The Victaulic Vortex™ hybrid fire suppression system has found success in protecting delicate electronic data centers. Now the company has found a far more rigorous application – protecting pickling lines at steel mills.
Scott Bailey, marketing communications leader for Victaulic, described the pickling lines as highly volatile.
Pickling tanks are constructed of polypropylene plastic and in some occurrences, “They burn from the inside,” he said. “So we’re putting the Victaulic Vortex emitters inside these lines to control the burst of flame.”
Pickling is a manufacturing process in which corrosives such as hydrochloric acid are used to remove impurities on the surface of carbon steel and other metals. The metal passes through a series of acid tanks and rinse tanks known as a pickling line.
The Victaulic Vortex hybrid fire suppression system combines an inert gas, nitrogen, mixed with ultra-fine droplets of water mist. The inert gas lowers the ambient oxygen level while the water mist cools the flame temperature.
“Although we conform to NFPA 750 covering water mist systems, that’s not really what it is,” Bailey said. “It’s a hybrid system.”
Combining the two extinguishment mechanisms means that Victaulic Vortex uses only an eighth of the amount of water that a regular mist system does, making it ideal for data center protection, Bailey said.
“The water is atomized and the real beauty of this is that the water is enough to provide the cooling effect but not enough to create excessive wetting.”
Rather than a traditional sprinkler head, the system uses a device known as an emitter which mixes the nitrogen and water. Bailey said. “It creates this suspension that hangs in the room like a fog. It takes the oxygen level down to a level that extinguishes the fire but not so low as to endanger human life.”
Victaulic uses its laboratory to demonstrate how safe it is to use the Victaulic Vortex system around electronics.
“We bring in customers all the time to show them,” Bailey said. “The computers are up and running when we fire it off. And no one can believe it. They take pictures with their camera phones. The magic is really seeing it work.”
On the market nearly seven years, Victaulic Vortex is gearing up to hunt bigger game, he said. One target for expansion with this product is the power generation market – a market Victaulic has worked with for many years.
“With FM 5580 Victaulic Vortex is also approved for the protection of machine spaces such as turbine enclosures,” Bailey said.
Applying hybrid fire suppression to pickling lines involved developing a plastic version of the standard metal Vortex emitter.
“The pickling lines areas are a corrosive, caustic environment,” Bailey said. “So we’ve rolled out a new line of emitters designed for industrial applications as well as data centers and clean rooms.”
As a new technology, Underwriters Laboratories or Factory Mutual have not fully developed test standards addressing all hazards to be protected by hybrid fire suppression systems, Bailey said. Actual demonstrations conducted at the headquarters’ laboratory have become an important sales tool.
“Often it takes AHJ (authority having jurisdiction) involvement to get the system approved,” he said. “We’ve brought a lot of AHJs back to our offices to demonstrate the system. And if the AHJ wants to dictate those tests, we can run them right there.”
Victaulic is the originator and leading producer of mechanical pipe joining solutions and grooved pipe joining systems, pioneering many new lines of automatic sprinklers and groovedend control valves. The company introduced its FireLock fire protection fittings line in the 1980s, offering a lighter, more compact fire protection solution that offered the same flow as traditional products.
Another Victaulic product enjoying a re-launch is the FireLock Fire-Pac, a pre-assembled fire protection valve with trim and optional components enclosed in a metal cabinet.
Available in 1½-inch through 8-inch sizes, the Fire-Pac can incorporate any of the following valve configurations:
• Dry – actuated and/or accelerated
• Deluge – wet pilot, dry pilot and electric actuation
• Preaction – non-interlock, single interlock and doubleinterlock
• Preaction – auto-convert preaction to dry.
“We’ve rolled out a whole new line of features and benefits,” Bailey said. “We’ve insulated it and sealed it so it is now good for outdoor use as long as the temperature doesn’t drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. You don’t have to worry about building a vault specifically for your device. You can put one of these down wherever you need it.”
The height of the Fire-Pac has been shortened so that it fits easily through standard doorways. Water piping can be fed into it from the left, right or below.
“We’ve hard-piped all of our drain piping,” Bailey said. “We used to use a drain cup like any standard device, but we hard piped all that to remove any concern about spillage or leakage.”
Victaulic, with more than 60-years of experience in the fire protection business, is celebrating its 95th anniversary as a company this year.
“Victaulic is a combination of the words ‘victory’ and hydraulics,” Bailey said.
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