The Evolution of NFPA 87

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is a global nonprofit organization, established in 1896, that is devoted to eliminating death, injury, property, and economic loss due to fire, electrical, and related hazards.

The NFPA publishes more than 300 consensus codes and standards intended to minimize the possibility and the effects of fire and other risks. NFPA codes and standards, administered by more than 250 Technical Committees comprised of approximately 8,000 volunteers, are adopted and used throughout the world.

In 2006, the Technical Committee on Ovens and Furnaces, which was responsible for drafting NFPA 86 (Standard for Ovens and Furnaces) together with fire safety professionals from the community of fluid heater users and manufacturers, began working on developing a recommended practice for process heaters.

Codes like NFPA 85 (Boiler and Combustion Systems Hazards Code) and NFPA 86 (Standard for Ovens and Furnaces) sidelined addressing process heaters directly. The former specifically excluded process heaters used in chemical and petroleum applications. Although NFPA 86, did not specifically exclude process heaters, its technical committee recommended the development of a new document that recognizes process heaters as being different from ovens and furnaces.

By 2011, the first edition of NFPA 87 – the Standard for Fluid Heaters – was ready for publication.  The new standard incorporated many safety recommendations that were specified in NFPA 85 and NFPA 86, especially those related to hazards associated with the combustion of gaseous and liquid fluids. New recommendations in the standard addressed unique hazards associated with the combustible fluids heated in process heaters.

In the 2015 edition of NFPA 87, the committee addressed burner management systems (BMS) and its associated combustion safeguards in more detail. It also added details concerning different types of process heaters.

The latest edition of NFPA 87 (2018) transformed it from recommended practice to an actual standard. It added new definitions and addressed different types of process heaters in a more comprehensive manner. The material has been reorganized and new provisions have been made to better suit the needs of the process heating industry.

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