Fight Fire with Fibre
Detection & Alarming System
Compliant, zero maintenance fire protection technologies to keep your business running safely in even the harshest environments.
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The Advanced Photonics system can be applied within a number of industry sectors, including mine safety applications where conventional options struggle to provide a viable solution.
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Fast and reliable plant area fire monitoring systems and equipment temperature monitoring to keep your business running efficiently, protect your staff and safeguard your assets.
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Harness the power of linear heat detection with cutting edge fire protection technologies.
Advanced Photonics Australia
Advanced Photonics Australia’s fiber optic distributed temperature sensing solutions include Distributed Temperature Sensing (DTS) And Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) for a wide range of heavy industry applications. We have adopted the latest proven technology in the field of Photonics to engineer industry leading commercial, industrial and mine safety technologies for even the most onerous operating environments. Our fire monitoring systems provide continuous condition monitoring of key assets. This protects the safety of staff and allows for a predictive asset management approach to be established which minimises unplanned outages and avoids unnecessary maintenance of equipment.
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Fireisoneofthebiggestthreats to miningoperations, productionandemployeesafetyandcanundermineassets ina matterofhours. According to an estimate of Engineer Live, in the last decade mining fires caused damage ranging from a few million dollars to up to $125 million dollars. A compilation of fire incidents in the mining industry between 2013 and 2019 reveals the price of a fire in different areas of the mining site. The business interruption costs and associated property damage caused by the fires can vary as detailed below:• Fire in a benefaction plant: US$120m• Hot work failure: US$65m• Conveyor fire: US$60m• Fire in processing plant: US$45.5m• Shaft fire: US$90m• Surface fire: outstanding• Transformer fire: US$50m• Underground conveyor fire: US$70m• Underground longwall fire: US$125m• Surface conveyor fire: US$20mThe financial loss, threat to human lives and interruption in the production have seriousconsequences. Thesizeandremotenessofmining sites, the expensive machineryandthecostlydowntimemakesitessential to safeguardandpreventfires. Other heavy industries have also been critically impacted by recent fires. The fire in the port of Beirut in Lebanon (5th August 2020) as well as the fire in Cork Harbour, Ireland (9th January 2021) on a grain handling plant, pointed out the danger a fire imposes to human lives, the environment and the local community in general.In theBeirut case,a firewasresponsible for igniting a largeinitialexplosion, followedbyaseriesofsmallerblaststhatgenerated a criticalsituation for thousandsofpeoplewhoworkedattheportorwere in nearbyareas.In theIrish case, itissaidthatthelackofcommunicationplayed a significant rolein theearlystagesofthefire as theresidentsdidnothaveinformationaboutwherethefirewasorwhereitwasleading, posing areal risk to the local community. Theaccidentsindicatethatfirepreventionmightbe in the centre oftheheavyindustry's agenda in order topreventotherincidents in 2021.
CurrentApproaches to FireDetection in Mining
In theminingindustry, firehazardshavehighoccurrence in andaroundprocessplants, conveyors, draglinesandswitchroomsamongothers.Currentapproaches to firedetection in mines usually:
Provide spot checks only,
Require regular and costly maintenance,
Require power, signal andnetwork cabling,
Have complex signal interfaces for explosive atmospheres and
Offer vague details of location when fires break out.
The safety of staff,
Protection of key equipment and
Downtime in the event of a fire.
Some issues to be considered on mining sites include the fact that a fire on a conveyor can start from multiple sources, including the material being transported, overheated drive pulley bearings and smouldering dusts. Due to the conveyor’s long lengths (up to 10 km), bends, slopes,shielding barriers, roof covers and harsh conditions, traditional fire and environmental monitoring may not be as effective. Existing technology also incurs prohibitive costs for supply, installation and maintenance, for only partial point solutions. The overall result of this scenario has been inadequate fire detection systems – and in most cases no system at all.This has prompted the mining regulatorto recommend in their guidelines that mining organisations look at additional systems for early warning and real time fire detection.Due to our strong mining experience, we understand the challenges faced in detecting equipment failures early, especially overheating of rotating equipment.
