Thermal fluid based heat transfer is a specialist area, which means that new system engineers may have limited understanding of system operations. However, it is important for safety and compliance that engineers know when thermal fluid should be tested and analysed. Here, Clive Jones, managing director of thermal fluid specialist Global Heat Transfer discusses the importance of having trained engineers sampling and managing heat transfer fluids.
To qualify as a stunts person in the UK requires a high skill level across at least six categories: fighting, riding and driving, agility and strength, falling and water. The official training programme takes a minimum of three years, but once fully qualified a stunts person can work on a variety of film sets performing dangerous feats considerably more safely than someone without their years of expertise.
Similarly, in the specialist area of thermal heat transfer fluid, training on the safe handling and sampling of fluids is essential to minimise risks as well as improve regulatory compliance, particularly when operating a new, unknown system.
A detailed understanding of thermal fluids covers several bases including regulatory understanding and knowledge of degradation processes such as oxidation and cracking, as these require monitoring. Thermal cracking is the process by which large oil molecules break down into smaller molecules to form solid coke deposits. Oxidation is the reaction of heat transfer fluids with air to form organic acids, if these acids undergo free radical polymerisation this can increase the fluid viscosity and lead to deposits. Understanding these processes will help identify when fluid maintenance or fluid replacement is needed.
It is important for engineers to understand when a sample should be taken and when a system should be serviced, as well as hazard analysis, critical control points and additional regulations for food. If a system is not maintained correctly, the heat transfer fluid will not operate at maximum performance and unpredictability increases. Planned maintenance greatly reduces the risk of unscheduled downtime.
Educated and trained engineers who understand both the safety and insurance of heat transfer systems are a huge boon to a plant operator. To help achieve this scenario, Global Heat Transfer’s Thermocare package includes specialist technical training for non heat-transfer thermal fluid specialists such as health and safety personnel and operations managers. This delivers benefits across the business, as well in plant management; a clear understanding of the system minimises health and safety risks and maximises business performance for instance.
However, as well as specialists, any engineer involved in heat transfer systems and thermal fluid condition monitoring requires an understanding of why taking hot, live samples is best practice. Only a live sample can give a true picture of the state of a system and it is important that the sample reflects the operational condition of the fluid; a non representative sample can result in drawing incorrect conclusions on the state of the fluid and any associated risks. The most common impact of incorrect sampling is that the open and closed flash point temperatures are affected.
Ensuring engineers are equipped with a solid understanding of the regulations, requirements and warning signs of fluid degradation ensures compliance and safety – Just like leaping from one building to another and taking part in a high-speed car chase, thermal fluid management is best handled by the experts.