The origins of intelligent Visual Flame Detection stem from the North Sea and the unwanted alarms generated by traditional optical flame detectors (UV, IR, UV/IR and IR3). Unwanted alarms could be generated from multiple sources, such as hot process and process flare reflections.
BP first encountered the flare reflection problem in the early 1980’s on the top deck of a gas processing area that had a flare some 50m directly above. The initial solution used a UV background subtraction system and although in principle this was a good idea, in practice it was prone to errors and unwanted alarms. BP then started to use heat detection via pressurised tubes as optical fire detection systems had proved unreliable for this environment. To speed up the response time Infra-Red (IR) cameras were installed covering the process areas so that alarms could be visually "confirmed" in the control room with the minimum of delay. This was the first time BP used Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) for fire detection purposes.
In the early 1990’s research was conducted on the management of major incidents offshore. One of the findings was that F&G detection systems were not giving a sufficiently high quality of information about the hazards. ln response, BP funded research to establish if CCTV could be developed as an automatic fire detection system. The outcome of the study was that although such systems could be built, the technology was not yet sufficiently advanced for commercial development or reliable operation.
In the mid 1990’s BP began to use more open designs for its sites, including Floating Production Storage and Off-loading (FPSO) vessels. When UK oil activities spread to the Atlantic waters west of the Shetland Islands the use of FPSOs became important. The compact, single-level nature of the process plant and the additional problem of insufficient firewater capacity to deluge all process fire areas simultaneously meant better flame detector performance was needed than could be reasonably achieved with existing technologies. BP then chose to explore the CCTV approach once more.
By the mid 1990’s components for a CCTV fire detection system were cheap enough to develop a system. This coupled, with our track record in developing fire detection algorithms gave BP confidence to award Micropack a fixed price contract for a system.
The system was comprised of 3 basic components, the camera/detection element, the control panel and the user interface, all connected by a RS485 network. The detector was classed as “intelligent” because all of the fire detection algorithms were contained within the field device, the FDS101. The system detected fires of 10 kW RHO in less than 10 seconds.
The FDS101 were first used on a producing FPSO in July 98 with a flare burning for most of the time. Intelligent visual flame detection had proven itself.