Harnessing smart technologies for enhanced protection with Amthal

Share this content


Dave Pountney​​​​, IPL (Amthal Group Company) Business Development Manager explores advancing fire safety in highly hazardous environments

As industries such as Oil & Gas, Petrochemicals, and Energy continue to operate in environments where the chance of fire and explosion is inherent, there is an increasing need to adopt innovative solutions and mitigate these risks effectively.

Dave Pountney​​​​, IPL (Amthal Group Company) Business Development Manager explores the evolving landscape of fire safety in highly hazardous environments.

He highlights the role of smart security technologies in creating compliant protection and safeguarding lives and assets.

Providing fire detection solutions is a complex task at any time, but in high-hazard applications, there are additional risks and challenges to address.

The oil and gas industries are one of the most hazardous industries in the world, and fire prevention is essential to protecting workers and the environment.

It demands meticulous attention to detail and a profound understanding of dynamic factors.

Understanding the complexities of highly hazardous environments

Such highly hazardous environments present a myriad of challenges for fire safety management.

These settings are characterised by the presence of flammable materials, volatile substances, and complex operational processes, creating an elevated risk of fire and explosion.

Factors such as temperature variations, pressure fluctuations, and chemical interactions further compound the complexity of fire safety management in these environments.

Addressing the unique challenges requires a comprehensive understanding of dynamic factors and a proactive approach to risk mitigation.

Significant emphasis is placed on eliminating ignition sources and controlling ambient conditions to well below explosive limits.

Compliance with stringent standards

Given the volatile environments in the oil and gas industries, it is understandable a significant emphasis is placed on compliance with health and safety standards.

These environments are accountable to strict legislation that plays a vital role in defining requirements, helping to ensure that the very highest levels of safety are met.

This includes The ATEX Directive, which mandates the installation of equipment designed for use in explosive atmospheres, as defined by BS EN 60079.

Hazardous areas, where explosive mixtures of air and gas or vapour may occur, necessitate intrinsically safe (IS) equipment to prevent ignition.

IS technology, introduced in fire detection equipment in the 1980s, became mandatory in certain hazardous environments with the ATEX Directive in July 2003.

Under the directive, areas are classified into zones based on the likelihood and persistence of explosive atmospheres.

Zones range from continuous presence (Zone 0) to short-lived occurrences (Zone 2).

IS systems are essential in Zone 0, where they ensure low power and energy levels incapable of ignition, even with faults.

IS fire detection finds extensive use in power generation plants globally, including conventional and nuclear stations.

The evolution of smart fire safety technologies

Adhering to industry legislation and specifying approved products are vital considerations when specifying fire detection solutions.

It is also essential the right technology is chosen for each environment, ensuring accurate and reliable fire detection.

Once a suitable design has been approved and installed, how the information from this array of devices is processed and visualised is critical to the success or otherwise of a protection system.

Advancements in technology have revolutionised fire safety, enabling the development of smart solutions that offer unprecedented levels of protection and efficiency.

Smart fire safety technologies leverage opportunities for integration, data analytics, and automation to enhance situational awareness, facilitate rapid response, and optimise resource allocation.

These technologies represent a paradigm shift in fire safety management, offering real-time insights, predictive capabilities, and remote monitoring functionalities.

Key components of smart fire safety systems

Smart fire safety systems encompass a range of components and functionalities designed to address the specific challenges of highly hazardous environments.

Technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial IoT are pushing change in this area even faster with new field-mounted sensors and edge devices.

Space limitations in the control room also encourage end users to install more components in hazardous plant and field areas.

Increasingly stringent safety regulations and standards for explosion protection are driving users to obtain automation (and other) products with certifications for use in hazardous areas.

Some key components include smart fire detection systems that utilise sophisticated sensors and algorithms to detect incipient fires at the earliest possible stage.

These systems can differentiate between genuine fire threats and false alarms, minimising disruptions to operations while ensuring timely response.

Remote monitoring and control capabilities allow operators to monitor fire safety systems in real-time and initiate response actions remotely.

This functionality is particularly valuable in highly hazardous environments where access may be restricted or hazardous conditions preclude manual intervention.

Intelligent suppression systems leverage real-time data and predictive analytics to optimise suppression strategies and resource allocation.

These systems can dynamically adjust suppression parameters based on the evolving fire scenario, maximising effectiveness while minimising collateral damage.

Integration into client’s modular units enables seamless coordination between fire safety systems and other building systems, such as HVAC, access control, and emergency lighting.

This integrated approach enhances overall operational efficiency and ensures a coordinated response to fire emergencies.

Case study: Amthal’s Middle East project

Amthal has recently completed the first of three fire and suppression pump packages for an energy project in the Middle East.

The programme of works involved the initial risk assessments, through research and testing to select the most suitable equipment and materials for the project.

The installation and commissioning of fire protection solutions tailored to the specific needs of the client’s modular units.

The scope of work for the project was significant in being a highly hazardous environment, where it was critical to understand the dynamics involved.

Designing fire protection solutions that could be seamlessly integrated into the client’s modular units while meeting strict space and weight limitations.

Whilst collaborating with regulatory authorities to ensure compliance with local safety regulations, Amthal installed both main and reserve water mist systems connected to a detection activation and alarm system.

Watermist technology was chosen for its effectiveness in suppressing fires while minimising water usage and collateral damage.

The internal environment of the enclosure was classified as hazardous, requiring specialised equipment to ensure safety.

Amthal utilised ATEX-certified equipment, including lighting and smart control systems, to meet the stringent safety requirements.

All control and status panels were manufactured using 316 stainless steel, known for its corrosion resistance and durability.

This ensured the longevity and reliability of the fire protection systems, even in harsh environmental conditions.

In summary, the complex and challenging nature of fire detection is never more apparent than when dealing with industries which carry potentially catastrophic risks.

When it comes to safeguarding critical but dangerous infrastructure and ensuring that heavy, valuable industry is also safe for the local population, fire safety professionals need to use every resource at their disposal.

That means sensitive risk assessment and detection, staged alert and alarm levels, clear visualisation, fast to real-time information relays and a suitable response should the worst happen.

Essentially, there is no single answer for fire detection in hazardous areas.

Each solution must be customised to the application’s requirements.

And must account for evolving technology and changes in legislation.

Effective protection is based on the materials and fuels present, the processes involved, the environment, and other control measures present.

Specifiers and installers with considerable experience to identify and work in partnership with fire detection experts ensure that the chosen technology is appropriate, and meets industry legislation to guarantee compliance and present total protection.

This article was originally published in the June 2024 issue of International Fire & Safety Journal. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

Receive the latest breaking news straight to your inbox