Energy Storage System Fire Protection Options: Battery Energy

Posted by ORR Protection on Dec 29, 2020 9:15:06 AM


Rick Reynolds, Vice President of Engineering and Training at ORR Protection Systems discusses Energy Storage System Fire Protection Options.

Video Transcript:

Hello and welcome to the 2020 MCFP, the mission critical fire protection virtual show brought to you by ORR protection systems. I'm Rick Reynolds, the Vice President of Power Generation. I've been blessed to be at ORR Protection for going on 30 years. And today we're going to talk about BESS, B-E-S-S, that's battery energy storage systems. Also, actually, we're going to talk a little bit about the NFPA 855, and 855 is a new standard. So that is actually added into the industry. Today we're going to cover fire protection and suppression and energy storage systems. That tends to be a hot topic today. No pun intended, but we're going to talk about lithium-ion storage and some of the actual fundamentals when we start talking about detection and controls and also suppression around that. So we're going to have, we have a lot of good information that we're going to share today.

Hopefully that'll also drum up some good questions and answers that post. And if you do, please feel free to send those in and we'll answer it accordingly and doing so, we're going to talk about some research papers and some of those research papers were actually given by the NFPA research foundation, as well as a company called D N V G L as well as UL, of course. And then of course, ORR is going to offer some solutions that we've actually come up with through some more of our own research of our own. So we have a lot to cover today. I'm looking forward to some of your questions and answers post this. So let's get started before we can actually go straight into some of the code compliance. I think we need to take a step back. The Arizona Public Service, which is actually a power generation company in Arizona.

We're going to take a step back to a tragic event that took place about a year and four or five months ago. And that was an explosion that took place at a site. Now, as the actual codes were coming up to speed, NFPA 855, and we were actually starting to develop 855 and we were in the development path and we thought everything was going right up to where it needed to go. And then all of a sudden we had a tragic event. This tragic event had three firefighters that were injured and as those three firefighters were injured and one of them still has not returned to duty.

This actually was kind of a landscape change for us in the fire protection industry. When it comes to lithium-ion and stored energy in this particular event, you can see that that wall, that actually is on the side of this stored energy facility. You can see it actually is reconfigured if you will. So there was an explosion in this event from a buildup of offgassing from the lithium ion batteries, and we're going to talk a little bit about that buildup of offgassing within the actual space. So we do know that in the event of, what we would call a runaway of a battery, we can actually have an off gas event that builds up gases that are coming off of these batteries prior to a, what we would call, a runaway event. So as we step through this, we know that there's numerous, numerous fires out there in the industry. I actually follow Google news alerts. I have numerous news alerts set up for the actual lithium ion fires. And here's some of them that are listed there. And even recently we've had another, a thermal event take place in the Midwest, in a Midwest energy company.

Most of the time, these companies don't of course like to give out their names, but this one here, we were a first responder to this event for a Midwest company. And our system actually worked and responded according to design, but I will tell you these fires continue to happen. They continue to take place in a thermal runaway or a pre thermal runaway event. In this particular light, the suppression system did exactly like it was supposed to, we suppress the actual condition. And we were there prior to the throne runaway, even taking place. So the system was designed correctly. The system did exactly like it was supposed to, we shunt trip the actual battery plant. And we did not go into thermal runaway. So we actually was able to see the actual event.

The anatomy of a battery fire, or a battery failure. Let's talk about. So there's actually in a battery failure, there's numerous stages associated, or what we call the stages of a battery failure. There, we call those four stages. And in those stages, we have a battery abuse, we have an off gas, and then we have a smoke generation and then a fire actual stage. In the battery abuse stage, there's really three events that actually take place in that stage. And in those stages, we can have a thermal stage and we can have an electrical abusive stage, and we can have a mechanical, abusive stage. Well, in the thermal abusive stage, that thermal abusive can exactly be what it is thermal. It can be overheating that actual battery to a point where it actually burst, or it actually gets too hot. And the actual outside shell actually melts and actually causes where the both sides of the electrolyte actually meets from the positive sides or the negative side that actual inner inner cell allows for the electrolyte to actually merge and create actual connectivity between the positive and negative charge.

