Cryogenic extinguishment of liquid pool fires



Results on fire extinguishment using direct application of liquid nitrogen are presented in this article. This technique targets challenging fires, such as burning hazardous chemicals or fuels, in which cases prompt suppression or extinguishment is paramount to prevent explosions, avoid release of toxic fumes and avert environmental catastrophes. Liquid nitrogen is a rather environmentally benign extinguishing agent that does not cause property damage or groundwater contamination. Application of this cryogen onto a hot pyrolyzing/burning surface induces abrupt vaporization, spread and expansion. The pyrolyzing gases are inerted, the surface is cooled and hence its pyrolysis rate is reduced, air is separated from the fuel, and the fire extinguishes. To demonstrate this technique, experiments were conducted with pool fires of ethanol, propanol, and diesel fuel. To examine the underlying principles, analysis of the results was conducted based on simplified calculations. Sufficient quantities of the cryogen extinguished the fires nearly instantaneously. Half-liter quantities were sufficient to extinguish 1 m2 pool fires. The method of dispensing and distributing the cryogen on the pool fires proved to be of considerable importance. The existence of wind, which disturbed the flame, was not found to prevent extinguishment. © 2009 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Process Saf Prog 2010