Thermal Imaging Cameras Prevent Fires at Korean Coal Power Plant
To avoid the risk of spontaneous combustion in the coal conveyor system at the Dangjin Coal Fired Power Complex (DCFPC) in South Korea the owner of the plant, the Korea East-West Power Company (EWP), has installed a fire warning system based on thermal imaging cameras. By detecting a rise in temperature long before it rises to the point where the coal reaches combustion the thermal imaging cameras help ensure the plant safety and continuity of power production.
Huge quantities of coal are stored in bunkers, silos, hoppers and open air stockpiles, but coal is a combustible material, making it susceptible to a variety of ignition scenarios. One of the most frequent and most dangerous causes of coal fires is spontaneous combustion. This can occur in any location where coal is stored or transported. Coal can start oxidizing with the oxygen in the air. This causes a rise in temperature. At first the coal's temperature climbs just above the ambient temperature, but if left unchecked it can rise to above 400 degrees Celsius, causing the coal to bursts into flame.
During the pre-combustion oxidization process the coal can also produce large amounts of methane and carbon monoxide gases. The toxic and explosive gases can further complicate the efforts of firefighters to extinguish these coal fires. It is therefore of utmost importance that these fires are detected in an early stage, so an actual fire can be prevented. That is why many coal storage plants are enhanced with thermal imaging cameras. Unlike smoke detectors, which require the production of smoke to function, an early warning system based on thermal imaging technology can detect the rise in temperature long before the coal ignites. Based on this early warning measures can be taken to halt the rise in temperature, preventing the actual combustion and the devastating coal fire that would follow.
One of the companies that have realized the potential of thermal imaging technology for fire prevention in coal storage plants is the Korea East-West Power Company (EWP). It operates five power plants, including the Dangjin Coal Fired Power Complex (DCFPC). The DCFPC has total power generation capacity of 4,000 Mega Watts from eight coal-fired units.
Risky coal transport
To transport the coal to the boilers a conveyor belt system of several kilometers in length is used. During the transport the chance of spontaneous combustion is even higher than in storage facilities where the coal lies still. When the bituminous coal ignites the fire would not only be dangerous for the plant’s personnel and likely destroy part of the conveyor system, it would also cause power generation to come to a complete stop. “This scenario is not acceptable”, says Kim Young Min manager at DCFPC. “That is why we installed a number of FLIR thermal imaging cameras.”