Ultra-high pressure technology with piercing precision

Published:  03 December, 2013

A delivery to Mojave Air and Space Port as well as a new product that delivers increased fire extinguishing capabilities – Ann-Marie knegt catches up with PyroLance president Bill Ballantyne.

Most fire professionals will be familiar with piercing lance and ultra high-pressure technology these days, since it is well known amongst firefighters for its suppression capabilities in compartment fires. However, the applications for this type of technology go much further than just structural and compartment fires, and Bill Ballantyne, president of Colorado-based company PyroLance, recently supplied a PyroLance and a PyroBlitz combination unit to the Mojave Air and Space Port in California (where Sir Richard Branson and other well known entrepreneurs are continuing ongoing work in deep space technology).

Bill explained that ultra-high pressure piercing technology was originally developed in Sweden, but that PyroLance had licensed the technology. ‘We decided to review the original design and have implemented a number of significant improvements. The technology for Mojave, for instance, is mounted on a petrol-powered skid and combines both a PyroBlitz, as well as a PyroLance.’

So what makes the PyroLance and PyroBlitz different from other products on the market?

The PyroLance features an ultra-high pressure (UHP) nozzle that delivers a water jet at 1,500 PSI (100 bar). It can penetrate  any material due to the integration of granite abrasive in the high-pressure stream of water. This facilitates an exterior attack through walls, roofs, fuselage and any type of barrier between crew and fire. The water jet with the abrasive can drill a 3mm hole, and it also has cutting capabilities. After the hole has been drilled, the PyroLance sprays ultra-high pressure water mist within the compartment. The mist consists of micro-droplets of water that spread on all surface areas, making this a more effective way to fight fire than with a conventional water attack line. The PyroLance can reduce temperatures in compartment fires from 750 oC to 100 oC within a minute. Due to the reduced droplet size, ultra high pressure increases the surface area for any given volume of water by 16-20 times, enabling it to absorb heat and extinguish fires very rapidly.

Building on conventional UHP technology, PyroLance has now developed the PyroBlitz, as Bill explained: ‘PyroBlitz offers firefighters increased extinguishing capabilities. It is a non-piercing ultra high-pressure attack line that provides a superior stream – but with low water consumption. This line can be used to deliver class A and B foam to the fire. PyroBlitz works as a dowsing system after the Pyrolance has done its job as a gas cooling system, so you can be sure that the fire is really out.’

Both PyroLance and PyroBlitz can be ordered as standalone units, however Bill has noticed that most of his clients expressed the most interest in combination units on a skid (which can be petrol, diesel powered or driven by a hydraulic PTO (power take off)).

The unit destined for Mojave is based on a design that PyroLance developed for the US Navy last year. ‘Over a year ago the USS Miami nuclear submarine had a fire onboard, and fire teams were not able to get to the seat of the fire with their previous firefighting equipment. After this incident, the Navy contacted me in need of a recommendation. Consequently we developed a diesel-powered skid unit with both the PyroBlitz and the PyroLance capability. It required an extra long hose (1,100 feet) because it had to reach into the bowels of the ship from the shore. An interesting fact about ultra high pressure is that extending the hose is really easy, and we were able to run 1,100 ft of hose with very little loss of pressure. The main design challenge was that we were previously using an eductor for the water additives as the foam system, but with a long hose an eductor was not going to work. I knew a little about foam proportioning systems because for over 17 years I had worked at FoamPro, a manufacturer of proportioning systems. Based on this knowledge we were able to develop a really small foam proportioning system – currently the only proportioner on the market in this range – that can handle the thick Class B concentrates such as Thunderstorm or National Gold.’

The Mojave unit 'borrowed' most of its technology from the equipment developed for the Navy, including features such as lift points on the skid, so that it can be transported by helicopter or lifted with a crane. The Navy wanted to be able to use it on shore was well as onboard its submarines (or any other vessel). Naturally, due to the variety of risks faced in military situations, there was a requirement for Class A and B foam capability, so the units come with a 200-gallon water tank, off board feed, as well as 30-gallon Class B and 10-gallon Class A foam tanks.

Mojave had initially become aware of the technology as a result of a significant US Air Force contract that Pyrolance signed several years ago (every US Air Force base all over the world has its own unit). ‘Mojave really appreciated the fact that Pyrolance could pierce through the more exotic materials, including composites, but still only leave a 3mm hole. When you open a composite aircraft with mechanical tools such as saws and drills a lot of damage can ensue. At least with a 3mm insertion the air or spacecraft is still airworthy without its fuselage structure being compromised.’

Markets are opening up for the manufacturer and due to a historical agreement which has now ended, the Pyrolance will now be sold in most parts of Europe by Dutch distributor Kenbri.

  • Operation Florian

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