BioFuels Facilities

— Fire broke out Sunday night in a building where used vegetable oil is refined into biofuel for diesel engines, but a fire official said the blaze did not involve the oil or fuel that is produced from it. Read full article here.

Biofuel facilities are covered under NFPA 30, Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code.  When reviewing these facilities one must start with the right information.

What will this facility do?
  • store and distribute?
  • refine?
  • blend?
  • dispense/use?
Has all the correct documentation been provided?
  • diagram of physical plant and tank locations?
  • piping schematic plan?
  • MSDS sheets/quantities of each chemical used in process?
Common chemicals used in the biofuel creation process include:
  • raw materials
    • vegetable oil, used cooking oil, etc.
  • methanol and other alcohols
  • sodium hydroxide/potassium hydroxide/sodium methoxide
  • glycerin/glycerol
Are fire sprinklers and alarms required?  The final determination is based upon a hazards analysis of the facility that is to be conducted according to NFPA 30:6.4, this evaluation should include:

  • Analysis of the fire and explosion hazards of the operation.
  • Analysis of emergency relief from process vessels, taking into consideration the properties of the materials used and the fire protection and control measures taken.
  • Analysis of applicable facility design requirements per NFPA 30, chapters 17, 18, 19, 28, and 29.
  • Analysis of applicable requirements for liquid handling, transfer, and use, as covered in NFPA 30, chapters 17, 18, 19, 28, and 29.
  • Analysis of local conditions, such as exposure to and from adjacent properties and exposure to floods, earthquakes, and windstorms.
  • Analysis of the emergency response capabilities of the local emergency services.
Other fire protection measures should include fire extinguishers, and NFPA 704 placarding.  Emergency plans and employee training (NFPA 30:6.8) should function as an integrated part of the fire/life safety of the facility.

A good working relationship between the fire service and biofuels facility management should be maintained as these relationships are essential to providing adequate life safety to the employees and community.
A helpful slide show presentation is available from Biodiesel Production: The Code Officials Perspective.

DESMET BALLESTRA NORTH AMERICA, INC produced this presentation on biodiesel plant safety for the National Biodiesel Conference and Expo.

An interesting article on biofuel safety precautions from the blog of bioenergy Unbound