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Another Spontaneous Combustion fire?
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I had a customer in Alabama send these pictures in...










What is known...
The tote that melted was a 250 gal plastic tote.
It only burned around the 4 sides down to the WVO level
WVO was the only substance in the tote
The WVO had been in the tote for about 2 months.
The tote was covered with the tarp
Daytime temps have been 88 deg. high
Nighttime temps have been 77 deg at night.

It's located in southern Alabama.
There were no rags near the tote.
No flame source.
The top of the tote did not melt, it's sitting in the oil.
Only the edges around the side melted.

All 3 totes sitting there have oil in them.
The one that melted/burned has had the oil in it the longest.
It appears to have been a 1-2" high flame that burned/melted the plastic all the way around the tote.

Any idea's what in the world would've caused it to melt like that?
Remember, no cotton rags laying around. Nothing between the tarp & the tote.
WVO is the only thing in the tote.

One of the strangest things I've ever seen.
-Graydon




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Location: Utah | Registered: October 08, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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There have been thousands of totes around the USA with veg oil in them.. it seems that biodiesel producers love them for storage.. Even I had a few.

This is the first every incident reported.. if there were others, I'd be tempted to start thinking about what could cause it.. but this is an isolated incident as far as I know.

My best guess is a cigarette butt that landed on the tarp.


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Registered: March 09, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I suspect an unintentional arson. I've had WVO in tote storage like this for 3 years and never seen anything like this.


Illegitimi Non Carborundum
 
Location: Utopia Planitia | Registered: February 25, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Dido on Spencnaz for me. Mine is tarped too. Bizzare that it should burn off the top and have it fall into the oil but that there was not sufficient flame to get the oil itself going.Looks like the tote was decapitated.



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Location: :-) Great White North eh ? | Registered: December 10, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Was the oil de-watered? If not it may be like the campfire trick where you put a cup filled with water in a campfire. The flame will burn the cup down equal with the evap rate of the water.

A guess


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Location: Less than a year behind myself and gaining ground. | Registered: March 13, 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by Legal Eagle:
Dido on Spencnaz for me. Mine is tarped too. Bizzare that it should burn off the top and have it fall into the oil but that there was not sufficient flame to get the oil itself going.Looks like the tote was decapitated.


Dido on Spencnaz? Are you referring the character from Greek/Trojan mythology?


Illegitimi Non Carborundum
 
Location: Utopia Planitia | Registered: February 25, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post



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A "Willow-the-Wisp"

One thing I can share about the collection of Used Cooking Oil (UCO) is often, with drums which have sat around a while, Chad and I have noticed what kind of looks like boiling.

But what it is in fact is methane produced from the decay of biological waste - you know, all that NASTY stuff at the bottom of restaurant grease pick ups. Beans and meat are a good example.

Anyway, in a sealed container this methane could build up easily (Methane gas is very high octane; 120 - 130), this combined with natural pressure changes on totes from nights to days (basic temperature differences) can cause a plastic tote to expand and contract fairly radically.

In the utility industry we often have spontaneous coal pile fires. When air is introduced, oxidation can then take place and an outright fire ignites, otherwise you have what is called, coal pile smoldering. The physical and chemical processes are being studied rather heavily since this is of a very large economical and ecological concern. It destroys a huge amount of world property/resources and is considered a large contributor to anthropogenic global warming.

So if the tank had some decay gases inside and it had reached sufficient combustion temperatures during the day - then a little external cooling would cause a pressure shift. This pressure shift could cause air to be easily cycled into the tote and this brings all the elements necessary for a fire together: methane, heat and oxygen - Wha La Spontaneous combustion.

