Combatting fires around the clock?

Combatting fires around the clock?

How to in the Ungoverned Space of fire safety engineering?

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 pushed for this life-threatening issue to be dealt with, with specific regard to loss of contents in fixed fire extinguishing systems. This haphazard approach is dangerous and often unknown to the users of the infrastructure. The ungoverned space in the fire industry must end now. Spherical agents protect high value and dangerous assets which means that their efficiency is integral.. Any content loss that is accepted in the regulations and user manuals somehow removes their efficiency.

Inaccessible spheres of extinguishing agent

Enclosed areas containing flammable hydrocarbon fuels and gases present challenging fire and explosion protection problems. Spherical agents are used as fire suppression units and occasionally to combat explosive fires where the rate of discharge of fire extinguishing agent needs to be fast to extinguish explosive fires. They are usually stored in close proximity to the equipment that it protects in a “modular” configuration and for both total flooding of a room or local application e.g. a printing press in an open area. Therefore, typically, these extinguishers protect high value or dangerous assets which need immediate extinguishing.

Spheres, like standard cylinders, suffer leak and discharge

The regulations explicitly show that the agents are at risk of leaking and becoming ineffective. In ISO 14520 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. The manual for Fenwal spherical agents, states that they must be weighed and inspected semi-annually. Losses of agent must not exceed 5% in net weight, or 10% reduction of pressure. Essentially, it is  acknowledged in regulations that the gaseous systems lose their agent over time through issues such as leaking  and need to be maintained.

Risks to life and asset

Currently, qualified personnel are required to remove and weigh all agent storage spheres. Due to the heavy nature of these spheres, this method is not only cumbersome but dangerous to the personnel as well. Neglecting and minimal understanding of the need for maintaining the fire extinguishing systems leads to only one thing, a gap in the protection of people, assets + facilities. This leaves an ‘ungoverned space’ in the protection of explosive or high value assets, which in turn endangers life.

Answering the ungoverned space!
To counteract this issue, Coltraco Ultrasonics have designed a smart solution for the maintenance of the spheres. The Portasphere® is a portable non-invasive liquid level indicator that identifies the fill levels of almost any liquid in single skinned spheres. It is the world’s first non-invasive ultrasonic liquid level indicator specifically designed to function on spheres. From water and liquid pressurised gases to firefighting clean agents.

Accessible Technology

The Portasphere® currently works on a pre-defined set of sphere dimensions and clean agents which can be easily expanded and customised by our team to specifically suit your application. This technology has been refined to enable high accuracy of liquid level identification up to +/- 10mm. By utilising the Portasphere®, the agent’s liquid level which is an indication of its contents can be found non-invasively without the need to dismantle the setup thus saving time and cost of inspection. This device is also designed with a “one-man” operation capability in mind, allowing a variety of users to perform the testing after training has been provided.

The Portasphere® works on a basic pulse-echo theory where a single transducer is used to emit a 2 MHz pulse into a sphere, which then travels across the diameter of the sphere and reflects back from the far wall if liquid is present on the other side of the wall to conduct the signal. If liquid is not present, the ultrasound wave is not conducted through air and the Portasphere® will not give a positive readout. This process is fast and intuitive that allows routine maintenance to be conducted efficiently.   

This is the world’s first liquid level indicator to work on spheres. 


Coltraco Ultrasonics is a British designer and manufacturer of ultrasonic safety and inspection instrumentation. With over 30 years’ experience supporting their customers in 109 countries, they are market leaders for liquid level technology. Learn more.

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