Paul Boughton talks to 3M’s Bart Goeman about a next generation fire protection fluid.
In March 2014, the European Parliament voted to support a European Commission proposal for a multifaceted strategy aimed at minimising the climate impact of HFCs. The strategy includes cutting the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) 79% below average 2009-2012 CO2 equivalent levels by 2030. Under the regulations, HFC producers/importers will be allocated a production/import quota for HFCs.
Because the quota will be in CO2 equivalent and HFCs sold into fire suppression have some of the highest global warming potentials (GWPs) relative to other sectors, this framework does not favour HFCs sold into fire suppression. Thus they are likely to be more severely impacted than HFCs sold into other sectors. HFC-227ea, HFC-125 and HFC-236fa are targeted in the overall scope of the regulation.
HFC-23 will be prohibited from being placed on the market after January 1, 2016. Therefore, practical implications of the new ruling affect not just emission levels, but also the production and importation of HFCs.
A primary tenet of the F-gas Regulation is that every pound of an HFC produced or imported for use in the EU will ultimately be emitted; so, in order to reduce future emissions, the regulation needs to reduce the use of HFCs. Future reductions in the emissions of HFCs will predominantly be achieved by ramping down use of these potent greenhouse gases between 2015 and 2030 with a phase-down in production and import.
3M Novec 1230 Fire Protection Fluid is a next-generation HFC and halon replacement, designed to balance concerns for safety, performance and the environment. It has zero ozonedepletion potential, an atmospheric lifetime of just five days and a global warming potential of less than one. It is non-conductive, non-corrosive and quickly becomes a gas when discharged from a properly designed system. It is ideal for protecting sensitive components and other critical assets. Novec 1230 fluid leaves no residue and does not.
Bart Goeman has been Business Development Manager for 3M Novec 1230 Fire Protection Fluid for the EMEA region since 2003. Novec 1230 Fire Protection Fluid is designed to balance concerns for human safety, performance and the environment. 3M warrants, for a period of 20 years after original installation and subject to noted requirements, that 3M Novec 1230 Fire Protection Fluid, installed in an approved fire suppression system, will not be restricted for use in fire protection.
International Oil & Gas Engineer: What is the main impact of the EU Regulation on the fire suppression market?
Bart Goeman: While the legislation covers all use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) - which are found in a wide variety of applications, such as refrigeration and air conditioning - it does have direct implications on the use of HFCs in fire suppression systems, since these have some of the highest global warming potentials (GPWs) when compared to other HFC uses.
GWPs are a calculation of how powerful a greenhouse gas is over a specific time scale, when compared to carbon dioxide (CO2). The global warming potential (GWP) of HFC-227ea – which is commonly used in fire suppression systems - is 3350. This means it is 3350 times more potent than CO2 in its climate impact. HFCs used in fire suppression have a higher GWP than those HFCs used in other applications. Given that many of the fire suppression systems in situ today use HFCs as the extinguishing element of the systems, this is clearly something that needs to be better understood. Before looking at practical options and alternatives for purchasers, users and specifiers of fire suppression systems, let me quickly expand on the details of the legislation itself.
HFC-227ea, HFC-125, and HFC-236fa are impacted in the overall scope of the Regulation, which becomes effective January 2015. The ban on HFC-23 is effective January 2016. Of course, proponents of HFCs could claim that HFCs have low emissions in fire suppression because they are non-emissive until a system discharge occurs. However, the reality is that the F-gas Regulation is about reducing emissions by controlling the use, the production and importation of HFCs.
This becomes clear when looking at the implications of the HFC cap and phase down, part of which will include allocating HFC producers a production or import quota (whichever is applicable). These quotas are based on CO2 equivalent in relation to Global Warming Potential (GWP) and therein lies the challenge, because HFCs used in fire suppression have relatively high GWPs. For example, an HFC producer would consume the same percentage of a quota by making either one ton of HFC-227ea, three tons of HFC-245fa, or five tons of HFC-32. Question therefore is, what effect will this have on the price of HFCs with a high global warming consuming a large portion of the allocated quota
IOGE: How difficult will the transition away from HFCs be for the offshore oil industry?
Bart Goeman: In theory, it should not be difficult as the hardware for a system using HFC-227ea is very similar to a system using Novec 1230 fluid.
IOGE: What are the advantages of Novec 1230 fluid to those wanting to move to an environmentally sustainable alternative to hydrofluorocarbons?
Bart Goeman: Novec 1230 fluid is an environmentally sustainable agent which is not part of the Montreal, Kyoto, F-Gas or any other international regulation, current or in the future due to the fact that it has zero Ozone Depletion, an atmospheric lifetime of 5-7 days and a global warming less than 1. To ensure the market that its environmental properties are solid, 3M issues a 20-year warranty.
IOGE: How long has 3M been developing the Novec 1230 Fire Protection Fluid?
Bart Goeman: Novec 1230 fluid application was patented in 2000. First systems using Novec 1230 fluid obtained LPCB approval in 2002. Since then, several equipment manufacturers have their systems approved and certified by internationally recognised bodies (LPCB, UL, FM, VdS, etc) and can be sold worldwide.
IOGE: Fire suppression systems can easily be used for 20 or more years. How viable is Novec 1230 as long-term, sustainable technology for special hazards fire protection?
Bart Goeman: The environmental properties have been tested by the University of Cambridge and Kyoto as well by other independent, internationally recognised bodies. The outcome from all these studies confirmed that it has zero Ozone Depletion, an atmospheric lifetime of 5-7 days and a global warming less than 1. These properties make it a long-term, sustainable technology.
IOGE: Does Novec 1230 fluid have any ozone depletion impact? Does it have any effect on stratospheric ozone?
Bart Goeman: None, otherwise it would already have been phased out under the Montreal Protocol that deals with substances influencing the Ozone layer
IOGE:The level of extinguishing agents needed to extinguish a fire can be harmful or even lethal to humans. Are there any health and safety implications for Novec 1230?
Bart Goeman: Novec 1230 fluid itself has the largest safety margin of any commercial agent. The design (use) concentration is far below its NOAEL or ‘no-observed-adverse-effect-level’ which is an important part of the non-clinical risk assessment. In other words, the chances that anybody is exposed to a value close to or over the NOAEL does not exist if the system is designed and installed according to the standard. Other agents currently used could exceed their respective NOAELs much more frequently as their safety margins are significantly smaller.
IOGE: Sensitive equipment can be easily damaged or destroyed by fire. How quickly can Novec 1230 suppress a fire?
Bart Goeman: A system using Novec 1230 fluid designed according international standards must discharge within 10 seconds and extinguish any fire in that enclosure within 30 seconds.
IOGE: 3M offers a 20-year ‘Blue Sky Warranty’ on the Novec 1230 Fire Protection Fluid. What are the main benefits of this guarantee to users?
Bart Goeman: The 3M Blue Sky Warranty offers peace of mind to our global customers including those regions directly impacted the by the F-gas Regulation. Specifically, the Blue Sky Warranty offers: 3M warrants, for a period of 20 years after original installation and subject to noted requirements, that 3M Novec 1230 Fire Protection Fluid, installed in an approved fire suppression system, will not be restricted for use in fire protection due to its Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP) or Global Warming Potential (GWP) and is not targeted for phase-down by the Montreal Protocol, nor subject to the European F-gas regulations targeting the phase-down of production and import of HFCs into Europe; and will not be affected by US. EPA SNAP regulations which would render it either unacceptable or acceptable subject to narrow use limits.