Storage Tank - Thermal Image Chronograph

July 29, 2013
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This case study provides a chronological review of several thermal anomalies discovered within a customer’s storage tank that was being used to house soy beans. The first signs of a problem within the storage tank were found when thermal imaging of the north side of the tank revealed an uncharacteristic hot spot (Figure 1). The bean line can be seen just above the hot spot.

NOTE: Each image has been adjusted to provide the best contrast for visual representation of issues being observed. Temperature scales will vary for this reason.

Figure 1:  Thermal images of north side of tank. Both images show the same spot from different angles.
Figure 1: Thermal images of north side of tank. Both images show the same spot from different angles.

Time Context

Discovery: Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Correction: Saturday, July 30, 2011

Summary of Action

The images in Figure 1 prompted the need for additional thermal imaging within the tank. Images taken from removed air vents on the north side were the first images captured within the storage tank and revealed temperatures in excess of 300°F in the roof support system (Figure 2). These elevated temperatures indicated a fire in the tank, and not only was this a risk for the stored product, but a risk for the entire plant, as the sudden ignition of the accumulated bean dust had the potential to cause the storage tank to explode.

Figure 2:  Thermal images of storage tank interior.
Figure 2: Thermal images of storage tank interior.

Two spots indicating a thermal anomaly were identified on the beans, but later could not be located (Figure 3).

Figure 3:  Thermal anomaly in beans.
Figure 3: Thermal anomaly in beans.

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