Advancements in Photonics Technology allow us to prevent these accidents
Nowadays the fibre optics system helps save lives, safeguard assets and protect the environment. The cutting-edge technology addresses these challenges by offering real time monitoring for early abnormal heat build-up before a fire actually happens. Therefore, this provides comprehensive data in the form of heat build-up location, temperature and where the fire is heading to. The system is effective not only to detect fires once they ignite but also to prevent them once certain conditions start.Although it is hard to set a real price of a fire or accident, the latest events indicate that they pose a high cost to companies and society in general. Without mentioning the loss of lives which are of immeasurable value and the consequences to the environment and local communities that take years to be recovered. By improving the safety standards and applying the right technologies in the industry we can now create a better future withthe best fire detection technology for long distances. SourcesThe price of fire safety for the mining industry – Engineer Live https://www.engineerlive.com/content/price-fire-safety-mining-industryRingaskiddy blaze the third Cork harbour fire in four months – Irish Examiner https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/munster/arid-40203944.htmlBeirut fire: Large blaze erupts in port a month after explosion – BBC News https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-54100251Fire protection in the mining industry http://www.fpaa.com.au/media/203619/mining_industry_article.pdf
How fibre optics fire detection technology is improving safety on underground mines.
Once an underground mine fire is ignited it can be very difficult to put it out, with serious consequences for the mine, environment and the nearby community’s health and wellbeing. The Centralia mine fire in Pennsylvania, United States, is one example of fire that has been burning for over 50 years. Another example is the Mount Wingen coal seam fire in Australia which has been burning for 6,000 years.Critical spots such as conveyor belt entries and other underground locations where significant combustible materials accumulate need special attention in that sense. These hot spots combined with the level of humidity and air pressure variations can impact the underground working environment, compromise equipment operation and life span. They can also create spontaneous combustion, especially of coal, leading to underground mine fires.The causes of underground mine fires in coal mines are difficult to detect early with traditional fire and heat detection systems. These older technologies also require costly ongoing maintenance and often struggle to perform effectively in dust-filled and rugged mining environments. Underground mines can develop significant hot spot areas due to many factors including:
Geological conditions such as spontaneous combustion,
Length and depth of mine,
Layout of tunnel routes, inclines, corners, crossroads and dead ends,
Heat generating equipment such as electrical substations, mechanical crushers and diesel vehicles,
Failure of lighting or power outlets in the area igniting coal dust,
Diesel engine fires on mobile equipment and vehicles, and
Hot hydraulic oil sprays and or leakages.
A number of research and experiments are being conducted to test the effectiveness and safety of different systems in harsh mining conditions. A recent fire experiment conducted by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) was intended to evaluate the performance of carbon monoxide (CO) and smoke sensor systems in underground mines, specifically at low ventilation velocities in a belt entry.The results reveal that the lower air flow velocity of underground mines causes delays for carbon monoxide (CO) and smoke sensors to detect a fire, potentially leading to critical issues. This can pose a risk for employees that are on the underground site, the mining expensive equipment and its operations. The NIOSH research highlights that:
Another aspect that needs to be considered is that mine equipment, both fixed and mobile, is becoming more autonomous nowadays. With less personnel around, reliance on people to spot hazards early is reduced and progressively might not be available whatsoever, especially on underground mines. Underground mines with a labyrinth of vehicle, conveyor belt roadways and mined out tunnels present an even higher risk of fire incidents. In these challenging sites, effective systems and sensors are more important than ever to spot hazards early.To demonstrate the early detection feature, the diagram below compares the Photonics Distributed Temperature Sensing (DTS) technology with conventional systems in case of a fire and the different timelines involved in each system.
The graph shows how an abnormal heat build-up at the development phase, or smouldering phase, is detected significantly earlier with fibre optics DTS technology if compared to other systems and its effectiveness to detect potential fires or abnormal conditions early on.
