Sustainable fire suppression
February 2013, Fire & Safety
For many years, Halon 1301 was the fire extinguishing agent of choice in a wide variety of applications and particularly those where it was important to minimise damage to valuable assets (eg, electrical and computer equipment, museum artifacts, ships’ engines, etc). However, in the 1980s, it started to become clear that Halon had enormous potential for harming the Earth’s ozone layer. It is also a high global warming product as well. As a result, the production of Halon was phased out in the early 1990s under the terms of the Montreal Protocol.
Also, for the first time, environmental regulators were direct participants as members of committees dealing with fire protection codes and standards development. In many parts of the world the use of Halon is now illegal except in very specialised, critical applications. A replacement had to be found, and this led to the development of hydrofluorocarbon agents (HFCs).
The global warming potential of Halon 1301 is an astonishing 7140 times that of CO2, the most common greenhouse gas, while that of the HFC most commonly used in fire protection is 3220 (2007 IPCC assessment for HFC-227ea). Further, the atmospheric lifetime of Halon 1301 is 65 years, and that of HFCs used in fire protection about 30 years. There is no doubt that, in environmental terms, HFCs were a step forward. So, with HFCs, the footprint on the environment is still substantial. The concerns about global warming and the high GWP of HFCs in fire protection create two big issues for those who are currently specifying or purchasing fire protection installations. The first is that most principled organisations have strong environmental policies and are unlikely to specify fire protection agents that have poor environmental credentials. Indeed, in countries where regulatory requirements are currently less stringent, such policies will likely be the biggest driving factor for the adoption of environmentally sustainable fire protection.
Fire protection fluid
The second issue, or risk, is that future bans or restrictions may mean that an HFC system installed today would need to be replaced long before it has reached the normal end of its useful life. The costs of carrying out this replacement work could be substantial. The shortcomings of HFCs led 3M to search for a fire protection agent with environmental characteristics superior to those of any agent previously available.
The result is the introduction of 3M Novec 1230 Fire Protection Fluid, which has been developed with the objective of providing a technology that offers a viable long-term solution for special hazards fire protection. In order to assess how well this objective has been met, start by looking at the environmental properties of Novec 1230 fluid.
Like HFCs, Novec 1230 fluid has zero ozone depletion potential, but its key differentiating attribute is its global warming potential of just 1, a dramatic reduction from 3220 for the most common HFC. In addition, Novec 1230 fluid’s atmospheric lifetime is only five days, in contrast to a period of about 30 years for HFCs.
SEVO Systems of Lenexa, Kansas, USA, was formed in 2001 to develop and commercialise this new technology that represented a major breakthrough in halon replacement technology. SEVO personnel worked closely with 3M during the critical early stages of proving the ability of Novec 1230 fluid to be a total flooding agent.
SEVO raised the bar by being the only company to offer 34,5 bar (500 psi) pre-engineered and engineered systems for use in conventional welded cylinders. More pressure allows retrofit of existing halon 1301 systems.
From left to right: Judah Padi; Yemi Fatunla; Deon van Zyl; Jon Flamm.
SEVO FORCE 500
The SEVO FORCE500 solution enables you to use existing piping and meet the requirements of industry standards and specifications by simply changing your cylinders and nozzles.
The FORCE500 System has now been proven to use less agent, when piping splits are required. The system uses smaller and fewer cylinders and it provides for more efficient and flexible pipe networks, overall reducing cost and increasing design flexibility. Novec 1230 fluid offers a very wide margin of safety and, therefore, can be used in staffed areas.
For most applications, it is typically used at a concentration of between 4,5% and 5,85%, but the no observed adverse effects (NOAL) level is 10%. Therefore, its safety margin is between 71% and 122% – the widest margin of safety of any viable chemical replacement for halon.
Unlike other extinguishing agents, Novec 1230 fluid is not stored as a pressurised gas but as a liquid, which instantly dissipates to form a gas when it is discharged from a properly designed system. Storage in liquid form has many benefits; Novec 1230 fluid can be easily transported in bulk – even air.
Further, refilling a system after discharge is much simpler than working with bulk pressurised gas supplies and much more convenient than sending the cylinders off site. SEVO Systems offers their SEVO CAPS Fill and Recharge Station to effectively transfer Novec 1230 fluid when refill is required.
Finally, cylinders containing Novec 1230 fluid occupy significantly less space than cylinders of CO2 or inert gas systems. With the SEVO FORCE500 System, smaller and fewer cylinders is usually the case. All of these benefits are particularly significant when the product is used in offshore applications. With less impact on the environment, favorable handling characteristics, and excellent extinguishing properties, Novec 1230 fluid is unmatched.
It is suitable for delivery by flooding, and its noncorrosive, non-conductive properties allow it to be used to protect sensitive equipment such as electrical sub-stations, electrical switchgear, telecommunications and computer room installations.
With environmental characteristics as desirable as this, the prospect of Novec 1230 fluid being restricted in use is negligible. Nevertheless, for specifiers who desire reassurance, 3M backs its technology with its unique Blue Sky Warranty. Under the terms of this warranty, if Novec 1230 fluid is banned from or restricted in use as a fire protection agent because of its ozone depletion or global warming potential, 3M will refund the price of the fluid. The warranty is valid for 20 years.
SEVO Systems distribution partner, Brigit Fire, Johannesburg; South Africa, now brings to its market the SEVO FORCE500 System using, exclusively, Novec 1230 fluid. Having a full range of clean agent fire suppression solutions, with SEVO Systems they can now provide sustainable systems, both from an environmental standpoint as well as for safety.
For more information contact Brigit Fire, +27 (0)87 754 5623, firstname.lastname@example.org