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Biodiesel Explosion Burns Garage

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July 19, 2010, 08:02 PM
slade s
Biodiesel Explosion Burns Garage
Tacoma Komo
Submitted by Martha Kang on Tuesday, June 15th, 08:37pm

A biodiesel tank exploded inside a private garage on Tuesday, sparking a fire that traveled down the adjacent alley.

A Tacoma fire spokesperson said the tank was inside a detached garage of a private home in the 3500 block of S. 13th St.

"All of a sudden, I heard an explosion and it shook my windows and all I could see was black smoke," said Peter Variety.

The explosion caused the fuel to spill over into a nearby alley, paving the way for flames to reach nearby projects. A nearby garage and a parked recreational vehicle were charred, and several nearby homes were also damaged by the heat.

The blaze has been extinguished, and the cause of the explosion has not been determined.

There are no reports of injuries.


July 19, 2010, 08:17 PM
Jehu
It obviously happened at the processing stage - its the methanol at 50-60C which makes it burn so easily. Cold biodiesel wouldnt go up like that, even if its not demethed. I was once draining hot byproduct and the methanol vapour wafted over to an open flame - boom. Luckily I had a hose handy - at least water extinguishes these fires.
July 19, 2010, 10:56 PM
Davids
there seem to have been so many of these reports, I don't think they are " newsworthy " here anymore.
They are hardly something new or exceptional now.
July 19, 2010, 11:41 PM
john galt
Sixteen pages of biodiesel fires for those who like that sort of news



July 20, 2010, 08:06 AM
Boozer
WOW!!! thanks for the heads-up. 16 pages of biodiesel fires. It never occurrd to me how dangerous this could be.
July 20, 2010, 07:49 PM
heatbeater
quote:
there seem to have been so many of these reports, I don't think they are " newsworthy " here anymore.
They are hardly something new or exceptional now

If your new to the forum you won't be aware how frequent these fires are. We can be ignorant and not think how these could be prevented,similiar to how BP operates.
July 20, 2010, 07:55 PM
Davids
quote:
Originally posted by heatbeater:
quote:
there seem to have been so many of these reports, I don't think they are " newsworthy " here anymore.
They are hardly something new or exceptional now

If your new to the forum you won't be aware how frequent these fires are. We can be ignorant and not think how these could be prevented,similiar to how BP operates.


If people already making Bio haven't already thought about how to prevent fires then I doubt seeing a report of it here is going to change anything.
July 20, 2010, 08:05 PM
heatbeater
quote:
If people already making Bio haven't already thought about how to prevent fires then I doubt seeing a report of it here is going to change anything

I which I was so confident especially when my life is at risk.
July 21, 2010, 11:05 AM
keelec
quote:
Originally posted by Jehu:
It obviously happened at the processing stage - its the methanol at 50-60C which makes it burn so easily. Cold biodiesel wouldnt go up like that, even if its not demethed.
I don't think those pretty orange flames are Methanol.

While Biodiesel and Vegetable Oil may act as a heat sink inside of a container, once outside of the container that effect is lost.

Last weekend I was at a BBQ. They had the BBQ started in the pit, but we needed it spread a bit. I can attest that BD makes an excellent firestarter. Smile

It is good to see this occurred in an outbuilding, but my biggest fear is that my "hobby" will spread to neighbor's property as happened here.
July 22, 2010, 09:05 AM
Murphy
Thank you for posting the story of this fire Tilly.

As many folks know, most biodiesel fires can be prevented with the simple addition of the Murphy's Machines Float Switch

A wise investment.

And don't forget to pick up a relay if you don't already have one.


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July 22, 2010, 04:08 PM
keelec
quote:
Originally posted by Murphy:
Thank you for posting the story of this fire Tilly.

As many folks know, most biodiesel fires can be prevented with the simple addition of [SOME SPAM DEVICE]
A wise investment.

And don't forget to pick up[ANOTHER SPAM DEVICE]
Wow, finding a Tilly lurking behind every corner.

Everything I see indicates that the cause of the fire hasn't been determined. I haven't found any notes (or photos) that indicate the type of processor.

The only note I can see is that there was possibly an explosion associated with the event (timing not specific, but the "explosion" was near the time people became aware of the fire). There were presumably a few hundred gallons of oil and flammable liquids on the premises (not too uncommon). And, that during the course of the fire, some of the oil leaked onto the ground which contributed to the burning, and spreading of the fire.

If the processor was being run dry, then a float switch might have helped.

However, I'm leaning towards methods of improving containment.

- Limited use of Plastic
- Fusible Valves & "Normally Closed" Electronic Valves.
- Sealed and Vented System
- Appropriate Pumps (which Murphy does sell).
- Isolate Processing from Storage to the extent possible, especially if using plastic storage containers.

I am convinced that home biodiesel reactors can be made safe. But the safety measures need to be built in from the top. And some things are expensive (but far cheaper than the $100K or so of damages).

