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The change to alternative foam technology (part 1)

  • 23 February 2021
  • Marcel Biervliet
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Evolution of fire safety

The evolution of fire safety is a continual process of change, in which people constantly learn as research and development goes on. In recent years, industries have been paying greater attention to achieving a more sustainable, safer and healthy working environment for their employees. Regulators globally are pushing organizations to give more consideration to the risks of manufacturing, processing and working with dangerous chemicals by regulating the use of specific compounds that are also used in fire safety gear and in firefighting foam agents. Rising awareness of health and safety has forced various industries across the world to change rapidly. The Oil & Gas, Petrochemical, Offshore, Aviation and Maritime industries are nowadays being confronted with stricter regulations relating to the use of these dangerous chemicals.

Why is the fire safety industry forced to change?

Scientific studies have shown that the exposure to specific chemicals can have a negative influence on humans and animals – one such chemical group is called PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). Their high persistence, bio accumulative and toxic behavior forms a health threat to people, the environment and our drinking water supplies and has been deemed as very dangerous by scientific research.

Going back to the mid-60’s industries have been using Firefighting Foam agents as a fire-extinguishing medium to extinguish flammable and combustible liquid called class B fires. The use of (AFFF, FFFP, FP) foam agents by the industry is now globally being reviewed and regulated, due to the inclusion of PFAS chemicals that can cause illness when exposed. As companies can now be held responsible for the use of PFAS containing foam agents, as they are included in AFFF, FFFP and FP products, alternatives had to be found.

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The cost of change – next generation fluorine free foam (fff)

As more and more PFAS chemicals are being regulated, foam manufacturers are reformulating foam agent technology including alternative raw materials as a substitute for PFAS chemicals.  Most commercially available FFF (Fluorine Free Foam) agents on the market today use an alternative technology based on polymers or polysaccharides.  As a result, fluid thickness, also known as foam viscosity by reformulating to FFF foam agents in comparison to AFFF, FFFP and FP foam agents.

Due to this change in foam characteristics and as the global Industry is transitioning to alternative FFF agents, the testing of onsite installed foam suppression systems and mobile equipment is of primary importance. However, this comes with challenges while trying to work out the proportioning (%) rate when using the next generation of foam agents.

Why testing is important

Alternative FFF foam agents can affect the behavior of (foam) pumps, proportioning systems, nozzles spraying area (k-factor) and other foam equipment, due to the increasing of foam viscosity (fluid thickness).

User organizations like LASTFIRE are undertaking extensive comparative studies and testing to define the exact landscape of how different types of fluorine free foams and C6 AFFF products perform. Because of behavior differences between conventional and next generation foam technologies, foam suppression systems will need to be revalidated as they may not work after switching to new generation foam agents.

Changing foam agents can therefore bring an additional costs for technical changes to the currently installed foam suppression systems. When changing foam agents for alternative FFF agents that have a different viscosity, it’s important to test the system, and conduct new hydraulic calculations if needed, to ensure that foam suppression systems will still be fully operational during a live event.

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How can knowsley sk help?

Equipment & current installation review

Knowsley SK site service engineers have many years’ experience of inspecting and maintaining current foam suppression installations. They have been closely monitoring the industry and the development of new foams and are very knowledgeable regarding the challenges presented using next generation foam agents during commissioning and testing of existing foam proportioner systems.

KSK are able to provide support in examining your current systems and making recommendations on how to best support next generation FFF products.

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FoamTronic electronic foam proportion system

New technologies

The FoamTronic electronic foam proportion system is not only able to work with an operational flow of 150 (lpm) to 150.000 (lpm) when using an 3% foam agent, but also is not subject to changing foam agent technologies. By using an 1% foam agent it will be able to provide an operational flow between 400 (lpm) and 450.000 (lpm.) The FoamTronic will therefore cover a wide range of scenarios and foam applications commonly seen in the Oil & Gas, Petrochemical and Offshore industries.

FoamTronic is capable of handling all types of foam concentrates including highly viscous, alcohol-resistant and fluorine-free foam agents. A constant proportioning rate across a wide operating range guarantees safe proportioning and efficient firefighting. Foamtronic allows operators to more than just minimize risks; it also facilitates a reduction of Total Cost of Ownership and enhances the performance of any new, or existing foam extinguishing system through the ability to recycle foam when testing.

More information about the foamtronic

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