Posts Tagged ‘ethanol fire’

Ohio Train Derailment and Ethanol Explosion Illustrates Importance of Planning for Ethanol HazMat Incidents

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Author: David Willauer, Manager, Transportation & Geospatial Technologies Division, IEM

This week’s Ohio railcar derailment and subsequent ethanol explosion in Ohio is another reminder that ethanol transport poses unique risks for firefighters. Unlike petroleum fires, ethanol fires require special alcohol-resistant foam, or AT-AFFF, to extinguish. However, AT-AFFF foam is still something many fire departments simply do not have on hand. But that is changing. Ethanol is now the number one HAZMAT commodity shipped by rail in the United States and the number of railcars shipping ethanol annually continues to rise.

Last October we saw firsthand how ethanol plants are also helping local fire companies with ethanol fires. Two ethanol plants provided fire-fighting foam to crews battling a major ethanol blaze that broke out in the early hours of October 7, 2011, just outside Tiskilwa in rural northwest Illinois after a train derailed there and prompted the evacuation of the town’s 745 residents. (more…)

Ethanol: A Growing Market with New Firefighting Challenges

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Author: David Willauer, Manager, Transportation & Geospatial Technologies Division, IEM

Ethanol, also known as “grain alcohol” and derived primarily from a corn fermentation process, is being embraced by federal and state governments through numerous subsidies as a viable bio-fuel. Today, ethanol joins biodiesel in a growing demand for reduced emissions nationwide, resulting in increased ethanol production, distribution and transportation. One consequence of increasing ethanol blends is that the volume of bulk ethanol transported, handled and stored continues to increase, creating new risks and challenges for firefighters worldwide.

The impetus for this and previous blogs (see Ethanol, The New Hazmat; and Emerging Ethanol Regulations) was concerns from county officials regarding increasing ethanol shipments and the cost of stockpiling alcohol resistant firefighting foam (one example is AR-AFFF). This is a local response to a national issue: which counties need the most foam, where should we put it and how are we going to pay for it?

As part of a statewide regional hazardous materials study, IEM is helping officials and emergency responders in one state answer these questions in addition to figuring out what other chemicals are being transported through their backyard.

Rail providers are also getting into the act, as bulk ethanol is now the #1 commodity for some Class I railroads. To help local emergency responders, railroads are positioning AR-AFFF Trailers at strategic locations throughout their railroad system to be ready in the event of unforeseen ethanol fire incidents.

Another good example of an ethanol public/private partnership includes an example where multiple petroleum companies have joined forces  to ensure requirements for sufficient supplies of alcohol-resistant foam were written into the local ordinance. In this example, the petroleum companies, not the municipality, helped pay for foam and the foam trailers from which the foam would be deployed. (more…)

Ethanol: The New HAZMAT?

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Author: David Willauer, Manager, Transportation & Geospatial Technologies Division, IEM

Is ethanol considered HazMat? This question continues to be debated as we use increasing amounts of this corn-based product to supplement our nation’s fuel supply. Ethanol is not a regulated chemical. Unlike MTBE, ethanol reportedly does not pollute ground water.

However, ask a firefighter about ethanol and you will get a different answer.  Whether blended with gasoline or not, ethanol is highly flammable and corrosive.

Ethanol is an alcohol-based organic com­pound produced chemically by ethylene conversion (a patented process) or through fermentation of sugars using yeasts. Ethanol (C2H5OH) is flammable, colorless, and odorless. Today we are blending ethanol and gasoline to produce E85 (85% ethanol) or E10 (10% ethanol). E85 requires modifications to engines whereas E10 does not. (more…)