I have not been impressed with the photos of most of the kits available.
July 22, 2010, 05:16 PM
Boozer
Ah, Now we are getting somewhere!!
Obviously, if the simple addition of this device could have prevented most biodiesel fires then I am guessing there must be one or two major causes for all of these fires and explosions.
What does the addition of this float switch do or prevent from happening that would have prevented these 16 pages full of fires and explosions that have become so commonplace to biodiesel production that people feel they are no longer a newsworthy occurrence?
quote:
Originally posted by Murphy:
As many folks know, most biodiesel fires can be prevented with the simple addition of the Murphy's Machines Float Switch

July 22, 2010, 06:49 PM
Legal Eagle
It negates the possibility of the heater being left on when the tank is drained.



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March 23, 2011, 02:18 PM
Ryan P.
It wasn't the biodiesel-related that burned my shop...it was the wood stove.

Though, when my wife mentioned there was biodiesel in the shop, that got the fire department there a lot faster!!
March 23, 2011, 09:59 PM
Jon Heron
quote:
It wasn't the biodiesel-related that burned my shop...it was the wood stove.

WHAT??? Tell me you didn't burn your new shop down?
Jesus, I sure hope I am miss understanding you Ryan...
If not... so sorry for your loss. and What Happened?
Jon


___________________________

Simple schematic for a pump and heater control with a high limit
Sensor for the biodiesel/glycerin layer
March 24, 2011, 10:39 AM
Ryan P.
Nope, not down: isolating the wood stove in its own small metal building and just ducting in the heat did its job of isolating the fire, to a point.

At the beginning of winter I had been having trouble with it not staying lit, so as a consequence I had basically run 3-4 small "cold" fires through it while trying to figure out why it wasn't getting enough air. I finally figured out that the screen on the chimney cap was partially plugged, so I cleared the plug and then it was finally burning well again. I worked in the shop with the good fire for about another 2 hrs and then went inside for lunch.

As I was cleaning up my lunch mess I noticed the smoke coming up from the backside of the shed (where the wood burner building is) was the wrong color: way too black. I ran out to discover that the 5ft x 8ft shed was completely burning on the interior: it looked like a gateway to hell. The black smoke was that the metal siding got hot enough to light a pile of tires next to the shed.

So many 5 gal buckets of water and a pair of frostbitten lungs, and about 20 minutes later the fire dept. shows up with a pair of trucks. I had the fire knocked down to just the pile of tires still burning and smoldering under the floor by then.

But the small shed was only 3ft from the big shed, so it got hot enough to scorch the rear door, burn out the vinyl window the duct work ran through, blacken the metal siding, the eaves, and the gutter on that side.

Then the fire dept. added to the damage by breaking out the other window, tearing off the siding, tearing off the OSB, tearing out insulation, breaking down my shelving, and punching a hole in my ceiling so they could see up there, even though they were only 3ft away from the attic hatch I had pointed out to them only 15 minutes earlier.

All said and done, about $5000 in damages plus a $500 charge from the fire dept. $3500 back to me to make repairs after my deductible. The best I can figure: creosote chimney fire. Those 3-4 cold fires, plus the previous 3 months of weekend use from last winter, had made a build-up that eventually got hot enough to light in the 45 minutes I was in at lunch.

I put a propane furnace back in the shop instead of wood.
March 24, 2011, 02:32 PM
Jon Heron
OUCH!
Good lesson for all.
Glad to hear no one was hurt and the damage wasn't catastrophic!
I am very weary of chimney fires, back in the 80's when I lived out west, one of my neighbors had a chimney fire in a massive brick chimney, the brick chimney kept the fire from lighting the walls on fire but the house had a cedar shake roof that was destroyed... it happened in the night, and they were lucky to have not perished, it was a massive snow storm that contained the fire while they slept....
I always stoke the fire with with small split wood and then open the flue right up once a day to burn out the creosote before it can build up as well as a monthly inspection and a clean out once a year whether it needs it or not.
Never burn wet or green wood either as thats a sure fire way to creosote up the chimney, it can happen in hours with green wood. Chimney fires are the leading cause of fire in wood heated homes.
Best regards,
Jon


___________________________

Simple schematic for a pump and heater control with a high limit
Sensor for the biodiesel/glycerin layer
March 24, 2011, 02:51 PM
john galt
At least once a week I burn a very hot fire with cardboard or a VOsludge/glycerol/sawdust log to keep the chimney and rain cap clean.

It has this type of cap with no screen, which helps to reduce creosote accumulation.



March 24, 2011, 03:25 PM
Ryan P.
My brother now puts up scaffolding rings around his house chimney and leaves it up all winter. He leaves the clean-out brush right on the roof and every month runs the brush up and down. He knows the wood for his little supplementary wood burner is somewhat wet: its just whatever crap he can get cut up all summer. Next winter will be the first where he is ahead enough with the cutting to have had wood sitting to dry all summer.
March 25, 2011, 10:13 AM
Samuel
It takes extreme measures to make cooking oil or bio-diesel to exploded. This is something that just doesn't happen by itself.
Imply put someone did something really stupid or it wasnt bio-diesel
that set off the explosion. probably fumes of some other sort or other chemicals used in the process.


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