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Biodiesel Plant Leveled In Explosion
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Story here.

... in case anyone forgot what happens when you mix fire, diesel fuel, and methanol Wink
 
Registered: March 16, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Thermostat Likely Cause Of Biodiesel Plant Fire
http://www.wesh.com/news/21117110/detail.html
Investigators Say Fire Appears Accidental

POSTED: 4:01 pm EDT September 25, 2009
UPDATED: 4:51 pm EDT September 25, 2009
ST. CLOUD, Fla. -- Investigators are calling a fire that started at a Central Florida Chemical Plant accidental.

Investigators spent time Friday sifting through what was left at R and J Site Development on Nova Road in Osceola County.

According to a source at Osceola County Fire Rescue, investigators are looking at the possibility that a thermostat malfunctioned, causing the fire.

Firefighters returned just a short while ago to throw some more water on the smoldering hot spots that remain.

An arson investigator and the State Fire Marshal's Office will look into this and come up with a cause, but again, it appears accidental.

On Thursday, thick, black plumes of smoke billowed up from the facility. There was little left.

The owner told authorities he had about 4,000 gallons of fuel, 3,000 gallons of methanol and hundreds more gallons of some other chemicals.

Norma Girdner showed some pictures she took of the fire, which she said turned the neighborhood into a panic, wondering if the flames would spread to their homes.

Girdner said she and her neighbors are upset to learn such dangerous chemicals are right across the street.

She said if they try to rebuild, they'll go to the county commission to fight it.

Previous Stories:

* September 25, 2009: Investigators Seek Cause Of Biodiesel Blaze
* September 24, 2009: Fire At Plant Under Control After Explosions



 
Location: coldest N.America | Registered: May 03, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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How does one prevent this from happening?

Install two thermostats for redundancy? Surely, there is a better way.
 
Registered: March 16, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
How does one prevent this from happening?

Don't build biodiesel plants; Murphy's Law loves biodiesel.
There's no way to make BD production 'idiot proof', there will always be better idiots.



 
Location: coldest N.America | Registered: May 03, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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LOL

Seriously though, there is surely a safer alternative to betting your life on a thermostat not failing.
 
Registered: March 16, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Selection of the right materials for a good design and quality workmanship are important for success in any industrial scale process where hazardous materials are stored and handled. Ultimately human error is the usual cause of such failures. Bad designs using the cheapest components, assembled by amateurs happen far too often.



 
Location: coldest N.America | Registered: May 03, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post



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I was wondering more specifically about things like thermostats or pumps failing. I guess it's just a matter of redundancy and over designing for safety.
 
Registered: March 16, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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A properly specified thermostat, correctly installed, should not fail to cause a fire that destroys the building. Somewhere a human screwed up, but it's so much more PC to blame all of our misfortunes on malfunctioning 'things'.



 
Location: coldest N.America | Registered: May 03, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Plants designed by professional chemical engineers will usually use boilers to heat the everything. On a large scale it's cheaper than other methods of heating. Plus, by limiting it to liquid water or low pressure wet steam, there are built in maximum temperatures that are lower than the autoignition temperature of methanol.
 
Location: Cowboy Country | Registered: December 06, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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We use a "not water heater". It's a water tank with 3 thermostatically controlled heating elements and a pump. The hot water circulates through PEX tubing to the 1000 gallon processor's water jacket, or to the 5000 gallon vertical tank, or to whatever else we want to heat safely. Since it's not connected to domestic water, and is open to atmospheric pressure, it has almost no water pressure in the tubing. This makes it even safer to handle. We have cam-lock fittings and ball valves on the ends.
Like Rick said, other, larger, commercial plants use gas-fired (usually) boilers, commonly sitting outside the plant. This eliminates it as an ignition source.
Cheers,
JohnO
 
Location: Moses Lake, WA, USA | Registered: August 15, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Install two thermostats for redundancy?


That's the cheap and fast method I used to add redundant safety to my small ovens at work. I added a 3626K17 Adjustable Temperature Switch to each oven set about 20F higher than the operating temperature. If the ovens built in thermostat fails, the Temp. Switch will cut power 20F later.

I should probably get another for my processor, especially with all the acid esterfication I have been doing lately. Its been running on its own with the heat on pretty frequently for that.
 
Location: Southern WI, USA | Registered: May 18, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Lightning To Blame For Biodiesel Plant Fire?
Saturday, September 26, 2009 7:48:44 AM

* Fire Destroys Biodiesel Plant

Reported By Emily Lampa

ST. CLOUD -- Firefighters say lightning may be to blame for the huge fire that destroyed a biodiesel plant in Osceola County Thursday.

