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Lagging fires - Fires in insulation materials

If an insulation material is exposed to an oil or any other organic, a fire may under the right circumstances develop. Depending on the conditions the resulting fire may remain smouldering or develop into open flames.

When a porous insulation material is exposed to an organic chemical (e.g. due to a leakage in a pipe or a vessel), a self-heating process may start. Insulation thickness, volatility of the liquid and ambient temperature are some of the factors that affect if critical conditions are achieved, or not. If critical conditions are achieved, the heat production rate will be greater than the loss of heat i.e. the temperature will increase and a fire will eventually develop - a large danger in e.g. a chemical industry or an engine room of a ship. Statistics show that accidents do happen; in the 1980s lagging fires caused three explosions which injured 19 persons.

Isothermal calorimetry (microcalorimetry) is an effective method to compare self-heating propensities for different combinations of insulation and chemical compound(s). By the use of isothermal calorimetry it is possible to investigate different combinations (of insulation and chemical compound) and retrieve kinetic parameters. The parameters can be used to calculate critical parameters (e.g. insulation thickness) which will indicate if lagging fires should be expected if a leakage occur (e.g. in a pipe).

The aim of the project is to increase the industry's knowledge and to develop an easy-to-use method which can be used to determine if a lagging fire should be expected or not. This will contribute to a better work environment and a safer workplace.

The project is comprised of five work packages (WPs):
WP 1 - Collection of experience from the industry;
WP 2 - Isothermal calorimetry and determination of thermal conductivity;
WP 3 - Calculation of critical temperature/insulation thickness for pipe insulation;
WP 4 - Full scale tests with pipes; and
WP 5 - Dissemination.


Project name

Lagging fires



RISE role in project

Project coordinator and responsible for all WPs

Project start


3 år

Total budget

1 749 000


AFA Försäkring

Project members

External press

Supports the UN sustainability goals

9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure
Sixten Dahlbom

Contact person

Sixten Dahlbom


+46 10 516 55 50

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