As the world population reaches 9.2 billion by 20401 and the global GDP likely to double over that same period2, demand for goods and energy is increasing as living standards continue to rise. To meet these needs, the industrial sector has been facing mounting pressure to quickly increase production.
As plant operators consider facility Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) investments or upgrades to accommodate increased production capacity, safety is not an element be overlooked – of the building and the people within. An efficient, connected industrial fire system is critical in mitigating issues, preventing plant closures or downtime while ensuring the safety of employees.
There are critical factors plant operators should consider when looking to design a new industrial fire system or updating their current equipment so that it provides the appropriate level of protection that reflects plants’ evolving production needs.
Here are a few considerations to ensure an effective and efficient industrial fire safety system:
1) Ask for integrated solutions
Safe plant operations includes the installation of a fire detection, gas detection and suppression system. Typically, these three systems operate separately in most facilities today resulting in frequent maintenance issues or even false alarms as they are not designed to work together.
By combining fire detection, gas detection and suppression systems into one panel, it simplifies plant operations and maintenance while reducing space and time spent on false alarms. An integrated system also allows operators to respond quickly and precisely to potential credible incidents. With the three functions in one panel, it enables the system to assess both fire and gas detection alerts simultaneously to determine the appropriate alert level, which is then passed on to a central control room where the programming becomes much simpler for the operator.
As plant designs continue to evolve, industrial fire system integration will play a vital role to alleviating the pressures of consumer demand while ensuring the safety of the facility and employees.
2) Look for redundancy and hot swapability
Plant operators and fire solutions providers should work closely together to ensure redundancy and hot swapability is incorporated into any integrated system they decide on.
Redundancy is an important fail-safe feature that eliminates single points of failure by adding in multiple layers of protection in fire and gas detection as well as suppression capabilities. A key element to a safety simplified system, redundancy ensures that the system can keep functioning during a hostile environment.
Hot swapability controls uptime as a piece of the integrated, layered system. It allows fire solutions providers to install new devices or upgrade existing ones without having to go offline, which could put the plant or process at risk.
An integrated control panel with redundancy and hot swapability minimizes disruptions and ensures continued protection of employees.
3) Know your standards and regulations
Code compliance is another essential element of an integrated industrial fire system. All industrial fire systems should be tested and certified to an independent, third-party listing agency. UL and FM certifications demonstrate the system has been tested to their standards.
The Safety Integrity Level (SIL) rating brings in a higher level of quality and performance for a system. SIL certification is an international standard that analyzes all process hazards, predicts the risk of failure and determines if a failure occurs, the product will “fail safely.” Each part of the instrument is inspected and approved on these standards to comply with the SIL constraints.
It will be important to stay up to date on the latest regulations. For example, power generating plants producing energy from coal are being shut down and replaced by natural gas fed generating plants. For the oil and gas industry liquefied natural gas production will continue to grow as it outpaces the country’s energy consumption.3 As the infrastructure is built out to support this consumption, it will lead to a demand for fire and gas detection with a SIL2 requirement to be an industry standard. It will be important to choose a system with the needs of having an accessible and serviceable system when looking into the evolution of the world’s energy needs.
4) Meet the evolving needs of your plant
Changes will occur as plants age and needs shift. Facilities today consists of a collection of individual solutions installed over time that is not meant to work as one. When maintenance or an upgrade is required, knowledge of the various solutions and its interconnectivity can be lost over time if proper records are not kept or the engineer changes hands.
To avoid compromising uptime, one solution is to upgrade the fire and gas control system for an existing site. This can be accomplished while using existing field devices – saving installation time, material and wiring costs. Also, it provides flexibility to upgrade the complete system over time rather than one large project and is ideal for those shorter shutdown periods.
New plant designs will have the opportunity to learn from previous systems. Flexibility and scalability will be important to providing plants with the highest level of uptime as well as the ability to accommodate to any facility changes.
As plants assess production solutions and shifts, having a recurring conversation with a fire safety solutions provider to address these considerations will be key to ensuring continued plant and employee safety, regardless of the ever-changing industrial demand.
- 2019 U.S. Gas Power Plants Engineering & Construction Trends and Outlook
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