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Protect your staff against accidental discharge

Do you protect your assets with fire suppression systems?

Gaseous extinguishing systems protect urgently important infrastructure against special hazards, fundamental for the safeguarding of critical facilities.

If you protect critical infrastructure, then this article applies to you.

The neglect of continuous monitoring - of the fundamental protection provided by the gaseous extinguishing systems - is to the peril of the lives of occupants of the premises and at the risk of crippling financial and reputational loss to the facility comprising the critical infrastructure.

Did you know accidental discharge of fire suppression systems is dangerous?

When a person is maintaining the fire suppression system in the cylinder room and there is accidental discharge by the manual release valve, the Permalevel® MUTLIPLEX provides immediate notification.

This protection is essential, as the pressure switch and select valve may not be working, if broken. This is a prevalent issue; there is regularly cases when the select valve does not open i.e. fused and therefore the pressure switch on the delivery pipe will not be able to notify about this manual accidental discharge. If and when this select valve does not open, there is potential that accidental discharge will case the agent in the fire suppression system to accumulate. This built up pressure may cause the manifold to burst.

In cases where the select valve opens, but the pressure switch is broken – no notification will be given about the discharge. If maintenance is being carried out in the protected enclosure as well, accidental discharge would cause the protected enclosure to be filled with agent thus affecting the occupants but no notifications could be given about the discharge because the pressure switch is broken. 

High profile accidents relating to accidental discharge:

  • August 2011: An accidental discharge of carbon dioxide on board SD Nimble resulted in serious injury to a shore-based service engineer at Faslane Naval Base
  • May 2010: An uncontrolled release of fire extinguishing gas occurred on board Marsol Pride, while working in the Tui oil and gas field off New Zealand’s west coast. A valve on one of the CO2 pilot cylinders developed a leak and charged the system ready for release. A second leak in the main control valve then caused the entire system to activate, flooding the vessel’s engine room with the gas.
  • September 2004: Preparing for a routine inspection, a crew member on a Hong Kong registered ship accidentally triggered the fixed fire extinguishing system, releasing 5,060kg of CO2. Attempts to fix the situation led to the death of four officers.
  • November 2008: At least 20 people died in an accident on K-152 Nerpa, a Russian Akula II class nuclear submarine, when a Halon-based fire extinguishing system was activated by mistake during sea trials.

Having a Permalevel MULTIPLEX to monitor cylinders at it’s source will be able to address all issues related to accidental discharge.  The Permalevel® MULTIPLEX can also provide immediate notification if the cylinder has been discharged, quicker than the notification from the pressure switch on delivery pipe which could take up to 3 – 4 seconds later

With guaranteed systems operations, adaptability for purpose, 24/7 remote access to the systems status, an interruptible power supply and remote real-time monitoring, the Permalevel® offers the efficiency that is now a requirement for encompassing protection.

Constant monitoring of gaseous extinguishing systems and must be implemented, people’s lives depend upon it. We are here to help you ensure critical safety.

Discover more about Coltraco Ultrasonics’ commitment to customer care and safety on www.coltraco.com.

Create a Safer Ship with Coltraco Ultrasonics®

The shipping industry,  calculates fire engineering designs based on formulas that its technicians have no way of understanding or verifying are accurate. Fire engineers do not always understand the physical properties of the clean agents they use. Some do not wholly appreciate the impact of temperature on the state of an agent or its pressures. Novec™ 1230 for instance is an organic compound which deteriorates quickly to a point of non-effectiveness if poorly handled and stored. These problems and many more can be solved in the fire industry by the application of fundamental scientific and engineering principles. But they can only be proved by the application of the mathematics of them.

A ship’s gaseous extinguishing system typically comprises between 200 and 600 cylinders each containing 45KG of CO2 under high 720 psi/ 49 bar pressure. (Other suppressant clean agents such as FM-200® and Novec™1230 are becoming more widely used.) One of the highest probabilities of discharge occurs during their maintenance. Some marine service companies estimate that 20% of a ship’s CO2 cylinders have discharged or partially leaked their contents at some point in their lifetime. Taking CO2 systems through as an example, although random checks may be suitable in some sectors, it is worth remembering that because the normal design concentration of CO2 & marine CO2 systems of 34-72 v/v % is above the nearly immediate acute lethality level, these systems have an extremely narrow safety margin. As these systems work through oxygen dilution rather than the chemical disruption of the catalytic combustion chain (which is the case with other clean agents), insufficient oxygen levels during an accidental discharge may allow a situation to spiral out of hand. Yet although this poses high levels of risk to the service companies and the crew, because gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurised, the risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use and this is shown in the regulations that demand their upkeep.

Coltraco Ultrasonics focus on benefitting the crew; designing innovative ultrasonic solutions which promote safety culture, which the crew will be happy to use by being easy to operate, quick, accurate and a better method to traditional techniques.

The Portalevel ® MAX Marine is designed primarily for the vessels’ crew to themselves inspect large fire suppression systems of up to 600 cylinders. The ease of operation in comparison to weighing, increases the ability of more regular and frequent checks, improving fire safety management onboard. Coltraco’s innovative method of inspecting leaking cylinders with ultrasonics, enables identification in under 30 seconds using Portalevel® with one person, instead of the traditional 15 minutes, with two people laboriously weighing.

This can be in-between the statutory annual maintenance and certification intervals provided by shore-based contractors. Thus, increasing the likelihood of tests being regularly conducted, in line with regulations and even going above and beyond for more frequent testing. By so doing, the crew will be creating a safer ship.

Ensure Critical Safety

The Permalevel®  Multiplex    is  designed  to  ensure  that fire  suppression  systems  are  always  fully operational and that no accidental discharge has occurred, which could affect the effectiveness of the overall fire protection system in the event of a fire at a nuclear power plant.

The application of the Permalevel® reaches further, with customers using this equipment in alternate specialist and confidential manners to ensure safety in the station. With guaranteed systems operations, adaptability for purpose, 24/7 remote access to the systems status, an interruptible power supply and remote real-time monitoring, the Permalevel® offers the efficiency that is now a requirement for encompassing protection. The likes of the Atomic Energy Authority asked Coltraco Ultrasonics to tailor make them a solution to constantly monitor a special application using the Permalevel® Single Point for over 10 years.

There is no use in waiting or denying the problem, continuous monitoring and Safesite technologies must be adopted now. Technological development is inevitable and that can’t wait for regulations any longer. We will not stop until the ungoverned space is fully recognised and dealt with. There is no room for the industry to fall back into old habits. The ungoverned space must be recognised, the science is clear and it shows that the risk to people and infrastructure is real and high. Constant monitoring of gaseous extinguishing systems and must be implemented, people’s lives depend upon it.

Think again. Are you being passive toward active fire protection? If you are, we are here to help you ensure critical safety.

Protect Urgently Important Infrastructure

Simply put, the ‘ungoverned space’ is the area in the fire industry where either the regulations or the protecting systems of the critical infrastructure are not effectively providing consistent and reliable safety. Coltraco repeatedly push for this life-threatening issue to be dealt with, with specific regard to loss of contents in fixed fire extinguishing systems.

Gaseous extinguishing systems protect urgently important infrastructure against special hazards, fundamental for the safeguarding of critical facilities.

Although many in the fire industry work towards meeting better standards, in their experience, Coltraco have numerous concerning anecdotes of non-compliance: systems portrayed and installed by contractors as NOVEC™ 1230 but filled with sand or water… room integrity testing with questionable results and with the room integrity remaining un-monitored after testing… liquefied extinguishants being confused by installers with Inert gas systems… service engineers asking how to test the liquid level indicator in powder… the list goes on.

Coupled with these anecdotes, currently the regulations are not extensive enough to deal with the risks presented in gaseous systems. In 9.2.1.3 the regulations explains that the storage container contents shall be checked at least every six months as follows. : a) Liquefied gases: for halocarbon agents, if a container shows a loss of agent in quantity of more than 5 % or a loss of pressure (adjusted for temperature) of more than 10 %, it shall be refilled or replaced. b) Non-liquefied gases: for inert gas agents, pressure is an indication of agent quantity. If a container shows a loss of agent quantity or a loss of pressure (adjusted for temperature) of more than 5 %, it shall be refilled or replaced. Essentially, it is known in regulations that the gaseous systems leak and need to be maintained. Given that the gaseous systems are designed specifically to the individual need of that room, building e.t.c, a 5% loss of agent may mean that they would not fully extinguish the fire.

Can one annual check account for the probability of discharge and leakage for the other 364 days of the year between certification checks?

No.

The neglect of continuous monitoring - of the fundamental protection provided by the gaseous extinguishing systems - is to the peril of the lives of occupants of the premises and at the risk of crippling financial and reputational loss to the facility comprising the critical infrastructure.

The examples of where continuous monitoring are essential are many, extensive and varied. If you protect critical infrastructure, then this article applies to you.

However to exemplify the integral nature of continuous monitoring; incidents in nuclear power plants around the world have continued to demonstrate the vulnerability of safety systems to fire and its effects. The potential danger from an accident at a nuclear power plant is exposure to radiation to the people in the vicinity of the plume from the cloud and particles deposited on the ground, inhalation of radioactive materials and ingestion of radioactive materials. The International Atomic Energy Authority state clearly in the Fire Safety in the Operation of Nuclear Power Plants standards that the effects of a single failure in fire safety systems, such a system not performing its required function, can be detrimental. With fires at nuclear power plants still occurring, such as the technical issue which led to a blast at the 2017 power plant at Flamanville, deemed “very serious” by industry experts, the call for advanced technology is of most importance.

Focused on continued advancement of safety technology, Coltraco have now developed the Permalevel® Multiplex, a fixed fire suppression monitoring device, designed for permanent contents verification. The Permalevel®  Multiplex    is  designed  to  ensure  that fire  suppression  systems  are  always  fully operational and that no accidental discharge has occurred, which could affect the effectiveness of the overall fire protection system in the event of a fire.

How are we failing to protect the crew by maintaining hatch covers?

Wrongly applied and poorly maintained cargo hatch covers and sealing systems increase the risk of cargo becoming damaged by water. The most common wet cargo problems include leaking cross joints, and compression bars, rubber gaskets, hatch coamings, drain channels and cleats in poor condition.

The importance of continually maintaining seal integrity must take a more prominent position in ship maintenance scheduling as demanded by regulations:

SOLAS Reg II-1/11.1  it states that hatches and watertight seals must be regularly tested: “Where a hose test is not practicable [sic] it may be replaced by [sic] an ultrasonic leak test or an equivalent test. In any case a thorough inspection of the watertight bulkheads shall be carried out.”

How have hatch covers been tested traditionally?

Chalk testing is used traditionally for visual inspection of the compression integrity of doors and hatches on vessels that hold the potential for flooding. Chalk is applied evenly around the knife edge, coaming compression bars or panel cross seams of doorways. The door/hatch is then closed and sealed. Once re-opened the rubber gasket which pushes against the knife edge is visually inspected for the chalk line. Any breaks in the chalk line indicate a lack of compression in that area. It must be noted that chalk testing is NOT a leak test, but only provides an indication of potential compression issues

 The International Association of Classification Societies states that a chalk test must be followed by a hose test. The hose test is used in conjunction to determine the weather tightness of doors and hatch covers. The spray from a nozzle of 12mm diameter is sprayed from a distance of 1 to 1.5 meters with a water jet pressure of 0.5 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." width="30" height="14" /> This test should help identify any leakage from the hatch joints, although the exact location of the leakage sight cannot be pinpointed.

Why are these methods no longer recommended by P&I clubs?

 Various drawback come with chalk and hose testing, for instance;

  • The hold is required to be empty as cargo can be damaged by water. This is not always possible and certainly poses more issues once the ship is laden with goods. 
  • The test requires drains to be opened posing a genuine pollution risk. 
  • Two people are required to carry out the test effectively. 
  • Cannot be performed in sub-zero conditions.
  • Water pressure and distance can affect results.
  • Time-consuming.

Both of these hatch cover maintenance tests are time-consuming and sometimes completely impractical. Some circumstances have been highlighted that prevent this test from being conducted such as the hose test if dry cargo is within the hold being tested but these tests conducted at port or in dry dock will never reproduce conditions when the ship is at sea and therefore cannot expect to achieve the same standard. Claims resulting from water damage due to leaking hatch covers still contribute a huge part of the overall loss figures on dry cargo ships. This method is neither accurate nor time effective.

