Halon Replacements Still a Hot Topic
The "right" replacement agent for Halon remains a source of competition among fire-protection manufacturers, particularly now that Europe is switching over and the U.S. is right behind. At the NFPA Conference in Minneapolis in May, 3M, based in nearby St. Paul, Minn., unveiled a product they believe to be the closest clean agent to Halon yet.
The "right" replacement agent for Halon remains a source of competition among fire-protection manufacturers, particularly now that Europe is switching over and the U.S. is right behind.
At the NFPA Conference in Minneapolis in May, 3M, based in nearby St. Paul, Minn., unveiled a product they believe to be the closest clean agent to Halon yet. Like Halon, their Novec 1230 product is a liquid that becomes a gas upon deployment. But unlike Halon, which has an atmospheric lifetime of 27 to 33 years, the agent's contribution to the greenhouse effect is almost negligible. "It has a Global Warming Potential of 1, which is the same as CO 2 . So it's really like water," says John Schuster, a business development manager for 3M's Fire Protection Fluids division.
3M will partner with Tyco, Sevo Systems and Taiwan-based Cheng Deh to distribute the product. UL listing has been approved for the Sevo line, and UL listing for the Tyco line is expected by the end of the year.
More clean-agent news
Also on the exhibition floor, Kidde, Ashland, Mass., unveiled ADS—their new Halon-replacement distribution system. According to Kidde's Dick Evenson, the company believes the product is an improved distribution system for FM-200, the clean agent manufactured by Great Lakes Chemical of Lafayette, Ind. Its major sell, he says, is that it's a virtual "drop-in" replacement option for existing Halon systems, especially since existing piping can be reused. In new applications, smaller piping is employed and agent tanks are easy to hide or store remotely, making the system well-suited for museums and other facilities concerned about space or aesthetics.
Evidence of the shifting international marketplace for Halon replacements was also evident at the show. Two of the largest distributors of clean agents—Great Lakes and Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont—announced that they have reached an agreement that will allow both companies to distribute in Asia and Europe. Previously, each company held proprietary rights to certain countries. According to DuPont's Brian Engler, the companies were motivated to come to an agreement because proprietary territories became an issue for end users.
Ultimately, he believes this will be a good thing for all involved. "There's enough of an advantage to allow both companies to better prosper," says the global business manager.
DuPont, who partners with Fike and Ansul among others, was also excited about its FE-13 high-pressure agent, which, like 3M's Novec 1230, is being pitched as a more environmentally friendly agent.
Engler points out that the product is currently being used to protect oil and gas lines on Alaska's North Slope and has the environmental advantage of an extremely fast rate of dissipation.
Much of Europe is under mandate to be rid of all Halon systems by 2003. As a result, Dupont's Engler points out, some U.S. multinational firms, such as Intel and Daimler-Chrysler, are already making the transition. As for other nations, Japan and Australia are also aggressively addressing Halon replacement as well.
While clean agent technology is certainly one way to protect sensitive areas, not everyone is sold on the idea. One engineer walking the NFPA show floor questioned whether a Halon-like agent was even necessary in many existing facilities. In places like data centers, he suggests, sound engineering and other preventative measures can go a long way to avoid having to replace an existing Halon system. "It's really a question of one's risk-management approach," says the consultant.