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Fire Protection for Butane Unloading and Storage Facility

Fire Protection for Butane Unloading and Storage Facility

Fire Protection for Butane Unloading and Storage Facility


We are designing a butane storage facility with multiple 50,000 gal plus bullets. Butane trucks will be unloaded at the facility into the bullets that are aboveground at ambient temperatures. The facility will be located in somewhat of a remote area and will not have an on-site operator but will have a breakroom/bathroom building for truck drivers as well as buildings that house air compressors and control systems.

My question is, will the facility require fire protection, and if so, what is the code that governs the design of the facility? NFPA 58 for Liquefied Petroleum Gas does go into detail about the need for fire protection, but seems to be applicable primarily to propane storage. My understanding is that LPG by definition is either propane or butane or mixture of the two, so I would think the code should apply to butane storage, but am not 100% sure. API 2510A (Fire-Protection Considerations for the Design and Operation of LPG Storage Facilities) Sec 5.1.2 and 3 state that "Firewater may not be needed for remote facilities, assuming that loss of the facility is an acceptable risk... Remotely-located facilities are those that have few exposure risks within 4000 ft. This criterion is based on experience and reports of past incidents that have demonstrated that vessel fragments, vapor travel, and damaging blast over pressure are extremely unlikely beyond 4000 ft. Locations without this clear zone may also be considered remote if this determination is made through a safety analysis." How is this "safety analysis" conducted and what is the criteria on it?

Sound design obviously would be to put in a reliable fire protection system, but we would need standards/codes to convince the client that it is needed. Does anyone have experience installing a fire protection system for butane storage facility? If so, did you use a deluge system or water spray?

Thank you all for your help.

RE: Fire Protection for Butane Unloading and Storage Facility

The whole purpose of deluge is to keep vessel walls cool during a fire event. So another alternative to FW would be to apply a good PFP layer on each bullet, sufficient to last the duration of a credible fire event, say 1 hour? That will also reduce the fire case relief load on each bullet.

RE: Fire Protection for Butane Unloading and Storage Facility

There must be some guidelines in place with regards to risk tolerance criteria - either in company standards or those set by local legislation. See example study for LPG depot and comparison of the actual risk results vs. legal requirements with regards to risk tolerance, at page 53 onward, at http://www.epd.gov.hk/eia/register/report/eiarepor...

At 4,000ft distance from any populated area you should be definitely outside of any risk contour but you'll probably need consequence modeling at least as an attachment to this statement - again depends on what are the company/legal requirements with regards to documentation of risk assessment.

In addition to Societal and Individual risks, some other risks may be applicable - penalties to your company due to environmental discharge, or penalties due to inability to meet contractual requirements (delivery of Butane), etc. All these should be factored in.

Process Engineer, MSChE

RE: Fire Protection for Butane Unloading and Storage Facility

You need to talk to your local AHJ (that is Code-speak for Authority Having Jurisdiction) which is your local (county, state, or city, depending on project location) fire marshal. He will refer you to the local fire code. For example, if you are in California, you will get referred to the California Fire Code. It will set forth the requirements and tell you what NFPA sections apply. Also, your local code may have modifications to the NFPA that you will have to abide by. The code and/or the fire marshal will dictate deluge vs. spray. Don't even start the project without talking to him first. Trust me, I BTDT and got those scars.

In my experience the best thing to do is hire a fire protection PE with experience in your process. This will be the least hassle for you. They know the codes, they know the process, and can stamp the drawings and docs if that is required by the owner, by the local AHJ, or by the owner's insurance carrier. I can provide a couple names if you want; let me know. There is a huge learning curve with fire protection issues in process plants and the fire protection PE is the fastest way to get it done and the least exposure for you. Hope this helps.

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