What is the alternative?

Ultrasound.

The Swedish P & I club recommend using Ultrasound. As stated in their 2018 report “A much more effective method is to use an ultrasonic device, which is designed for this purpose and can pinpoint the area which is leaking, and if the compression of the gasket is sufficient. The advantages of using this type of equipment are evident, since ultrasonic tests can be carried out during any stage of the loading without risking cargo damage. The test can also be completed in sub-zero temperatures. The ultrasonic test should be carried out as per the class requirements.” 

 Ultrasonic testing is a dramatically more sensitive, accurate and reliable method for testing cargo hatch covers, bulkheads and doors for watertight integrity on all vessels. A multi-directional ultrasound emitter is placed in a hold. The opening being tested is then sealed and the receiver switched on ready to receive any leakage of ultrasound via a set of headphones. An increased reading of ultrasound signal signifies an issue with the integrity of the door/hatch. Further, and closer inspection will allow identification of any specific leakage sight along with the severity. This test will take approximately 10 minutes and requires only one operator. watertight compartment doors testing

AMTRAK Protect Their Passengers with Coltraco Ultrasonics

The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, AMTRAK, chose to protect their trains against the risk of fire with Coltraco Ultrasonics industry leading Portalevel® MAX.

Serving more than 500 destinations, in 46 American States and 3 Canadian provinces, operating over 300 trains daily, AMTRAK needed to ensure that their trains are operational at all times. A fire event proposes a serious threat to the safety of the passenger, staff, and to the operational success of AMTRAK.

AMTRAK used FE-13™ fire suppression cylinders to protect their high speed rail against fire. However, AMTRAK are aware that fire suppression systems leak and knew they had to counter this problem, so that they could comply with regulations and protect their passengers, staff and trains.

It is important to note that such fire extinguishing systems require maintenance to ensure they are fully operational and ready in event of a fire. ISO 14520-1:2015(E) assumes that these systems accidentally discharge and leak. 6.2.4.2 Contents indication: “Means shall be provided to indicate that each container is correctly charged.” Followed by “9.2.1.3 The storage container contents shall be checked at least every six months as follows. a) Liquefied gases: for halocarbon agents, if a container shows a loss of agent in quantity of more than 5 % or a loss of pressure (adjusted for temperature) of more than 10 %, it shall be refilled or replaced.”

To counter this issue, as AMTRAK are dedicated to their passenger’s safety, they purchased the Portalevel® MAX. This handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator can service a cylinder in 30 seconds (in contrast to 15 minutes by traditional manual weighing) with accuracy of up to 1.5mm off the true liquid level.

Using the Portalevel® MAX to service the cylinders, Manager of Technical Training & Development at AMTRAK was able to identify a leaking cylinder:

“We had one isolated incident where one FE-13™ cylinder was found empty during the central block overhaul; that bottle had been tested using the Portalevel® MAX instrument, a few months earlier, and – then – the suppressant agent level within the cylinder was found within limits. That cylinder was sent to the company that handles the refilling for us (a contractor), for investigation. Apparently, a leak developed, and the agent escaped the cylinder.”

Discover more about Coltraco Ultrasonics’ commitment to customer care and safety on www.coltraco.com.

What is the Safeship® intiative?

Coltraco Ultrasonics implemented the Safeship® initiative, to promote protecting critical infrastructure at sea. The two main causes of vessel loss are sinking and fire. A lack of proper servicing of watertight and weathertight seals can lead to deterioration which can endanger the ship, cargo and lives of the crew through flooding and the potential of capsizing. Secondly, bad industry practice is unacceptable when fire risk may have catastrophic results due to risk to life, downtime in operation due to ship safety and repair work and incalculable reputational damage. The crew, cargo and vessel must be protected when at sea because it is it’s own fire brigade without accessibility to typical emergency services.

As a result, Coltraco designed the FLEETSAFE™: a package of innovative safety tools to combat the above and comply with regulations

With this package the hatch-covers, doors, MCTs, compartments, pipework, hulls, bulkheads, rotating machinery, pumps, sprinkler systems and gaseous extinguishing installations are protected. The package is based on integrity, from design, through to life-time support, and is accurate, reliable and easy to use for any crew members.

To promote the Safeship® Coltraco Ultrasonics have been raising safety awareness and gaining recognition by winning and being nominated for several awards. In 2017 Coltraco won the Seatrade Cruise Award for Supplier of the Year and was nominated for the IHS Markit Safety at Sea Award 2017. Coltraco were also invited to speak at 16 conferences in 2017 to raise safety awareness and to educate, including at the International Maritime Organization, Royal Institution of Naval Architects Smart Ships Conference, IMPA London, Marine Maintenance World Expo and Pacific Sydney. Coltraco Ultrasonics speak at these events to raise their goal of holistic ship safety, in the form of the Safeship®.

The Safeship® initiative has also achieved recognition through engagement in association work such as the Society of Maritime Industries, at the House of Commons in Parliament, Maritime London and the International Maritime Industries Forum seminars and the UK Chamber of Shipping’s Safety Culture Working Group.

Through initiating the Safeship® Coltraco have contributed to safety at sea by building the FLEETSAFE™ capability that can be used easily and safely by the crew and in routine maintenance of the vessel Safety Management System (SMS). This can be in-between the statutory annual maintenance and certification intervals provided by shore-based contractors.

The initiative will continue to work over the longer term by ensuring regulations are implemented and encouraging operators, owners and managers to go above and beyond to secure the Safeship® through minimising risk. Coltraco Ultrasonics focus on benefitting the crew; designing innovative ultrasonic solutions which promote safety culture, which the crew will be happy to use by being easy to operate, quick, accurate and a better method to traditional techniques. This can be in-between the statutory annual maintenance and certification intervals provided by shore-based contractors. Thus, increasing the likelihood of tests being regularly conducted, in line with regulations and even going above and beyond for more frequent testing. By so doing, the crew will be creating a safer ship

What is one of the core challenges in the coal mining industry? Saving people, assets and infrastructure from fire.

In the coal industry, there are continual challenges that owners and operators face in ensuring consistent plant safety.

Some of the key challenges presented to the staff are fire prevention and control, corrosion in pipework and structures, and ensuring that vital power sources such as transformers are always operational.

The case studies below exemplify the challenges in the mining industry and how these can be overcome.

Fire & Explosion:

WHO? NRG Energy

WHERE? The Morgan Town Plant is a coal powered power station based in Maryland. NRG own the USA’s largest and more diverse power generation competitive portfolio. NRG are dedicated to smart and reliable energy sourcing, and emission reductions although coal is a significant part of the electricity generation.

WHAT? Fires and explosions pose a constant threat to the safety of miners and to the productive capacity of mines. Mine fires and explosions traditionally have ranked among the most devastating industrial disasters. The prevention and control of fire and explosion in mines is fundamental. On a mine site, fire hazards may occur in and around process plants, underground conveyors, static and mobile plants, draglines, workshops, substations, monitored control rooms and switch rooms. All mines have highly expensive and mission critical equipment that typically operate day and night under extremely hostile conditions, in vast, remote and difficult to access environments, especially on underground equipment.

Gaseous fire suppression systems are the preferred systems installed to protect the high value asset and safeguard operators and processes so as to guarantee business continuity.

WHY? Gaseous extinguishing systems are pressurised, and therefore exist in a dynamic state i.e. they can leak. As supported by the BS EN ISO 14520 regulation, if clean agent cylinders leak beyond 5% of contents or 10% of pressure they will not extinguish a fire, as they will be below their design concentration.  As the “golden standard” of clean agent systems,  BS EN ISO 14520 highlights the asset owner’s responsibility to check that the clean agents contents exist; that the protected space can be sealed; that the pipework used to discharge the clean agents are clear of particulates that can clog up the nozzles which reduces the amount of clean agent to the point where it cannot operate in the event of a fire.

HOW? After witnessing fire service experts undertaking ultrasonic liquid level indication in just minutes, NRG Energy were keen to change from their previous method of weighing which took over 15 minutes. The Portalevel® Max is an example of the technologically advanced techniques that the company are implementing to lead the way in safe and sustainable coal sourcing.  Portalevel® MAX is a handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator to inspect CO2, clean agents and more liquefied gaseous agents, by one person in just 30 seconds  As a safety critical asset, the Morgan Town Plant saw the necessity in investing into their fire safety.

CASE STUDY 2: Corrosion in Metal Work

WHO? Vales Point Power Station

WHERE? Delta, Australia. The coal fired power station is at the southern end of lake Macquarie. This power station was built in the 1960’s as a four-unit station, but now operates two 660 MW generating units. The power station is owned and operated by Power International, with the capacity of around 1,320 megawatts, providing 24 hours of around the clock electricity.

WHAT? Corrosion in power plants leads to costly repairs, prolonged maintenance, material losses, poor performance and, if left untreated, failure. In power plants, corrosion is the primary factor leading to costly and critical downtimes. When corrosion affects systems carrying steam or hot water—such as pipes—material or welds may fail, causing bodily injury or death. Water, steel and dissolved oxygen within boiler units causes boiler tubes to oxidize and corrode. The corrosion forms grooves within the tubes that lead to cracks and boiler failures. Corrosion can account for up to 75 percent of a plant’s arrest time during maintenance and up to 54 percent of production costs.

HOW? To protect against the threat of corrosion, Vales Point Power Station bought a Portagauge® for testing normal structure and stainless steel, so that they could monitor corrosion rates. The Portagauge® 3 is a single-echo portable ultrasonic thickness gauge. The quick, simple and hardy Portagauge® 3 allows accuracy of ±0.1mm even on corroded, challenging and some plastic surfaces. With a 50 hour battery life, measuring thickness ranges between 1.5mm to 99.9mm and a variety of verified testing materials such as steel, quartz and glass PVC, the Portagauge® 3 provides the great amount versatility needed to suit a diversity of safety needs. The handheld highly dependable unit is ideal for a wide range of industrial applications such as fire cylinders, bulk heads, pipework, chemical equipment and oil storage tanks.

Save lives! How & why to improve water mist maintenance.

Despite the difficulty that shipping businesses are subjected to, fire safety standards on board cannot begin to slip. Fires on board ships can be devastating, to crew, vessel and cargo. There is a call to respond to regulations with a rigorous attitude, to go above and beyond, to provide security of life and infrastructure. Water mist fire suppression systems must be maintained so that they can provide the protection that they are intended for: protecting lives, assets and vessels whilst at sea.

Assessed by FM Global, one of the main causes of failure to water mist systems derives from human error, commonly the water tank being empty. If there is a lack of water supply, the system will be dysfunctional when required, such as failing to extinguish the fire and thus,resulting a significant risk in safety and high-asset applications. Organisations such as the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) have called for the correct installation and maintenance of Water Mist systems. 

For a system that fully relies on the supply of pressurized water, if there is no availability of this source of water, there is no possibility of fire depletion exemplified by the MCA: “effective fire-fighting can only be achieved when the water mist is released promptly on demand.” This is demanded by the IMO regulations MSC.1/Circ 1432, Ch 5.4: “Verify that sprinkler pressure tanks or other means have correct levels of water”. Further to the NFPA 750 regulations state that “Water Storage Vessels must be equipped with a means of checking the level of water inside during a weekly or monthly inspection. Some high-pressure storage cylinders do not have a means to confirm water levels. If such cylinders are present in a system, extra measures should be implemented.” There is an industry wide recognition that these cylinders need monitoring for the safety of the crew and vessel. Ultrasonics is an innovative technology to answer this call.

To ensure that Water Mist systems are fully operational in the event of a fire, and to avoid the serious risk of empty cylinders, the liquid level indicator of the cylinders should be checked non-invasively using ultrasound. One of the sciences being harnessed by innovators in the fire safety sector is that of Ultrasound: i.e. acoustic (sound) energy in the form of waves of high frequency that are above the human audible range. By utilising a sensor which acts as a transceiver, an ultrasonic measuring device is capable of detecting liquid levels within any single-skinned container through transmitting an ultrasonic pulse and analysing the strength of the returned signal to determine the level of contents. As sound behaves differently in air and liquid, so will the strength of the returned signal be different in the liquid allowing us to identify the level of contents accurately.

