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The right hydraulic fluid reduces fire risk in aluminium plants

Aluminium plants are at risk for the creation and spreading of fires throughout the workshop, and it is due to this reason that when hydraulic equipment is being used on the workshop floor, that the correct hydraulic fluid is used to reduce the fire risk.

As all businesses should be considering the safety of their employees as top of their priorities, making sure that elements within the business are safe needs to be done. Parts of an aluminium plant can rise to temperatures close to between 400 and 700, which can lead to an unexpected fire.

Hydraulic fluid used within these plants needs to be a fire-resistant fluid, which is why an oil-based hydraulic fluid is not always suitable for these operations. These fluids are distilled from crude oil and are not the safest choice as they have the tendency to catch fire easily.

When choosing the hydraulic oil for the plant, an analysis of the properties needs to be done. The first consideration is to determine the level of fire resistance (fire resistance and fire retardant are not the same thing). Almost all fire-resistant fluids will burn under certain conditions. The second consideration is that when changing fluid, the components of the systems also need to be taken into consideration – some of these components may need to be swapped to suit the fluid, which will bring with it cost implications.

The third consideration is the environmental impact of the hydraulic fluid, how it is sourced, whether it is biodegradable or if it has harmful chemicals that can be released on combustion.

When these three elements are considered, it is possible to find a balance to protect productivity and profitability while still avoiding risk. Always investigate what the properties of the oil, and how it will affect your business.

The safest oil to use is a polyester based oil, known as HFD-U. When changing over from mineral-oil-based fluids there are minimal changes that need to be made to the hydraulic system, and when compared to mineral-oil-based fluids the performance is similar while having a reduced impact on the environment.  

How to make an aluminium plant safer

There are different ideas around how to make an aluminium plant safe:

  • A factory could change its design of the hydraulic system to avoid any possible leakages around a hot surface. The company will be able to keep the same technology while making sure that hydraulic oil doesn’t burn.
  • The installation of a fire-extinguisher system to avoid changing the oil. However, this is quite costly, and not a suitable solution to protecting the lives of their employees. A fire-extinguisher system is a must have as a back-up, not a solution.