Safety alert for electric storage batteries

Thursday, 05 November, 2015

A safety alert about the risks associated with electric storage batteries has been issued by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) after a fire broke out in the battery room on a production facility.

This incident has highlighted the potential for thermal runaway events — a rapid uncontrolled increase in temperature — when there is short circuit between two or more battery banks of uninterruptible power supply (UPS), which can trigger a fire or explosion.

NOPSEMA said the incident was likely caused by leaking electrolyte fluid contacting a conductive metal cabinet frame in the UPS battery room.

No injuries were caused as a result of this incident, although it was reportedly difficult to contain the fire.

Facility operators are being reminded of their obligation under the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 to take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure that any plant, equipment, materials and substances at a facility are safe and without risk to health, and to also implement and maintain systems of work at the facility that are safe and without risk to health.

Facility operators, employers and persons in charge of work activities are also being advised to review their practices for the use of battery banks, particularly banks of batteries storing 120 V DC and above.

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