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To secure future energy supplies, many countries worldwide are looking to increase the renewable share in their energy mix. The EU Renewable Energy Directive, for instance, has defined a 20% renewables target by 2020. This target is fuelling growing interest in the conversion of coal-fired power plants to biomass.
Biomass presents its own challenges however. It is stored in large silos and these are prone to combustion incidents. In fact, over 24 major biomass incidents have been reported worldwide since 2010 – with some silos burning for an entire year. The problem is that bacterial and fungal activity generate heat within the silos, along with toxic and combustible gases. Smouldering fires can start with oxygen levels as low as 3%, either through auto-ignition or as a result of heat applied from an external source. Once ignited, a biomass smouldering fire is extremely difficult to extinguish. Auto-ignition can occur very deep in the material – by the time it is apparent, the smouldering fire has already grown and caused significant damage, compromising fuel quality and using up dry matter. In addition, water is often ineffective, causing additional – costly – problems and failing to penetrate the pile. Essentially, a biomass smouldering fire cannot be tackled like an ordinary smouldering silo fire.
Expertise in biomass fires
At Linde, we have been involved in a number of successful fire fighting activities. Based on these experiences we have developed innovative fire suppression solutions to manage and overcome this risk. These leverage the inerting power of gases such as nitrogen or carbon dioxide to purge the biomass and reduce the rate of bacterial oxidation. Inerting a silo helps to:
Slow down the production of flammable gases such as carbon monoxide
Help detect a fire more quickly by forcing combustion gases upwards to gas detectors
Control the temperature of the biomass pile
Control the oxygen concentration within the silo
Our experts will work with you to design a bespoke inerting and extinguishing system that is designed to the specifications of your material handling and storage project. Our offering includes consulting, installation support and reliable gas supply solutions.