Report: APP CMHS Project 1

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3.1.8. Fire Control

Current Technologies

Fire is a similar, though slightly lesser phenomenon to explosion, with many analogous causes and controls. Fire control is divided fairly simplistically into three criteria – prevention, detection and containment or extinguishment.

Fire prevention is primarily focused on the reduction of probability of ignition sources and to some extent fuel sources existing together with oxygen. The presence of ignition sources is reduced by using intrinsically safe control circuits and where this is not possible the use of explosion protected or flameproof enclosures. Engineering controls such as high temperature shut-offs, flame-traps and fusible links are used as a first line of defence on equipment. As for explosions, there is a danger of fire from frictional ignition at the cutting face or in goaf areas.

The remaining sources of preventative control ultimately rely on diligence and procedural controls – maintenance, inspections and operational procedures for equipment. As there is an almost limitless source of fuel, other forms of highly flammable fuel are eliminated or reduced by the use of non-flammable substitutes – Fire Resistant Anti-Static (FRAS) conveyor belting, pipes, hoses, fluids and oils.

Detection of fire is generally through personal inspection or electronic monitoring, predominantly of carbon monoxide. The tube bundle and telemetric gas monitoring systems (covered in earlier reports) provide the only electronic detection system for gaseous indictors of fire.

Many permanent installations such as conveyor drives and electrical installations are equipped with automatic fire detection and suppression. Thermographic imaging may be used for detection of heat sources.

Application Sites

Fire prevention and control is a universal issue, all countries would benefit from advanced technologies. For example there are potential applications for fire resistant and anti static (FRAS) materials and stringent procedures in controlling light metal apparatus.

Technology Gaps/Needs

Many technology needs for fire are similar to those of explosion:

  • safe, economical, automatic fire suppression systems for continuous miners and shearers;

  • rapid, widespread, accurate fire detection system, with direct alarming capability to underground workers;

  • coal transportation as a slurry in pipelines is an option that has been trialled and if perfected could reduce the issue of conveyor fires and

  • continuous inertisation of goafs to protect against frictional ignition and spontaneous combustion. This may be in the form of self inertisation or other introduced gases as described in Section 3.1.7.

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