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Is It Possible to Reduce Fire Risk of a Hydraulic System to Zero?

Is It Possible to Reduce Fire Risk of a Hydraulic System to Zero?

Posted 4/30/2024

Alt Title: How Can You Minimize Hydraulic System Fire Risks to the Minimum?

Hydraulic systems are associated with risk – especially the risk of fire. There are many strategies you can implement to reduce this risk, such as removing ignition sources and employing a fire suppression system.

But is it possible to reduce the fire risk of a hydraulic system to zero?

The short answer is no, but you can get surprisingly close.

Hydraulic System Fire Risk Calculus

Let's talk about calculating fire risks as they pertain to hydraulic systems.

There are three elements that make a fire possible, and the presence and volume of these elements plays a crucial role in the fire risk associated with the system.

We have fuel, oxygen, and heat. In a traditional campfire, these sources might look like firewood, open air, and a match to start the fire. In a hydraulic system, the fuel is the hydraulic fluid, the oxygen is abundant in the surrounding area, and the heat source could be almost anything in an industrial setting.

The risks are especially high for hydraulic systems because of the nature of hydraulic fluid and the pressurized nature of the system. Hydraulic fluids are petroleum based, making them highly flammable in all states. Because hydraulic systems are naturally pressurized, any rupture to the system could cause an atomized spray of hydraulic fluid, enriching it with plenty of consumable oxygen. And because hydraulic systems are usually in environments with many sources of ignition and heat, all these risks are compounded.

Add in the possibility that poor maintenance or hydraulic fuel degradation can make fires even more likely, and it becomes apparent why hydraulic systems are treated with such caution.

How to Reduce Fire Risk in a Hydraulic System

Fortunately, there are many ways you can reduce fire risk in a hydraulic system.

Depending on your setup and your industrial needs, you could swap in a different type of hydraulic fluid. You could isolate the hydraulic system to keep it away from ignition sources and reduce the potential damage associated with the fire. You could conduct regular, competent inspections to ensure the system is working properly. You could even practice proactive maintenance to keep the system operating as intended.

In fact, all of these strategies are recommended. But even if you use all of them, you'll never be able to reduce the fire risk of a hydraulic system to nothing.

Why You Can Never Reduce Fire Risk of a Hydraulic System to Zero

These are some of the reasons why:

·       Hydraulic fluid flammability. Fire resistant hydraulic fluids do exist, but even they are flammable – they just require a higher temperature to fully ignite. Plus, fire resistant hydraulic fluids aren't suitable for all applications. No matter what, you're going to be working with a flammable fuel source in your hydraulic system.

·       Persistent high pressure. Hydraulics are powerful because of the inordinately high pressure of their internal fluids. This isn't something you can do away with or minimize effectively. This high pressure not only makes hydraulic fluid potentially even more flammable, but also makes the risk of a rupture higher.

·       Structural defects. Even small defects can have a catastrophic impact on your fire risk. A material that's been weakened, a maintenance step that was neglected, or a contaminated hydraulic fluid can all spell disaster.

·       Human error and neglect. Also keep in mind that the possibilities for human error and neglect do exist. Even if you have a perfectly designed fire prevention strategy, there's no guarantee that all your employees are going to follow that strategy perfectly. All it takes is one small mistake to cause a conflagration.

·       Accidental damage. It's also possible for freak accidents to cause hydraulic ruptures or introduce flames to the area. Sometimes, the least predictable incidents are the most deadly.

How to Handle a Nonzero Fire Risk in a Hydraulic System

Now that we've established that hydraulic systems will always have a nonzero fire risk, what exactly are you supposed to do about it?

·       Fire suppression and immediate response. Fire suppression is indispensable for managing fires that do emerge. Ideally, your fire suppression system will deploy automatically upon detecting flames or excessive heat, and do a suitable job of extinguishing or at least controlling the fire. You'll also need an immediate response plan, calling on external resources if the fire gets out of hand.

·       Evacuation plans. Similarly, you should have evacuation plans in place. Everyone in the facility should know exactly what to do and where to go to stay safe.

·       Employee training. Employee training and education is also important. Everyone should have a robust idea of how and why hydraulic systems are vulnerable to fire, and they should know what to do if a fire breaks out.

·       Insurance. It's a good idea to scrutinize your insurance policy and ensure coverage for fire damage. This way, if your control measures aren't enough, you'll still have a layer of financial protection.

·       Damage mitigation. You should also consider physically separating your hydraulic systems from other systems. In addition to removing ignition and heat sources, this will make it much harder for fires to reach your other property.

The Ideal Fire Suppression System

At Cease Fire, we’ve designed a fire suppression system that is ideal for use in and around hydraulic systems.

These are some of the reasons why it’s such a good fit:

·       Modularity. Our fire suppression units are completely modular and self-contained. That means you won't have to make any major changes to your plumbing system, nor will you need to install anything too complicated. You can order exactly the products you need, without overspending or overcomplicating things.

·       Cleanliness and neutrality. Our systems also utilize a clean agent approach, combining specialized ingredients in a unique approach that effectively fights fire without damaging any of your equipment. It keeps things as clean and neutral as possible.

·       Low maintenance demands. Maintenance requirements are practically nonexistent. You can count on your fire suppression system to last for 12 years or longer, with little to no ongoing effort on your part.

·       Easy installation. Installation is easy, especially if you let our professionals handle it.

·       Cost efficiency. For these reasons and others, we have one of the most cost-efficient fire suppression solutions on the market for hydraulic systems.

Protecting a hydraulic system isn’t easy, but fire suppression shouldn’t be a headache. That’s why we’ve designed some of the best, easiest, and most cost-effective fire suppression systems available today. If you’re interested in learning more about our fire suppression products, or if you’d like a free consultation on hydraulic system fire risks, contact us today!