Better maintenance of water mist fire suppression systems will save lives. Innovative ultrasonic technology enables the crew to be in full compliance of the regulations at all time, delivering a Safeship to protect the lives of crew/passengers/cargo and vessel, quicker, better and more effectively than other traditional methods.

Why don’t gaseous systems always extinguish the fire?

To extinguish a fire, ships need:

  • the correct amount of gas in the fire suppression system cylinders to extinguish the fire
  • compartmentation integrity to starve the fire of oxygen
  • pipework integrity to ensure the gas discharges correctly

To ensure vessels sail safely these points must be implemented, meaning:

  • the crew must have the means to test the cylinder content themselves ie. liquid level indicator, as the crew is not qualified to traditionally weigh
  • there is a need to educate the crew about fire engineering to protect against risk of CO2 actuation in manned areas and to ensure compartmentation etc
  •  

As stated in IMO SOLAS FSS Ch5. 2.1.1.3: “Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the container”. Often this is misunderstood, this code specifically states that the crew must test their extinguishing installations in between the periodic inspection, maintenance and certification. Only having the annual inspection by accredited marine servicing companies is not enough – the crew must take responsibility for their own fire protection.  However, what must be noted is that the crew are often not trained or certified to shut-down, dismantle, weigh and re-install the gaseous cylinders. To overcome this, ships need to test their CO2 systems for contents in-between the annual certification checks by marine servicing companies. Using an ultrasonic liquid level indicator is the only way that the crew can safely test their CO2 without disturbing them. Coltraco Ultrasonics designed the Portalevel® handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicators, because radioactive units were being phased out. If shipping companies implemented the IMO SOLAS FSS codes by testing safely and quickly (just 30-60 seconds per cylinder) by using liquid level indicators and marine servicing companies were able to do their work without allowing for time pressures, then marine safety would be far safer.

  • Examples of accidents where CO2 discharge failed

There are numerous example of fire at sea, with just a few included below. In each of these examples, the actuation of the CO2 system failed to control the fires on the vessels, some with devastating results. If gaseous extinguishing systems were at their full concentration at all times, then in the event of a fire, they should be able to extinguish the fire. However, as demonstrated below, they were not able to. Why is this?
In every fire marine accident report they nearly always say the CO2 discharged on actuation. If it did the fire should have been extinguished. The only reasons that it did not must be that:

  • The system did not exceed the design concentration:
  • Either because insufficient CO2 was installed;
  • Or that the compartment doors/hatches were left open so no compartment integrity was achieved to starve the fire of oxygen;
  • Or that the CO2 leaked or discharged.

 (a) MSC Flaminia, 2012

In July 2012, the container ship was exposed to an uncontrollable fire which tragically lead to three fatalities and two severely injured crew members, as well as dire damage to the ship structure and its cargo. In this example, the actuation of the CO2 system failed when it actuated without instruction in the engine room, although the discharge was intended for cargo hold 4, which turned off the auxiliary boiler and auxiliary fan for the main engine. This led to an out of control fire which required three salvage tugs to deal with the effects of the explosions and fire. However, the extent of the fire meant that the salvage teams could not enter the vessel for 4 days. Cargo areas 3-7 in the ship were significantly damaged and the ships structure was weakened, requiring replacement. Under the pressures, the hatch covers lost their integrity and bulkheads were severely damaged which led to water ingress in all the cargo. The ruling from this event has stated that $280 million of liability will be shared as a result of the incident .

(b) Barzan, 2015

On September 2015, a fire was detected inside one of the cargo holds of Barzan, a Maltese registered container ship. The fixed CO2 system was used but due to a number of leaks in the CO2 line, the required amount of gas did not reach the cargo hold to be effective to smother the fire. The starboard fire main line then developed a large leak at a joint in the under deck passage way and had to be isolated. This restricted the fire-fighting efforts to only the port side, and rendered the starboard side water drenching system unusable. The safety investigation concluded that although the CO2 system and fire mains had been tested satisfactorily prior to the vessel’s delivery in May 2015, the quality of the workmanship had contributed to the subsequent failure of both systems .

(c) CCNI Arauco, 2016

A major fire broke out in an after hold of the container ship CCNI Arauco at Hamburg’s Burchardkai terminal in September 2016. A fire department spokesman said that over 100 emergency services personnel, four fire engines and two fire boats were on site to fight the blaze on the day of the incident. Early efforts focused on cooling the hull to prevent structural damage. An initial attempt to smother the fire with CO2 was not effective, and firefighting operations continued through night. The depth of the fire’s location within the hold added complexity to the response. Repeated CO2 discharges from the ship's own fixed firefighting system were not sufficient to halt the blaze in the Arauco's hold, and a major shore-based intervention was required instead . 

The risks of the “ungoverned space” & how to mitigate

Coltraco Ultrasonics is aware of that there is failure to fully implement the regulations. Coltraco supply Marine Servicing companies globally share anecdotes - that at any one time the average merchant vessel in non-UK port visits has over 20% of its CO2 cylinders empty on inspection plus another 10-20% which have contents loss and also know that occasionally marine “servicing companies” unintentionally leave it disabled.

This is a result of the time pressures that are placed upon marine servicing companies. It is well known that vessels are kept at the dock for a minimum amount of time, which reduces time for repairs and thus efficiency without compromise of safety is key. Most marine servicing companies only have 4 hours on a vessel in a port to test up to 600 cylinders. It is known that it takes 15 minutes for a 2 person team to shutdown, dismantle and weigh a single CO2 cylinder, which is equal to 16 cylinders in 4 hours. Yet despite this, every CO2 cylinder on the vessel receives a “tested and certified sticker” and the CO2 & marine CO2 systems is certified and a certificate is issued.

This is the “ungoverned space” in the shipping industry in marine fire protection. Those in the shipping industry do understand that they must hydrostatically test its CO2 cylinders every 10 years (sometimes 5).  Many just do not unless the marine servicing companies demand it – which they often can because the regulation for it exists. However, it is not the hydrostatic testing that matters. The number of cylinders that fail that test is very low, unless they are heavily corroded which the monthly crew inspection under IMO SOLAS FSS Code Ch 5 should have spotted years before it became in such a condition.

Fire System Designers routinely apply an excess of 20% to the design concentration required in the CO2 system to account for safe limits in the space being protected, which has merit in a new system. This is only has meaning when the space is fully compartmented and sealed fully, which a new vessel probably is.

Figure 1: Room Integrity Explained by the Standard P&I Club

However, the excess of 20% does not account for an ageing ship and an ageing fire system, coupled with the weaker compartmentation capability as seals degrade. The fire system itself will degrade at the same pace as the vessel, but with the obvious exception that an older fire system rarely tests itself fully and therefore when it actuates, it has to cope with a one off “burst” of pressure at the time of the fire event.

This risk is amplified by the misunderstanding of the technical operator of the vessels and ships’ officers and crew.  The technical operators understand what the CO2 & marine CO2 systems is designed to achieve but does not understand its physical properties sufficiently enough to maintain it at sea, in between the statutory certification check or able to spot the signs of its future failure before it may be required to attack the fire.

Any vessel with a Marine Gaseous Extinguishing system needs to consider 3 factors :

  • Unless compartmentation exists the gas will not be able to concentrate
  • Unless the contents exists in sufficient quantity design concentration will not occur
  • The pipework and flanges must be tested to be free of corrosion-generated particulates which block the nozzles and must be tested to be able to withstand the shock of gas discharge on actuation

Conduct Your Risk Assessments: CO2 Systems Leak

Confirmed by ABS & Italian Coastguard

Gaseous Systems Leak: confirmed in recent communications from American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) and the Italian Coastguard.

In July 2018, the ABS released advice that there have been multiple cases  reported in which CO2 cylinders in fixed fire systems have been found empty. Because of this, ABS have recommended that all shipowners need to conduct a risk assessment of their CO2 systems.

As per the Ministero delle Infrastrutture e dei Trasporti, The Italian Coastguard in a communication to its members: “In consideration of the need to ensure the continuous functionality of the aforementioned fixed fire protection system and to prevent an unexpected release of CO2 & marine CO2 systems into the work environment, it is established that - as of the date of receipt of this Circular - these companies perform, for the units managed with the aforementioned plant, a specific and documented risk assessment, aimed at outlining any necessary measures to protect workers' health and safety.” (translated from Italian).

Why do they leak?

A ship’s gaseous extinguishing system typically comprises between 200 and 600 cylinders each containing 45KG of CO2 under high 720 psi/ 49 bar pressure.

Because gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurised, the risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use and this is shown in the regulations that demand their upkeep.

IMO SOLAS & FSS Code Chapter 2.1.1.3 - “Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the containers.”

Some marine service companies estimate that 20% of a ship’s CO2 cylinders have discharged or partially leaked their contents at some point in their lifetime also know that occasionally marine “servicing companies” unintentionally leave it disabled.

What is the solution?

Using an ultrasonic liquid level indicator is the only way that the crew can safely test their CO2 without disturbing them. Coltraco Ultrasonics designed the ABS Type Approved Portalevel® MAX Marine & Portamarine® ultrasonic liquid level indicators, as radioactive units were being phased out. The Portalevel® MAX MARINE allows crew to implement IMO SOLAS FSS codes by testing safely and quickly (just 30-60 seconds per cylinder).

The Portalevel® MAX Marine allows the crew to be in charge of checking the CO2 systems, as many times as needed: ensuring that the systems will be working when they are needed.

  • ABS Type Approved Portalevel® MAX Marine is designed primarily for the vessels’ crew to inspect large fire suppression systems of up to 600 cylinders.
  • The ease of operation in comparison to weighing, increases the ability of more regular and frequent checks, improving fire safety management onboard.
  • Coltraco’s innovative method of inspecting leaking cylinders with ultrasonics, enables identification in under 30 seconds using Portalevel® with one person, instead of the traditional 15 minutes, with two people laboriously weighing.

Combined with the MAX Marine, The Portasteele® Calculator is an advanced  application, that converts the liquid level height of C02, NOVEC™ 1230 and FM-200® liquefied gaseous extinguishant agent readings taken on a Portalevel® device into the agent weight/mass.  The Portasteele® CALCULATOR can convert an expected agent weight back to the required liquid level allowing users to anticipate where the level should be.

As advised by ABS and Italian Coastguard, it’s time to conduct your risk assessment and start maintaining your CO2 systems. Choose the quickest, easiest and effective way to maintain your CO2 systems: The Portalevel® MAX Marine and Portasteele® CALCULATOR.

Monitor Your Highly Corrosive Scrubber Systems With Ultrasonic Technology

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulated that ships must cut their sulphur oxide emissions by 2020. As a result of this, shipping companies have turned to scrubber systems, which reduce the amount of sulphur emitted from burning fuels. Scrubber systems allow a ship to continue using cheaper bunker fuel than low sulphur fuel which reduces the switching cost to an entirely new fuel system. The sulphur in exhaust gas is neutralised in the scrubber tower by the absorbent used such as sea water and passed out from the discharge pipe.

Unfortunately, scrubber systems come with their own issues. The piping in the scrubber system is very prone to corrosion, particularly in the discharge valve. This is due to the elevated temperatures of the exhaust gas scrubber discharge which creates a very corrosive environment. The risk is that a reduction in wall thickness would mean that corrosion is present.

Therefore, DNV GL has introduced a requirement whereby piping in scrubber systems should be annually checked for their thickness.

As stated in 2017 by DNV GL: “Newer SOx scrubber systems often are equipped with diffusers inside the distance piece. These diffusers themselves are vulnerable to corrosion attacks, but more important, their fixation to the distance piece, either welded or bolted, often forms a weak spot in the corrosion protection of the distance piece. For the safety of the crew and the vessel, we believe it is necessary that the condition of the distance piece be confirmed on a yearly basis.”

DNV, GL - Survey requirements for fleet in service Part 7, Chapter 1, Section 2, 3.1.9:“The wall thickness of distance piece(s) for SOx scrubber system discharge valve(s) shall be verified to be undiminished.”

The recommended solution is UTM (ultrasonic thickness measurement). Ultrasonics is the simple and effective solution for testing for corrosion, required by DNV GL. Coltraco Ultrasonics are proud industry experts in ultrasonic technology. Coltraco manufacture two industry leading ultrasonic thickness gauges, ideal for the regular testing of scrubber systems.

