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Spontaneous combustion?

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August 04, 2005, 11:36 AM
housewolf
Spontaneous combustion?
With all these vegetable oil and BD soaked paper towels and rags lying around, should I be concerned with spontaneous combustion? I keep them in a closed metal trash can - is that neccessary or even needed?
August 04, 2005, 01:26 PM
troy
Spontaneous combustion is rare, but possible. Storage in a closed metal container is the fix, just as you are doing. Oily rags in a hot dry closet are the classic example of a fire waiting to happen.

I don't think anyone has studied spont. comb. as it relates to biodiesel or veggie oil. The flashpoints of biodiesel and veggie oil are both much higher than stinky diesel, and vastly higher than say...gasoline. In theory, BD and wvo should be less problematic than petro derivatives on rags. That's all theory though, so don't bet your house and your life on my random musings.



Good luck, have fun, play safe!

troy
August 04, 2005, 03:18 PM
housewolf
I did a little digging and according to several MSDS sheets (example http://www.cataniausa.com/msds.html ) spontaneous combustion of vegetable oil soaked rags is a real concern.

Storing rags and towels in a tightly closed metal container is the standard advice. Guess it would help if I actually washed these things every once in a while.
August 04, 2005, 04:42 PM
Thebushpig
No it wouldn't We had this discussion when I first joined and either Dana or Mark said that the washed variety of oil soaked rags was most likely to spontaneiosly combust and was wondering why.

the answer probably is that the washing detergent influences the rate of oxidation even though there is much less oil on the rag.

I put any suspect rags outside... I did check with the firies around here and the only fire they've been to involing oil soaked rags was when they were put in a container containing other strong cleaning chemicals. But yes it is a problem best planned for rather than responded to when it happens...

Do a search of this forum.... many threads on this and some first hand experiences probably
August 04, 2005, 06:03 PM
mcguyver
I've already experienced a spontaneous combustion with BD. "I" let my mist wash tank overfill with water and of course the first thing out of the tank was BD. "I" lost less than a gallon. My wife took some of my old t-shirts to clean it up. When she was done she piled the rags outside on a cubee of glycerin still loaded with methanol no less. "I" was not there when all this happened, (she was doing a mist wash and yet, somehow, she says "I" let it overrun),anyway when I came home that evening she told me about it and said it was already cleaned up so I didn't go back to check. The next morning I was in the mule headed back to the lab and I could see smoke. I hightailed back there to find the pile of rags smoldering. I grabbed a stick and started picking the pile apart and slinging the rags onto the gravel. As each rag was exposed to air (when I slung it) they burst into open flameing balls. The top of the little cubee was all melted down and couldn't be more than moments from melting through. There were 3 cubees there that would have burst into flames, probably had just enough volume of fluid to run down the hill to my big shop. The big shop is all metal and concrete but it still would have scorched the metal siding and made a mess. Needless to say, we don't pile rags anymore. We have a burn pile just a little ways from the lab and that is were I leave my garbage until trash day. If it catches on fire in the burn pile then it's no big deal and if it doesn't then the trash man gets it. Even though what could have burned would have been minimal, it still scared me and now I pay a lot more attention. Since I'm in the tree business I have mountains of wood chips and every now and then when everything is just right we get a fire in the wood chip pile. I usually burns itself out pretty quick but it still amazes me that it can catch a fire at all and if you tried to set it on fire you couldn’t get it to even smoke good.
-Mcguyver


2002 Excursion 4 x 4 with a 7.3 liter powerstroke and Several diesel trucks and equipment associated with the arborist field.
August 04, 2005, 07:21 PM
girl mark
Spontaneous combustion isn't related to flash point, but to oxidation of the oil or biodiesel.


McGuyver's story speaks for itself- be careful, it's a real concern! here in Berkeley I"ve heard of a couple of kitchen accidents involving oily rags or paper towels too. In the woodworking industry there are countless stories about people losing their entire shop and livelihood to fire after someone doesnt' deal with a linseed-oil-soaked rag properly (that's a particularly 'oxidation' prone oil of course)

Kumar at Yokayo Biofuels just posted at biodieselnow that he's had a spontaneous combustion rag accident once- he walked out and a (metal) fuel tank had a black spot on it where a dirty rag once lay.

