Dec 19

Flash Points and How to Maintain Them

Many companies within the UK’s process industries operate thermal fluid systems to transfer heat. ATEX and DSEAR legislation stipulate that these firms must proactively maintain their thermal fluid system assets in order to prevent the risk of fire or explosion.

The heat transfer media used in thermal fluid systems are typically mineral or synthetic oils.  A system’s operating temperature is invariably higher than the “closed cup flash point” of the media – the minimum temperature at which, in the presence of a source of ignition, the fluid’s vapours will ignite.

Most thermal fluids operate above their flash points, and the systems that contain them must therefore be treated on a risk assessment basis.

On ignition, volatile atmospheres result in fires and explosions, and European ATEX (Atmosphère Explosible) legislation – implemented in the UK via DSEAR (Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations) – stipulates requirements for the protection of workers against such incidents arising from the presence of hazardous substances in the workplace.  PUWER (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations) dictates that all installations are safely maintained.

While most companies are aware that heat transfer systems operating above the flash point of the fluid must be maintained according to legislation, many do not appreciate that organic thermal fluids based on mineral oils will degrade over time.

Degradation can cause a fluid’s flash point to decrease, as “light” compounds with lower flash points than the heat transfer fluid itself are generated, reducing the flash point of the bulk fluid, resulting in a greater fire hazard should it escape and creating potential system inefficiencies and problems, such as pump cavitation.

The legislation demands that the risks inherent in the use of flammable fluids are assessed and eliminated or reduced via a comprehensive preventative maintenance programme.  If necessary, oil must be replaced or conditioned so that a safe flash point is restored.

Employing a thermal fluid with a high flash point combined with chemical stability, prolongs the period for which it may be safely used, making it highly cost-efficient.

Historically, the only available option for firms whose thermal fluids required flash point restoration was total replacement; Thermal Fluid Solutions is able to recondition customers’ existing oils in order to maintain the appropriate flash points.

TFS was the first to offer this service, which offers a quick, cost-effective, environmentally sustainable alternative to total fluid replacement. Its HTfluidfit rigs remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the oil in situ, returning it to a safe condition, extending fluid life by a factor of at least 10, saving customers up to 70% of their thermal fluid costs.

For more information on how best to maintain your system’s flash point, please contact our team on 01298 815862.