Portagauge® 3 is a low cost single-echo portable thickness gauge. The quick, simple and hardy Portagauge® 3 allows accuracy of ±0.1mm even on corroded, challenging and some plastic surfaces. With a 50 hour battery life, measuring thickness ranges between 1.5mm to 99.9mm and a variety of verified testing materials such as steel, quartz and glass PVC, the Portagauge® 3 provides the versatility  to suit a range of safety needs. This easy to use ,highly dependable handheld unit is ideal for scrubber systems.

For more advanced requirements - identifying the metal only thickness - Coltraco Ultrasonics also have the Portagauge® 4 which is an advanced thickness gauge. Offering unparalleled accuracy, the Portagauge® 4 uses triple echo technology which allows operators to inspect the underlying metal thickness, independent of any surface coatings such as paint. For applications where true metal readings and a higher degree of accuracy is required, the Portagauge® 4 is the ideal solution. With a variety of sensor options available and underwater variants, this range of units can easily be adapted to a variety of different roles and requirements.

Discover more about Coltraco Ultrasonics’ commitment to customer care and safety on www.coltraco.com.

Leading British Ultrasonics Technology Manufacturer

Coltraco Ultrasonics are a leading British Ultrasonics Technology Manufacturer.

Coltraco Ultrasonics strive towards creating innovative, reliable and effective technology to provide a level of safety that goes beyond minimal compliance of regulations for true safety – this is the Safeship® initiative at sea, and Safesite® initiative on land. This is supported by lifetime after sales customer care. Coltraco Ultrasonics are proud exporters, with 89% of export output going to 109 countries: 40% to Asia, 10% to the Middle East, 15% to Europe, 17% to North America and the balance to South America and Africa. At Coltraco’s core is exporting and is a consequence of the global appeal of its high-end science and technology R&D and manufacturing capability in the UK.

Coltraco Ultrasonics operate in multiple market sectors: Shipping, Fire, Naval, Offshore, Power Generation, Electricity Distribution, Data Centres, Banks, Telecommunications, Marine Surveying, Rail, Mining, Pharmaceuticals and Food Processing and most recently in Renewable Wind Energy. Today, Coltraco are aboard 17% of the world’s shipping fleet (nearly 10,000 ships), the top 15 Navies and sell to 50% of the world’s offshore oil and gas companies, and in the last year, in service with one of the major 4 wind companies.

Coltraco Ultrasonic’s expertise is focused upon 3 core technology strands which are “cheaper, faster and better” and their support:

  1. Liquid level indication: Specifically inspecting fire extinguishing systemsprimarily pressurised liquefied gaseous ones as well as sprinklers, by a flagship UL and ABS approved Portalevel®MAX range of products and our unique fixed monitoring system, Permalevel® and a whole range of other industrial liquids in cylinders and tanks.
  2. Seal integrity: Watertight integrity of marine structures such as hatch covers tester, multiple cable transit areas, operational citadels and watertight compartment doors with ABS Type-approved Portascanner®Watertight and compartmentation testing in buildings and civil engineering structures to supplement Door Fan Testing with Portascanner® 520.
  3. Condition monitoring: Through bearing monitoring, thickness gauging and flow monitoring.
  4. After Sales: Support for the lifetime of customer equipment, recommended annual calibration at our authorised Organisational Delegated Authorities (ODA) service centres and optional Portacare® total care programme.

Test Your CO2 Safely

As stated in IMO SOLAS FSS Ch5. 2.1.1.3: “Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the container”

Often this is misunderstood, this code specifically states that the crew must test their extinguishing installations in between the periodic inspection, maintenance and certification. Only having the annual inspection by accredited marine servicing companies is not enough – the crew must take responsibility for its own fire protection.  However, what must be noted is that the crew are often not trained or certified to shut-down, dismantle, weigh and re-install the gaseous cylinders. To overcome this, ships need to test their CO2 systems for contents in-between the annual certification checks by marine servicing companies.

Using an ultrasonic liquid level indicator is the only way that the crew can safely test their CO2 without disturbing them. Coltraco Ultrasonics designed the Portalevel® MAX Marine & Portamarine® ultrasonic liquid level indicators, as radioactive units were being phased out. If shipping companies implemented the IMO SOLAS FSS codes by testing safely and quickly (just 30-60 seconds per cylinder) by using liquid level indicators and marine servicing companies were able to do their work without allowing for time pressures, then marine safety would be far safer.

Solutions for any vessels marine gaseous extinguishing system exist:

  • Portalevel® MAX Marine liquid level indicators used by the crew weekly to test for contents
  • Portascanner® WATERTIGHT, watertight integrity test indicators used by the crew to test for compartmentation
  • Portapipe® pipework integrity indicators used to test for pipework obstructions and the Portagauge® thickness gauges for pipework corrosion
  • Compressed air testing of the pipework and flanges to test the pipework system’s ability to withstand the pressures of the gas on actuation (and this is the only test which recommended to be solely the responsibility of a  “responsible” shore-based contractor)

Ultrasonic Liquid Level Indicator Guarantees High Maintenance of Fire Extinguishing System

Tragedies gone up against by the ship proprietors are never off the news channels. There's an overabundance of going on a ship constantly that something will without a doubt occur sooner or later. Additionally, a ship or a ship's section going up ablaze is as of late ordinary news now. However, it isn't essential for the ship proprietor since he needs to stand up to a huge amount of burdens. There's an impressive proportion of illumination to do at the police home office, answer the ungraceful request of the prosperity experts and to worry over the setbacks. For sure, even the protection organization attempts to avoid paying up for the setbacks and fights to find all possible ways to deal with reject a portion. In addition, if all odds are against the ship proprietor, he is foreordained indeed.

Confirmation against fire is a basic thing. It is the essential thing each ship proprietor should start worrying throughout the moment he gets one. If the ship is a payload transport send, it is definitely not hard to expect that in the end there will be flares on board and they ought to be overseen in their most dependable stages to maintain a strategic distance from the mind-boggling disasters that could run even the best association to request of for liquidation. You can't rely upon your staff to deal with the issue without letting any damage to occur. The moment they will come to think about it the flares will be presently excessively fit, making it impossible to manage.

Your staff isn't checking the water crafts each and every piece without stopping for even a minute. There are times when no one is around except for the security ensure which is simply or two. He can't deal with the flares free from any other individual and it is also possible that he may get captured in the blasts and would be unprotected. The NOVEC 1230 gas suppression system would be his life gatekeeper blessed messenger in such a period when his life would be being referred to and the association's regard would in like manner be being referred to. The gas would act quickly and bring the condition under control saving fundamentally something other than dollars.

To discover a feeling of satisfaction, you'll need to name someone to screen the gas barrels in any occasion once reliably with the ultrasonic liquid level indicator. This would enable you to be prepared about the weight inside the barrels and you will be calm understanding that there is a considerable measure of gas to kill even the best fire. In case that individual prompts you around a change in the weight, in all probability a dive, have the barrels supplanted or refilled rapidly.

Oxygen Reduction System in a Data Centre

WHERE? Oxygen Reduction System, England

WHAT? A data centre is a facility that stores, manages and disseminates data.  Data centres are now supporting a variety of heavy industries such as mines.

WHY? Oxygen Reduction system works by taking Nitrogen from the air outdoors and pumping this into the room consistently in order to suppress oxygen levels, down to the level where combustion can no longer occur. To ensure the system works safely and efficiently, room integrity is of utmost important for two reasons: (1) A properly sealed room will contain the Nitrogen for a longer period of time, therefore putting less work on the air compressor in order to save energy. (2) If Nitrogen starts to leak from the Server Room, there are safety concerns over where this Nitrogen would leak to as it has the potential to harm occupants in other rooms if the Nitrogen leaks into their room and the oxygen levels were unmonitored.

HOW? Several areas were tested with an ultrasonic room integrity tester where leakage was probable and the readings were noted on the drawings. These were the doors, vents, cable penetrations and also sections of the wall where gaps were visible. The ultrasonic room integrity tester identified the main source of leaks for the room, the doors, where full readings were clearly detected. Multiple air vents in the room were also improperly sealed and some leakage was found into the external room. Cable penetrations leading to the area outside the Server Room were also found to be leaking. Once the required maintenance was conducted and assuming no changes were made to the room, it is safe to assume that the room retains its integrity, thus comply and exceed current ISO 14520 regulations requiring periodic inspections of room integrity whereby visual inspection is usually specified and is not sufficient.

WHAT? The most suitable way to address periodic inspections is through the use of ultrasound. The Portascanner® 520 uses ultrasonic technology to not only pinpoint precise leak locations, but to determine their leak apertures as small as 0.06mm with a tolerance of +/-0.02mm, making it by far the most accurate device for this function. Portascanner® 520 also provides interpretation of the fire resistance of the desired locations, labelling them either airtight or calculates the overall leakage of the room. The advantages of being able to accurately detect the exact leak locations and size are self-evident when considered alongside the resistance to collapse and transfer of excessive heat. In a case where there is too much leakage in a room, the Portascanner® 520 is an unrivalled ideal for the rapid and accurate identification of these sites so that they can be sealed. It is lightweight, fast and easy to use, allowing leak site detection to increase its operational efficiency and speed to a degree that has never been seen thus far in the Fire Industry.

The Call For Continuous Monitoring Can No Longer Wait

Continuous monitoring is no longer an option; it is essential for the protection against special hazards in critical infrastructure. Clean agents are designed to operate in limited spaces where there is a need for speed of suppression given the asset risk and where the space is occupied by people. They deliver the infrastructural resilience our advanced society requires. The assumptions in the installation, commissioning and maintenance of gaseous extinguishing systems is that they are highly pressurised but risk leaking and discharging. ISO 14520 specifically guides our industry as to these risks; In 9.2.1.3 The storage container contents shall be checked at least every six months as follows. : a) Liquefied gases: for halocarbon agents, if a container shows a loss of agent in quantity of more than 5 % or a loss of pressure (adjusted for temperature) of more than 10 %, it shall be refilled or replaced. b) Non-liquefied gases: for inert gas agents, pressure is an indication of agent quantity. If a container shows a loss of agent quantity or a loss of pressure (adjusted for temperature) of more than 5 %, it shall be refilled or replaced. Therefore, at a standards level it is known that gaseous systems can become ineffective through accidental discharge and leakage and thus they do not serve to protect the critical infrastructure in such a case. To know the contents, you need to monitor it, and checking it every 6 months is not monitoring it.

 Should we not just constantly monitor all of them and be in full compliance to the regulations and the risks that are so clearly described in our own core standards? If it is known and accepted that these are dynamic systems that are prone to leaking, but they are expected to deliver resilience and protection, then why are they left unattended for 6 months of the year? We would not do the same to an alarm system without monitoring it 24/7, so why are we not monitoring gaseous extinguishing systems? Let us apply 21st century science to a 100 year old issue and be done with it. A dynamic system needs monitoring. The neglect of continuous monitoring of the fundamental protection provided by the gaseous extinguishing systems is to the peril of the lives of occupants of the premises and at the risk of crippling financial loss to the facility comprising the critical infrastructure. To ensure that dynamic gaseous systems are protecting critical infrastructure in a safe and diligent manner, 6 monthly monitoring and maintenance is no longer enough. There is a call for continuous monitoring and this is something that cannot wait any more.

Get to Know Coltraco Ultrasonics

Coltraco Ultrasonics design and make ultrasonic equipment for monitoring. We want to save you cost and time, whilst helping you improve safety.

This equipment is for:

You deserve 24/7 care. You will get lifetime support. Each unit comes with 3 year warranty on main units and 1 year warranty on sensors. Arrange a phone call at a time that suits you.

Faster: our ultrasonic technology is designed to be the simplest, most effective method to inspect quickly

Better: we are committed to integrity from design, manufacture, supply and after sales support. We are world-leaders.

Cheaper: We offer cost effective solutions. We will never be beaten on price. Send us competitor quotes and we will match or beat them.

Turn Risk To Reward : know your upfront costs + maintenance costs = lifecycle cost

We know that the most important factor for our customers is to minimise risk. In fast paced businesses, downtime can be costly, financially, reputationally, and for the maintenance of safety practices. For safety critical environments, we understand that it is essential that the equipment used to improve protection must be fully operational at all times. So, take the chance to transfer the maintenance risk of your new Coltraco Ultrasonics equipment back to the original manufacturer with the Portacare® package

What is Portacare® ?

