Home Interviews THMG115 – Ethanol with Dan Baker and Ed Fletcher of NYS OFPC

THMG115 – Ethanol with Dan Baker and Ed Fletcher of NYS OFPC

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In this episode, we discuss ethanol with Dan Baker and Ed Fletcher from the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control.

Complete Show Notes

2:50 What is Ethanol?

  • Ethyl alcohol used in a lot of different things – we’re most familiar with it as the 10% ethanol in our gasoline
  • In New York, it’s mostly made from corn stock – other places make it with everything from grape waste to weeds (anything with sugar)
  • Big push for ethanol use in 2009 as an alternative fuel for automobiles – fuel is called E85, which is 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline
  • Today, we mainly see ethanol being used either as a fuel or as a solvent

6:00 The National Fire Academy’s Relationship to the Ethanol Industry

  • Reauthorization Act incentivized ethanol use as an alternative fuel
  • Concerns arose regarding how the ethanol would get to the station and how traffic would increase getting in and out of gas stations that sold it
  • Prominent ethanol-related incidents across the country got them thinking about exposure to risk and how easily an ethanol incident could overwhelm local first responders

8:00 Transporting Ethanol (Pure or Denatured)

  • Commonly transported in Type 306 and 406 tanker trucks, which are typical gasoline haulers
  • Ethanol is added into the gasoline at the actual facility, so it’s denatured – ethanol used for industrial use is pure
  • Transported on trains, but every single train car will be carrying ethanol (pure or denatured)
  • ATF doesn’t get involved with denatured ethanol, which makes it a lot easier to transport
  • Denaturing just means gasoline is added since the ethanol isn’t intended for consumption (you can drink pure ethanol)

12:00 Handling Ethanol vs. Handling Gasoline

  • You need the right kind of foam, and you have to apply it at a higher proportioning rate than you would with gasoline
  • Tactics are similar in other ways, though – regardless, you always need to correctly identify the fuel type you’re dealing with
  • Anything E10 or below (i.e. regular gasoline) – use conventional concentrates
  • Anything 10% or above – use an alcohol-resistant foam (like AFFF)

18:30 Identifying and Handling Ethanol On-Scene

  • Apply your foam at a rate appropriate for an alcohol
  • Recommendations from manufacturers on which foam to use and how much vary based on the blend you’re dealing with
  • Quick size-up:
    • How big is the spill?
    • Can you get more information from the vehicle’s placarding?
  • Don’t be hesitant to spend a bit more money on top-of-the-line foams – they work right away, so you don’t have to use as much of them
  • Chances are you’ll recoup some (if not all) of your expenses from the carrier’s insurance company
  • High-quality foams also have a long shelf life when stored properly
  • Have your thermal imager on hand as you approach incidents to make sure you’re not missing anything
  • Even though you can’t see the ethanol burning, everything around it will clearly be on fire – not like in the lab

25:15 Water and Ethanol

  • Ethanol is a polar solvent, which means it mixes well with gasoline and is miscible in water
  • As ethanol mixes with water, it takes a whole bunch of dilution before you reduce the flammability of the product – increased volume and surface area means bigger spills and more flammability
  • We need to be concerned about spills – ethanol can travel a really long distance due to its affinity for water
  • Also nearly impossible to remove ethanol from the surface of water since it’s already mixed in
  • Renewable Fuels Association diluted ethanol 1000 times and it was still flammable

30:00 Contacting Dan and Ed

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