New system to fight oil tank fires draws water from the sea: SCDF

SCDF's Warrant Officer Ismarian Shahidy Mohamed Ishak (left) and Warrant Officer Muhammad Syafiq Abdul Gaffur coupling the 30cm hose to the 40,000 LPM Monitor during a demonstration in February. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - If a large-scale oil tank fire breaks out here, a new system which can draw water from the sea will help the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) tackle it.

Introduced in September 2022, the modular oil tank firefighting system can reach seawater as far as 2.5km from the fire.

The new system, which has yet to be used in an actual fire operation, can generate water flow of up to 100,000 litres a minute.

At this rate, it can fill an Olympic-size swimming pool in 25 minutes.

Previously, the system firefighters used to fight flames could generate a water flow of only 60,500 litres a minute.

This meant that it would take around 40 minutes – almost twice as long – to fill up the same pool, which is 50m long, 25m wide and 2m deep.

On the improved water flow, Colonel Mohamed Firoz Ramjan, commander of 1st SCDF Division, said: “This capability allows for rapid intervention and containment of a fire in an oil tank that could be as large as 112m in diameter.”

In February, SCDF presented the new modular oil tank firefighting system to the media. The showcase was done in the lead-up to Exercise Northstar XI, which will take place on March 22.

The national-level exercise, which will be held on Jurong Island, will showcase the Government’s capabilities to handle major crises and possible threat scenarios.

Colonel Firoz added: “The modular design of SCDF’s latest oil tank firefighting capability also provides more flexibility when it gets deployed, and allows us to overcome certain terrain constraints to ensure a large oil tank fire is contained and extinguished rapidly.”

Such constraints include slopes and uneven service roads that may be a hindrance to firefighting abilities.

SCDF said that the modular oil tank firefighting system is intended for use only during oil tank fires, which are likely to occur at chemical plants or at petrochemical companies with large oil tanks.

Such companies are often located near the Singapore Strait which is connected to the South China Sea, allowing the system to draw water from the sea.

The Modular Oil Tank Fire-fighting System is able to reach draw water from as far as 2.5km from the fire. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

An SCDF spokesman said the new monitors, which discharge the foam solution, can be deployed farther back from the fire, about 100m away, ensuring the safety of firefighters.

The foam solution acts as a blanket to cut off oxygen supply to a fire and extinguish it.

The spokesman added: “Previously, the monitors would be deployed about 50m or 60m from the fire. But the new system makes the firefighting operations much safer for our firefighters.”

Previous oil tank fires

April 20, 2016, Jurong Island

Smoke billowing from the fire at a facility owned by Jurong Aromatics Corporation on Jurong Island on April 20, 2016. PHOTO: ST FILE

More than 150 firefighters, five fire engines, three red rhinos, one ambulance and 29 support vehicles were involved in the operation at 23 Tembusu Road on Jurong Island.

SCDF’s large 6,000 GPM (gallons per minute) foam monitor was deployed to mitigate the fire, while several ground water monitors were used to cool down two adjacent oil tanks.

A member of the company emergency response team was taken to hospital for heat exhaustion.

The fire was put out after five hours.

March 20, 2018, Pulau Busing

A blaze involving an oil storage tank on Pulau Busing, off the south-western coast of Singapore, was extinguished after six hours.

The operation involved 128 personnel and 31 firefighting and support vehicles.

There were no reported casualties.

Two large 6,000 GPM foam monitors were deployed, and five unmanned water monitors were used to cool the adjacent tanks.

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