  • Portacare® is a total care package that provides enhanced after sales support
  • It goes above and beyond Coltraco’s Customer Care Commitment (CCC)
  • It offers a world leading support programme to our products over a 5 year term length. Coltraco Ultrasonics operates with integrity - from design to after sales care - to best support customers and provide enhanced after sales support. 

What is the CCC?

  • Customer – we invite you to benefit from Coltraco’s ethos of integrity from design to lifetime support
  • Care – we think care is better if its personal so you can arrange a phone call any time that suits you worldwide to answer your queries
  • Commitment – we want to save you cost and time, whilst helping you improve safety.

How can you cut risk with the Portacare® Package?

Know your upfront unit cost plus maintenance cost when buying new equipment. The package includes:

  • Fixed costs for 5 years – All calibration costs within the first 5 year period (total of 4) – saving £250/year
  • Free replacement – If a component becomes obsolete, you receive a free replacement unit of similar life
  • Free repair – First line repair is free – saving £100 (repairs over £100 must be paid for. Please note that Portacare® excludes customer-induced damage). After the first repair, 25% discount is given on any further repairs and accessories. Priority assistance will be given in spares and repairs
  • Upgrades – Upgrades are available at 25% discount – transfer existing Portacare® to the new unit so no loss of fee.
  • Discounts – 25% discount on upgrade options, 10% discount of a second product and exclusive offers personalised to you
  • Flexibility – Coltraco understand that every companies requirements are different, and are pleased to tailor a Portacare® package to your needs

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Keen to learn more about the Portacare®? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for pricing, the brochure and frequently asked questions.

Portacare® is designed for customers using liquid level testing, seal integrity and condition monitoring equipment for in high value applications such as power plants, data centres and naval vessels.  Coltraco Ultrasonics is a leading British designer and manufacturer of innovative ultrasonic technology operating in 109 countries across multiple markets such as the offshore, marine, fire, renewable markets, for over 30 years. www.coltraco.com/news.

Know Your Numbers: Mathematics of Gaseous Extinguishing Systems

By starting with the numbers and mathematics of gaseous extinguishing systems, Coltraco are leading the way in the fire industry.

31˚C - CO2’s critical point: the temperature at which CO2 turns totally from liquid to gas.

CO2 is permanently under 720 psi or 49 bar of pressure ie nearly 50 times atmospheric pressure (by comparison a cup of water at sea level exists at 1 bar or 14.5 psi). Its state changes under increased temperatures to one that is neither a liquid nor a gas.

50-55˚C   -  critical points of FM-200® and Novec™1230 (turning from liquid to gas).

Gases under pressure are often effectively considered by the industry as single and passive cylinder columns of solid material from the perspective of their monitoring following installation. Whereas being under pressure and constantly changing under temperature they should be considered as active and dynamic systems requiring constant monitoring. These are not passive systems therefore; they are dynamic ones, and all dynamic systems under pressure need constant monitoring.

14520 - the ISO standard regarding fire systems from installation with regard to room integrity through to maintenance and inspection of contents

ISO 14520-1:2015(E) specifically states in 6.2.4.2 Contents Indication that - Means shall be provided to indicate that each container is correctly charged and in 9.2.1.1 At least annually, or more frequently as required by the authority, all systems shall be thoroughly inspected and tested for proper operation by competent personnel. Under ISO 14520 where gaseous extinguishing systems have to be designed in relation to the discharging agent hold-time (if the room cannot hold the agent because of leaks the agent will disperse and not extinguish the fire) and discharging agent peak pressure (if the pressure is too high for partition walls or suspended ceilings they will be blown apart or damaged and possibly destroying the room integrity). At the design stage of a fire extinguishing system rooms are tested for room integrity by positively pressurising a room and detecting escaping pressure to verify that the room itself into which the gaseous extinguishant discharges on actuation can both hold the agent after its discharge and hold its pressure on actuation. The fire system is then installed and commissioned. However,  over the next 10 years no further tests are made on room integrity and the cylinders merely hydrostatically tested to ensure they can cope with their design pressure limits. How can one be sure therefore that on actuation the room will hold the discharged agent to extinguish the fire and its partitions and ceilings are capable of withstanding the pressure of the agent on discharge?

5% - loss of agent above which it is deemed unacceptable in liquefied gaseous extinguishing system and thus requires refilling. 10% - loss of pressure above which it is deemed unacceptable in liquefied gaseous extinguishing systems and thus requires refilling

The risks of accidental discharge or leakage is recognised within the regulations.  BS EN ISO 14520 -1:2015(E) reasonably assumes that the execution of its provisions is entrusted to people qualified and experienced in the specification, design, installation, commissioning, testing, approval, inspection, operation and maintenance of systems and equipment, and who can be expected to exercise a duty of care to avoid unnecessary release of extinguishant. The assumptions in the installation, commissioning and maintenance of gaseous extinguishing systems is that they are highly pressurised but risk leaking and discharging. The regulations that sensibly underpin this assumption aim to identify their leak identification at an interval of every 6 months. Cylinders accidentally discharge. CO2 can cause fatalities if it does. 1% of pressure gauges fail and 25% of valves too. Essentially, it is known in regulations that the gaseous systems leak and need to be maintained. Given that the ultrasonic gaseous systems are designed specifically to the individual need of that room, building e.t.c, then a 5% loss of agent may mean that they would not fully extinguish the fire. What if there are also leak sites in the room? The likelihood of the gaseous system effectively extinguishing the fire gets lower and lower.

Case Studies: Ultrasonics in the Mining Industry

The importance of ultrasonic technology to the mining industry has been demonstrated by its use thus far. NRG Energy have been using the Portalevel Max since 2015 at the Morgan Town Generation Plant in Morgantown, Charles County in Maryland, US. The Morgan Town Plant is a coal powered power station based in Maryland. NRG own the USA’s largest and more diverse power generation competitive portfolio. NRG are dedicated to smart and reliable energy sourcing, and emission reductions although coal is a significant part of the electricity generation. The Portalevel Max is an example of the technologically advanced techniques that the company are implementing to lead the way in safe and sustainable coal sourcing.   After witnessing fire service experts undertaking ultrasonic liquid level indication in just minutes, they were keen to change from their previous method of weighing. As a safety critical asset, the Morgan Town Plant saw the necessity in investing into their fire safety. This was the same as at the Vales Point Power Station at Delta, Australia.  The power station is at the southern end of lake Macquarie. This power station was built in the 1960’s as a four-unit station, but now operates two 660 MW generating units. The Power Station is owned and operated by Power International, with the capacity of around 1,320 megawatts, providing 24 hours electricity. In 2013 they bought a Portaguage for testing normal structure and stainless steel.

ACT NOW: Nuclear Power Plants Are Safety Critical

Continuous improvements and maintenance are required of the fire safety systems at nuclear power plants due to the safety critical nature of the site.  Incidents in nuclear power plants around the world have continued to demonstrate the vulnerability of safety systems to fire and its effects. The potential danger from an accident at a nuclear power plant is exposure to radiation to the people in the vicinity of the plume from the cloud and particles deposited on the ground, inhalation of radioactive materials and ingestion of radioactive materials. It is for this reason that the safety demands of the Atomic Energy Authority must be met.

The International Atomic Energy Authority state clearly in the Fire Safety in the Operation of Nuclear Power Plants standards that the effects of a single failure in fire safety systems, such as a system not performing its required function, can be detrimental. One example of this is the Chernobyl disaster a catastrophic nuclear accident which cost approximately 18 billion roubles and had a huge human impact. In this disaster a  combination of inherent reactor design flaws, together with the reactor operators arranging the core in a manner contrary to the checklist for the test, eventually resulted in uncontrolled reaction conditions that flashed water into steam generating a destructive steam explosion and a subsequent open-air graphite fire.  This fire produced considerable updrafts for about 9 days, that lofted plumes of fission products into the atmosphere, with the estimated radioactive inventory that was released during this very hot fire phase, approximately equal in magnitude to the airborne fission products released in the initial destructive explosion. Over thirty years later and investment into the site is still required, with Flamgard Calidair providing fire shut off dampers to the Chernobyl, as part of an €1.5 billion multinational engineering project. With fires at nuclear power plants still occurring, such as the 2017 power plant explosion at Flamanville, deemed “very serious” by industry experts, the call for advanced technology is of most importance. A significant technical issue led to a blast in the turbine hall in the unit, although there was no radioactive leak, a thorough investigation is being conducted into the concerning event.

Faced with this problem, a leading UK Nuclear family approached Coltraco Ultrasonics in 2003 and commissioned the first Permalevel™. Focused on continued advancement of safety technology, Coltraco have now developed the Permalevel™ Multiplex, a fixed fire suppression monitoring device, designed for permanent contents verification. The Permalevel  Multiplex™    is  designed  to  ensure  that fire  suppression  systems  are  always  fully operational and that no accidental discharge has occurred, which could affect the effectiveness of the overall fire protection system in the event of a fire at a nuclear power plant. The application of the Permalevel™ reaches further, with customers using this equipment in alternate specialist and confidential manners to ensure safety in the station. With guaranteed systems operations, adaptability for purpose, 24/7 remote access to the systems status, an interruptible power supply and remote real-time monitoring, the Permalevel offers the efficiency that is now a requirement at nuclear energy sites.

A CALL FOR CONSTANT MONITORING OF WIND TURBINES

A dynamic system needs monitoring.  The reality is that gaseous systems are checked for contents annually because they are pressurised and anything that is dynamic offers risk of loss of contents, but this fails to deal with the probability of discharge or leakage for the 364 days per annum in the interim between certification checks.

If the hazard is special and the infrastructure critical then this is the case for the constant monitoring of the suppression systems that aim to deliver the protection of them. Inspection should include an evaluation that the extinguishing system continues to provide adequate protection for the risk.

Coupled to this is a complete lack Room Integrity testing after the gaseous system has been installed. As buildings age or their internal use is changed leak sites develop. If the gas cannot be ‘held’ in the room on discharge during a fire event the probability of its suppression diminishes in direct proportion to the size of the leak sites.  Room integrity tests are imperative for the determination of both the hold time and the peak pressure needed for successful fire suppression.

The level of leakage is carefully monitored in order to ensure the correct agent concentration is achieved; room integrity must be ‘tight’ enough to ensure sufficient retention time according to NFPA Standards or ISO 14520, yet remain ‘loose’ enough to prevent enclosure damage at discharge.  The presence of undesired and unregulated leak sites reduces room integrity and will hence dramatically impact the hold time and peak pressure, placing room contents and potentially wall structures at risk.

It is accepted that in wind turbines vibration can loosen connections while dirt, dust, and temperature extremes are known to cause unwarranted discharge. Additionally, openings in the turbine housing significantly inhibit achieving the designated agent concentration. Devising a solution to overcome these challenges can add significantly to the weight in the turbine.

For regular inspection, there are solutions such as the Portalevel® MAX. This handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator can service a cylinder in 30 seconds (in contrast to 15 minutes by traditional manual weighing) with accuracy of up to 1.5mm off the true liquid level.

Coltraco Ultrasonics provide smart Firetest® solutions that enable wind turbine owners and operators to improve their fire safety management and reduce the risks to human life, business continuity caused by any downtime and thus minimise risk to reputation by delivering a Safesite®.

Fires Cause Turbine Failure

Fires Cause Turbine Failure Turbine fires are expensive. They attract negative publicity. It is estimated that 0.3-0.5 fire incidents occur per 1000 wind power stations (onshore and offshore) every year (Technical Research Institute of Sweden). What it more, wind turbine fires tend to cause losses equal to or above the original cost of the wind power plant - especially offshore!

WHAT ARE THE RISKS?

Introducing fixed fire extinguishing systems as fire protection is becoming more prevalent because of the increased rate of fire incidents and the rising value and sizes of turbines. While there have been occasional articles written over the last couple of years about the importance of wind energy and the problems of fire, they have not addressed how fire systems themselves can be constantly monitored to ensure operational efficacy and to reduce risk, saving costs and increasing revenues.

Potential ignition sources are mainly inside the nacelle where there is fast moving machinery (generators, gearboxes e.t.c) which creates heat and combustible oil and solid material in the. Even with the incredible engineering and safety measures in place, a fire can ignite and develop, leading to the possible complete destruction of the turbine. A study conducted by SP Safety at the Technical Research Institute of Sweden showed that 10-30% of all loss-of-power-generation incidents in wind power plants are due to fire.

