A Step Ahead in Active Fire ProtectionWed, 01/20/2016 - 17:24
In Mexico, preventable economic losses form fire-related accidents in industrial settings equaled 6% of the country’s GDP, according to data from fire safety associations AMIS and AMRACI. Electrical malfunctions top the list, followed by friction and mechanical sparks. Although strengthening the country’s fire prevention culture is the first area that should be addressed, timely maintenance and exposure to new technologies can help a great deal. “A significant problem in the oil and gas industry is the absence of a well-established fire prevention culture,” says Luis Gerardo González, Director General of Fire Service Plus Mexico (FSPM). “Five out of Venezuela’s eight refineries had to stop production due to delayed maintenance, and this could soon be the case of the remaining three if preventive actions are not taken.” González says PEMEX should also update its policies, since it requires workers to neutralize gasoline with AFFF foam in some instances, and with chemical powder in others. “Fuel has polar components, a characteristic that also applies to gasoline even though it is not strictly polar in itself. Furthermore, it is now known that extinguishing fuel fires requires a special alcohol resistant formula, with chemical powder unable to accomplish this. PEMEX continues to employ a technology that reduces visibility, intoxicates, possibly leads to re-ignition, and expires. Sadly, the latest technology is usually not covered by local or international normativity, which further discourages companies from implementing it,” he laments.
FPSM’s product is a double agent that combines both AFFF foam and a wetting agent. This gives the product the uncommon ability to fight five types of fires, namely solid, polar and non-polar combustible liquids, electric, combustible metal, and cooking oil fires. The foam is six times more effective than that of traditional foams. “We recently tested our products at PEMEX and were able to extinguish a fire in four seconds thanks to our technology, while PEMEX, supported by an onsite team and firefighters, required 28 seconds to do the same. This adds an extra value to our products, as just one extra minute could allow the fire to propagate at fast speed, and after four minutes, it could become uncontrollable,” González shares.
González highlights the fact that FSPM foam does not expire and that it meets the EPA’s environmental requirements in the US and those of the WGK 1 in Europe. The company can also provide its clients with a version of the product that does not freeze. The foam’s lifespan, even when mixed with water, is unlimited. Providing clients with a single solution for all of their fire problems not only saves money, but also time, as the latter is not wasted on selecting the right type of extinguishing foam. Another characteristic of FSPM’s Mexican operations is the large inventory that the company carries for emergencies, allowing it to respond in a fast and efficient manner in such cases. “We are 15 years ahead of our competitors in the fire extinguishing foam market, as we have been complying with the 2015 PFOS regulations since the year 2000,” says González. The company installs its equipment for its clients, and connects it to software that sends FSPM monthly and yearly maintenance alerts. “Our certified personnel carries this out onsite, and then provides our clients with a report on the state of the equipment. Should these be stolen or damaged, even by natural causes such as rust, our clients are insured to recover their losses. Our integral program also includes training for the use and handling of our equipment,” González explains.
"The latest technology is usually not covered by local or international normativity, which further discourages companies from implementing it. Unfortunately, until the authorities implement norms and regulations surrounding these sorts of products, companies will face them with reluctance, despite the possibility for medium and long-term savings," González laments. He hopes that ASEA will elevate the current standards and the quality requirements for products with certifications that come from recognized laboratories. “I trust ASEA will take an environmentally-friendly approach when it comes to new regulations, an area that has often been neglected until now.” The regulations might change now that there is a new environmental agency for the oil and gas sector, and FSPM is already making a name for itself in this industry, as it has equipped all of ASEA’s facilities. “The organization carried out a study and found that the most advanced equipment in Mexico was ours,” González boasts, adding that FSPM has written to the Minister of Environment to request the inclusion of the company in the drafting of new norms. “There is a basic component missing in the mix, which is cooperation with the Ministry of Health. This would ensure the new regulations not only look after the environment, but also human health,” González comments.