Passive fire protection materials are vital to the safety solution

Is it possible to elevate safety considerations while developing and using more sustainable materials?

Can the process industry implement learnings from prior loss-of-containment incidents that ultimately get to the heart of one of the most significant contributors to this loss-of-containment?

Even with more and more data from the last several years coming to light and undergoing research, we still find ourselves struggling at a fundamental level with similar challenges from the previous several decades.

To compound this issue, we have new challenges, including one that does not appear to be going anyway anytime soon: The loss of existing expertise, particularly with process safety, as individuals with decades of experience leave the workforce. Known as the "silver tsunami" or the "great crew change," the last couple of years have revealed how at risk we are for substantial knowledge gaps. We must effectively assimilate the current workforce with expertise before an even further exodus of knowledge. The implications are critical.

While human behavior remains the most significant contributor to incidents, there has been a trend in recent years regarding mechanical integrity, particularly corrosion as a damage mechanism, as a marked contributor to loss-of-containment incidents. Some of this can be fixed by a more thorough assessment of the existing infrastructure and the codes and standards applicable to current manufacturing and by paying particular attention to critical areas, especially areas such as corrosion under insulation.

While there has been some progress, the number of incidents each year, and their costs, continue to rise. In response, our fire protection systems must continue to be robust, specific, and applicable to the process area and environment.

Knowledge sharing and effective collaboration are now more critical than ever as we continue to develop and advance in the selection, manufacturing, and implementation of solutions for process industry applications.

Simply put, we have not been as efficient as possible when implementing PFP (passive fire protection) materials. There is a built-in risk aversion here, which, while understandable, has led to implementations that are far too generic in some cases, especially in the last few years. While comprehensive in general, the RP (recommended practices) do not provide the engineer, designer, or facility operator with the specificity needed to support the most efficient approach. As we have learned over the years, in some cases, there is an "over-engineering" of the systems, resulting in unintended consequences such as premature material failure and, at the very least, significant challenges in their implementation. To remedy this, we need to look at the following:
1. What needs to be protected?
2. What are the credible threats, probability, and severity of release events?
3. What PFP systems or safe practices can optimize the mitigation of credible threats?
4. What is the impact of global warming potential on PFP system selection?

Although some improvements in this area have been made, particularly in implementing material solutions with applicable testing and related field history, there is still work yet to do. The key lies in this: While testing and development are crucial and continue to evolve, we have learned much in the last decade, particularly from what failed, and we must adequately capture these learnings, share them, and seek to design and implement better solutions than we have in the past.

Regarding sustainability, to set and define measurable goals for a carbon-neutral future, we must have the capacity to quantify the total global warming potential for indirect and direct emissions. The last several years have focused heavily on Scope 1 and 2 emissions which can be considered operational and measurable. More recently, there has been an additional emphasis on Scope 3 emissions relating to the embodied carbon content, expressed in CO₂ equivalent units for materials manufactured and installed in upstream and downstream facilities, including PFP. The displayed carbon content for materials, including PFP, is best represented in a Type III Environmental Product Declaration (EPD). The Life Cycle Analysis will capture raw material extraction through to end-of-life use, described in the EPD, ensuring the data provided will assist with not only capturing and quantifying the global warming potential but also provide a means for the contract chain to evaluate and implement safe, sustainable, and optimized materials that can in part contribute to the carbon neutral goals implemented by operators. Although reducing emissions is not directly related to mitigating fire hazards, a systematic approach, as outlined above in defining risks and optimizing the PFP material selection, may result in less material being produced, manufactured, and shipped, thus providing a sustainable approach.

The benefit of this approach is end-to-end transparency, consumer trust, and reputation - not only the operator but anyone along the value chain can see the measurable and impactful difference and celebrate being part of the solution.

Source: BIC Magazine