Etankfire reports results of large-scale ethanol fire research

By Kassidi Andres | April 12, 2016

A Swedish research institute released experimental results on the burning behavior of various ethanol blends, conducted as part of the Etankfire project.

The purpose of the joint industry project run by Sweden’s SP Fire Research is to investigate the behavior of large-scale ethanol fires. Significant differences between laboratory and large scale tests indicate that laboratory tests cannot predict large-scale burning behavior.

Multiple tests measured the heat flux, flame height and burning rates of ethanol blends. Three laboratory tests on 200 liter (50 gallon) blends of E97, E85 and E50 were followed by two large- scale tests on 20,000 liters of E97 and E85.

It is known from small-scale experiments that ethanol-rich fuels emit roughly half of the heat flux into the surrounding environment as gasoline. A comparison between the new data from the large-scale experiments and the calculations and existing test data showed that the heat flux levels of an ethanol fire may be two to three times higher than that of a corresponding gasoline fire, which means that there is an increased risk of fire propagation, a greater need for cooling, and more limitations on the performance of the fire and rescue personnel, according to SP Fire Research.

Partners in the large-scale fire research included Shell Research Ltd., Slackmedelscentralen - SMC AB, Lantmannen and Brandforsk. New partners are being recruited for the next stage in the Etankfire project which will investigate methodology and tactics for extinguishing storage tank fires involving ethanol.

To read a short summary of the research in the SP Fire Research Brandposten click here or to see the entire report click here.