that their best interests are being taken into account through its use.

Proactive Fire Protection Makes For Safer Working Conditions For All Involved In The Inherently Dangerous Oil & Gas Business

Raleigh, NC – AFEX Fire Suppression Systems is introducing its safety accessory product to the hydraulic fracturing industry at the DUG East trade show in order to mitigate the risk of surface equipment fires engulfing well pads. By suppressing vehicle fires on frac pumps and blenders before they become fully involved, the entire fracturing fleet is protected, in addition to the well itself. An established approach to safety in many heavy industries, including mining, forestry, waste/recycling, and steel, fire suppression systems have a long history of protecting the vehicles they are mounted on, thereby protecting the asset, its operators and the productivity of the machine.

Vehicle fires are often the result of atomized flammable fluids spraying onto hot surfaces once a hose has worn through or been otherwise damaged. With the intense heat, twisting and vibrations found on the average frac vehicle, the stage is set for just this type of fire, especially as its hours spent in the field accumulate. Instances of these surface equipment fires spreading to the surrounding vehicles are not uncommon, such that losing one machine is less likely than losing an entire fleet due to the very tight parking configurations required. Fire suppression systems provide a proven solution to this pressing safety problem, and at the smallest fraction of the price of fleet replacement.

AFEX Referenced As Industry Experts on Vehicle Fire Protection in Heavy Industry Trade Publication

Tom Jackson of Equipment World magazine wrote a great piece for the March edition about reducing machine fire risk which features a call out section about vehicle fire suppression systems. Quoted in the article is AFEX VP, Mr. Rod Cavallaro, who speaks to the state of the industry in general and how AFEX is always looking ahead to account for industry advancements and trends.

Read the article here.

Fire Suppression Systems Reduce Risk

As published in The American Oil & Gas Reporter magazine.

From North Dakota to Ohio to Louisiana and Texas, wherever hydraulic fracturing is being done there have been fire incidents over the years which have resulted in total surface equipment loss. The bottom line cost of such “thermal events” is generally in the tens of millions, which is to say nothing of productivity losses and any associated public relations damage done to the affected stakeholders. All things considered, adding fire suppression systems to at-risk machinery is a safe and cost effective solution to this potentially devastating problem.

A vehicle fire suppression system is a safety accessory that is mounted on a piece of machinery, such as a pump or blender, to protect it in the event of a fire. Comprised of tanks filled with fire-fighting agent, fire-detecting sensors, and a distribution network of tubes, hoses and nozzles, it is permanently affixed to the machine. In the oil & gas industry, these systems are appropriate for use on the vehicles used in hydraulic fracturing and on any diesel generators used on site.

A fire suppression system stands ready to discharge whenever needed, its nozzles aimed at the most at-risk parts of the machine. Commonly protected areas of a vehicle include turbochargers, starters, fuel filters, batteries, alternators, and transmissions. Sensors, which are activated once operating temperatures exceed predetermined maximums, are placed around these key areas to guard them. The nonstop protection this provides is beneficial since it is right at the point where fire is likely to start, which means operators don’t have to approach a fire should one erupt. This is especially important on a well pad being fracked since the pumps are parked so close to one another and minimal physical access is a complicating safety issue. Ultimately, fire suppression systems make for a safer job site as a result.

A system discharge is the result of either sensors sending an alarm mode to the control panel, which then automatically releases nitrogen to push the agent through the distribution tubing and out of the nozzles onto the protected areas, or as the result of a manual, physical release of the nitrogen which starts that same process. The agent will then knock down the flames and keep the fire from becoming established.

It is critical that a system with an appropriate amount of ruggedness is used in any given circumstance so that it stands up to the demands of the working environment and so that it is ready whenever it is needed. A system geared towards use on-road on a passenger bus, for example, would be much smaller and less robust than one tough enough for the physically abusive environment that is typical of a well that is being hydraulically fractured.

Where To Use
The use of fire suppression systems to protect heavy equipment is a well-established standard within a number of industries, including mining, wood processing, and waste management. The main reasons for their use is the protection of personnel and vehicles, but the work environment itself is also indirectly protected through the use of these systems, whether it be an underground coal mine, a forest or a landfill. By extension, fire suppression systems are productivity tools which save money, as reduced downtime equates with more hours worked and more profits generated.

These industries have chosen to utilize onboard fire suppression systems because, on balance, the investment made in them is justified versus the risk of going without. There is no reason why the same could not be said of the hydraulic fracturing industry. It is worth noting that in certain other instances use of fire suppression systems is required by insurance companies in order to receive a policy since it helps them to mitigate the risk of having to pay out for total losses.

Due to the fact that frac pumps are so close to each other when working at a well pad, the risk of one machine catching fire and spreading to the surrounding machines as a result is real. Considering that the most common cause of vehicle fires is a ruptured hydraulic line spraying fluid onto hot engine surfaces, the constant vibrations of the equipment used in fracking makes for an especially risky environment. The point being that the investment made in just one saved machine can ultimately pay for fleets’ worth of protection many times over, especially when compared with the replacement cost of multiple machines.

