Advanced Fire Protection of Mining Vehicles

Fire protection of heavy-duty mobile equipment is nowadays a crucial element for sustainable mining.

In the mining industry, safety has always been a crucial issue - not least when it comes to fire. Therefore, it is not at all surprising that Dafo, with 100 years of industry experience, is investing heavily in fire safety of the mining industry.

The Swedish-owned family company Dafo is today regarded as one of the Nordic region's largest suppliers of fire protection and rescue equipment. A year ago, Dafo separated its vehicle fire protection operations from its other fire protection operations to the new company Dafo Vehicle Fire Protection. Dafo Vehicle Fire Protection offers a complete range of fire detection and fire suppression systems for vehicles - from simple solutions to tailor-made systems for heavy vehicles, buses, forestry machines, port cargo handling equipment, mining, and construction machinery.

Johan Balstad, Vice President, sees fire protection as a crucial element for sustainable mining:

- Fires in vehicles often have a very intense development and are difficult to extinguish with a portable fire extinguisher. With the right dimensioned automatic fire suppression system, you get quick and effective protection that limits the consequences of a fire and gives vital time to evacuate - which can be extra important in a mine. Fire protection in heavy vehicles such as mining machines places high demands on both equipment and durability.

- The vehicles really get to operate in the toughest of environments, not least because of dust, the vibrations, and the extreme temperatures they are exposed to. Therefore, we offer high-tech customized solutions with associated service agreements. This is also why we continuously invest a great deal in the development of our products and systems, explains Johan Balstad.

Fire safety important part of operators’ sustainability work
The complexity is so extensive that Dafo Vehicle Fire Protection's experts are also involved and assist in the design and planning of the vehicles of the manufacturer, to create well-integrated and efficient solutions. From the industry side, fire safety is often seen as a crucial issue and an important part of the sustainability work.

- First of all, you want to eliminate or minimize the risk of personal injury - that is the most important factor and where fire protection is central, Johan Balstad says and continues:

- At the same time, you also want to avoid downtime due to fires or other types of accidents, which in a mining environment can be problematic, costly, and time-consuming to rectify. Therefore, it becomes extra important that the systems and equipment work as intended.

Transition to alternative vehicles and fuels – new challenges
Dafo Vehicle's experience, competence, and know-how have largely contributed to the entry into market after market, and today there are customers all over the world. This of course places great demands on the company's organization, but also on continued development work of both systems and products:

- Right now, development is particularly important as we are facing a significant transition in terms of machine fuel. There is extensive electrification in the mining industry as well, and it places new demands on the fire protection equipment to some extent. A battery that catches fire through thermal runaway is not the same as the more traditional fires in diesel or gasoline-powered vehicles. Here we are placing a lot of focus right now, says Johan Balstad.

Fire protection system for electric and hybrid vehicles
Dafo Vehicle has launched a fire protection system for electric and hybrid vehicles that is activated before a fire in a battery occurs. The fire protection solution has been developed for buses but will also be available for other heavy electric vehicles.

Low, or non-existent emissions, cost-efficient operation, and reduced noise levels are some of the major advantages of hybrid and electric vehicles today but the disadvantages of the technology, when something goes wrong, are less known. Fires in lithium-ion batteries of electric vehicles usually have rapid progress and are very difficult to extinguish.

- We have followed the vehicle development closely and seen an increased need for fire protection as more electrified vehicles are being introduced to the market. Dafo Vehicle was concerned early on regarding the potential fire risks and dangers this technology would bring, which meant that we also started looking at solutions to meet the development, says Anders Gulliksson, Technical Manager, Dafo Vehicle.

Dafo Vehicle is today alone in the market to offer a complete fire protection system for electric and hybrid vehicles. The patented and award-winning suppression system was developed through the EU-funded research project Li-IonFire and initially aimed at electrified buses in public transport.

- Our system is an advanced fire suppression system with a fire prevention part integrated into the system. This means that the system can detect any temperature changes in the lithium-ion battery at an early stage and cool it down before reaching the critical "thermal runaway" state, which can result in the battery starting to burn and a fully developed fire occurs, continues Gulliksson.

High risk of toxic emissions
Anders Gulliksson explains that today there are no successful methods to extinguish a battery that has already caught fire and entered the thermal runaway stage, after an overcharge or vehicle collision. If the battery starts to burn, the highly toxic gas emits hydrogen fluoride (HF), which can cause serious damage to both the skin and the respiratory tract.

- In the long term, our suppression system can be used for various electric vehicles and areas, such as heavy-duty mobile equipment vehicles in the mining industry and ports. The main reason for this is partly to do with the high safety requirements in the industry, but also that our fire protection minimizes the risks of costly downtime that a fire can entail, says Johan Balstad.

Li-IonFire™ will significantly boost the safety of operators, the protection of valuable assets, and allow safe evacuation of drivers.

The new Li-IonFire™ fire protection system will detect potential battery failure, at the earliest possible stage and take immediate action by spot cooling, using the suppression agent Forrex EV™. This will effectively stop, or delay, a potentially hazardous situation without the fire developing further.