FROM TRADITIONAL ALKALINE BATTERIES TO CUSTOM-BUILT MULTICELL LITHIUM-ION BATTERY PACKS.
The global battery market was valued at USD 108.4 billion in 2019 (source: Grand View Research). The industry’s growth, felt throughout the supply chain and related services, is driven by consumer demand for electronics, machinery, automobiles and equipment that use multicell Lithium-Ion and other types of advanced, eco-friendly batteries.
There are two basic categories of batteries (also referred to as energy storage systems – ESS):
Because energy storage systems are packing more and more energy into smaller sized batteries, the risk of fire is also increasing.
Today, every company that participates in the manufacturing, storage and distribution of batteries must face the issues of toxic and flammable gases, stranded energy and increased fire intensity.
Definition: Stranded Energy - any scenario where electrical energy remains in a battery without an effective means to remove it. This typically happens when the battery is damaged by force, a coolant leakage, heat, fire or water intrusion.
PDF Download - Battery Manufacturing Fire Protection
The best decision you can make to protect your people, facility and overall business is to install a professionally-designed and engineered automatic fire suppression system.
Each building and area need to be carefully reviewed to determine the right fire protection solution that will combine code compliance and workplace safety. Having the wrong suppressant can have catastrophic consequences and can lead to a self-fueling fire situation.
Water Sprinkler System: Water has long been an effective method for extinguishing fires because of its effectiveness, availability and low cost – and this includes lithium-ion batteries. A recent NFPA Fire Protection Research Foundation report confirms the lithium inside batteries is lithium salts (not pure lithium) and therefore it is safe to use water as an extinguishing agent.
Water extracts heat from a battery – however, because these batteries are often located on shelves, racks or inside cabinets, this can make it difficult for a sprinkler system to apply water directly to the battery itself. In-rack sprinkler systems must be used in conjunction with the main building sprinkler system to ensure all fire risks are covered.
In-Rack Sprinkler System: In-rack suppression systems are an absolute must for warehouses and logistics facilities. These systems help to avoid a cascading thermal runaway and the devastating effect this could have.
Water-Spray Systems: Water-spray systems share many of the benefits of a sprinkler system but with the added benefit of directing the flow toward a specific direction. In certain applications, this option helps overcome the difficulty of getting water directly to the battery itself instead of applying the water to the outside of a battery cabinet.
Water-Mist System: Due to the small particle sizes and higher surface areas that are common in water-mist, these systems allow for better heat absorption and therefore would require less water than a typical sprinkler system. This is useful in places where access to water is limited. Water-mist systems also have the potential to be nonconductive so they would not damage adjacent electronics and require less cleanup.
Clean Agent Suppression System: Stored in cylinders and discharged through a fixed piping system, clean agent systems disperse an inert gas or chemical compounds to extract heat from a fire incident. They are electrically nonconductive and leave no residue to clean up. This system can be used in a local application where the clean agent is directly applied to a specific location or in a total flooding application where the agent is discharged and fills an entire space.
Clean agent suppression is a very effective way for extinguishing an incipient fire within an Energy Storage System (ESS) enclosure. Even when a non-battery component of the ESS is involved in a fire, this method has the potential to extinguish that without causing water damage to the adjacent equipment and there is no need for water damage cleanup.
Testing has shown, however, that gaseous suppression systems do not have the ability to cool a fully involved battery fire below its auto-ignition temperature. While gaseous suppression systems can suppress flaming combustion, they do not reduce the rate of flammable gas discharging from the battery. This could allow the room to develop an explosive environment.
Gas Detection: One way to prevent a thermal runaway from starting is to identify the off-gassing of a battery. A series of detectors can monitor the area for any battery off-gassing and cause an alarm to sound within seconds from the off-gassing entering the atmosphere. There are various types of detectors that will identify the specific off-gas for the type of batteries being stored. Having this early warning system provides valuable time for operators to implement emergency shutdown procedures and isolate the affected battery or batteries.
The gas detection system should be connected to a suppression system that will activate on the second stage of an alarm condition.
Fire Extinguishers: Depending on the type of batteries in your facility, you will need to ensure you have the properly-rated fire extinguisher available.
Lithium metal battery fires need a class-D dry powder extinguisher. Do NOT use water on a lithium battery fire!
Lithium-ion battery fires are considered a Class B flammable liquid fire. A type ABC or BC fire extinguisher is recommended. CO2 extinguishers would also be effective again this type of blaze.
Because extinguishers require manual operation, we recommend them as a complementary piece of fire protection equipment.
Talk to us today about YOUR fire protection needs.
Disclaimer: The installation of a fire suppression system should not be a substitute for: structural fire resistance, safe packaging and storge methods, proper handling of materials, or staff training.