Underground mine fire detection project
In a recent project, the Photonics Technology was implemented in the underground site and the project included the design, supply, commissioning, installation advice and testing support in the mine. The site had approximately 22 km of underground tunnels with five belt road conveyors and two with trippers.The risks identified for the underground site were:
The lack of a fire detection system in the underground mine represented a critical risk to staff, mining operations and the environment and
Conveyor drive head areas, trippers, disused tunnels (source of spontaneous combustion) identified as fire hazard areas with the more serious consequences.
The site required:
A cost-effective total fire detection coverage of tunnels and conveyor drive head areas. This would have been extremely expensive with traditional technologies to install and maintain thousands of devices in the mine. With DTS technology this is achieved with a single cable that monitors the whole area,
A solution that did not demand regular maintenance after installed due to the difficult access and vast size of the underground mine, and
Early warning, prior to fire starting, with accurate centralised alarming with localisation of abnormal heat build-up areas, before potential incidents.
How the DTS system works
The certified DTS system was selected for this project as a cost-effective solution to not only detect a fire but provide early warning of smouldering coal as well. This feature allows early intervention to address potential hazards, such as spontaneous combustion, before any fire arises.The system sets the early warning of potential fires which allows the company to prevent and detect accidents with a complete set of real time data in hands for a reliable, safe and practical solution. This is provided by the continuous transmission of temperatures in real time along the entire route of the cable into the site’s SCADA system.The system utilises two fibre cores in both new and existing fibre optic cables. This was a significant saving for this specific mining client, as they had multi-core fibre optic cable already installed on site used for camera and data networks. These two cores were fusion spliced at their endpoint, forming a loop configuration to provide a higher level of redundancy.Temperature readings with precise location are transmitted to the site’s SCADA system which provides a full temperature profile along the entire length of the fibre cable. This also assists in identifying abnormal hot spots along the route through its SCADA operator displays. Alarms and historical trends are also kept in the system, which can be an insightful source of information to prevent future incidents. An overall system layout diagram is shown below.
The DTS monitoring provides accurate temperature and its precise location, while traditional underground systems are localised and only provide approximated overall temperatures along a few points in the mine. The DTS accuracy gets as close as 0.5 metre throughout the mine, allowing interventions to be specific and effective. This is especially relevant for underground mines with long distances, conveyor belts and mined out tunnels.
Besides that, the photonics technology requires zero maintenance after installed, has high accuracy and is fully integrated to the site control system. The solution also complies with all requirements and mining regulations in Australia, as well as International standards and certifications.Advanced Photonics’ DTS system meets the highest technical and safety requirements for use in underground mines, with the key benefits:
Very low power laser: 17mW continuous power compared to the 35mW maximum stated for underground coal mines,
Highest levels of EPL (equipment protection levels) for hazardous areas in mine firedamp, gas and dust environments,
Highest reliability in the event of alarms (SIL2 rated to AS61508), based on a MTBF of greater than 75 years,
Immunity to electro-magnetic interference (EMI) and
No maintenance required, the DTS cable is the sensor and the only equipment in the field.
In summary, our system allows the underground mine to:
Take action before a fire takes hold,
Manage evacuation and fire-fighting activities,
Take informed decisions with real time data and
Provide an accurate history of events for post-fire investigations.
Photonics technology: the best technical and cost-effective solution to provide total mine coverage and early warning of abnormal heat build-up around equipment and whole areas.
A Case Study on Fibre Optics Technology for Mining Conveyor Fires
Advanced Photonics Australia is featured on the Australasian Mine Safety Journal (AMSJ) for its real time technology that is transforming the mining market.
