FLIR FC Series R - German Waste Facility Case Study

FLIR FC Series R thermal imaging cameras measure the temperature in waste piles to avoid the development of potentially dangerous fires in waste storage units.

The TAV Ludwigslust waste incineration plant, in Ludwigslust, Germany, makes an important contribution to sustainable waste management for approximately 240,000 citizens from the municipal districts of Ludwigslust and Parchim. At its sites in Ludwigslust, TAV collects enormous amounts of waste that is continuously compressed and prepared for further transport to the incinerators. This activity is not without danger, as there is a constant risk of spontaneous combustion. To prevent the development of spontaneous fires in the waste piles, TAV Ludwigslust  invested in proven hot-spot detection technology and now monitors the plant with thermal imaging cameras from FLIR Systems.

Since mid-2005, TAV has been treating 50,000 tons of household waste from the districts of Ludwigslust and Parchim, as well as sorting residue from industrial waste. As waste is incinerated, energy released in the process is reused. TAV Ludwigslust is a conventional waste incineration plant with a capacity of 50,000 tons per year, and is active 24 hours a day. The gross heat output of 16 MW is currently converted into electricity, thus providing TAV with a net feed-in capacity of 2.1 MW.

Risk of spontaneous combustion 

Unfortunately, fires in landfills and waste storage units are a frequent and well-known problem for waste management professionals. These fires can be caused by spontaneous combustion, in which a hidden source of heat resulting from biological decomposition or chemical oxidation generates a rise in temperature. If the waste mass cannot dissipate the heat faster than it is generated, spontaneous combustion can occur. However, fires can, of course, also be caused by other hidden sources of heat, such as defective electrical appliances. TAV Ludwigslust has also had its share of fire hazards in the past, most notably an incident in 2014.


"We had quite a big fire in our waste storage bunker, which resulted in damage,” said Andreas Rosemann, TAV Ludwigslust's managing director. "The fire was so bad that it quickly engulfed our bunker area in flames and we were no longer able to fight it on our own, so the Fire Department had to be called to carry out intensive fire-fighting measures."

Various financial losses result from the damage caused by fire: loss of energy resources and productivity, collateral damage, and the cost of fire extinguishing measures and cleanup - not to mention the risk of injury or even loss of life. The 2014 fire caused €95,000 in damage, but could have been much worse. 

“I think we were still very lucky," said Rosemann. "The costs would have probably been much higher if the fire department, as well as our own technology, hadn't responded so quickly. In the worst case scenario, we could have suffered damage of up to five million euros." 

Fast detection is crucial 

The fire gave the company impetus to look for additional types of monitoring, including visual PTZ cameras and gas sensors. These technologies were ineffective in preventing serious damage, however, because they took too long to detect a fire. Taking the advice of their insurance company, TAV Ludwigslust decided to test thermal imaging technology to detect hot spots in the waste piles. Following thorough research and evaluation, the company turned to DEKOM Video Security & Network GmbH, a German distributor of FLIR products and solutions for the security market.

The FC-Series R camera reveals hot spots in waste piles.

Reliable radiometric thermal images 

DEKOM suggested installing two FLIR FC-Series R cameras to monitor the entire waste storage unit (25 x 25 m). FLIR's FC-Series R cameras are fixed radiometric cameras that provide accurate, non-contact temperature measurements. This makes them an ideal solution for early detection of hot-spots and fires. The two cameras measure the actual temperature of the waste piles. Whenever a particular temperature threshold is reached (in this case 65°C), they issue an alarm that is routed directly to the control room, where operators can decide on appropriate measures.

"With the FC-Series R cameras for early fire detection, we can be sure that we'll be able to identify possible fires early on," said André Haack, product manager at DEKOM. "The FC-Series R cameras are very robust and can be used in a waste incineration plant without problems. What's more, the FC-Series R camera is significantly cheaper than other thermal imaging cameras. The FLIR sensor has a ten-year warranty, which ensures long-term investment protection and clearly calculable costs."

Truly peaceful sleep

Rosemann adds that the because FLIR cameras constantly keep critical areas in view, they significantly improve his operator's potential response time. "It is really recommended that we take these protective measures," said Rosemann. "A key point is that we don't need to swivel the camera to view a specific point. It was also crucial that we were able to integrate the cameras in the existing system without any extra effort. The view is clear and understandable, and the options are adapted to our specific needs."

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