How to raise safety in hazardous Oil, Gas, and Chemical plants

The extensive use of Passive Fire Protection Systems

Oil, gas, and chemical producers as well as operators in midstream and onshore sectors of that supply chain, require high-performance and fire-resistant solutions that provide proven equipment protection in the most demanding ‘real world’ operating conditions.

Passive Fire Protections, both rigid and flexible, have become a permanent “must” in these industries, probably they induce by the lessons learned from past incidents such as Flixborough, Piper Alpha, DeepWater, Seveso, and BP Texas City disasters. These days these coatings are used largely used in the energy and petrochemical complex to protect safety-critical structures and equipment from the danger of hydrocarbon fires, explosions, and spills.

The difference between Active and Passive Fire Protection

A comprehensive fire protection plan for an Oil & Gas complex requires the implementation of both Active and Passive Fire Protection. While Passive Fire Protection is, as described above, a series of built-in fire resistant features, Active Fire Protection is essentially a collection of manual or automatic elements that need the intervention of operators. For example fire detection and alarms, sprinklers, and extinguishers (manual), gaseous suppression, door release mechanisms, dynamic fire shutters, etc.

The choice between active and passive systems, or a combination of the two, should not exist, in fact, as we know is exactly the combination of the two that make the plant safer than ever. You would need anyway to make a choice influenced by the likely size and type of fire you need to fight against, the duration of protection required, the equipment or structure requiring protection, water availability, and the time required for evacuation.

With Active protections, you are taking action to out a fire. Passive protections stop that fire from spreading. Their combined result means that people inside a building are alerted of a fire, safely containing that fire and allowing people to at least mitigate the fire and/or evacuate.

Resistance measurements for different kind of fires:

The insulating properties of a partition determine its ability to limit the spread of fire or to provide passive fire protection for structures or equipment.
Tests cover cellulosic fire, hydrocarbon pool fire, and jet fire. Similar tests apply for construction, marine, and oil & gas.

The fires most commonly considered are referred to in standards as cellulosic, i.e. at the level of intensity expected from the burning of wood, furnishings, etc.

Hydrocarbon fires from the burning of fuels are more intense than cellulosic fires and the temperatures rise more rapidly.

Jet fires are the most critical fire scenario. They occur when a hydrocarbon gas or liquid fuel is expelled from an orifice, e.g. a leak in a pipe, at high pressure, giving rise to high convective and radiative heat fluxes and high erosive forces.

General fire resistance testing

The heating regimes used to test fire protection materials designed for cellulosic and hydrocarbon pool fires are set out in BS 476-20 ‘Fire tests on building materials and structures. Method for determination of the fire resistance of elements of construction (general principles)’, and others (including UL 1709, Eurocode 1).

Always check the certification when looking for a passive fire protection system, especially for hazardous plants, i.e. offshore rigs, power plants, etc.

Depending on the application, several parameters need to be specified, including:

  • Duration of exposure to maintain stability and integrity.
  • Minimum duration of the insulation performance of the structure.
  • Maximum and average permitted temperature rise of the unexposed surface (during the duration required for insulation performance).

Passive Fire Protection products

The demands placed on passive fire protection have become larger in recent years, partly because of pressures to improve performances and partially to meet any specific customer needs.

Passive Fire Protection products that are installed around equipment to improve its fire safety include:

  • ProFlex
    ProFlex protects the main devices that control a plant with a flexible jacket fully designed and manufactured in Italy. The goal is to reduce drastically the risks arising from fire and blow-up.
  • ProBrid
    ProBrid is a hybrid solution combining a rigid and jacket-type protection case. It is applied when both rounded and critical equipment occur, so a simple box or blanket would not provide the optimal fire protection.
  • ProCab
    ProCab is a rigid fireproofing product that can be manufactured with AISI 304 or AISI 316L stainless steel, carbon steel or light alloy steel and thanks to Prometheus experience, can also be internally or externally covered by the ProFlex
  • ProBox
    ProBox is a traditional rigid fireproof product, which, thanks to continuous research, has developed into a product with high engineering content.


This robust, long-lasting coatings system will protect the customer’s offshore complex. The combination of Passive and Active Fire Protection offers exceptional fire protection ensuring a safer working environment and greater protection against hydrocarbon incidents.

Check out Prometheus Group Passive Fire Protection Solutions

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