Home Interviews THMG087 – Batteries with Paul Rogers

THMG087 – Batteries with Paul Rogers


In this episode, Bob and Mike discuss battery technology with Paul Rogers and how it affects hazmat materials technicians.

Complete Show Notes

1:20 Introduction to Paul Rogers

  • Currently a lieutenant with the New York City Fire Department and sits on a few NFPA standards
  • Primary focus is on energy storage systems, which really just batteries
  • Put a 3 to 4-hour online course together with the NFPA
  • Located on their Energy Storage System (ESS) page
  • Touches on the fundamentals of electricity and how to handle batteries

2:30 Why Batteries Matter

  • They’re everywhere – cars, trains, consumer products like electronics, planes, and many other places
  • Lithium-ion batteries were initially developed in the 70s, but didn’t really take off until the 90s and 2000s – they last longer then lead acid batteries with no maintenance
  • The chemistry has changed, but technology will continue to evolve in the future
  • Experimentation has begun with lithium-metal batteries – they provide dense energy, but aren’t as safe as lithium-ion batteries
  • Some companies are diligent about safety when manufacturing lithium-ion batteries and advocate for more testing, but other companies don’t care as much

9:55 Why Aren’t Batteries Tested?

  • It’s expensive
  • No specific metrics to guide testing – when we do test, it’s to get information about the applications of different batteries
  • Paul is on the committee that’s writing the new NFPA 855 standard – designed to establish more regulations and guidelines around batteries

13:00 NFPA 855 Standard

  • Scope of the standard is lithium-ion batteries (or stationary lithium-ion batteries)
  • Establishes specific numbers of allowable kilowatt energy storage – these numbers will kick in once you reach a certain level
  • Depending on what you’re using, you may need sprinkler systems or spray nozzles – some batteries may require testing at a nationally recognized testing laboratory (NRTL)
  • Battery manufacturers haven’t done their due diligence in the past, which has led to a lot of inconsistencies and issues
  • Most of these batteries have a lot of safety mechanisms, so manufacturers think there aren’t any issues or things to worry about

18:55 General Hazards Associated with Batteries

  • When they overheat, they vaporize the electrolyte, which is the corrosive inside the battery
  • When the corrosive vaporizes, it becomes a cocktail of flammable gasses
  • There’s still uncertainty surrounding what this cocktail is made of, other than hydrogen
  • It’s hard to pinpoint when the battery is hot, which is what makes testing so difficult
  • When testing is done, the results are all over the map – this makes repeat testing difficult because you’ll probably get a different result

20:05 Battery Monitoring Systems (BMS)

  • The BMS recognizes when there’s a problem and shuts down the charging mechanism – this creates stranded energy that doesn’t go in or out
  • Even small batteries in our phones have BMS – this system doesn’t get rid of the heat, though
  • The BMS has an electronic switch and is essentially the eyes and ears of the battery itself
  • Even undercharging can set a BMS off
  • Failure in battery cells can set off smoke alarms – first responders won’t see smoke, which causes confusion
  • NFPA 855 should make BMS data available on-scene or via an emergency telephone number
  • Remember that emergency shutoffs in batteries don’t necessarily negate the problem

27:05 How Batteries Impact Hazmat Operations

  • The area should have signage that indicates the presence of an energy storage system and provides details on the specific batteries
  • There are specific protocols for handling batteries that aren’t on fire, but the response is always the same if the system is on fire
  • Lead acid batteries are pretty stable because they’re always in a state of charge (universal power source) – there’s no wear and tear since they’re not cycling on and off
  • Peak-demand and load-cycling batteries are more likely to cause problems since they are cycling on and off
  • Lithium-ion batteries are the first choice in buildings because they take up less space than lead-acid batteries and last longer with no maintenance
  • Flammability is the biggest concern due to the vaporized cocktail created by corrosion
  • NFPA 855 standard states there has to be 25% LEL (lower explosive limit) for the room itself – there’s also a LFL (lower flammable limit) involved
  • Incident commander needs to have access to the on/off switches for ventilation fans – batteries off-gas so quickly that our fans can’t always keep up
  • This is especially true when you’re dealing with modules or multiple batteries failing at the same time – our goal is to ventilate the whole room at once
  • Off-gassing and vaporizing fumes can lead to detonations and explosions inside buildings, which is obviously very dangerous
  • We should be more worried about the flammable gasses than we are about our PID
  • You should automatically assume there are toxic gasses present, so wear your SCBA and bunker gear

35:55 Future of Batteries

  • NFPA 855 standard is going to have a huge effect on the future of batteries in the U.S.
  • This standard will hold the manufacturers more accountable for their batteries and tighten up regulations to make them safer
  • Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Product Standard 9540 will also require more stringent testing and guidelines for batteries
  • Manufacturers will have to test for explosions, pressure, distance between batteries, heat transfer, and more

40:20 Contacting Paul

  • LinkedIn – Paul Rogers

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