CRITICAL TURBINE INCIDENTS

The fires in wind turbines not only lead to a loss of business continuity and a negative impact on the company’s reputation but also, most importantly, are a critical safety issue. Possibly harmful debris can be drifted by the wind in the event if a fire and there is also a significant risk to human lives. When turbines are under erection, commissioning maintenance and repair, escape routes for operators are often long and vertical. Three out of six incidents involve a human presence in the nacelle; hence, a fire becomes a safety concern. In 2013, a crew of four engineers died in Ooltgensplaat, Netherlands in a wind turbine fire. This devastating loss of life calls for improved review of fire safety to minimise the risk to engineers.

Daniel Kopte, expert for safety systems, renewables certification at DNV GL, estimates that worldwide 120 wind turbines suffer fire damage (not necessarily causing total loss) annually. There have been several high-profile cases on wind turbine fires in the UK within the previous 6 years. An 100-metre tall turbine caught fire during hurricane-force winds at Ardrossan in North Ayrshire in December 2011, reportedly due to a lightning strike. The wind turbine was completely burnt out and debris scattered over large distances due to the strong wind. With predictions of much taller and more powerful turbines of 13-15MW to be implemented by the middle of the next decade, and thus fewer per project, ensuring that the they are in working order is essential, because the larger and fewer the turbines, the more costly they will be to operators in the event of fire damage.

Protecting your crew: using ultrasonics to create a Safeship®

The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) have recently investigated the cause of the 2015 El Faro disaster. SS El Faro was a United States-flagged, combination roll-on/roll-off and lift-on/lift-off cargo ship crewed by U.S. merchant mariners. All 33 crew members tragically died in the sinking, when El Faro sailed from Jacksonville into Hurricane Joaquin, while heading to Puerto Rico. The wreckage was discovered more than 15,000 feet below the sea surface, Northeast of Acklins and Crooked Island, Bahamas. 

The NTSB have concluded that gaps in safety management contributed to the sinking of the El Faro. One of the significant issues was “poor watertight integrity which allowed seawater into the ship” stating that this accident may have been avoided if “crew had more information about the status of the hatches”.

In fact, in the SOLAS Reg II-1/11.1  it states that hatches and watertight seals must be regularly tested: “Where a hose test is not practicable [sic] it may be replaced by [sic] an ultrasonic leak test or an equivalent test. In any case a thorough inspection of the watertight bulkheads shall be carried out.” The tragedy of the El Faro has exemplified why it is crucial for the watertight tight integrity test of vessels to be regularly and easily tested by the crew. The importance of continually maintaining seal integrity must take a more prominent position in ship maintenance scheduling.

A lack of proper servicing of seals can lead to deterioration which endanger the lives of the crew, vessel and cargo.  One British manufacturer whose mission is to deliver the Safeship® to prevent El Faro type incidents occurring again is Coltraco Ultrasonics. They are committed to improving safety for people, assets and vessels at sea. They focus on benefitting the crew; designing innovative ultrasonic solutions which the crew will be happy to use by being easy to operate, quick, accurate and a better method to traditional techniques. Thus increasing the likelihood of tests being regularly conducted, in line with regulations and even going above and beyond for more frequent testing. By so doing, the crew will be creating a safer ship.

Ultrasonics is proven to be the quickest, easiest and most efficient method of testing watertight & weather-tight seals of hatch covers, doors, multiple cable transits. The Portascanner® WATERTIGHT is the most accurate model of its kind – proven to 0.06mm (+/-0.02mm). This is designed primarily to enhance the ease and accuracy with which critical watertight, airtight or weather tight seals can be inspected for leak sites or areas of reduced compression in the seal. The ultrasound generator emits a modulated signal of a specific frequency of ultrasound (in most cases 40,000Hz). The receiver then picks up the signal and converts it into a result indicating watertight integrity. The easy to use PortascannerÒ WATERTIGHT allows crew member to check for failing seals whilst at sea which allows for prompt maintenance. 

Avoid negligence and work towards creating the Safeship® with Coltraco Ultrasonics.

CASE STUDY: Corrosion in Metal Work

WHO? Vales Point Power Station

WHERE? Delta, Australia. The coal fired power station is at the southern end of lake Macquarie. This power station was built in the 1960’s as a four-unit station, but now operates two 660 MW generating units. The power station is owned and operated by Power International, with the capacity of around 1,320 megawatts, providing 24 hours of around the clock electricity.

WHAT? Corrosion in power plants leads to costly repairs, prolonged maintenance, material losses, poor performance and, if left untreated, failure. In power plants, corrosion is the primary factor leading to costly and critical downtimes. The water-steam circuits in fossil and nuclear power plants are inherently prone to corrosion, as metal components are constantly in contact with water. When corrosion affects systems carrying steam or hot water—such as pipes—material or welds may fail, causing bodily injury or death. Water, steel and dissolved oxygen within boiler units causes boiler tubes to oxidize and corrode. The corrosion forms grooves within the tubes that lead to cracks and boiler failures. Corrosion can account for up to 75 percent of a plant’s arrest time during maintenance and up to 54 percent of production costs.

HOW? To protect against the threat of corrosion, Vales Point Power Station bought a Portagauge® for testing normal structure and stainless steel, so that they could monitor corrosion rates. The Portagauge® 3 is a single-echo portable ultrasonic thickness gauge. The quick, simple and hardy Portagauge® 3 allows accuracy of ±0.1mm even on corroded, challenging and some plastic surfaces. With a 50 hour battery life, measuring thickness ranges between 1.5mm to 99.9mm and a variety of verified testing materials such as steel, quartz and glass PVC, the Portagauge® 3 provides the great amount versatility needed to suit a diversity of safety needs. The handheld highly dependable unit is ideal for a wide range of industrial applications such as fire cylinders, bulk heads, pipework, chemical equipment and oil storage tanks.

Shipping Needs To Embrace The Potential of Digitlisation

Standardisation is required in the shipping industry to allow for confidence in technology by operators. Common standards ensures consistency, which promotes safety and efficiency. Standardisation is key to streamline processes and in the exchange of data – when utilised this will allow the shipping industry to embrace the huge potential that digitalisation has to offer the shipping industry.

Shipping needs to adopt an approach such as the aerospace industry, which is affected by international cooperation and strongly controlled by national and international regulations and standards in order to ensure safety, reliability, and cost-efficiency. In the aerospace industry, the Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency generate the regulations and the airlines and member state national civil aviation authorities, such as the UK Civil Aviation Authority and Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul services implement them. A failure to certify that they have been implemented will result in an aircraft not being certified to fly.

In shipping the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) generates many of the regulations and its member flag states, such as the UK’s Maritime and Coastgaurd Agency, are expected to implement them. Indeed, they are subject to interpretation by them. The single most useful thing that the UK could do for shipping globally is to lead at the IMO so that its regulations are implemented through standardisation.

Case Study:

Speaking in from the expertise of Coltraco Ultrasonics (in the monitoring of gaseous extinguishing systems), below is an example of how standardisation will allow the shipping industry to become safer and ensure the implementation of regulations.

The regulations that currently govern gaseous extinguishing systems are the IMO SOLAS Fire Safety Systems (FSS) Code and the BS EN ISO 14520 standards. These require that the liquefied gaseous cylinders be checked for an agent loss of more than 5%, at which point they should be refilled or replaced.

Standardisation means that the crew have a responsibility to implement the regulations via regular testing, which enabled through smart ultrasonic liquid level indicator technology and Internet of Things (IoT) IoT, should be done continuously to avoid negligence and unnecessary risk.

Smart technology provides the crew and ship owners with ease of inspection and understanding their extinguishing systems. However, the crew will not be able to refill the gaseous extinguishing system, and instead must rely on notifying the marine servicing company when they arrive at a port, despite the fact that they may only be at the port for a very short amount of time. Due to time pressures, the risk of not being able to find a contractor in time to fill the cylinders in the event of leakage is one that could jeopardise the safety of the entire ship when it is time to set sail.

Continuously monitoring the cylinders with ultrasonic sensors that utilises IoT can avoid this, because the network contribution. Using IoT enables the advance notification of the crew and shore based services whilst at sea. Therefore, preparations to address the issues can be made prior to docking to ensure the issues are resolved given the minimum time they have.

Although the implementation of the IMO SOLAS FSS and ISO 14520 codes with continuous monitoring and IoT could drive up costs of purchasing and installation, the long-term savings and benefits far outweighs the initial cost.

But for this to work seamlessly, there must be a standardisation so that the data that is received by shore-based operators from the vessel, is understood and actioned upon as per the IMO regulations. As shown by a new paper from DNV GL standardisation can enable the effective collection, storage, exchange, analysis and use of data, while contributing to improved data quality and sensor reliability in the maritime industry.

Test Your CO2 Systems Safely

At sea, fire pose one the of biggest threat to ships. Sailing alone and at sea throughout the year, and without the ability to call upon the emergency services as a land-based asset might. As vessels become larger and more sophisticated, a greater financial interest is tied up into one ship, meaning that the risks are magnified if the vessel would get into difficulties e.g. a fire.

Misunderstanding exists across parts of Shipping regarding the application of a part of the International Maritime Organisation, Safety of Life at Sea, Fire Safety Systems (IMO SOLAS FSS) Code; the need for crew to test the contents of their CO2, FM-200® & NOVEC™ 1230 Gaseous Extinguishing Systems in between the periodic inspection, maintenance and certification intervals. These periodic inspections are conducted annually or biennially, and only by an Accredited Service Agent i.e. an external Marine Servicing Company. As stated above, the reason the IMO requires crew to test for contents in-between these is that the “ship sails alone”; it must act as its own emergency fire service

A ship’s gaseous extinguishing system typically comprises between 200 and 600 cylinders each containing 45KG of CO2 under high 720 psi/ 49 bar pressure. (Other suppressant clean agents such as FM-200® and Novec™1230 are becoming more widely used.) One of the highest probabilities of discharge occurs during their maintenance. Some marine service companies estimate that 20% of a ship’s CO2 cylinders have discharged or partially leaked their contents at some point in their lifetime. Taking CO2 systems through as an example, although random checks may be suitable in some sectors, it is worth remembering that because the normal design concentration of CO2 of 34-72 v/v % is above the nearly immediate acute lethality level, these systems have an extremely narrow safety margin. As these systems work through oxygen dilution rather than the chemical disruption of the catalytic combustion chain (which is the case with other clean agents), insufficient oxygen levels during an accidental discharge may allow a situation to spiral out of hand. Yet although this poses high levels of risk to the service companies and the crew, because gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurised, the risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use and this is shown in the regulations that demand their upkeep e.g. IMO SOLAS FSS Ch5. 2.1.1.3:

“Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the container”

Often this is misunderstood, this code specifically states that the crew must test their extinguishing installations in between the periodic inspection, maintenance and certification. Only having the annual inspection by accredited marine servicing companies is not enough – the crew must take responsibility for its own fire protection.  However, what must be noted is that the crew are often not trained or certified to shut-down, dismantle, weigh and re-install the gaseous cylinders – the traditional method.

Using an ultrasonic liquid level indicator is the only way that the crew can safely test their CO2 without disturbing them. If marine companies implemented the IMO SOLAS FSS codes by testing safely and quickly (just 30-60 seconds per cylinder) by using liquid level indicators and marine servicing companies were able to do their work without allowing for time pressures, then marine safety would be far safer.

Bad industry practice is unacceptable when fire risk may have catastrophic results due to risk to life, downtime in operation due to ship safety and repair work and incalculable reputational damage. The crew, cargo and vessel must be protected when at sea because it is it’s own fire brigade without accessibility to typical emergency services. This is a call to respond to regulations with a rigorous attitude, to go above and beyond, to provide security of life and infrastructure

Feedback From Customer – Monitor Your Gaseous Systems

For the years I have worked with Gaseous Suppression systems, I have found it , like many others it frustration when thousands of dollars is spent on the installation of these systems, but the service Technician has a daunting task trying to determine weights and or liquid levels due to the lack of foresight of those installing the system to provide a safe means of gathering this required information.

