It is believed that a poor maintenance regime was one of the contributing factors. The event reportedly followed a leak in the heater tubes where the heat transfer fluid circulated. The energy source could not be shut off quickly, another issue was that the whole volume of fluid could not be quickly stored in a dump tank to further reduce the risk.
It is not clear at this stage how the hole appeared in the coils however, it is known that old degraded fluid can deposit carbon insolubles out onto the coil interior, once baked on, this has an insulating effect and can lead to hot spots appearing, this in turn can lead to coil breaches.
Precautions such as representative sampling and analysis to monitor areas like carbon, flash points, fire points and auto ignition temperatures as well as acidity are crucial. This partnered with fire damping systems such as the Ness Argon system that can be retrofitted to any heater together with a good system design that automatically cuts the energy source to the heater in the event of a fire is essential to stop the pumps from further fuelling a fire will help to minimise risk.
Contact one of our Heat Transfer experts for some advice on how to successfully manage your Heat transfer systems.