Due to a series of recent fires on mine sites, we’ve decided to focus this article specifically on the fire risk associated with using fuels and oils in an industrial setting.
Banlaw team members spend well over 100,000 hours a year designing, building and maintaining dry break fuel systems, processes, and infrastructure. Our service teams spend the majority of their hours on site, auditing fleets and facilities, training operators, delivering preventative maintenance, or analysing the data that’s been captured on mine sites to find improvements. We’ve seen pretty much every conceivable way that a fire can be caused in a fuel facility or on mobile plant. Below is what we’ve learned about avoiding fires over the last 37 years.
Safety and Environmental Regulations
Many countries have standards which mandate that fire protection systems are to be employed on all transportable equipment for use on mine sites. In Australia it’s called the Work Health and Safety (Mines and Petroleum Sites) Act, and in the USA the MSHA rules: Title 30 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) are to be adhered to.
Regardless what the rules are called, they do exist; and you are obliged to follow them. The reasons are so that work can be delivered with less disruption, so that equipment and environmental damage is avoided, and so the people we work with go home safe at the end of the day.
In recent months the Australian Resources Regulators have studied the causes of fires and communicated how they started, and their expectations specifically. Here are examples from just this year:
- “Refuelling fires have occurred on graders, excavators, drill rigs, pump sleds and water carts”
- “Mine operators should ensure that the correct refuelling fittings are used”
- “Identify all risk scenarios that may give rise to fuel spillage and/or fire during the refuelling process”
- “Under no circumstances should unsuitable fuel fittings or adapters be used to modify refuelling systems”
- “Mine operators should ensure that workers are adequately trained in the safe use of refuelling systems”
- The “fuel tank did not have a quick connect fitting”
- “The refuelling system relied on a pressure build-up in the tank to trigger the refuelling system to stop”
- “Ensure fuel dispensing flow rate and air vent capacity of fuel tanks is correctly matched”
- Deploy “an engineering means or alternative cap to prevent regular “splash” fill points from being left open”
- “Provide refresher training to workers who refuel mobile plant”
- “Ensure inspection and maintenance activities consider lifecycle degradation of the refuelling system, the mine environment and the manufacturer’s recommendations”
Pressure and vacuum damage to tanks and refuelling systems: (clockwise from top left) ruptured excavator tank; collapsed pipe from vacuum; diesel flowing around hot engine components after overfill; large tank distorted from pressure to such a degree that an access passageway is blocked
What a small budget dedicated to hydrocarbon maintenance will help you avoid
Businesses involved in the mining sector are united in the view that the safety and wellbeing of our people is our highest priority. When viewed through that lens, the risk of fire in fuel facilities and on machines should be managed proactively. It is also worth noting that hydrocarbon maintenance practices offer a great ROI, with regular preventative activities representing a fraction of the cost of even a single heavy vehicle being damaged.
Our services and support organisation provides you with proactive identification of issues giving you forewarning about potential safety issues, as well as reminders to help you stay in control of the routine preventative maintenance schedule.
Banlaw Services which minimise the risk of fire on mine sites:
- Fleet and facility inspection / audit / safety check / gap analysis
- Design review of fuel tanks and dry break fuel systems to allow appropriate product selection
- Planning and installation of mine refuelling, overfill protection, fluid transfer and fuel management solutions including fire-retardant technologies
- Training of operators
- Preventative maintenance
- Nozzle repairs (certified distributors around the globe)
“Replacing the tank in an excavator can cost ~$175,000 AUD, while replacing the tank in a haul truck might cost ~$40,000 AUD. A fleet preventative maintenance contract starts at only $15,000 AUD, so getting a specialist to look at your machines and facilities quickly pays for itself.”
Paul Buckton, Regional Manager at Banlaw.
Appropriate mature Maintenance Management Systems increase productivity, and save money
Common issues and possible causes
- Premature nozzle shutoff
- Inspect the dry break fittings – fuel nozzle needs refurbishment
- Tank overfills during refuelling
- Fuel nozzle spring setting too high for the equipment being filled
- Premature nozzle shutoff
- Restrictions in diesel delivery line (pipe size, elbows, blocked strainers)
- Receiver spring setting too high
- Blocked or kinked breather overflow hose
- Flow rate too high for the current dry break fuel system configuration
- Premature nozzle shutoff (with non-pressurised diesel overfill protection system)
- Pilot line kinked or blocked
- Flow control valve incorrectly selected for the equipment being filled
- OFP system cannot support the flow rate being used
- Tank overfills during refuelling
- Receiver spring setting too low
- Receiver is damaged
- Tank has loose fittings, allowing tank pressure to escape, and not allowing pressure to rise to the pre-determined shutoff pressure of the nozzle (especially splash fill caps)
- Nozzle tether being used (O-ring, rag, cable ties, etc)
- Tank overfills during refuelling (with pressureless diesel tank overfill prevention system)
- Pilot line disconnected or damaged
- Flow control valve requires maintenance
- Tank rupture / damage
- No pressureless fast fill system fitted
- Overfill protection system inoperable (damaged, or not connected)
- Nozzle being forcibly held-on by operators, or the dry break coupling has been modified/tethered into the ‘On’ position
- Tank breather overflow hose blocked
- Tank breather filtration blocked
Tethered refuelling nozzles (tied into the ‘On’ position). A leading cause of overfill and tank over-pressurisation, both severe fire risks.
Banlaw products that support fire prevention on mine sites
- Dry Break Nozzles
- All metal dry break fittings for long life and maximum fuelling efficiency
- Pressured automatic shut-off functionality
- Fully repairable, for cost efficient refurbishment and testing throughout the product lifetime
- Ball locking mechanism ensures the nozzle cannot ‘fly off’, and ensures a more fluid-tight connection to the equipment being refuelled
- Dry Break Receivers
- All metal quick connect / quick fill fittings (hard wearing and long life)
- Diesel Tank Vents
- Specifically designed for high speed refuelling applications where air is evacuated quickly, and shutoff must be triggered at the correct level and pressure
- Mechanical Tank Overfill Protection systems
- A primary tank overfill protection solution, that retains the functionality of the pressured system as a backup
- Electronic Tank Overfill Protection systems
- For the very highest flow rates, and critical mining machines
- Electronic solution, designed to fail in a safe state
- Allows integration of fire-safe ball valves and other fire-retardant technologies to avoid the discharge of fuel from the tank should a fire occur
“Banlaw offers a class leading solution for reducing on-board fire risk while dramatically reducing refuelling down time on heavy mining equipment. For safely and efficiently refuelling large key equipment like excavators and haul trucks at rates up to 1000 litres per minute, you can’t beat Banlaw FillSafe. Coupled with its 1000l/min nozzle, Ultra Fine Filtered Vents and Fire Safe isolation valve, Banlaw FillSafe gives mines a competitive edge through faster, safer refuelling.”
Jason Wright, Mining Maintenance Management Consultant.
Fire safe valve on a Banlaw FillSafe Power overfill protection system for an excavator. Avoids the discharge of fuel from the tank should a fire occur.