Fire detection around a mine’sconveyor system has been difficult to achieve using conventional point heat detectors and smoke detector systems. This is mainly due to the typical conveyors’ long length and variable physical orientation such as inclines, high speed of operationand harsh operating environment. These traditional solutions are capital cost prohibitive and requireregular maintenance. The result has been the poor performance of fire detection systems using these applications, and in some cases no fire detection at all. What if you could now deploy a technology that addresses these challenges by providing precise location and actual temperature of any heat build-up in real timein a maintenance-free system that is fully integrated to thesite operational system? Distributed Temperature Sensing (DTS) technology uses a linear heat detector on a single fibre optic core to do that. Our system can detect heat at any point along a fibre cable to withinhalf a metre and to half a degree accuracy.
Many mines in Australia are already using this technology and recently we completed commissioning of Glencore’s Bulga Coal Handling and Preparation Plant fire detection system on over 5 kilometres of conveyors. The system complies with all required coal industry regulations allowing the mine to not only fully protect conveyors at the mine site, but also meet its business risk assessment recommendations.The DTS technologyalso providesearly warning of abnormal heat build-uparound operating equipment.When connected to the site SCADA system, this information can minimise the risk of potential serious consequences of equipment overheating, which could endanger personnel, damage the mine and machinery. Thesystem allows temperature monitoring, alarm setting and historical trends to be integrated into the plant’s SCADA system. The system’s objectives have been fully metwhich included:
Conveyor fire detection coverage,
Interface not only to the fire alarm system, but fully integrated with their existing site SCADA for:
Early warning of abnormal heat build-up,
Exact location of the abnormal heat or fire within a metre,
Fire event management (i.e. evacuation, fire-fighting activities),
Full history of the fire initiation point, its movement/spread, temperatures reached, with date and time stamping for the eventual reporting andinvestigation,
Option for automatic activation of fire suppression systems,
A maintenance-free fire detection system requiring no calibrationand
A 24x7 fire detection and temperature monitoring system that increases safety for the protection of people and assets.
An overview of the commissioned conveyorsspread across the coal handling and preparation plant are detailed below.
“Advanced Photonics supplied and commissioned a 5.0km Distributed Temperature System (DTS) around Bluga Coal’s CHPP conveyor system. The DTS collects real time temperature data every metre along its length, it then reports this temperature to the CHPP Citect control system. Any measured temperatures exceeding the alarm setting triggers a Citect warning alarm for immediate response to the exact hot spot location. The system provides a faster response time to any potential fire risk. It is performing well to expectation.”Edward Kennedy, CHPP Projects – Bulga Open Cut / A GLENCORE Managed Operation
The DTS Components: the cable is the sensorDistributed Temperature Sensing (DTS) technology uses a linear heat detector laser source through a single fibre optic core measuring 4 mm in diameter. It has been successfully tested and deployed in both surface and underground mines. The ruggedized fibre optic based system has the capacity to detect heat build-up quickly and localise the source to within 0.5 metres. This precision is unaffected by wind and other environmental effects, because not only convective, but also conductive and radiant (infrared) heat is detected by the cable.The fibre optic cable is:
Accredited for fire detection use (flame resistance 750°C for 2 hours, IEC 60331),
Doesn’t propagate the flame along the cable (IEC60332-3),
Can be installed in harsh environments (stainless steel cable sheath with high crush resistance),
Is immune to EMI (electromagnetic interference),
Requires no maintenance, after it is installed and
The fibre cable is the sensor, no other cabling or field interface devices required.
This is all you need: a DTS unit and a fibre optics cableThe DTS system’s capabilities include:
24x7 remote temperature monitoring of the entire length, for total coverage,
Provides not only the temperature but the actual location of the fire,
It provides early warning of abnormal heat before a flame occurs,
Interfaces to fire alarm panels & existing site HMI/SCADA systems,
Safety Integrity Level SIL2 (IEC61508) for high reliability when asked to alarm and
Available in 19” rack or IP66 external stainless-steel enclosures.
As a result of the technology application there is an overall increase on fire safety in the mine: protecting the staff and mining assets as well as minimising any disruptions to plant production. Full article on the Australasian Mine Safety Journal is available here.