• permeation;
  • air change;
  • dangerous goods;
  • lower explosive limit;
  • freight container

The key point within the scope of this research project was to find out whether there was a risk of creating an explosive atmosphere by permeation of flammable liquid compounds during transport of dangerous goods in freight containers under normal conditions of carriage. Therefore, all aspects that had an influence on the formation of such an atmosphere had to be considered. The most important influencing factors were permeation, air change in the freight container and ambient temperature. The first step was to investigate the permeation with different packaging materials, charge and temperatures. Furthermore, the air change rates of different freight containers were measured. A few climate tests with containers on ships, e.g. to Singapore, were performed to assess normal conditions of carriage. Another important point was measuring the solvent (toluene) concentration in the gas phase in a freight container loaded with plastic intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) filled with toluene. To confirm that the measured values were in the right range, the toluene concentration in the gas phase in a container was calculated with different packaging materials, air change rates and temperatures.

The results of the measurements and calculations have shown that safety layers in the packaging wall, e.g. the copolymer of ethylene and vinyl alcohol (EVOH) and polyamide, can reduce the rate of permeation by more than a decimal power, but the lower explosive limit of toluene is easily reached within a few hours at 40°C charge temperature if there is no barrier. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.