Vehicle Barrier Protection Among New NFPA 58 Edition Updates

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) technical committee’s work was complete last January for the 2014 edition of NFPA 58, the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code. The NFPA 58 committee had finished the document, and the appeals process had begun. By April, the committee had acted on all of the changes from the appeals process and finalized the document. The 2014 edition of NFPA 58 was set for publication in early September.

Some of what you are about to read in this article regarding recent changes to the National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 58 won’t be too exciting. For example, the code no longer lists long, dry grass and weeds as combustible material that must not be allowed to accumulate or be stored within 10 feet of a propane container.

Although much of the information in the new 2014 edition of NFPA 58 doesn’t make fascinating reading, propane marketers should be aware of all the revisions.

The new edition, which NFPA released in early September, contains some more interesting changes. A new definition and accompanying requirements for vehicle barrier protection are important additions to the new document, Denise Beach, NFPA senior engineer, told BPN. The change addresses some enforcement inconsistencies. The previous edition of NFPA 58 stated that propane containers must be protected from vehicle impact, but did not provide any specific requirements or guidance on how to accomplish or enforce such protection. That led to jurisdictions interpreting the rule differently — some required concrete bolllards to protect the container, while others felt a high curb was acceptable. The new edition notes that various methods exist to provide protection for LP-gas installations from impact by motor vehicles and that the selected method “depends on local conditions with regard to the kinds of traffic that can be reasonably expected and the environment surrounding the location.” Some examples of that protection include guard rails, steel bollards, raised sidewalks, fencing, ditches, berms, jersey barriers, parking bumpers, and fencing/gates.

Many of the other changes implemented in the new edition of NFPA 58 are minor. “We make changes, but mostly they’re tweaks rather than major overhauls,” Beach noted.

That’s because NFPA 58 is a very mature document, one that’s been around a while. The association adopted the first edition of what the industry knows as NFPA 58 in 1940, when several standards were combined and adopted as NFPA 58. Some articles of the standard, especially in the area of minimum separation distances between tanks and exposures, have not changed since 1940. Beach added that none of the new or modified requirements in the 2014 edition are retroactive, meaning marketers do not have to upgrade their existing facilities to meet the current code.

Also of note is that farms have been added to Section 3.3.34. It now states that “Industrial plant includes all facilities that use gas on site, including plants, farms, engine fueling stations, schools, hotels, and other locations.” Adding farms to the section might seem like a minor change, but she pointed out that farms often use large propane storage tanks. Previously, each jurisdiction determined if a farm had to comply with requirements such as security requirements in chapter 6 of NFPA 58.

“By adding farms to this annex test, the committee is stating clearly their intent that a farm that has greater than 4000-gallon water capacity storage should be considered an industrial plant and should meet the requirements that industrial plants are required to meet,” Beach stated.
Cathodic protection of piping is another change in the new edition of NFPA 58 that she said will have an impact on new propane facilities being built. The standard now states that underground steel piping larger than 1-in. nominal ID must be protected by a cathodic protection system.  Previously, piping only had to be coated for protection against corrosion. Cathodic protection is optional for piping 1 inch and smaller. Beach noted the code update stems from a South Carolina incident in which pipe coating was damaged, the pipe leaked, and an explosion caused one fatality. The code has not changed for above-ground piping, which must be constructed of corrosion-resistant material or must be painted or otherwise protected.

The 2014 edition of NFPA 58 also addresses facility hoses permanently installed to unload product from cargo tank motor vehicles (CTMVs) in non-metered service into a bulk plant or industrial plant. The facility hose section in the new edition addresses a proposal that was the subject of some animated debate in 2012, with some marketers objecting that the proposal mandated the use of “smart hoses” (BPN, August 2012, p. 27).

NFPA addressed the issue by adding a definition for facility hose as “a hose…permanently installed for the purpose of unloading product from CTMVs in non-metered service into a bulk plant or industrial plant” and now states that “facility hose or the facility shall be equipped with an emergency discharge control system that will shut down the flow of LP-gas caused by complete separation of the facility hose within 20 seconds without the need for human intervention.” Beach pointed out that the new regulation mirrors the U.S. Department of Transportation regulations for hose installed on some cargo tank motor vehicles.

“The committee tried to make it as non-design specific as possible so there could be multiple solutions. It’s going to be up to each operator and authority having jurisdiction to come to an agreement as to what the solution is, whether ‘smart hose’ or other device.”
Automated cylinder exchange is a recent trend that involves a customer using a credit card to open the cylinder exchange cage and exchange his or her empty cylinder for a full one, rather than the store cashier opening the cage for the customer. The new system allows a customer to exchange a cylinder 24 hours a day, whether the store is open or not. Chapter 8 of the 2014 edition of NFPA 58 provides basic safety requirements for these automated cylinder exchange cabinets, including storage of cylinders in the upright position only, electrical classification requirements, and manually resetting the device after a malfunction.  

To purchase the 2014 edition of NFPA 58, the “Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code,” go to www.nfpa.org/catalog. The 2014 edition of the “NFPA 58 Handbook” will be available for purchase Dec 1, 2013. The handbook contains commentary explaining the origin, use of, and common interpretations of the code requirements, as well as photos and drawings of equipment covered by the code.     — Daryl Lubinsky