Lithium ion battery technology, which first appeared in the 1970s, has been continuously improved to extend their life. Energy storage systems (ESS) can be found in wind farms and solar farms, industrial sites with renewable energy production, or near a RTE (Réseau de Transport d'Electricité). Despite the numerous tests carried out on lithium batteries, battery fires occur in industrial buildings. These events must lead to the improvement of industrial safety. Focus on the first actions to be taken in case of a battery fire.
First actions to take in case of a lithium ion battery fire
The first actions to be implemented before the arrival of the fire department are organized according to the principles of protection, warning, rescue and intervention.
- If possible, cut off the electrical and gas supply to reduce the risks associated with the domino effect;
- If possible and without exposing yourself, extract the battery outside at the beginning of the fire;
- If possible and without exposing yourself, move away from any particular fuel likely to feed and spread the fire or constituting a risk of domino effect (pressurized capacity, toxic product, ...);
- Evacuate the room and close the doors to avoid any propagation;
- When outside or in a large area, establish a safety perimeter, taking care to protect yourself from smoke
Alert the fire department (112) and the site's internal intervention teams (ESI, EPI, etc.).
Rescue and intervention
- Bring to safety any persons injured or intoxicated by the release of smoke, and give them first aid.
- Act on the fire according to the means at disposal and at least with important water flows by prioritizing the protection actions in order to avoid any propagation, the extinction itself being complicated and requiring a certain experience
- The extinction can only be achieved by immersing or drowning the battery for several tens of minutes or even several hours with large volumes of water.
Firefighting and chemical hazard actions by the fire department
The primary missions of firefighters are as follows.
- Rescue teams must deal with the prevention and control of all personnel subject to exposure to fumes. They must also provide for the evacuation of injured persons by emergency vehicles.
- Continued cooling of the affected lithium ion battery.
- The handling of the burnt lithium ion battery by a forklift truck and its immersion in a sealed container.
- Mechanical ventilation of the premises for smoke extraction.
If necessary, they can readjust the security perimeter. They will have to carry out measurements of the chemicals in the environment:
- HF (highly toxic hydrogen fluoride);
- CO (carbon monoxide).
The pH of the extinguishing water and the immersion tank should also be measured.
Risk management of battery fires by Gesip
One of Gesip's missions is to support industrialists in establishing and applying regulations. In this respect, Gesip writes technical guides including an intervention guide for the management of risks induced by energy storage systems. Gesip also sets up adapted training courses, in particular a virtual classroom training course : Welcoming natural gas powered trucks on industrial sites (ENGNV1) - Virtual class (gesip.com). Finally, our experts offer the creation of customized trainingFor example, on the management of lithium ion battery fires in electric cars.
Although this lithium battery technology has been extensively tested, the risk of fire cannot be ruled out. The nature of the materials in the battery electrolyte can cause the battery to heat up during use. The batteries LCO (lithium cobalt oxide) and NCA (nickel cobalt aluminum) batteries are the most at risk, with a chemical energy release of 470°C per minute.
Thermal runaway of a lithium ion battery can occur in a warehouse where batteries for electric vehicles are manufactured. The risk of fire is high in this type of warehouse, where many batteries are stored. The risk of propagation to neighboring batteries is the most important risk.
Also read: Industrial fire, the risks of battery fires