In another somewhat bizarre incident at a coal mine, a loader was working on a coal stockpile when a fire occurred on the loader. The NSW Resources Regulator said ‘The fire was localised to the air filter area’ and has advised that investigations are continuing. The regulator has advised the mining industry that any machines fitted with burn type diesel particulate treatment should have the risk of this process addressed in the fire risk assessment for the machine.
Fires and diesel particulate filters
This loader fire incident is not an isolated incident and fires from diesel particulate filter units have occurred on a range of machinery in the past. Fundamentally, the heat generated by a diesel particulate filters (DPF) can damage improperly shielded hydraulic lines and cause them to rupture and spray hydraulic fluid.
The heat dissipated can then ignite the sprayed hydraulic fluid and put operators and plant at risk from fire. DPF systems are used on most large, diesel-powered equipment to reduce the number of fine particles released from the exhaust.
A DPF traps the particles in a filter. The DPF system then exposes the filtered particles to high temperatures to break it down into less-harmful ash.
How a fire hazard can develop around diesel particulate filter equipment?
During the particle burning process, known as regeneration, temperatures near the DPF can reach a wide variety of temperatures at around 607° C. Equipment located near the DPF can be exposed to this high heat. If not properly shielded, the equipment may fail. If a hydraulic line fails, hydraulic fluid may spray out and ignite, resulting in a fire.
When inspecting heavy plant with DPF systems, mine operators should ensure the following issues are addressed to prevent loader fire and fires in other plant:
• Hoses, wires, and other equipment located near DPF systems are in good condition and are not showing signs of heat damage.
• Equipment located near DPF systems is protected from heat exposure by either distance or proper shielding.
• The area around the DPF system and all hydraulic components are free of debris.
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