This device (the Portalevel® MAX), appears to provide a fast and efficient way of carrying out this task preventing the possibility of an unsafe act or worse still an incorrect or false listing of weights and measures.”

What is the unit?

The Portalevel® MAX ultrasonic liquid level indicator

  • BETTER – most accurate unit on the market, +/- 1.5mm
  • FASTER - combined with the MAX, the Portasteele® CALCULATOR is an advanced app, that converts the liquid level of C02, NOVEC™ 1230 and FM-200®into the agent weight/mass
  • CHEAPER - testing safely and quickly (just 30 seconds per cylinder).

See the unit here.

Case Study: Oxygen Reduction System - Data Centre, England 2018

Oxygen Reduction System and Need for Monitoring: Oxygen Reduction system works by taking Nitrogen from the air outdoors and pumping this into the room consistently in order to suppress oxygen levels, down to the level where combustion can no longer occur. To ensure the system works safely and efficiently, room integrity is of utmost important for two reasons: (1) A properly sealed room will contain the Nitrogen for a longer period of time, therefore putting less work on the air compressor in order to save energy. (2) If Nitrogen starts to leak from the Server Room, there are safety concerns over where this Nitrogen would leak to as it has the potential to harm occupants in other rooms if the Nitrogen leaks into their room and the oxygen levels were unmonitored.

Testing of the Server Room: The Server Room had an area of about 91 metres square. Several areas were tested with an ultrasonic room integrity tester where leakage was probable and the readings were noted on the drawings. These were the doors, vents, cable penetrations and also sections of the wall where gaps were visible.

Results: The ultrasonic room integrity tester identified the main source of leaks for the room, the doors, where full readings were clearly detected. Multiple air vents in the room were also improperly sealed and some leakage was found into the external room. Cable penetrations leading to the area outside the Server Room were also found to be leaking. 

Conclusions: Once the required maintenance was conducted and assuming no changes were made to the room, it is safe to assume that the room retains its integrity, thus comply and exceed current ISO 14520 regulations requiring periodic inspections of room integrity whereby visual inspection is usually specified and is not sufficient. The most suitable way to address periodic inspections is through the use of ultrasound.

Comply with IMO SOLAS & FSS Codes

Fires on board ferries can be devastating, to crew, vessel and cargo. There is a call to respond to regulations with a rigorous attitude, to go above and beyond, to provide security of life and infrastructure

Misunderstanding exists across parts of the ferry industry regarding the application of a part of the International Maritime Organisation, Safety of Life at Sea, Fire Safety Systems (IMO SOLAS FSS) Code; the need for crew to test the contents of their CO2, FM 200 fire suppression system® & NOVEC™ 1230 Gaseous Extinguishing Systems in between the periodic inspection, maintenance and certification intervals.

IMO SOLAS & FSS Code Chapter 2.1.1.3 - “Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the containers.”

The reason the IMO requires crew to test for contents in-between these is that the “ferries sails alone”; it must act as its own emergency fire service. 

A ferries’s gaseous extinguishing system typically comprises between 200 and 600 cylinders each containing 45KG of CO2 under high 720 psi/ 49 bar pressure. Some marine service companies estimate that 20% of a ferries CO2 cylinders have discharged or partially leaked their contents at some point in their lifetime. Yet although this poses high levels of risk to the service companies and the crew, because gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurised, the risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use and this is shown in the regulations that demand their upkeep.

Using an ultrasonic liquid level indicator is the only way that the crew can safely test their CO2 & marine CO2 systems without disturbing them. If ferry companies implemented the IMO SOLAS FSS codes by testing safely and quickly (just 30-60 seconds per cylinder) by using liquid level indicators and marine servicing companies were able to do their work without allowing for time pressures, then marine safety would be far safer.

Any vessel with a Marine Gaseous Extinguishing system needs to consider 3 factors :

  • Unless compartmentation exists the gas will not be able to concentrate
  • Unless the contents exists in sufficient quantity design concentration will not occur
  • The pipework and flanges must be tested to be free of corrosion-generated particulates which block the nozzles and must be tested to be able to withstand the shock of gas discharge on actuation

The Main Cause of Vessel Loss is Sinking

As the main cause of vessel loss is sinking, the maintenance, testing and monitoring of watertight hatches, doors and multiple cable transits on vessels is essential. A watertight hatch cover is designed to prevent the passage of water in either direction under a head of water for which the surrounding structure is designed.  Many mariners may think hatches are robust, monolithic structures, thereby failing to appreciate the small tolerances on panel alignment and gasket compression. It is better to think of hatches as complex, finely-made structures, to be handled with care.

SOLAS Reg II-1/11.1  it states that hatches and watertight seals must be regularly tested: “Where a hose test is not practicable [sic] it may be replaced by [sic] an ultrasonic leak test or an equivalent test. In any case a thorough inspection of the watertight bulkheads shall be carried out.” The tragedy of the El Faro has exemplified why it is crucial for the watertight integrity test of vessels to be regularly and easily tested by the crew. The importance of continually maintaining seal integrity must take a more prominent position in ship maintenance scheduling.

Ultrasonics is proven to be the quickest, easiest and most efficient method of testing watertight & weather-tight seals of hatch-covers, doors, multiple cable transits. The Portascanner® WATERTIGHT is the most accurate model of its kind – proven to 0.06mm (+/-0.02mm). This is designed primarily to enhance the ease and accuracy with which critical watertight, airtight or weather tight seals can be inspected for leak sites or areas of reduced compression in the seal. The ultrasound generator emits a modulated signal of a specific frequency of ultrasound (in most cases 40,000Hz). The receiver then picks up the signal and converts it into a result indicating watertight integrity testing. The easy to use Portascanner® WATERTIGHT allows crew member to check for failing seals whilst at sea which allows for prompt maintenance.  

“Safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the containers.”

Sailing alone and at sea throughout the year, and without the ability to call upon the emergency services as a land-based asset might. This is recognised with marine insurers and especially with the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI): “Fire protection on board is not unlike fire protection in buildings: If a fire breaks out and is not quickly brought under control, all that is left is a ruined shell, fit only for the wrecking ball. In turn, in the case of ships, a total write-off. To better protect the cargo on container ships, with a value running into many millions, it makes sense to modernize the on-board facilities for containing and extinguishing fires.”

As vessels become larger and more sophisticated, a greater financial interest is tied up into one ship, meaning that the risks are magnified if the vessel would get into difficulties e.g. a fire. From a marine insurer's perspective, it is a simple equation: the larger the vessel, the more cargo it will carry, and hence the greater the sum insured.

Posed threat of loss of crew, vessel and the cargo guidance by the German Insurance Associations has set out an ‘improved concept’ for firefighting facilities on container ships. Vice Chair of the IUMI Loss Prevention Committee, Uwe-Peter Schieder, explained: “We believe a new technical solution is needed to improve current firefighting practice on container vessels, particularly as these ships are continuing to grow in size

The regulations that currently govern gaseous extinguishing systems are the IMO SOLAS Fire Safety Systems (FSS) Code and the BS EN ISO 14520 standards.

IMO SOLAS & FSS Code Chapter 2.1.1.3 - “Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the containers.”

Coltraco Ultrasonics is aware of that there is failure to fully implement the regulations. Coltraco supply Marine Servicing companies globally share anecdotes - that at any one time the average merchant vessel in non-UK port visits has over 20% of its CO2 cylinders empty on inspection plus another 10-20% which have contents loss and also know that occasionally marine “servicing companies” unintentionally leave it disabled.

THE SOLUTION?

Using an ultrasonic liquid level indicator is the only way that the crew can safely test their CO2 without disturbing them. Coltraco Ultrasonics designed the Portalevel® MAX Marine & Portamarine® ultrasonic liquid level indicator, as radioactive units were being phased out. If shipping companies implemented the IMO SOLAS FSS codes by testing safely and quickly (just 30-60 seconds per cylinder) by using liquid level indicators and marine servicing companies were able to do their work without allowing for time pressures, then marine safety would be far safer.

Leading British Ultrasonics Technology Manufacturer

Coltraco Ultrasonics are a leading British Ultrasonics Technology Manufacturer.

Coltraco Ultrasonics strive towards creating innovative, reliable and effective technology to provide a level of safety that goes beyond minimal compliance of regulations for true safety – this is the Safeship® initiative at sea, and Safesite® initiative on land. This is supported by lifetime after sales customer care. Coltraco Ultrasonics are proud exporters, with 89% of export output going to 109 countries: 40% to Asia, 10% to the Middle East, 15% to Europe, 17% to North America and the balance to South America and Africa. At Coltraco’s core is exporting and is a consequence of the global appeal of its high-end science and technology R&D and manufacturing capability in the UK.

Coltraco Ultrasonics operate in multiple market sectors: Shipping, Fire, Naval, Offshore, Power Generation, Electricity Distribution, Data Centres, Banks, Telecommunications, Marine Surveying, Rail, Mining, Pharmaceuticals and Food Processing and most recently in Renewable Wind Energy. Today, Coltraco are aboard 17% of the world’s shipping fleet (nearly 10,000 ships), the top 15 Navies and sell to 50% of the world’s offshore oil and gas companies, and in the last year, in service with one of the major 4 wind companies.

Coltraco Ultrasonic’s expertise is focused upon 3 core technology strands which are “cheaper, faster and better” and their support:

  1. Liquid level indication: Specifically inspecting fire extinguishing systemsprimarily pressurised liquefied gaseous ones as well as sprinklers, by a flagship UL and ABS approved Portalevel®MAX range of products and our unique fixed monitoring system, Permalevel® and a whole range of other industrial liquids in cylinders and tanks.
  2. Seal integrity: Watertight integrity of marine structures such as hatch covers tester, multiple cable transit areas, operational citadels and watertight compartment doors with ABS Type-approved Portascanner®Watertight and compartmentation testing in buildings and civil engineering structures to supplement Door Fan Testing with Portascanner® 520.
  3. Condition monitoring: Through bearing monitoring, thickness gauging and flow monitoring.
  4. After Sales: Support for the lifetime of customer equipment, recommended annual calibration at our authorised Organisational Delegated Authorities (ODA) service centres and optional Portacare® total care programme.

What are gaseous extinguishing systems and why do they leak?

Gaseous extinguishing systems protect urgently important infrastructure against special hazards, fundamental for the safeguarding of critical facilities. However, gaseous extinguishing systems leak because they are active and dynamic systems and this threatens the consistent and reliable safety that they should offer to the space that they protect.

In fact, in the regulation ISO 14520, which is the “gold standard” of fire suppression systems, it is clearly stated that gaseous systems leak and need to be periodically checked to counter this issue:

9.2.1.3  - “if a container shows a loss of agent in quantity of more than 5 % or a loss of pressure of more than 10 %, it shall be refilled or replaced.”

Given that gaseous systems are designed specifically for a protected space or room e.g. one aluminium foundry factory floor, a 5% loss of extinguishing agent may mean that the system would not fully extinguish the fire.

Technology now exists to improve the reliability of fire suppression systems that affects the safety of all who occupies the building it protects in an event of fire.

To  ensure  that fire  suppression  systems  are  always   full and that no accidental discharge or leakage has occurred, Coltraco Ultrasonics have developed an ultrasonic liquid level indicator, the Portalevel ® MAX and  the constant monitoring system the Permalevel ® MULTIPLEX. By testing and monitoring fire extinguishing systems for leaking, facilities managers and factory owners are able to exceed  standards and ensure that the gaseous extinguishing systems are able to extinguish in the event of the fire.

The easy to use Portalevel® MAX uses ultrasonic technology to pinpoint the liquid level of suppressant agent in the cylinders of the extinguishing system which makes testing is quicker and easier. Liquid level identification takes just 30 seconds, needing only one person. Combined with the Portalevel® MAX, the Portasteele® Calculating fire suppression agent weight is an advanced calculator application, that converts the liquid level height of C02, NOVEC™ 1230 and FM-200® liquefied gaseous extinguishant agent readings taken on an ultrasonic non-destructive liquid level indicator device into the agent weight/mass.  Furthermore, the Portasteele® CALCULATOR can convert an expected agent weight back to the required liquid level allowing users to anticipate where the level should be.

Carnival Cruise improve safety with Portalevel® MAX Marine for inspecting Fire Extinguishing Systems

Carnival is the largest Cruise fleet in the world, with well over 100 vessels, making up 21% of the global cruse market independently. Recently Carnical explored how to enhance their onboard fire safety practises, after a number of onboard events and in doing so, turned to Coltraco Ultrasonics. 