The wreckage was still smoldering Friday.

Firefighters from Station 52 have been in and out all day pouring water on hot spots, trying to keep flames from rekindling.

People in the area said they're so grateful to the firefighters who came in and put the fire out, especially those from Station 52.

Members of the community recently kept the fire station from closing due to county budget cuts.

Fire Station 52 was the first to respond to the fire because it's one mile away from the scene.

If that station had closed, the nearest stations to respond to the fire were:

* Harmony -- 4.4 miles away
* Holopaw -- 14.9 miles away
* Narcoossee -- 9.7 miles away
* Deer Run -- 10.7 miles away
 
Registered: June 03, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post



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Originally posted by FuriousGeorge:
How does one prevent this from happening?

Install two thermostats for redundancy? Surely, there is a better way.


Nope that is the only way to do it effectively.
To meet the electrical code ANY heating device must have a high limit control that will kill the heater when the main stat fails. I say when the main stat fails because it WILL fail eventually, its just a matter of time...
A highlimit typically is separate from the controlling thermostat and has a preset non adjustable limit. If you look at a simple hot water heater t-stat arrangement the highlimit control is the piece with the red button, if it trips you must manually reset it which will hopefully also make you identify the problem that made it reach the highlimit in the first place...
ANY certified device you can find in your home that produces heat will have some form of highlimit control to safely kill the power when the main stat fails, from your coffee maker to your stove to your popcorn maker, etc. will all have one...
Jon
 
Location: Wellington County, Ontario Canada | Registered: February 07, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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1/4 to 1/2 of the fires I investigated were started by overheating the oil. Just like most kitchen fires are caused by overheating oil on the stove. It gets so hot it catches fire. I'd put a timer on every heating element in addition to the stat + limit we normally find on heating devices.
 
Location: Cowboy Country | Registered: December 06, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I have not investigated any biodiesel fires, but in my recollection the greatest majority of biodiesel fires I have read about were caused by accidentally igniting methanol fumes.
 
Registered: November 09, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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If you look at a simple hot water heater t-stat arrangement the highlimit control is the piece with the red button


The standard B100Supply Appleseed kit directions maintain the wiring through the "red button", right? I don't even remember, its been so long.

As long as that is intact, I guess I am actually triple redundant:
1) regular thermostat (automatic reset)
2) Overheat thermostat (manual reset)
3) Always running on a timer set to 3hrs or less.
 
Location: Southern WI, USA | Registered: May 18, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Yep!




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Location: Utah | Registered: October 08, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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The majority of fires and close calls I hear about on here seem to be more from poor housekeeping/spontaneous combustion of dirty rags. I am not keeping a tally though, it just seems that way to me! Smile
Ryan it sounds like you have it covered on all angles as far as the overheat goes, what about a safety to prevent the heater from being powered if not covered in oil?
Like Sloginphizz I postulate that probably next to spontaneous combustion igniting the methanol fumes by inadvertently turning on the heater while its not covered in oil would be the next most reported incident on this board, and likely one of the most dangerous.
Rick, do you know how hot oil needs to get in order to burst into flames? This would be an important number to be sure not to exceed when specifying highlimit set points...
Also does anyone know what the set point is for the hot water heater highlimits? It should be stamped right on the unit. I could likely look it up in the standard if nobody knows...
Thanks,
Jon
 
Location: Wellington County, Ontario Canada | Registered: February 07, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post



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Ryan it sounds like you have it covered on all angles as far as the overheat goes, what about a safety to prevent the heater from being powered if not covered in oil?


I admit that I lack in that area. The only "checks" against it I have now are procedural:
1) the heating element is unplugged as soon as temperature is reached, not to be plugged in again until the next batch of cold oil is done loading.
2) as soon as I empty the processor of a finished batch, I load the next batch of oil, so my processor rarely sits empty for more than 5 minutes.

The hole is this SOP is when I am doing AE. But I am aware of that shortcoming, and am extra-special careful during various AE heating cycles.
 
Location: Southern WI, USA | Registered: May 18, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Originally posted by Jon Heron:
Rick, do you know how hot oil needs to get in order to burst into flames? This would be an important number to be sure not to exceed when specifying highlimit set points...
Jon
Most cooking oils self ignite between 590-700F/310-370C. Most French Fryers operate in the range of 320-375F/ 160-190C.
If you keep the temperature below 300F there should be no chance of the oil self igniting.
 
Registered: November 09, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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