Fire departments around the world are working to remove fluorine-based foams from their firefighting arsenals to quell safety and environmental concerns over their use.
One concern centers on the foam’s inability to degrade into safe organic matter. Yet replacing the product may be difficult since many fire departments have stockpiled tons of chemical foam on trucks and in storage facilities.
Perimeter Solutions came to the rescue with its new line of fluorine-free foam. The company developed SOLBERG® VERSAGARD® AS-100 concentrate for general firefighting use and works to take down fires involving solids and liquids with its patent-pending pseudoplastic foam technology.
Besides its foamability and bubble stability, the product offers good wetting ability, the company notes in a press release.
Javier Castro, the general manager for Perimeter Solutions Fire Safety Group, says officials face regulatory pressure to replace traditional firefighting foams with next generation products that have removed any per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The company plans to offer a complete fluorine free portfolio for all foam applications within three years.
It’s important to use foam that doesn’t intentionally include any fluorine. The foam also must resist alcohol which can break down foam material and render it ineffective in battling fires.
SOLBERG® VERSAGARD® is a pseudoplastic fluid designed to be injected into water to create foam and flow over flammable material, especially liquids. It forms a protective covering that prevents the material from igniting. The product is gel-like which means it is thick and sticky, but it has been designed to have a good capacity to flow and be proportioned accurately.
This new technology performs similarly to fluorinated products. Fire departments can use the foam with low-expansion foam equipment (nozzles and monitors) and medium- and high-expansion foam discharge devices to fight fires involving Class B hydrocarbon and polar solvent fuel fires, the company notes.
The product is fully compatible and easily proportioned with standard firefighting equipment, including in-line inductors, self-inducting nozzles, fire truck pumps, bladder tanks, pump skids and balanced pressure systems, the release explains.
The 3x3 fluorine-free foam uses a 3% concentrate in all types of liquid fires. It is alcohol resistant and not made with siloxanes. There are some concerns about some types of siloxanes so legislation may ban siloxanes along with fluorine foams in the future, Castro predicts.
“Some foam products on the market don’t contain fluorine but contain siloxanes that improve properties of the foam,” he explains. “Our special formulation doesn’t include either the siloxanes or fluorine. If a future regulation forbids or regulates siloxanes, our end users won’t have any problem using or storing SOLBERG® VERSAGARD®.”
Castro notes that the ability of foams to persist without breaking down is a big environmental concern.
“For that reason, we did not add any fluorine or siloxanes to the product,” Castro explains. “Our product has been tested and designed to be fully biodegradable. We use raw materials with good environmental and ecology footprints. It is a significant step forward from an environmental point of view.”
Castro says SOLBERG® VERSAGARD® AS-100 foam delivers excellent foaming, vapor sealing, extinguishment and burnback properties using fresh water and salt water
To ensure those qualities, Perimeter Solutions tested SOLBERG® VERSAGARD® AS-100 in its labs and training centers using a variety of international standards, including the European EN-1568 and the UL-162 standard that applies to products in America. It complies with International Maritime Organization standards as well.
According to the press release, the product has received these credentials:
- Achieved the maximum rating and is certified to European Standard EN-1568:2018 parts 3 and 4 on all fuels with fresh water and seawater.
- Passed and certified to European Standard EN-1568:2018 parts 1 and 2 for use with medium and high-expansion foam discharge devices.
- Achieved International Maritime Organization certification MSC.1/Circ. 1312.
- Lastfire batch certified as Good/Good/Good with three nozzles (semi, asp, system).
- Achieved International Civil Aviation Organization Level B certification.
TESTED IN REAL SITUATIONS
To conduct its testing, Perimeter Solutions used the foam on a fire involving a 12-meter tank that held 6 tons of gasoline.
“Through our tests, the product performed well across different real-life conditions and complied with different government standards,” says Castro. “The AS-100 product doesn’t just meet the standards, it performs well enough to extinguish ‘real fires,’ proving the product is strong.”
One of the most important qualities of firefighting foam is its long-term stability in storage. Companies must design that level of stability into the product so that it is available for different conditions ranging from high temperatures to low, he explains.
“Because they don’t have enough fires that require its use, some departments have foam in inventory that has not been used after 10 or 12 years,” says Castro. “Still, they need a product that will work just as well after many years in storage as it did the day, they bought it.”
Castro says it’s important to ensure mixing water with foam doesn’t increase its viscosity, which could make it more solid.
“We have seen formulas where the viscosity actually increases,” he says. “Everyone expected the viscosity to be reduced by adding water. But the opposite occurred. When viscosity increases, it is very difficult to ensure proper mixing proportions at an incident.”
Whether departments store the material on a truck or in a tank on site, the viscosity must remain stable so the product flows properly when injected into water, he notes.
“One of the key advances of SOLBERG® VERSAGARD® is its consistent viscosity when in contact with water, which differs vastly from many other fluorine-free foams on the market. This can have a dramatic effect on handling and use rates in firefighting operations,” says Castro.
Departments seeking to replace existing foams with fluorine-free products must thoroughly clean storage tanks before introducing the new material. Although Perimeter Solutions doesn’t offer those services, the company wants to support fire departments, and can recommend various experts to remove the old product, he explains.
“It will be very important to ensure there are no traces of the old product in storage containers,” he adds.
Because SOLBERG® VERSAGARD® AS-100 has concentrate properties similar to alcohol resistant aqueous film-forming foam (AR-AFFF), replacing old foams with this new fluorine-free foam is relatively simple, says Castro.
The biggest challenge for many departments will be budgetary because of the costs associated with replacing a product known to have an impact on humans and the environment.
“The good news is there is not a big price difference between AS-100 and the material departments have now,” says Castro. “There could be a cost difference of 10% to 20% depending upon the grades of AR-AFFF product the department requires. But replacing current foam with the next-generation product should not be prohibitively expensive.”
For more information, visit www.perimeter-solutions.com.