Addressing these two main causes of vessel loss, sinking and fire are critical, especially when all owners and managers are seeking to reduce risk, cut costs and surge on safety. Carnival Cruises chose to protect their fleet by improving fire safety. Carnival, instigated a cross fleet exploration to ensure they could protect their passengers, crew and cruise ships against the risk of incidents. This very comprehensive program covered numerous aspects of equipment, crew training, processes and technical improvements. A key element of this program was improving the onboard ability to inspect their key fire suppression systems. Here, Carnival turned to Coltraco Ultrasonics.

Coltraco’s USA Marine Sales Partner and Organisation Delegated Authority (ODA) Service Partner Lea Machine had been working with Carnival through both their US & Norwegian offices for many years. Lea Machine is a family company, like Coltraco Ultrasonics, with whom Coltraco have worked with  previously together approached Carnival to present smart ultrasonic technology. The Portalevel® MAX Marine was selected as the preferable technology platform for Carnival to be using. This is a handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator, in the anticipation that Carnival would require the means to test their onboard fire extinguishing systems.

Carnival has a fleet of well over 100 vessels, accounts for 21% of the worldwide cruise market with vessels each varying in size from 70,000 to 120,000 dwt.

Onboard all Cruise, Cargo & Defence vessels one will find fixed fire suppression systems which guard the key machinery spaces onboard. Their core purpose is to protect both the vessel and life onboard. In the event of any fire in key machinery spaces, the fire systems will discharge into the specific areas, extinguish the fires and ensure the continued safety of people and protect serious damage to the machinery.

Carnival are committed to ensuring safety onboard and one aspect of this is maintaining their vessels’ onboard fixed CO2 & marine CO2 systems. It is known that the CO2 contents in the cylinders can leak which is why there are IMO SOLAS FSS Code regulations (2.1.1.3) which require all vessels to have the means for the crew to test the agent contents onboard. The handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator Portalevel® MAX Marine, which is ABS, RINA and UL approved, is an ideal solution for the crew to easily and quickly identify the liquid level of agent. This can improve the safety for crew, passenger and vessel. Over 2 years, Lea Machine engaged in close discussions with Carnival to educate the team about the benefits of improved safety and maintenance, and specifically the advantages of teaming with Coltraco via Portalevel® MAX Marine. This close relationship coincided with decisions within Carnival to upgrade all of their fire fighting equipment across the fleet.

Cost is an ever-present challenge especially in shipping, but was resolved by Carnival’s desire to confirm a fleet wide contract. Carnival wanted to guarantee they received technical and after sales support which they were reassured to receive locally via Lea Machine.

It is with pleasure that by working closely with our USA Marine Sales Partner and ODA - Lea Machine Services Inc. - we won the contract to supply UL-listed & ABS-approved Portalevel® MAX Marine to the Carnival Cruise Fleet of 25 Cruise vessels. We are grateful to Mr Toralf Lea and Mr William Jones of Lea Machine for supporting this contract. We are proud to supply this significant order and to have enjoyed a 25 year relationship with Lea Machine’s sister company Alf Lea in Norway.

ACT NOW: Nuclear Power Plants Are Safety Critical

Continuous improvements and maintenance are required of the fire safety systems at nuclear power plants due to the safety critical nature of the site.  Incidents in nuclear power plants around the world have continued to demonstrate the vulnerability of safety systems to fire and its effects. The potential danger from an accident at a nuclear power plant is exposure to radiation to the people in the vicinity of the plume from the cloud and particles deposited on the ground, inhalation of radioactive materials and ingestion of radioactive materials. It is for this reason that the safety demands of the Atomic Energy Authority must be met.

The International Atomic Energy Authority state clearly in the Fire Safety in the Operation of Nuclear Power Plants standards that the effects of a single failure in fire safety systems, such as a system not performing its required function, can be detrimental. One example of this is the Chernobyl disaster a catastrophic nuclear accident which cost approximately 18 billion roubles and had a huge human impact. In this disaster a  combination of inherent reactor design flaws, together with the reactor operators arranging the core in a manner contrary to the checklist for the test, eventually resulted in uncontrolled reaction conditions that flashed water into steam generating a destructive steam explosion and a subsequent open-air graphite fire.  This fire produced considerable updrafts for about 9 days, that lofted plumes of fission products into the atmosphere, with the estimated radioactive inventory that was released during this very hot fire phase, approximately equal in magnitude to the airborne fission products released in the initial destructive explosion. Over thirty years later and investment into the site is still required, with Flamgard Calidair providing fire shut off dampers to the Chernobyl, as part of an €1.5 billion multinational engineering project. With fires at nuclear power plants still occurring, such as the 2017 power plant explosion at Flamanville, deemed “very serious” by industry experts, the call for advanced technology is of most importance. A significant technical issue led to a blast in the turbine hall in the unit, although there was no radioactive leak, a thorough investigation is being conducted into the concerning event.

Faced with this problem, a leading UK Nuclear family approached Coltraco Ultrasonic liquid indicator in 2003 and commissioned the first Permalevel™. Focused on continued advancement of safety technology, Coltraco have now developed the Permalevel™ Multiplex, a fixed fire suppression monitoring device, designed for permanent contents verification. The Permalevel  Multiplex™    is  designed  to  ensure  that fire  suppression  systems  are  always  fully operational and that no accidental discharge has occurred, which could affect the effectiveness of the overall fire protection system in the event of a fire at a nuclear power plant. The application of the Permalevel™ reaches further, with customers using this equipment in alternate specialist and confidential manners to ensure safety in the station. With guaranteed systems operations, adaptability for purpose, 24/7 remote access to the systems status, an interruptible power supply and remote real-time monitoring, the Permalevel offers the efficiency that is now a requirement at nuclear energy sites.

ABS reports CO2 Systems Leak: Time To Conduct Your Risk Assessments

ABS have reported multiple cases in which CO2 cylinders in fixed fire systems were found empty and thus would not be able to suppress a fire event. ABS have hence recommended that all shipowners need to conduct a risk assessment of their CO2 systems.

As per the Ministero delle Infrastrutture e dei Trasporti: “In considerazione delle necessità di assicurare la continua funzionalità del richiamato sistema antincendio di tipo fisso e di prevenire un inatteso rilascio di CO2 nell’ambiente di lavoro, si dispone che  - codeste Società eseguano, per le unità gestite che risultano dotate del predetto impianto, una specifica e documentata valutazione del rischio, tesa a delineare eventuali, necessari interventi per la tutela della sicurezza e della salute dei lavoratori..”

  

Why do CO2 fire system cylinders leak?

  • Approximately 20% of a ship’s CO2 cylinders may have discharged or partially leaked
  • If the contents are not there, they will not extinguish in a fire event
  • A ship’s gaseous extinguishing system typically comprises between 200 and 600 cylinders each containing 45KG of CO2 under high 720 psi/ 49 bar pressure
  • The risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use because gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurised
  • This is shown in IMO SOLAS & FSS Code Chapter 2.1.1.3 - “Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the containers.”

What is the solution?

ABS Type Approved Portalevel® MAX Marine ultrasonic liquid level indicator

  • BETTER – most accurate unit on the market +/- 1.5mm & safer as no need to turn off the system or dismantle the cylinders
  • FASTER - combined with the MAX Marine, the Portasteele® CALCULATOR is an advanced app, that converts the liquid level of C02 into the agent weight/mass
  • CHEAPER – just one person needed to test safely and quickly (just 30 seconds per cylinder)

Improve Your Efficiency and Lower Your Costs

Industries across the world use transformers across their facilities. These transformers come in a wide variety. It is imperative to check the oil levels inside to ensure they run smoothly and increase the long-term operation by improved maintenance. Testing oil levels is difficult to achieve traditionally. But today, ultrasonic technology enables non-destructive testing to be conducted by testing from the exterior, non-invasively.

The Safesite® solution is Portalevel® MAX INDUSTRIAL, the world leading handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator. The likes of utilities companies and hydro from London to USA to the Middle East are using this product to solve their needs and enhance their maintenance measures.

Background

Transformers are used in electric power transmission and distributions and are devices that transfer electric power at different voltage levels. The main components within the transformers are the core and windings which are oil immersed. An oil conservator and Buchholz relay is also commonly found to monitor oil levels. Their combined function accommodates expansion and contraction of the oil in the main tank due to temperature changes or fault and also to provide audible alarms when the oil level falls below the minimum due to any leakages.

As transformers age, they become more likely to lose internal oil. It is important for oil levels in the transformer main tanks to be full, as they act as an insulator and allows the transformers to function efficiently. For transformers that are not fitted with an oil conservator or Buchholz relay, few means of oil level inspection exist and traditional methods include inspection by opening the lid of the transformer.

Portalevel MAX application 1

Application – issues with traditional inspection methods: When the lid is opened, the insulating oil is exposed to the moisture in the atmosphere and will increase the rate of oil deterioration causing the life of insulating oil to shorten. Shortened life spans lead not only to more frequent oil changes, but also significant downtime to the system when an oil change is conducted. Moisture in oil accelerates oxidation which results in the formation of acids and contributes to the formation of sludge. Over time, the sludge settles on the windings and the inside structures causing transformer cooling to be less efficient and an overall increase in transformer temperature which lowers its efficiency. Therefore, traditional methods of oil inspection inside transformers are not only time consuming and cumbersome, they also contribute directly to increased maintenance costs.

Solution: The Portalevel MAX INDUSTRIAL will be a safe, efficient and reliable solution to inspect oil levels in transformers non-invasively, typically in transformers that have no means of external oil indication. With the Portalevel MAX Transformer, oil level inspection can be done routinely without opening the lid of the transformer and thus prevent unwanted moisture from being absorbed by the oil which deteriorates the oil.

Results: This practice is capable of prolonging the life span of the transformer oil whilst reducing the cost incurred from frequent oil changes and significant downtime when a fault develops as a result of low oil levels or poor oil conditions.

Portalevel MAX application 2

Background Issue: High voltage transformer and switch gear units are often designed to be submerged in oil which act as an insulator, making sure any technicians working on the units are not at risk of potentially fatal shocks. As such, it is critical to know that the oil is still present and at a suitable level, before any maintenance or access to these units is undertaken.

Solution and Results: Many companies around the world are beginning to use the Portalevel MAX for checking the oil levels in Transformer & Switch Gear units. Since this equipment can non-invasively check the presence from the outside of the tanks, technicians can operate safely and with confidence.

The Portalevel MAX INDUSTRIAL is an invaluable tool that has helped customers worldwide reduce their annual maintenance costs and contribute to a more efficient servicing routine.

 

CEO Message

Integrity and Science Key to Our Culture of Performance

Dear Coltraco Customers, Strategic Partners and Distributors,

Integrity is our defining value. Performance is its consequence. We understand that our customers have choices, and how we perform determines whether customers choose us. Coltraco’s Code of Ethics does not merely require compliance with laws. It embodies a Commitment to positive behaviours that build trust, promote respect, operate with distinction, with courtesy and global levels of performance, demonstrating our integrity and delivering customer performance.

We honour our commitments, communicate transparently, and act with honour. Ethics are the foundation of our performance culture and our science-based approach. We lead in specific technologies delivering the watertight integrity monitoring of marine structures and the monitoring of fixed liquefied gaseous fire extinguishing systems and the room integrity of protected space to ensure agent hold-times post-installation. We show this by our understanding of the science in them and the mathematics that explain them.

I would like to thank you for your business and for the relationships with our Customers, Strategic Partners, Distributors and ODAs who we value so highly.

My kindest regards,
Carl

Carl Stephen Patrick Hunter BA(Dunelm) Hon DSc FRINA FIMarEST MRAeS
CEO & Managing Director
Coltraco Ultrasonics Limited
46-47 Mount Street, Mayfair, London W1K 2SA
United Kingdom

Tel:  +44 20 7629 8475
Fax: +44 20 7629 8477

Call Now : +44 207 629 8475

 

References in PDF Format

 

Underwriters LaboratoriesUnderwriters Laboratories

 

Reference Alpha Fire UK Portalevel MAX Sept 2012

Reference Portascanner-II CSD MOD Albion and Bulwark

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