The storage of hydrocarbons, such as crude oil, naphtha and diesel, always implies the risk of fire or explosion. However small this risk may be, French oil pipeline and Storage Company Société du Pipeline Sud Européen (SPSE) decided not to take any risk and implemented an innovative fire detection system on its tank storage site in the south of France. Monitoring a total area of 160 hectares, the chosen solution is EXAVISION NEMOSYS FIRE, combining field-proven and original thermographic cameras plus VIGISENS FIRE analysis software specifically adapted to the customer’s request in the field to detect fire in the early stages.

SPSE is the owner and operator of the South European Pipeline, a crude oil pipeline system which runs from Fos-sur-Mer in France to Karlsruhe in Germany. The company also handles a maritime terminal in Fos-sur-Mer which is made up of 40 tanks having a total capacity of 2.26 million cubic meters.

Cost-effective detection solution

Before opting for their thermal-based fire detection system, SPSE first explored other options. They looked into the possibility of deploying a linear heat detection system on the tank roofs, which is able to detect a fire anywhere along the length of the cable.

“We experimented with this linear cable system on one of the forty tanks on our site,” explains Thibaud Berardi SPSE Project Manager. “Although this type of detection worked fine, we quickly realized that such a system would be way too expensive. From a cost standpoint, this would not have been a durable solution.”

Thermal fire detection

In 2019, SPSE was contacted by Exavision, a French manufacturer of high-end vision and sensor-based systems for industrial, defence and security applications. Among many other solutions, Exavision is the manufacturer of NEMOSYS Fire, a fire detection camera system for use in pipeline monitoring, that makes use of thermal thermal cameras.

NEMOSYS Fire is a pan-tilt camera system that is able to detect the outbreak of fire in an early stage by continuously scanning a vast area in 360° mode. The system uses thermal cameras to measure the temperature of each pixel in the camera’s field of view and generates an alert when a certain temperature threshold is exceeded.

“We organized a demo of the NEMOSYS system on the Fos-sur-Mer site, and we were immediately able to convince SPSE of the system’s performance,” says Mr. Cedric Perez, Information Processing Technical Manager at Exavision. “

3 camera systems for 434 acres

Three NEMOSYS Fire systems, installed on 30-meter poles, now scan the entire 434 acres site on a 24/7 basis. Two systems cover 13 tanks and one covers 14 tanks. The entire installation is set up to make sure that each tank roof on the site is automatically scanned every three minutes during 12 seconds.

SPSE personnel can now monitor the entire site from a single location via Exavision’s proprietary VIGISENSTM FIRE automatic monitoring software, which was developed with the help of FLIR’s Atlas software development toolkit. If a fire occurs, the VIGISENS software clearly shows the hotspots on the thermal video streams and immediately alerts personnel by visual and sound alarms in the software, but also by phone or text message.

In addition, VIGISENS constantly registers temperature measurements and recognizes trends, which allows SPSE to predict when a fire will occur. In case of an anomalous temperature increase between consecutive PTZ cycles, SPSE personnel will be alerted, so they can react appropriately and prevent worse from happening.

“Instead of installing detection cables on each tank, we now have a cost-effective fire detection system that allows us to scan the entire area with just three cameras,” says Thibaud Berardi.

The SPSE team can monitor the entire site in one overview and from one location. They can select the regions of interest on the roof tanks they need to monitor, and they are immediately notified in case of a temperature increase in that region of interest. SPSE can also control the camera movements, so they can use them to better manage incidents.

“At first, we were a bit worried about the long distances our fire detection system needed to cover,” says Thibaud Berardi. “Also, being close to the see, we often need to cope with strong winds, which might impact the camera performance. Luckily, none of these concerns were necessary. The system from Exavision has proven to be very robust and efficient, even in harsh environmental conditions.”