Fire Fighting Pumping Systems At Industrial Facilities

Fire Fighting Pumping Systems At Industrial Facilities

by Dennis P. Nolan

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Written from the perspective of industrial users, this is the only book that describes how to install an effective firewater pumping system in a pragmatic and budget-conscious way rather than with purely the regulatory framework in mind. Based on the wide-ranging industrial experience of the author, this book is also the only one that deals with the particular

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Written from the perspective of industrial users, this is the only book that describes how to install an effective firewater pumping system in a pragmatic and budget-conscious way rather than with purely the regulatory framework in mind. Based on the wide-ranging industrial experience of the author, this book is also the only one that deals with the particular risks and requirements of off-shore facilities. This book takes the reader beyond the prescriptive requirements of the fire code (NFPA, UL) and considers how to make the best choice of design for the budget available as well as how to ensure the other components of the pumping system and supporting services are optimized.

The only alternative to guides written by regulatory enforcement bodies, this book is uniquely practical and objective – demonstrating how and why the standards need to be met
Covers a wide range of industries, including those with exceptional requirements such as off-shore petroleum facilities and chemical plants
Written by someone who has been responsible for the safety of large numbers of workers and billions of dollars worth of equipment, for those in similarly responsible positions

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Elsevier Science
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By Dennis P. Nolan

Gulf Professional Publishing

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4377-4472-9

Chapter One



A pump is a device that utilizes energy to raise, transport or compress fluids and gases. The term pump is used for liquid handling devices, whereas a compressor is used when the pressure of a gas is increased. The term "fire engine" was classically referred to any device that was used to extinguish fires. Current English language linguistics refer to a fire engine as a mobile fire apparatus (i.e., pumper), while firewater pumping systems are commonly referred to when fixed installations are involved.

Pumping devices have been in use for thousands of years and applied to a variety of uses. Most of the technological improvements made in water pumping systems have occurred within the last 100 years. The version of the pump that is commonly employed today for firewater service is the centrifugal pump, which was invented during the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s and is now almost universally adopted. Prior to this, reciprocating or rotary water pumps were used which were operated by hand, wind, or steam power.


The first type of "pump" was probably used by the ancient Egyptians sometime around 2,000 BC. They used waterwheels with buckets to provide for agricultural irrigation. In the third century BC, Ctesibius of Alexandria invented a water pump for fire extinguishment. Apparently, Alexandria had some type of hand-operated fire engine, similar to those used in Europe and America in the eighteenth century. Subsequently, at around 200 BC, the Greeks invented a reciprocating pump.

In the first century BC, Heron of Alexandria was credited with producing an improved type of reciprocating fire pump based on the pump invented by Ctesibius. This pump was essentially a suction lift pump, but modified to a cylinder force pump. The pump had two pistons, each within its own cylinder that had a foot valve. The pistons were connected by a rocker arm that pivoted on a center post. The cylinders were supplied with water through a foot valve located at the bottom of the cylinder. By lifting and forcing the pistons down with the rocker arm, water was lifted and force was applied so that it could be "pushed" out of a nozzle connected to the top of the cylinder. The nozzle was mounted so that it could pivot and swivel in any direction. This allowed for water application on a nearby fire incident (see Figure 1-1). Piston pumps were also reportedly used as flame throwers which Greek ships used as weapons, which probably used a petroleum-based liquid that was ignited. Pliny (23-79 AD) also mentions the use of "fire engines" in ancient Rome for fire-fighting purposes.

With the fall of the Roman Empire, large cities disappeared in the West and therefore the simultaneous destruction of a large number of buildings by large fires did not occur. The development of a fire pump was therefore not in demand. When larger cities again appeared in the Middle Ages, the destruction of cities by conflagration resumed. It was not until the end of the fifteenth century that the reciprocating fire pump was re-invented. The rapid industrialization of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the ensuing, frequent conflagrations of large cities, saw the development of many types and applications of pumps and water distribution systems specifically for fire-fighting.


The reciprocating water pump remained in service until late in the Industrial Revolution. The main reason for this was the lack of a high power source. Most industrial energy sources at that time were of approximately 7.5 kilowatts (10 horsepower) or less capacity (i.e. windmills, waterwheels, animal and human efforts, etc.). Without a sufficient power source to rapidly move water supplies, only limited capacities could be achieved.

The fire pump of this time was commonly mounted on a cart or carriage and brought to the scene of a fire by a team of horses. A tub or reservoir of water was provided on the carriage at the base of the pump. This reservoir was filled by means of a bucket brigade by the local populace. Later, with the provision of street water mains, fire engines connected directly to fire hydrants. This type of mobile fire pump was used and improved upon until the late 1800s. When steam power was developed, it was applied to drive the reciprocating firewater pump in lieu of men.

Reciprocating hand pumps for supplying water to extinguish fires (or to pump bilge water/wash the decks) were also an essential part of the fittings available to late eighteenth-century English ships (i.e. c. 1772). The first fireboats in the United States appeared in 1800 for New York City. They used a hand-operated pump and were imported from England at a cost of, at the time, $4,000 each.

