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Camera images can be divided into zones to establish specific risk areas.

Patol – Adding thermal imaging to its fire detection offering for waste recycling

Industrial fire detection specialist Patol has extended its capabilities in protecting recycling plants and waste processing facilities from fire with the announcement that the company is now offering thermal infrared cameras, ideally suited for internal waste reception and storage areas.

Recycling plants present their own specific challenges in terms of effective fire detection. The scale of the problem is illustrated by the figures: between 2011 and 2013, there were an average of more than 300 fires a year recorded at UK waste and recycling plants. In 2017, there have been many incidents that highlight how the problem is not going away: in April, 200 tonnes of cardboard and plastic went up in flames at a waste services site in Oldbury, West Midlands; In May, a fire burned for two days at a recycling plant near Rotherham; in August a fire ripped through a plastic recycling plant in Blackburn, consuming some 100 tonnes of plastic; and, at another recycling plant in Oldbury, a man died following an explosion in August. This death is a stark reminder of the dangers of the waste and recycling sector, with figures from the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) showing a doubling of the number of fatalities between 2015/2016 and 2016/2017, with 14 people killed.

These facilities typically process mixed recyclable waste, which is collected, sorted, stockpiled and processed from a number of materials, including plastics, paper, cardboard, wood and rubber. Such waste products are highly combustible and susceptible to potential ignition from the processing machinery through which it is handled.

Thermal cameras monitor surface temperatures in real time.

Thermal cameras monitor surface temperatures in real time.

The fire detection systems employed in such harsh and hazardous environments need to detect both quickly and reliably, given the small window that exists to react and prevent a small fire becoming a potentially major incident. Other factors to consider are the need for minimum long-term maintenance and, importantly, minimising unwanted alarms. The need for such systems in protecting life is clear from the HSE figures, along with their role in protecting the site itself in terms of its buildings, plant and machinery. Central to the plant used in such facilities are the conveyors used to transport waste around the site. Conveyor systems in general are a potential fire risk due to external events and equipment failure but when they are carrying highly flammable materials, including products with the potential to self-ignite, they become an exceptional hazard.

The thermal camera systems added to the Patol range are based on radiometric infrared cameras which are ideally suited to monitoring internal waste reception areas, internal storage areas, warehouses containing raw materials, silos and conveyors. The system features fixed infrared cameras connected to a user-friendly software interface through which the surface temperatures of the area being protected are monitored in real time, with the temperature distribution of the surface captured in milliseconds. The image from each camera can be divided into zones, allowing specific risk areas to be identified and to also establish non-detection areas. High or low pre-alarm and alarm set temperatures can be programmed for each zone, with outputs to fire alarm and process control systems. It also avoids unwanted alarms by factoring out heat signatures from work vehicles and forklift trucks that may be moving around the site.

For hazardous areas, camera enclosures are available to IP66 or ATEX certification, with automatic camera lens cleaning ensuring the system is capable of operating effectively in the dusty environments which are typical of recycling and waste processing facilities.

In addition to these new thermal cameras, Patol also offers a number of other detection capabilities suited to these types of application, including Infrared Transit Heat Sensors, Linear Heat Detection Cable (LHDC), and Aspirating Smoke Detection (ASD).

For more information, go to www.patol.co.uk

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