Home Hot Wash THMG167 – Hot Wash: Leaking Batteries

THMG167 – Hot Wash: Leaking Batteries


In this hot wash episode, Bob and Mike discuss and analyze a listener-submitted leaking battery incident.

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Complete Show Notes

9:00 The Situation

  • Team had to travel a long distance to respond to a leaking battery call – spoke to energy storage systems expert Paul Rogers on the way
  • Happened in the overnight hours
  • There were no markings on the batteries, so the responders didn’t know specifically what they were dealing with

13:00 Arriving On Scene

  • Fire company was there, but there wasn’t much they could do at that point
  • Building manager told them several battery cells are overheating
  • Room was right near the entrance of the building and filled with batteries used to power phone systems
  • Taped pH paper to their arms so they could measure the level of acids and bases in the room – didn’t see any changes, which proved the reaction had concluded
  • Shot their thermal imaging camera (TIC) at the affected area, but everything was hot because they were in an electrical room

19:50 Mitigation and Removal

  • Started by using a ratchet to disconnect the metal bars to access the battery drawers
  • Tried to lift and pull the battery drawers out one by one, but they were too heavy
  • Room was at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit, so the five independent battery cells had melted together
  • Turned out to be an older lead-acid battery – this means it started cooling down as soon as it wasn’t receiving a charge anymore
  • Used their TIC to take a reading each time they disconnected a battery – helped them ensure the temperature was going down accordingly
  • Eventually had to use a halligan bar to chip the batteries apart, so they couldn’t purge them first
  • However, when one of the batteries eventually broke open, there wasn’t any sulfuric acid inside
  • Owner wanted to get as many years as possible out of the batteries, which meant there eventually wasn’t any lubrication left between them
  • This led to thermal runaway and leaking because the batteries all dried out and expanded against one another
  • Eventually extracted the batteries and took them out into the parking lot to cool off overnight
  • At that point, it was the building owner’s responsibility to dispose of the bad batteries

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