Electrical or mechanical energy, pressure, heat, and volatile raw materials supplied for manufacturing or processing needs can be handled and controlled safely and predictably. Likewise, biproducts of manufacturing or processing, including pressure, heat, and chemical products such as reactive and volatile compounds, can be produced and captured safely and productively as a result of that manufacturing or processing. Protection Engineering Consultants (PEC) has relevant and significant experience in providing assistance through assessment and design to mitigate hazards associated with the uses of energetic raw materials or biproducts in industry.
We work with clients across a wide range of industries to help ensure processes are safe and reliable. Our familiarity with industry codes and best practices serves as the basis for assessments and designs, and our creativity and higher fidelity tools allow us to maximize protection and minimize cost. While not intimately familiar with every proprietary process, we are well versed in the chemistry and mechanics of those processes. A seat at the table during facility and process design often allows us to safely maximize the use of every square foot of a facility, and to demonstrate to local code authorities that processes are safe and lawful.
We often generate a favorable impression with clients when we tell them what they don’t need to do rather than offering them complicated design options for questionable mitigation measures. Volatile raw material storage and closed-system handling may be perfectly safe in one space of a colorant manufacturing plant in the construction or printing industry, while open mixing of that volatile compound in other areas may require special alarm-activated emergency ventilation or deflagration venting. Car crushing operations may release a combustible or flammable plastic and metal dust and residual fuel mix that requires almost routine explosion venting in ducts and filter systems. Battery storage at renewable energy sites may seem quiet and benign, but the possibility of Li-ion battery runaways exists and containments must be designed for hydrogen explosions.
Electrical transformers and switchgear may be enclosed for security or contact safety when energized, but those enclosures may not be designed for the rapid pressure rise or shocks that can occur from transformer oil vapor explosions or copper electrode vaporization and the resulting blast and debris. Spacecraft propulsion fuel systems and capsule breathing air systems may be repeatedly tested for reliability, where a failure during any single test could generate noise exceeding hearing damage thresholds requiring safe standoff, operational procedures, and personal protective equipment recommendations.
These are examples of some of the industries and processes and their hazards familiar to our engineers. We can help identify driving issues and hazards that should be addressed early in design or through existing plant and equipment retrofits.
Code and Criteria Consulting
Building codes and derivative fire, material handling, and process codes are by definition “life safety” codes, i.e., minimum standards for the safety of workers and the public. While we are intimately familiar with IBC, IFC, IMC, NFPA, IEEE, Factory Mutual and many other codes prescribing safe approaches in material handling and processes, we use that familiarity as a baseline for our consulting and customer guidance. Codes sometimes cannot anticipate every new process and raw material to be included in that process. Code intent requires that engineers evaluate that material and process to satisfy customer expectations for safety and continuation of operations. Similarly, codes, as blunt instruments with fixed (or infrequently updated) narrative, can unintentionally limit effective and safe processes. Our familiarity and expertise in energetic processes and mechanics can help navigate the code process efficiently.
Our code and criteria consulting efforts often result in letter reports that can be submitted directly to AHJs (authorities having jurisdiction) for review, comment and correction/modification. We are accustomed to supporting clients or other design professionals in conversations and exchanges with these authorities.
Once hazards are identified and a level of risk acceptance defined by the customer, PEC engineers work alongside other design professionals (architects, structural engineers, mechanical and process engineers, fire protection specialists and others) to incorporate necessary strength, robustness and resilience into structures and processes such that hazards appropriate to the risk acceptance are mitigated.
Our work may include engineering level or high-fidelity computational analysis to define the response of structural or mechanical systems operating at high pressures and temperatures. We may work with process engineers to define reaction scenarios and kinetics to support dynamic load determination for potentially catastrophic events that must be mitigated through designs resulting from these analyses.
We can design and specify details for blast walls, roof and wall deflagration vents, and safe standoffs for accidental outdoor volatile storage combustion. We can assist clients in requesting laboratory tests of potentially hazardous low flash point liquids or potentially combustible dusts or can help them interpret results of these tests. We can assist design professionals in the retrofit of existing structures where new plant and equipment brings increased hazard potential inside a building.
Our engineers are registered with many state and national license accreditation boards and organizations and participate in national code and standard writing groups such as ASTM, ACI and ASCE/SEI. That professional community interaction with design professionals and practitioners, industry representatives, and academia keeps us well informed, while simultaneously maintaining our good standing amongst our colleagues who we may recommend or collaborate with in support of our customers.