I've heard that breezes or fans, or the fans on the back of TEFC motors, can all help make this problem worse too. Not sure how accurate that problem is.

I put my oily rags into a bucket with water and glycerine in it (the soap in the glycerol helps begin the process of cleaning them).


Keeping oxygen off of rags and not leaving them out in a crumpled pile is key to preventing this. rag bins are airtight and metal, though I've been told (not sure how accurate this is) that spreading them out on a railing so they can't get too hot while oxidising is the next best thing (of course my bucket of water is even safer but you're not always ready to get rid of the rag at the end of the day)
Mark
August 04, 2005, 09:46 PM
Horn
quote:
Originally posted by housewolf:
With all these vegetable oil and BD soaked paper towels and rags lying around, should I be concerned with spontaneous combustion? I keep them in a closed metal trash can - is that neccessary or even needed?


Strike a match and throw it in.... then the combustion won't be spontaneous Wink.

Horn
August 05, 2005, 10:28 AM
Tony from West Oz (The Wizard of Oz)
One of my work colleagues was working, oiling his patio furniture for the summer. At the end of the day, he neatly stacked his oiling rags on a woodden shelf in his garage. The next morning, when he went to get the rags to continue his efforts on the patio furnithre, he found a pile of ash on the garage floor and a hole in the shelving, where the woodden plank used to be.

It is a good thing that he didn't place them on the next shelf, his lawnmower and fuel can were stowed under that shelf.
May 16, 2008, 05:19 PM
J.B. Jagworth
Did a search on 'spontaneous combustion' and found a few relevant threads, one of which I've resurrected to report a salutory incident.
I pre-treat incoming oil by heat-drying follwed by quiescent settling of fine solids. The 700 litre settling tank is well insultated with raw sheeps wool fleeces encased in reclaimed steel roofing sheet. The filling pump is wired through a float switch to prevent over-filling. This week I disabled the switch for maintenance (BAD MOVE).
Hot oil leaked from the switch aperture and soaked into the wool before dripping out the bottom. Bad enough having to clear up the mess, but worse was the following day when smoke was wafting out from under the lid. Yes, it had spontaneously caught fire and was quickly extinguished - lucky I was around! The wool will now be replaced with mineral fibre.


Boggs Super Oaf on B100
June 30, 2008, 11:47 AM
Firepig
I work as a fire investigator. I recently investigated a fire that occurred where the operator of a biodiesel processor used rags to clean waste vegtible oil that had spilled on the processor. The rags were placed in a 5 gallon plastic bucket positioned next to the processor. The rags ignited from spontaeous combustion which ignited the bucket and then extended to the processor.
June 30, 2008, 05:46 PM
troy
quote:
Originally posted by J.B. Jagworth:
Did a search on 'spontaneous combustion' and found a few relevant threads, one of which I've resurrected to report a salutory incident.
I pre-treat incoming oil by heat-drying follwed by quiescent settling of fine solids. The 700 litre settling tank is well insultated with raw sheeps wool fleeces encased in reclaimed steel roofing sheet. The filling pump is wired through a float switch to prevent over-filling. This week I disabled the switch for maintenance (BAD MOVE).
Hot oil leaked from the switch aperture and soaked into the wool before dripping out the bottom. Bad enough having to clear up the mess, but worse was the following day when smoke was wafting out from under the lid. Yes, it had spontaneously caught fire and was quickly extinguished - lucky I was around! The wool will now be replaced with mineral fibre.



1. Mineral fiber/glass fiber will not spontaneously combust like wool or cotton, so that is a definite improvement.

2. However, oil soaked fiberglass burns like a wick, a really good wick I might add. So I would still be hesitant to use that kind of insulation around anything oily like wvo or biodiesel. I speak from experience and had to put a small fire out on my old processor that use glass fiber bats for insulation.

3. ALWAYS have a REAL fire extinguisher around, not one of those little dinky pretend things. Three is better. Make sure they are rated for flammable liquids/oily stuff. They cost more, because they work better.

Excellent discussion.

troy
June 30, 2008, 08:57 PM
dkenny
does anyone have a comment on how tightly the rags were packed? is it limited to cloth or does it happen with paper towel/napkins. what about cleaning up with sawdust?