And then at particular time it creates a runaway situation. That can also be happened by den rights from the battery material actually growing across that can actually cause a thermal runaway as well. Electrical abuse, well, electrical abuse can actually be because of the actual battery being overcharged at a high rate or of charging or overcharging because of long periods of time or high density charging, if you will. And then of course, a mechanical abuse, mechanical abuse means that actually it was dropped in the actual installation, or it was dropped whenever it was actually, or something penetrated it when it was actually, something penetrated the battery.

Recently, whenever you have flown before the COVID event, of course, but if you've flown recently, the flight attendants made, you may hear the flight attendants say, if you drop your phone in between the seats, don't remove the seat cushion to get it, ask a flight attendant for assistance. Well, the reason for that is it's not because there's of course our safety vest or our actual life jacket that's underneath the seat. They don't want you to disturb that. That could be part of it. But the main reasoning is what has happened is if you research the FAA service log, or the fire event logs in the FAA, you will see that somebody has dropped their phone in between the seats. And as they were reaching down in between the seats to get the phone out, they bent their phone and they mechanically abused their phone. And when they mechanically abused their phone, guess what? When they mechanically abused their phone, the battery went into fail mode because they bent and actually merged the actual electrolyte between the positive negative charge. It caused them a runaway. That phone actually created a fire condition because of a thermal runaway.

So that's the reason why a lot of flight attendants now are saying, do not reach in between the seats, let us help you. We'll reach down in there between them and get those because they don't want you to reach in there potentially aggressively bend your phone or cause a problem potentially with a pad or an iPad or some type of other surface material. If you will electronic device. So that's the reason. But we do know that once those events happen, and we do know from years of study, and this years of study has been going on for at least 10 or 12 years by one company that I'm very familiar with, that there's an off gas event that takes place. And in this off gas event that takes place, some of these gases are very, very toxic and some of these gases are very flammable gases.

So in this off gas stage, if you will, this off gas is non actual smoke particulate, it's actually a gassing, if you will. So in that offgassing then in that offgassing characteristics, we find that that is a off gas a very combustible gas stage that takes place. Then after that, we find that right before it goes into a fire mode, it goes into a smoke mode. Then it actually creates smoke before propagation into fire or what we would call finally into propagation into devastation of fire and aggressive fire. So again, offgassing takes place. Now we usually get the question, Rick, what is the time duration before you would actually go into a off gas event from the abuse to off gas and from the off gas to smoke and from smoke to fire? Well, that all depends on the battery manufacturer. It all depends on the high rate of charge.

And it all depends on how the actual cycle, if you will, are the anatomy of the failure is taking place. And that time can be anywhere from three I've seen personally, I've seen it go from three minutes of a battery abuse of a electrical overcharging. If you will, from three minutes up to even up to 11 minutes of charge that finally we get up to the point where we live at off gas. And then from the time that it off gas to the smoke generation, it may even be longer than actually it can be up to eight to 10 minutes before it would finally get into smoke generation. So it all depends on the battery manufacturer. It depends on the environment. It depends on the temperature of the environment. And so there's a lot of characteristics that come into play there. And then by the time we get into fire propagation, then at that particular time, it depends also with the environment and the conditions within that environment.

So a lot of factors come into play there now at, or we've actually come up with what we call the circle of events of the entire envelope. So in a perfect world, the battery management system is going to be able to control or have influence over all of the battery system. And that overall influence over the battery management system is key to the success of the actual controlling any abnormality of the battery system. And that abnormality can be a spike in voltage, a spiking current, a temperature spike that abnormality is always going to be controlled by the battery management system. And this is also regulated according to NFPA855, the standard around battery management. And so this battery management system that it's looking at, it's looking for all these abnormalities now in doing so some of thermal conditions that it's looking at could only be monitored, not at the cell level of the battery, but it could be monitored at the module level of the battery.

So if you think that there's a cell of a battery and then there's a multitude of actually cells within a module, and then the module is in Iraq level, and we've even seen that the rack could be the monitoring point of all of the battery management system. So in the early days we only monitor temperature at the rack we monitored current and voltage at the rack level. So by the time it got to the rack level, sometimes the propagation would have already started. So it's very important if you will, to make sure that all of these events of getting back to the battery management system was communicated quickly and efficiently. So now, if it does not communicate back to the battery management system, then it does, it will propagate over to the off gas event. So the off gas event takes place.

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