The Right System
Anyone familiar with a frac site knows that the vehicles are working as hard and as long as any equipment in heavy industry. With all the twisting, flexing and vibrations of the machine chassis, there is no question that a fire suppression system needs to be as rugged as possible to stand up to the rigors. When deciding on a fire suppression system, durability and reliability are always important factors to consider. There are a number of key characteristics which account for these, including: agent tank variety; tubing/hosing; electronics; and the agent itself.

Agent tanks can be one of two types: stored-pressure or side cartridge. In a stored-pressure variety the nitrogen that would power the agent through the distribution network is contained in the same tank as the agent itself. This design of tank is more likely to leak and lose pressure over time. Considering the constant vibration of a hydraulic fracturing vehicle this type is an impractical choice versus the side cartridge variety, which holds the nitrogen in a separate, leak-proof container. This is why side cartridge operated systems are the standard in mining.

Tubing made of stainless steel makes for a very rugged distribution network. Some amount of rubber hose will invariably be used in a system, but the less of it there is, the less there will be to replace over time due to regular wear and tear. Not only is the stainless steel tubing more resistant to the chemicals which might come into contact with the system, it will not dry rot like hose, meaning it likely won’t ever need to be replaced. This reduces maintenance costs over time.

A control panel is the central electronic brain of the system. These components monitor the detection network and activate the system when an alarm goes off. The more technically advanced ones provide a log which can be used for tracking system activity. Remote actuation may be incorporated as well so that control vehicle personnel can activate the system from a distance. It is telematics compatible and can be used to power horn strobes to alert operators to a system discharge, a suitable accessory for a loud environment.

As for the agent itself, there are two kinds: a dry chemical A:B:C powder and an A:B liquid. The dry chemical used in a vehicle suppression system is proven by decades of application in the heavy industries. Very similar to the material found in handheld portable extinguishers, it works very quickly at knocking down and suppressing a fire. It is suitable for use on debris fires (A), fuel fires (B), and electrical fires (C). The liquid agent comes out of the nozzles and foams to an extent, creating a film coating across the surfaces it is sprayed on. It also provides a cooling effect to lower surface temperatures in addition to suppressing the flames themselves.

These agent types can be used independently of one another, but when protecting a frac pump, a dual agent system is best because it takes advantage of the benefits of each. This makes for a more efficient system than either type alone can create since it will work quickly and guard against a reflash fire that is the result of hot surfaces causing a reignition.

Operational Options
Besides its physical properties, there are a number of operational options to be considered when evaluating the configuration of a fire suppression system. One of the most basic distinctions is the difference between an automatic system, which has a network of sensors that actuate the system when tripped by excessive temperatures, and a manual-only system, which depends on a physical input from an individual for actuation. The difference between the two does not impact the amount of fire-fighting agent that would be utilized by the system, but it can significantly impact the time between a fire breaking out and when the system actuates.

Responding to a fire as quickly as possible is preferable in all cases, so the manufacturer’s recommendation typically will be that an automatic system be utilized. Considering a fracking spread is congested, with numerous machines obscuring the on-site personnel’s ability to observe a fire early on, a detection network would be highly advisable.

Another system feature which is prudent to take advantage of is engine shutdown. When a fire breaks out on a vehicle, it most often involves the spraying of a fluid onto a hot surface. Should the engine continue to run, the hydraulic line which has been damaged will remain pressurized, causing it to continually pump fuel onto the fire. Any cooling fans might also contribute to a fire’s growth, so shutting them down is also important. Having the fire suppression system shut off the engine is a critical way it can help keep a small fire small, which is why the feature is taken advantage of more often than not.

Hydraulic fracturing equipment operates in an extremely abusive environment where vehicle fires are quite literally an accident waiting to happen. Waiting until a fire breaks out to contend with it with portable fire extinguishers alone is to gamble that the fire won’t become fully involved and spread before it can be fought. With so much at stake from safety and financial perspectives, this is clearly not a chance worth taking. Rugged, heavy-duty fire suppression systems go a long way towards accounting for the threat of vehicle fires at well pads by being the first line of defense, and the companies that utilize them will be safer than ever before as a result.

AFEX Control Unit and System Featured in International Mining Magazine

AFEX Fire Suppression Systems would like to thank International Mining for including their Control Unit in the October issue. Included in the piece is an overview of dual agent systems which combine the benefits of a dry A:B:C powder agent and a liquid agent. The magazine itself is a global, technical publication which is written for miners by miners. The article may be read in it's entirety here.

AFEX Article About Fire Safety In Fracking In This Month’s E&P Magazine

Thanks to E&P magazine for helping us to spread the word about the availability and value of fire suppression systems with the article, "Fire suppression systems protect valuable assets." This important safety accessory is perfect for protecting frac vehicles like pumps and blenders from the threat of fire. The article covers the basics about how impactful a fire on a well pad can be. Read the article on their website here.

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