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"It's early in the morning and you smell something burning, something is not right, you look outside your window and see a building on fire - a biodiesel fire with columns of smoke pouring from the roof and windows."
A horrible scenario, and yet and number of biodiesel producers have had fires.
Biodiesel has a relatively high flash point (the temperature above which it can auto ignite) of 100-170 deg C (212-338 deg F) compared 60-80 deg C (140-176 deg F) for normal diesel. This makes it a lot safer than normal diesel to store and use. It is in fact classified as non flammable by some storage codes.
However, if you get it hot enough (above the flash point) it will burn very well. A biodiesel fire is an oil fire and is hard to put out. LIke all oil fires, never ever try put it out with water - adding water will make things worse.
|The results of a biodiesel fire|
Enough sand will smother an oil fire, so will a good dry powder or CO2 fire extinguisher. The fire department will use foam. These all extinguish the fire by cutting off the oxygen but if the biodiesel is hot enough it will reignite if air returns. It is important to cut of the source of heat as well.
Some bad practices that I have seen in small biodiesel plants are
Biodiesel is relatively non flammable but methanol is very flammable. Never smoke or have a naked flame in a biodiesel production facility. This includes gas heating, if you are heating with gas do so in a separate building.
There have been a number of fires in commercial facilities in the past few years. If a commercial facility with all the implemented and regulated safety procedures can have an incident then so can the small producer. Always plan for the event of a biodiesel fire and take the relevant precautions. It is a very good idea to have your local fire inspector come and have a look at your biodiesel plant and audit the facility, the inspector is an expert in fire related issues and will be able to give you some good advice..