I know my place isn't the cleanest nor the safest so I'm trying evaluate my risk level

thanks

-dkenny


'84 bluebird school bus, DD8.2L turbo( 4/2011, the bus tranny has died..Frown 8.23.11 bus driven to scrap yard Frown )
2006 Jeep Liberty CRD Smile - the wife's
99 dodge 2500 5.9l 24v..-mine Smile
everything run B100 when its warm enough Smile
July 01, 2008, 11:30 AM
helpucguy
It happened to me 2 weeks ago. I am not sure how to do the link but take a look at my previous post on the fire I had.
June 30, 2009, 04:34 PM
john galt
quote:
the cause of the fire is most likely spontaneous combustion. ... Wood chips and several shop rags with residue on them were inside the dumpster.

http://www.kionrightnow.com/Gl...17286&nav=menu1591_2



June 30, 2009, 11:56 PM
<DCS>
There sure are a lot of Bio Plants going up in flames lately!
July 01, 2009, 02:14 AM
biogirlz
For sure ... we get the endless threads on them just like this one being dug up about a fireFrown

I havent had a lot to read lately cause it seems it's all about that and I want to read about making BD..

I am all to familiar with the spotaneous combustion. After the towel caught on fire behind my shop I experimented a little..
My rags catch on fire everytime if left in direct sun but none have caught fire inside and its getting to 120F inside the shop right now, but I put a sock filter full of saturated woodchips on top of my fire pile and it never ignited and we are having a heat wave!



Lisa 2006 Ford F250 6.0L Powerstroke with 12 inch lift


July 23, 2009, 01:27 AM
Kenr34
Look kids its more magic fire...

My partner Larry caught a couple pictures of this oil soaked rag going up in flames today. It was on a small trailer we last used for transporting a 300 gallon tote of BD between the shop and his storage tank on the farm. It had been setting in the sun for about 5 days without any rain, and today was by no means a scorcher.

Local weather at the time was: Temp - 78.6 °F Bar - 29.97in Wind East - 5.4mph Humidity - 43%

Rag was terrycloth and we're not sure of the oil content, BD or WVO most likely. It melted a hole in that small cube before he moved it away from the dry leaves [since he had to run to the house to grab the camera] and onto the dirt where it continued to burn up completely.

I had recently told him about the posts on here a few weeks back, he remarked "I've heard of it but never saw it happen" before today that is. Now we are talking of rigging an experiment to try and reproduce these results...

Maybe a web cam experiment.

Cool

-Ken





Recycling & Green Fuels Research: www.altfuelsgroup.org
Ozone Eating Toys For Big Boys !!: www.suncoastexotics.com
Carefully Maintaining A Carbon Neutral Footprint...
July 12, 2011, 09:34 PM
97idi
so i came home from work today and went down to my processing shead, i smelt a odd smell, smelt like wood and bio burning, when i got their smoke was coming out from all the small cracks i opened the door with the fire extinguisher in hand and a huge smoke cloud came out, I took a look at my wood chip drum and saw smoke rolling from the top, i started by spraying the extinguisher in for a few sec at a time it helped but not enough, so i pulled the drum out side took the top off and almost all the chips were smoldering i covered it with dirt and let it sit a while.

my guess is spontaneous combustion although we have had alot of vandals lately so i wouldnt put it past some kids that have been destroing peoples cars etc..

put a new nice big lock on the door and plan on putting my cameras around the house.

also it was atleast 100*F today so the shead had to be atleast 130*F
July 13, 2011, 02:48 AM
Kenr34
I hear bio soaked wood chips are known for their ability to flash off, just add a little time and heat. Luckily they were in a steel drum with lid, probably saved your shop.

So I'm going with the spontaneous combustion again, the strangest of the summer fuel making hazards...

-Ken


Recycling & Green Fuels Research: www.altfuelsgroup.org
Ozone Eating Toys For Big Boys !!: www.suncoastexotics.com
Carefully Maintaining A Carbon Neutral Footprint...
July 13, 2011, 10:05 AM
Ryan P.
Does it have to be an organic material to combust? Cotton, wood, etc? My "rags" are Pig Mats; synthetic, highly absorbent industrial mats. That's the only thing I ever let touch spilled oil; I only use my old t-shirt rags to clean grease and motor oil off the trucks and my hands.