Thermal cameras from FLIR Infrared Cameras & Thermal Imaging have
been installed at a bulk coal terminal at the Amsterdam port to provide timely
detection of self-combustion hazards.
Self-combustion is a serious concern during storage or loading of large
amounts of coal. Dutch bulk terminal company OBA decided to install FLIR
thermal imaging cameras at their coal storage and handling terminal to help monitor
coal temperatures that signal potential self-combustion hazards before they have
a chance to erupt.
One of the leading dry bulk terminal companies in the ARA region (Amsterdam,
Rotterdam, Antwerp), OBA operates from two terminals in the port of Amsterdam,
transferring and loading several commodities including coal, agricultural bulk
goods, minerals, and biomass goods. Given that the storage and handling of coal
amounted to roughly 80 percent of OBA’s business, consisting of round-the-clock
shipments to various European destinations, the company opted for FLIR thermal
cameras to safeguard their investment.
Self-combustion takes place when coal is exposed to oxygen, raising its
temperature and leading to sudden ignition. Dick Meijer, Planner at OBA
explains that self-combustion of coal is a constant concern at the terminal.
Prevention methods include using an excavator or wheel loader to dig out and
spread the suspected area and have dedicated combustion fighting equipment that
allows them to compact the area and release the oxygen out of the coal stack.
Response time is a critical factor since coal combustion will not only amount
to high expenses from energy and stock loss, but can also have safety and
According to Dick Meijer, OBA sought a solution to monitor the
temperature of their coal stock before being loaded onto the barges. They found
thermal imaging to be the perfect technology for the purpose and decided to
invest in their own thermal imaging cameras from FLIR Systems in 2013 to ensure
all the coal leaving their site was safe to be transported. This was in
addition to the weekly inspections being conducted by an external agency.
Thermal imaging cameras can monitor entire areas of the coal stack at
the terminal. When the coal is on the conveyor belt, thermal imaging cameras can
read the entire coal mass temperature, not just the coal surface, enabling OBA
staff to take immediate and appropriate action when a threat is perceived.
Additionally, several EU countries require the temperature of a coal load
to be below 60°C before, during, and directly after the loading process. For
instance, every load of coal that leaves the Amsterdam terminal for Germany needs
to be backed with a valid temperature monitoring certificate. Thermal imaging
allows OBA to meet these regulatory requirements more easily.
The OBA terminal is now equipped with three rugged FLIR A310f cameras,
each positioned on a tower with a wide view overlooking several conveyor belts
that deliver the coal to barges. By positioning the thermal imaging cameras as
close to the barges as possible, OBA can visualise the entire conveyor belt
stretch (up to 900m) and monitor the coal temperatures up to the last second
before loading, helping prevent the risk of a combustion incident onboard.
To allow trouble-free operation in the harsh environment of the port,
OBA selected the FLIR A310f high-speed camera in an environmental housing,
which increases the camera’s environmental specification to IP66, without
affecting any of the camera features.
The thermal video images are sent over IP to a central control room
where they are continuously monitored using a proprietary software system.
In addition to the FLIR A310f camera, OBA has also installed a FLIR E6
handheld thermal imaging camera, which is used with a temperature probe to
inspect large piles of coal at the terminal. While the probe measures pinpoint temperature,
the E6 and A310f infrared cameras display temperature patterns and provide
measurements for a larger area.