Blog | Fauske and Associates, LLC

4 Reasons To Characterize Potentially Flammable Material

Written by AnnMarie Fauske | Oct 30, 2013 8:07:00 PM


When dealing with flammable compounds, whether they are solids, liquids, or gases, a process safety testing and engineering lab provides many services to help characterize the possible flammability hazard of a material.  There are a number of reasons for the characterization of potentially flammable material:

1.       Safe Process Operation – There are 3 components needed for a fire or explosion to occur: fuel, oxidizer, and ignition source.  By understanding some or all of these components, the relative risk of a flammable mixture can be assessed; as a result, safe process operation can be laid out through one or more of the following:

A.       Explosion Prevention
1. Fuel concentration control – maintain the fuel concentration outside of the flammable region
2. Inerting – maintain the oxygen (or oxidizer) below the limiting oxidant concentration
3. Ignition source avoidance – identify and reduce the possibility of flammable materials coming into contact with ignition sources

B.      Explosion Protection Systems

 1. Venting – using flammability data to properly size rupture discs, venting panels, and explosion doors
2. Containment – use of a pressure rated equipment that can withstand the overpressure from an explosion
3. Explosion suppression
4. Explosion isolation
5. Flame arresters

2.       Process Optimization Through properly defining the flammable region (lower flammable limit, upper flammable limit, limiting oxygen concentration, explosion severity, etc.), processes could be optimized to help increase production yields through operating closer to but just outside of the flammable region so that safety is still maintained.  

3.       MSDS Completion – Material Safety Data Sheets are used to provide workers and emergency personnel with the necessary information for safe handling under normal operations as well as under accidental release situations.  Flammability data that is typically found on a MSDS is the lower flammable limit (LFL), upper flammable limit (UFL), flash point, fire point, autoignition temperature (AIT, as shown in photo), suitable fire extinguishing media, etc. Please note that MSDS data may not always be complete or accurate, or of sufficient technical detail for process safety needs.

4.       Shipping/Storage Requirements – Shipping and storage requirements have been defined by a number of organizations (e.g. UN, DOT, NFPA).  These requirements not only restrict the amount of material that can be processed, stored, or shipped but also provide additional requirements needed in order to limit accidental release that could result in a flammable hazard.  To define what shipping and storage requirements are needed, a flammable liquid is characterized by its flash point and boiling point. 

If interested in learning more about flammability testing capabilities and how we can support your testing needs, please contact Fauske & Associates, LLC: Jeff Griffin at griffin@fauske.com or 630-887-5278. www.fauske.com.  For a recent article from our "Process Safety News", click here: