Capital Equipment News

In a development that gives its mining customers a competitive and cost advantage, PDS specialist, Booyco Electronics, has added the latest fire suppression technologies to its stable, becoming a one-stop shop for the mining sector’s health and safety equipment needs, writes Munesu Shoko.

Getting the better of mining firesIt is no secret that the mining industry is under pressure. In the short term, rebounding commodity prices have offered some reprieve, but plenty challenges remain. Many existing mines are maturing, resulting in lower ore grades. This is exacerbated by the ever-increasing operational expenses, especially considering the rising energy costs and the longer haul distances from the face to the processing plants as ore grades continue to deplete.

Furthermore, at a time when mines are battling with increased fatalities due to the risks posed by unsafe mine faces, implementing safety systems is no longer about just meeting legislative requirements. It is for this reason that single source alliances when it comes to the procurement of safety technologies – where one established supplier services all the health and safety needs from proximity detection systems (PDS) to fire detection and suppression systems on trackless mobile machines (TMMs) – are more critical than ever.

With that in mind, Booyco Electronics has added the DAFO range of vehicle fire protection and the FirePro line of aerosol-based extinguishing systems to its stable. Speaking to Capital Equipment News, MD Anton Lourens says effective fire detection and suppression systems are becoming a pressing issue for mines, especially on the back of new SANS 1911 standard set to be introduced by SABS. Leveraging its prominence in the local PDS industry, validated by the recent landmark 5 000th installation since 2006, Booyco is one of the first few suppliers to market with fire suppression technologies that already meet the new SANS 1911 standard.

Lourens says that SABS resolved to adopt SPCR 183 and SPCR 199 standards with its associated rigorous testing methods as established by the Research Institute of Sweden (RISE). “Systems with proven compliance to these standards are issued with the renowned “P” Mark and by extension all systems installed onto TMMs should be required to have “P” mark certification in adherence to SANS 1911.”

“Dafo Forrex is one of only six systems that has achieved the “P” Mark and we would recommend that all end users consider only these systems as they have been tested under 11 real scenario fire conditions and were able to effectively extinguish fires,” he says.

Non-compliant systems should not be considered as they may have been tested against much more lenient standards and have not been proven to be effective at combatting realistic fires. Lourens says that it is even advisable to consider replacing these non-compliant systems with approved Dafo Forrex systems as human life should not be trifled with.

First to market

The introduction of the DAFO and FirePro systems sets Booyco Electronics as one of the pacesetters in offering the latest fire suppression technologies that already meet the soon-to-be adopted standards. Booyco Electronics entered into a preferred distributor agreement with Advanced Automation Systems (AAS), the exclusive supplier of DAFO’s vehicle fire protection systems and FirePro’s fire suppression systems late last year. “We signed a preferred supplier agreement with AAS during the third quarter of 2017. Offering fire suppression systems was a natural extension for our business and adds value to our existing customer base in the mining and related industries,” says Lourens.

It was only after an intensive due diligence that Booyco Electronics made the decision to enter into the distribution agreement. “We wanted to associate ourselves with high quality products, considering we have already built a strong reputation for ourselves in the mining industry. We opted for the DAFO and FirePro products mainly due to their reputation in the fire suppression space. They offer the very latest technologies that meet the up-to-date industry standards. We are convinced that the products are among the very best fire suppression technologies available in the market right now,” adds Lourens.

Product range

DAFO is a renowned name in the fire suppression industry. The Swedish-based manufacturer of fire suppression technologies has sold more than 100 000 systems to leading original equipment manufacturers such as Volvo Construction Equipment, Atlas Copco, Caterpillar, Scania, Sandvik, Komatsu, MAN and John Deere, among many others. 

The DAFO system can be deployed on load-haul dumpers, utility vehicles and other underground mining machines, as well as surface mining gear such as face shovels and haulers. It is also ideally suited for conveyors and other materials handling pieces of equipment.

Fires in these vehicles often take hold very quickly and are hard to extinguish with a handheld extinguisher. A correctly dimensioned vehicle suppression system offers fast, effective protection that limits the consequences of the fire.  DAFO’s wet chemical based system is engineered to restrain the chemical reaction of the fire, while effectively cooling the hot surface before creating a thick layer of foam to avert further re-ignition.

Lourens explains that this is an important step forward from existing dry chemical powder-based fire suppression systems, which either extinguish by suffocation or by chemical inhibition, but still don’t address the issue of cooling, which is very important if the fire is to be completely extinguished with no room for a possible re-ignition. “The wet chemical fire suppression systems work effectively because the liquid spray hits a burning surface and quickly reacts to produce foam that cools the surface to prevent re-igniting of the fire,” explains Lourens.

With installations across over 110 countries, FirePro Systems is a leading global provider of condensed aerosol fire extinguishing technology. Parallel to conventional ways, FirePro aerosol puts out fire by restraining the chemical chain reactions present in combustion on a molecular level, removing the flame-free radicals and extinguishing fire without depleting oxygen. The aerosol is stored as a solid substance with no form of pressure, giving it a prolonged life span with no maintenance requirements whatsoever. The FirePro products are also non-corrosive, non-conductive, non-toxic and environmentally friendly.

“These systems can therefore protect enclosures of any volumetric size, from less than a cubic metre to thousands of cubic metres. This makes them suitable for a varied range of equipment such as motor control centres, electrical panels, substations, mini-substations, e-houses and electrical mining skids,” explains Lourens.

Key advantages

According to Lourens, Booyco Electronics’ decision to extend its product offering with fire detection and suppression systems is strategic in a number of ways. As a supplier of PDS technology to the mining industry for many years, Booyco Electronics understands the impact that safety products installed on a piece of equipment have on each other. “We have had incidents in the past where fire suppression service providers mistakenly tampered with our PDS systems when they are doing maintenance on their technologies. The same could have happened on our side as these systems are somehow linked to the same machine interface,” explains Lourens.

He adds that it makes sense for customers to deal with a single supplier that is responsible and accountable for both the safety systems on a piece of equipment. “Having a direct and accountable individual servicing both PDS and fire technologies is a great value add for our customers from an uptime and cost saving point of view,” says Lourens.

From a personnel point of view, Booyco Electronics has already employed a group of staff that specifically looks after the fire suppression systems, initially just to assist with installations. All the regional staff have undergone intensive training on the systems to be able to demonstrate the benefits to existing customers. However, the intent is to get existing PDS technicians to be able to support the new product as well. 

From a product perspective, Lourens says powder-based systems have their limitations. One of the downsides of this system is that due to machine vibration, the powder solidifies, and in case of a fire, it might not be in the right state to effectively put out a fire. “Another disadvantage is that once the machine has been extinguished using a powder-based system, it is out of service for a couple of days due to maintenance and cleaning requirements. With the wet system, there is no such maintenance required because there is no solidification and the machine can be up and running in a very short space of time,” says Lourens.

Slow uptake

Booyco Electronics has already supplied a couple of units to the mining industry, and the focus is initially on South Africa before rolling out into neighbouring countries. Lourens says there has been a slow uptake of the new fire suppression systems. “It’s mainly because it’s early days for us and it is not an area that we are well-known for,” he says.

Lourens adds that many of Booyco’s existing customers already have systems in place, and current opportunity to offer its fire suppression technology is only when customers buy a new machine. He is of the view that several customers may only migrate to wet chemical fire suppression technologies once their existing systems have reached the end of their lifecycles. “Typically the lifespan of a fire suppression system is 2-3 years. As operations get to a point where they need to replace, it will be the best time to convert to a system that conforms to the new standards,” says Lourens.

He adds that the migration from a powder-based system will also allow customers to have a system that has a 10-year lifecycle before it needs to be replaced, which is a significant improvement on the 2-3-year cycle on conventional systems.

As a result of the new standard, Lourens believes that the market will soon be flooded by new entrants, but like in the PDS industry, he cautions that it’s important to deal with a reputable supplier that can offer a proven product that is well supported for effective technical and bottom line performance. “Traditionally there has been only two or three significant players in this industry. However, with new standards we have already seen a couple of new entrants. For us, our objective is to get about 30% of the market share in the next three to four years,” concludes Lourens.

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