Understand the Risks of Composite Intermediate Bulk Containers | AIChE

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Understand the Risks of Composite Intermediate Bulk Containers

Fluids and Solids Handling

This article is based on a presentation given at the AIChE 2018 Spring Meeting and 14th Global Congress on Process Safety (Orlando, FL; Apr. 22–25, 2018).

Although composite intermediate bulk containers (CIBCs) provide ease of storage and transport, they pose a unique fire hazard that is often overlooked.


Figure 1. The typical CIBC consists of a blow-molded polyethylene bottle inside a wire cage or sheet-metal enclosure.

Composite intermediate bulk containers (CIBCs) have become a popular option for the transportation and storage of combustible liquids. The typical CIBC consists of a blow-molded polyethylene bottle that is placed inside a wire cage or sheet-metal enclosure (Figure 1). These containers are manufactured in sizes ranging from 119 gal (450 L) to 793 gal (3,000 L); the most common size is 1 m3 (275 gal; 1,000 L).

The widespread popularity of this type of container is attributed to the significant storage and handling efficiencies it provides. Because a single 275-gal CIBC has the same footprint as a pallet that contains four 55-gal drums, it reduces warehouse storage and transportation space requirements by 25%. CIBCs also provide filling and dispensing efficiency — one action can accomplish the transfer of up to 275 gal, whereas multiple operations must be carried out to accommodate five 55-gal drums.

Using CIBCs for the storage of combustible liquids introduces significant fire risks. To help readers understand these risks, this article describes several large-loss fires involving CIBCs.

The National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 30, “Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code,” serves as the foundation for flammable and combustible liquid regulation in the U.S. New requirements to manage CIBC fire risks have been established in NFPA 30 (2018), including the requirement that containers be listed and labeled (i.e., they must meet either the UL 2368 or FM 6020 standards) when they are used to store Class II and IIIA liquids. This article presents simple flowcharts based on NFPA 30 (2018) that identify allowable CIBC storage configurations.

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