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Piercing Nozzle Addresses Fires at Coal Storage Facilities

Coal-fired power plants and coal storage facilities that burn or store lignite and sub-bituminous fuels have to be very alert to the possible risk of fires. These types of low-rank coals could self ignite if left in a bunker, bin, or silo for several days, and could spontaneously combust. Spontaneous combustion of organic material is a complicated process, and a number of conditions must be fulfilled in order for it to take place. Although many of the conditions under which spontaneous combustion takes place are not as yet completely understood, it is known that all spontaneous combustion processes require an accurately defined environment.

The features defining such an environment include suitable heat insulation and a sufficient air supply, although the amount of air required is normally very small. It is also known that the heating process preceding the stage at which the product bursts into flame (e.g., the uncontrolled propagation of an oxidation process) is caused either by thermophilic bacteria or by some form of auto-oxidation process as a result of production processes. The former is true in respect to a number of organic substances, such as sawdust, wood waste, hay, peat, wheat, corn, flour, bark, woodchips, pine needles, green wood, and other organic materials, while the latter case is true with respect to a number of other self-combustible materials, such as oil, gas, coal, fiber board, sulfur, powder iron, and iron chips. The presence of moisture and impurities having a catalytic effect are often conditions under which spontaneous combustion could occur, and these fires could present significant risk to employees, residents and property.

Georgia Power engineer Damon Woodson developed and patented a solution after realizing that proactive planning for these potentially unexpected coal fires for emergency responders and a more intelligent tool to combat coal fires was needed.

The use of bins, bunkers, and silos to store the above products has been problematic for some industries because the products inside can begin to spontaneously combust. The generated fire, however, cannot be seen from outside of the bins, bunkers, or silos. Only a significant rise in heat can be detected.

Many commercially available piercing nozzles do not allow the operator to actually detect the fire or a temperature hot spot because when a fire burns deep inside a silo, it makes a pocket that will fills with combustion gases and air.

Woodson’s patented solution uses an intelligent piercing nozzle that can deliver real-time feedback of gas composition and temperature while dispersing solutions to kill a fire safely and efficiently. The device is also modular, so additional units can be added or subtracted, if needed, based on the needs of the emergency responders. This intelligent piercing nozzle includes a gas extraction mechanism that assists in determining the location of a fire and can include a temperature sensor, allowing for the reduction of health concerns. It also has the ability to reduce the cost of property and equipment damage by extinguishing fires quicker, which allows emergency responders to efficiently and safely fight fires within power plants and coal storage facilities.

The Fire-Fighting Piercing Nozzle can inject both foam and water that stops the chemical reaction of fire and removes the heat. This patented solution—U.S. Patent No. 7,438,239, titled Fire-fighting Piercing Nozzle Device—has been designed, built and tested, and has addressed significant safety and efficiency concerns at a power plant and coal storage facilities near Macon, Georgia.

“The market presents numerous opportunities to maximize the value of this patented innovation by pursuing a competitive marketing process,” said Christopher Savage, manager of Intellectual Property at Georgia Power.”

Companies interested in receiving information on this patent offering are encouraged to contact Grant Moss at Adapt IP Ventures at [email protected], or 770-353-0756.