MINEARC TECH TOPIC: OXYGEN SYSTEMS
This MineARC Tech Topic explains the importance of multiple oxygen systems to a refuge chamber.
Oxygen is the most important gas for sustaining life. Our bodies are dependent on oxygen for survival; it is consumed by our bodies in order to produce energy.
Given that a refuge chamber is a sealed environment, it is vitally important to consider how oxygen levels inside a refuge chamber are managed. Oxygen levels of the “dead air space” will quickly be consumed and with no breathing supply occupants would quickly suffocate within a matter of a few hours. Monitoring and controlling the internal atmosphere as well as air treatment and multiple breathable air sources are therefore vital to refuge chamber occupants over the duration of entrapment.
Amongst other things, ‘breathable air’ or air supplied to a refuge chamber, should contain no less than 19.5% and no greater than 22% by volume of oxygen (AS/NZS 1715:2009).
For more information on Air Quality Standards, please view the MineARC Tech Topic: Breathable Air article.
The normal lower working limit for oxygen levels is 19%. At 18% a slight increase in breathing effort will occur. At 16% a flame lamp will go out, but still only a slight increase in breathing and heart rates would be noticeable and some cognitive impairment may occur. At 14%, impaired judgement and coordination are noticeable. However, as levels fall below 12%, cardiac damage and vomiting can occur. At 10% and below, a lapse into unconsciousness and death will occur.
On the contrary, oxygen levels higher than 23% presents a fire hazard. Though not itself flammable, oxygen promotes and accelerates combustion, so an oxygen rich environment increases the combustibility of materials and is undesirable in any environment, particularly a confined space. Handling oxygen supply equipment therefore requires care in ensuring that no grease or oil come into contact with the oxygen gas flow path.
To maintain a level of oxygen that is both safe to breathe and non-hazardous, it is necessary to replace the oxygen as it is being consumed.
The two standard sources of breathable air within a MineARC refuge chamber are incoming, filtered and regulated compressed air from an external source and oxygen cylinders. A recommended optional third source is an oxygen candle.
OXYGEN SUPPLY 1: COMPRESSED AIR
Compressed air is simply the atmospheric “air” from above ground being pushed through pipe lines down to the refuge chamber via a compressor. Before compressed air can be considered suitable for breathing, it needs to be filtered from airborne water particles, oil contaminants and pollutants such as carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons from diesel exhausts.
The flow rate of the compressed air in to the chamber is adjusted with a regulator and the compressed air required to sustain a breathable atmosphere within a chamber is calculated at 85L/m (3CFM) for the chamber and 85L/m (3CFM) per person thereafter.
OXYGEN SUPPLY 2: OXYGEN CYLINDERS
Oxygen cylinders reintroduce oxygen in to the refuge chamber at the rate it is being consumed. Compressed oxygen from a cylinder is released into the chamber through a regulator that controls the flow rate. Flow is set at the rate of occupant consumption.
Oxygen consumption rates vary from person to person and with activity. MineARC use 0.5 Litres per person per minute in calculations involving the consumption rate of oxygen in refuge chambers. This allows a safety margin and for variations in individual size and requirements of chamber occupants.
Using this rate of consumption, it is possible to work out oxygen requirements and how many oxygen cylinders are necessary to meet the total amount of oxygen required for an occupied refuge chamber. This is calculated as follows:
number of chamber occupants x rate of consumption x minutes in an hour x number of hours duration
The flow rate can be calculated as follows: number of occupants x flow rate
Consideration also needs to be given to whether the regulator used can handle the required flow rate.
In conjunction with oxygen cylinders, air scrubbing is utilised to chemically remove contaminants or undesired gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) and carbon monoxide (CO) produced in normal human metabolic processes, and filter the internal atmosphere.
For more information on MineARC’s Scrubbing Systems, please view the MineARC Tech Topic: Scrubbing Systems article.
MINEARC’S AUTOMATED OXYGEN DELIVERY SYSTEM
An option for MineARC Refuge Chambers is the Automated Oxygen Delivery System (AODS) which takes the guess work out of correctly maintaining oxygen levels in the refuge chamber. Once the system is activated, the AODS continuously measures the internal oxygen level and will disperse metered amounts of oxygen from a compressed oxygen cylinder, to maintain oxygen levels between 18.5% and 23% inside the refuge chamber. The system’s flow rate is limited to 15 Litres per minute, which is suitable for up to 30 persons.
OPTIONAL OXYGEN SUPPLY 3: OXYGEN CANDLE
For further information regarding MineARC’s Oxygen Systems and recommendations, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to speak to a MineARC representative.