Asbestos removal technique increases protection, reduces costs

Published by rudy Date posted on April 2, 2009

Australia – Working collaboratively with Deakin University, Alcoa’s Anglesea power station in Australia has developed a technique that increases the protection and comfort of people working to remove asbestos in the facility while also reducing costs and accelerating the rate of removal by almost 90%.

Removal of asbestos from industrial and domestic applications requires great care to prevent loose asbestos fibers from entering the environment and creating risk to human health.  This typically requires people removing asbestos to be outfitted in sealed suits and equipped with a filtered air supply.  Given the confined nature of many industrial locations, this can be hot and uncomfortable work and can slow the pace at which asbestos can be removed and replaced with safer alternative insulation materials.

Anglesea was built in 1969 when asbestos was commonly used as a primary insulating material in boilers and ductwork.  Approximately 15% of the asbestos was removed in various areas of the plant by 2001, but the removal process required the areas be shut down. This “offline” technique prolonged the time required to complete the work and proved to be extremely expensive due to outage costs and interference with essential maintenance operations during the shutdown periods.

Early techniques to contain and remove the asbestos during the continuation of normal operations required suited crews to work within bubbles of plastic sheeting with negative air.  This early “online” technique did little to prevent the working environment from becoming uncomfortably hot.  In addition, heat build-up in the enclosed work area weakened the plastic bubble film so only low-temperature sections or very small high-temperature areas of the plant could be addressed at any one time.

Anglesea worked with Deakin University to review the process and conduct research on thermal modeling and risk assessment.  The team developed a technique to supply chilled air to the work bubble and use water-cooled reflective suits for removal crews.

Following a monitoring trial for heat stress, the technique became the standard method for asbestos removal at Anglesea.  Benefits include: – Ability to remove asbestos in areas with metal-surface temperatures of 160 to 230 degrees Celsius (320 to 446 degrees Fahrenheit), an accomplishment not previously possible.

– Reduction in the internal plastic sheeting bubble temperature from 60 to 30 degrees Celsius (140 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit). Less heat strain and lower asbestos contamination inside the bubble.

– Greater productivity due to greater comfort of work crews. Reduced costs due to elimination of need to remove asbestos during shutdowns only.

– Faster, more efficient method of removing asbestos.  Using the new technique, Anglesea will remove the remaining asbestos in three years versus the estimated 25 years required under the old offline method.

In 2004, Anglesea received an Alcoa EHS Achievement Award for its work
in asbestos removal. –

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