Combustion Safety - a standardized
Systems burning fuel are inherently
dangerous without proper controls. Over the years, we have
learned from experience that certain precautions will minimize
the chances of disaster. At first, most of these safety measures
were based on operator training ("air out the furnace before
you light the burner in case a fuel/air mixture has collected
inside"). With improvements in automation, today we
supplement training with hardware and software safeguards, such
as flame scanners, automatic valves, high temperature switches,
etc. Despite all of this, training is still vital to safe
In the U.S., the primary compilation of
safety guidelines comes from the National Fire Protection
Association (NFPA, website www.nfpa.org). Because
NFPA continues to update its combustion safety guidelines, most
insurance carriers accept them outright or use them as a core
around which to build their own specialized rules. Various NFPA
standards are available for purchase from the organization. The
guidelines covering ovens and furnaces are contained in
NFPA86-99. The following is a brief summary of the main
provisions of NFPA86-99:
- NFPA guidelines are not hard rules,
but are intended to be modified and fitted to each
specific combustion system.
- NFPA guidelines address combustor
hardware and controls, as well as procedures and training
for maintenance and operations personnel.
- All operating, maintenance and certain
supervisory personnel must be trained (and retrained on a
scheduled basis) to maintain a high level of proficiency.
Training must be conducted by "qualified
persons", which can be drawn from inside or outside
the operating company. The training is to address the
combustion safety related aspects of the particular
combustor being considered. Generalized combustion safety
training can be part of the program, but the training
program must address the specific hardware and operating
characteristics of each combustor.
- Operating instructions are to be
covered by the training. The operating instructions
(written by the combustor manufacturer if possible) are
to include schematic piping and wiring diagrams, startup
procedures, shutdown procedures, emergency procedures and
hardware maintenance procedures.
- The combustor operators must learn
about combustion of fuel/air mixtures, explosion hazards,
sources of ignition, functions of control and safety
devices, handling of special atmospheres (including low
oxygen atmospheres), handling of hazardous materials (if
present), confined space entry procedures and the
specific combustor operating procedures noted above.
- Equipment maintenance is to be in
accordance with the manufacturer's instructions (if
available). Inspection, testing and maintenance of all
safety devices will be performed on a regular schedule.
Documented safety inspections and testing must be
performed at least once per year. When the combustor
manufacturer no longer exists, plant personnel must
develop adequate written operational checks and
- Any changes to combustor safety
hardware or software must be documented, approved and
maintained in a file at the plant site.
- NFPA86-99 provides "typical"
checklists (including air filter maintenance,
thermocouple testing, pressure switch checks, etc.) which
might be performed every shift, every month and yearly.
The actual checklist for a combustor should include items
specific to that hardware package.
NFPA 85 lists specific guidelines for fired boilers.
These include special features required to operate a high pressure system
Adherence to the spirit and letter of the
NFPA guidelines can demonstrate an operating company's commitment
to combustion safety.
Banks Engineering can help establish or
update combustor operating and maintenance procedures and
training programs to satisfy NFPA and similar guidelines.
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