The Chain Reaction is:
1) Oxidation of Methane at relatively low temp. (to the necessary mixture ranging from 5-15%)
2) Heat of Combustion not dissipated, but oxygen supply sufficient to maintain combustion
3) Oxidation Temp. rises
4) Flaming occurs

Additionally moisture and static electricity can contribute to the physics involved. The point being that the condition is rare like other atmospheric phenomenon like Marsh Gas fires, St. Elmos Fire and of course my favorite: "Willow-the-Wisp"
 
Location: Michigan | Registered: May 08, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Here's a great document on Compost and Oragnic spontaneous combustion:

Compost Fires
 
Location: Michigan | Registered: May 08, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I like the methane hypothesis. We have a pretty mild climate here in the Puget Sound, with very little temperature swings as they would have down south, so I can see this methane problem cropping up down there.

The issue I have with the methane solution is that why did it only melt the edges of the tote lid and not the whole thing? It's like it extinguished itself either on the plastic lid or the WVO (which I doubt). I'm curious as to why a grease fire didn't develop.


Illegitimi Non Carborundum
 
Location: Utopia Planitia | Registered: February 25, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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And this has what to do with this forum thread?


Illegitimi Non Carborundum
 
Location: Utopia Planitia | Registered: February 25, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Greg,
I really like the methane gas theory.
Especially given that this tote had been sitting for a while.
-Graydon




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Location: Utah | Registered: October 08, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Greg

-methane gas and static electricity from a flappig tarp do it for me, this shows we can never be to careful. now when the fire marshals get hold of this, then what? Eek Tom


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Location: Manitoba Canada | Registered: March 24, 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post



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Could it be BIG OIL with a laser gun on a search and destroy mission?

Should we all switch to stainless steel totes?
 
Location: Virginia | Registered: March 17, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Yeah and use should retune the tinfoil hat yer w'arin' too.


Illegitimi Non Carborundum
 
Location: Utopia Planitia | Registered: February 25, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I'm not buying the static electricity thing though, if the tote (with a metal frame) is on a concrete slab or even dirt, there is a huge contact with earth electrically.

Even the plastic container itself is in contact with the metal frame. I think this was an accidental arson and no one wants to fess up.


Illegitimi Non Carborundum
 
Location: Utopia Planitia | Registered: February 25, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I don't think that could be a spontaneous combustion fire, due to the fact that the fiber source- the tarp- was not crumpled up at all. The methane theory is interesting, but I'd probably go with cigarette butt. Occam's razor, you know.


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Location: Ukiah, CA USA | Registered: September 19, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by Spencnaz:
I like the methane hypothesis. We have a pretty mild climate here in the Puget Sound, with very little temperature swings as they would have down south, so I can see this methane problem cropping up down there.

The issue I have with the methane solution is that why did it only melt the edges of the tote lid and not the whole thing? It's like it extinguished itself either on the plastic lid or the WVO (which I doubt). I'm curious as to why a grease fire didn't develop.


That's why I'm into the cigarette theory. A smoldering ciggy would start a slow burn that would probably go out, like this fire did.


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Location: Ukiah, CA USA | Registered: September 19, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Could reflected, concentrated sun light be the cause. Something like light reflecting off a mirror and through a curved windshield. It would not take much concentration of sun light to melt a tarp and burn oily plastic.

There is a local story about a beveled mirror on the front porch of a building starting a forest fire years ago.
 
Location: Virginia | Registered: March 17, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post



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quote:
Originally posted by fuelfarmer:
Could reflected, concentrated sun light be the cause. Something like light reflecting off a mirror and through a curved windshield. It would not take much concentration of sun light to melt a tarp and burn oily plastic.

There is a local story about a beveled mirror on the front porch of a building starting a forest fire years ago.


Last year there was a recall on a Hallmark Christmas ornament.. it was built with a little piece of plastic prism that was concentrating sunlight and burning homes down. Apparently, when it was hung on the christmas tree near a window and was hit with sunlight, it was causing the tree to catch fire.

Ya just never know sometimes.....


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Registered: March 09, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Do they live near an Air Force Base?
Perhaps an Air Force plane was flying over and a Napalm Bomb fell off and started the fire.

I can find no google reference to the Hallmark ornament that was burning houses down in the USA or anywhere else in the world last year






 
Location: ลึก ประเทศอินเดีย | Registered: March 03, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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