The first fire engine made in America was built for the city of Boston. It was made in 1654 by Joseph Jencks, an iron maker of Lynn, Massachusetts, and was operated by relays of men using handles. The production of this fire engine was the result of a disastrous fire suffered by the city in January 1653. By 1715, Boston had six fire companies with engines of English manufacture. The steam-pump fire engine was actually introduced in London in 1829 by John Ericsson and John Braithwait. It was in use in many large cities by the 1850s. Most steam pumpers were equipped with reciprocating piston pumps, although a few rotary pumps were also used. Some were self-propelled, but most used horses for propulsion, conserving the steam pressure for the pump. The first practical fire engine in America was the "Uncle Joe Ross", invented by Alexander Bonner Latta. It was constructed in 1852 in Cincinnati, Ohio. It weighed approximately four tons and required four horses to pull it, and used its own power. It could provide up to six streams ofwater. A single streamhada 4.4 cm (1 ¾ inch) diameter, and it had a reach of 73 meters (240 ft.). The first steam fire engine in America was actually designed and built in 1841 by Paul R. Hodge. It was 4.3 meters (14 ft) long and weighed 7257 kgs (eight tons). Because of its weight and the sparks produced from its stack, it was later abandoned. A steam fire engine used by the New York Fire Department remained in service as late as 1932.


An early centrifugal type rotary pump was made in the early seventeenth century. It could pump water about nine meters (30 ft). A more effective rotary pump was made by a Frenchman named Dietz in the late nineteenth century. A pump similar to Dietz's was shown at the London Great Exhibition of 1851 and received wide acclaim.


The true centrifugal pump was not developed until late in the 1600s. Denis Papin (1647-c. 1712), a French physicist and inventor, produced a centrifugal pump with straight vanes. In 1851, John G. Appold, a British engineer and inventor, introduced a curved-vane centrifugal pump. Finally, another British engineer, Osborne Reynolds (1842-1912), built the first turbine or centrifugal pump in 1875. Reynolds is more famous for his study of fluid dynamics, having the "Reynolds Number" named after him in relation to his studies on turbulence in water flow analysis.

In general, modern centrifugal water pumps operate at speeds much higher (e.g. 1800 or 3600 rpm) than were typically obtainable before the advent of steam or internal combustion engines and electrical motors. Therefore, centrifugal pumps were not technologically feasible or commercially viable before these devices were invented and readily available.


Initially, the first industrial firewater pumps were of the wheel and crank reciprocating model that were driven by mill machinery, powered by a waterwheel or windmill. This arrangement was not very practical, because if the mill waterwheel or windmill stopped, the fire pump would also stop. The English engineer, Thomas Savery (c. 1650-1715), patented the steam pump in 1698 after Denis Papin developed a first crude model in 1690. These first steam-driven pumps were initially applied to remove water from coal mines in England, but were later adapted to a wide variety of uses including as firewater pumps for municipal and industrial applications.

The first steam engine in America was imported from England in 1753. It was used to pump water from a copper mine in New Jersey. In 1795, the first practical steam engine was manufactured in America by Oliver Evans of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He later improved on it in 1799 with a high-pressure steam engine. It was particularly suited to the needs of the "colonial" industries of the time. Steam generation soon replaced or supplemented waterwheels or harnessed animals as an industrial power source.

Up until the late 1800s, almost all industrial firewater pumping systems were supplied with reciprocating steam-driven water pumps. The reciprocating steam engine dominated power generation for stationary and transportation services for more than a century, until the development of the steam turbine and the internal combustion engine. These engines were of heavy cast iron construction, and had a relatively low piston speed (600 to 1,200 ft/m) and low turning speeds (50 to 500 r/min), but were available with capacities of up to 18,642 kilowatts (25,000 hp).

With the development and provision of automatic fire sprinklers, requiring a more reliable water source, rotary pumps that were connected to the waterwheel of the mill were used. When steam supplies were provided at these locations, it replaced the water drive for the pumps and the reciprocating steam pump came in to use. As a result, the "Underwriters duplex", a double acting, direct steam-driven pump was universally provided as the standard fire pump for industry. As the name implies, these pumps were endorsed by the insurance carriers of the time and therefore were quite popular with industrial users.

When practical, large capacity, electrical motors and internal combustion engines became available in the early 1900s, the centrifugal pump came into full industrial use. Internal combustion engines or motors were readily applied as the driver of centrifugal firewater pumps due to their high speed of rotation and ease of installation.

Today, the centrifugal firewater pump is considered the most practical type of pump. It has the compactness, reliability, low maintenance, hydraulic characteristics and flexibility that have made earlier pump types obsolete for firewater use. Centrifugal firewater pumps are routinely specified for the protection of industrial facilities worldwide. They are found in both onshore and offshore facilities and may even be located underground.


Ancient civilizations generally used water buckets or large "syringes" to carry water from rivers or wells to a fire. When no readily available source was available, they probably did what firemen in London did in the early fourteenth century—they dug a hole in the street and waited for it to fill with ground water.

In 1562, the first municipal pumping waterworks was completed in London, England. A waterwheel pumped river water to a reservoir about 37 m (about 120 ft) above the level of the River Thames. Water was then distributed by gravity from the reservoir through lead pipes to buildings in the vicinity. By the late 1700s, steam engines pumped water in most European cities. The first water pumping plant to supply water for municipal purposes in the Americas was installed in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 1755. The water was pumped into a water tower through wooden pipes made from hemlock logs.


Excerpted from FIRE FIGHTING PUMPING SYSTEMS AT INDUSTRIAL FACILITIES by Dennis P. Nolan Copyright © 2011 by Elsevier Inc. . Excerpted by permission of Gulf Professional Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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