Danger Will Robinson - refrigerants that explode????
Hi all, thanks for reading and any info you could share with me about this.
One of our Pacific Coast Albacore boats sank last month, the story was all over the news. They experienced an explosion in the engine room that blew a big hole into their hull. The captain, his wife and 2 cats were rescued by fellow fishermen who worked in the same area.
Diesel engines do not explode like this, so the current theory on what happened is that some of the newer blends of refrigerants can contain propane. And since propane is heavier than air, a minor leak could have accumulated in the engine room waiting for the right moment to explode.... Is this true? If so, which refrigerants should we look out for?
If you suspect this as a source of the explosion, first you should identify which refrigerants were in use. Your shipwright should be able to supply this information, along with documents from any subcontractors used to repair or maintain the processing equipment.
Depending on the time frame, you may be able to access reports from the coast guard, NTSB, etc, particularly if the ship came to rest on the continental shelf, making the wreck accessible.
[Avatar photo from a Florida training accident. Everyone walked away.]
2 Tim 3:16-17
RSES CMS, HVAC Electrical Specialist
AOP Forum Rules:
I don't know the owner of the boat.
Originally Posted by timebuilder
I don't know the owner of the boat, and have no idea what refrigerant he used. None the less, I'm getting ready to put a freezer system on my boat, maybe by next year - and I DON'T want this to happen to me.... My current refer runs on 134a - I think this stuff is pretty safe, but then again, I have not a clue what's in that either.
I don't think the boat ended up on the shelf, the tuna grounds are usually a little further out than that. But I will check with the USCG to see what they found out.
I just thought there might be refrigerants known to you guys that contain propane or other flammables.
Thanks for the reply.
There are a couple of refrigerants that use what amounts to a trace of hydrocarbons (propane, butane or isobutane) as an aid to oil return.
These were primarily what are known as interim retrofit refrigerants, intended as a stop-gap between CFC (R-12 and R-502) and the newer HFC refrigerants (404a, 134a and others)
There is NO hydrocarbon component to 134a as that is a single component refrigerants (the ASHRAE number tells me that) R400 and R500 series blends are mixtures.
http://www.honeywell.com/sites/docs/...fdc1e6517d.pdf R402a (HP-80) MSDS. Has 2% propane in it.
Another thing to consider is that Propane itself can be and sometimes IS used as a refrigerant. It is a very good refrigerant except for that unfortunate habit it has of exploding when mixed in the correct proportions with oxygen. Many retrofit refrigerants are on the market that are essentially nothing more than propane. These are typically marketed to the DIY homeowner who wants to save a couple of bucks and has no qualms of possibly blowing their home up.
That seems a more likely explanation to me. Someone (tech? captain? captain's buddy? who knows?) decided that this refrigerant was cheaper and a better option, filled her up and the worst happens.
For your future plans of installing new equipment, I wouldn't worry at all about explosive refrigerants. The new HFC blends have no need for hydrocarbon oil return agents (except at extremely low temperatures approaching -80C) so regardless of what refrigerant you choose, you're going to be safe.
OK, so what I just heard is that they used something called "Super Freeze" - never heard of.....
Originally Posted by jpsmith1cm
Anyways, thank you very much for your replies. When you're making a living on a boat, there's too many things that can go wrong already, we don't need another explosion hazard.
Have an excellent day,
Mike ~ ~ ~ <*)(((((<><
Originally Posted by cptmike
Super freeze is now "Frosty Cool"
As far a flammability..not really sure..lets see what they say:
What are FrostyCool Refrigerants?
FrostyCool Refrigerants are a proprietary blend of ultra high efficient hydrocarbons that are replacements for many types of chemical refrigerants. FrostyCool refrigerants are manufactured from the purest, naturally occurring hydrocarbons available.
Are FrostyCool Refrigerants flammable?
FrostyCool Refrigerants are flammable, and must be handled accordingly. Practically all lubricants, additives, and oils used in the engine of a car are flammable. Hair spray, deoderant, aerosol propellants, and many other household products are flammable as well. All must be handled and utilized (or installed) using safe practices while following instructions.