A cleaner way of protecting electrical facilities
Published: 01 June, 2007
Fire is just one of the possible service interruptions which can affect a data or communications network. However, the consequences - such as material damage or, more importantly, human loss of life - can be extremely dire.
There are no industrial plants and offshore platforms that do not rely on electronics. The increasing amount of information technology poses a whole new dimension of risk.
Since Halon has been decommissioned in Europe and new parts for Halon-based systems are no longer being made in the USA, and with global warming on top of the agenda everywhere, clean agents are becoming increasingly popular.
In February 2007 3M announced that every purchaser of a fire suppression system, using 3M Novec 1230 Fire Protection Fluid will be offered the 3M Blue Sky Warranty.
“Basically this means that if any regulatory action or legislation ever came in to force that would prohibit the use and production of Novec 1230 fluid within 20 years due to global warming potential or ozone depletion potential, 3M would refund the price of the agent. Our partner, Tyco announced in April 2007 that it will match that with a return of investment of the actual system,” explains Joe Ziemba, Marketing manager for the 3M Novec 1230 fluid business.
Authorities around the world are committing or have committed to the reduction of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by imposing strict regulations. This has affected many fire suppression agents on the market today. Joe explains that 3M put the Blue Sky Warranty in place to provide peace of mind for clients who specify fire protection systems with Novec 1230 fluid, knowing that their systems will withstand the growing list of substances that are targeted for emission reduction. “To the best of our knowledge, there are no competitors that offer a similar benefit, apart from the product Inergen - and that is just for the gas itself.”
Joe is certain that Novec 1230 fluid offers one of the most favourable environmental profiles of any clean extinguishing agents on the market at the moment. It has no ozone depletion and its global warming potential is negligible, with a rating of only one. According to Joe, some products around still have a global warming potential in the range of 3000 – 12000 with atmospheric lifetimes from 30-300 years, similar to Halon 1301, which stayed in the atmosphere for 65 years. Novec 1230 only remains in the atmosphere for 5 days, after which it degrades. Also when dispersed in the room, the agent is safe for human life and it leaves no collateral damage to any equipment.
Joe comments: “Of course all agents in use as Halon replacements in the USA today are approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency, which is recognised everywhere under the SNAP (Significant New Alternative Policy) program. However the advantage of Novec 1230 fluid – C6 Fluoroketone – is its quick discharge in to the room as well as using the most sophisticated detection equipment, which senses the fire before it even starts and discharges the agent in under 10 seconds.”
System cylinders containing Novec 1230 fluid typically use only about 1 square feet per cylinder, which is more space than a halon 1301 system, but as much as other competitive systems.
“Properly designed, the extinguishing capabilities are probably equivalent to that of Halon,” he continues.
“But, just as important, we are educating the market about the unique environmental aspects of the agent. But the unique factor is that it is stored as a fluid, but changes into gas upon discharge. This means that it is a little different in its physical make-up. Generally it operates in room temperature but it does lower the temperature slightly when it is released.”
”In this uncertain and changing regulatory market, specifying a system using Novec 1230 fluid just plain makes good sense. Doing so reduces risk not only from fire but also from any potential future regulatory action with a Blue Sky Warranty from 3M and a system guarantee from Tyco,” he concludes.
What about FM-200?
Another favourite for protecting computer rooms and mission critical facilities is FM-200 manufactured by Chemtura ( owner of Great Lakes Chemical Corporation).
FM-200 is also known as Heptafluoropropane or HFC-227 and is characterised by high fire suppression efficiency, low toxicity, lack of residue formation following extinguishment, low electrical conductivity, and long-term storage stability.
This substance is known to quickly extinguish fires by a combination of chemical interaction and physical heat removal.
The way this agent works is by absorbing heat energy from the fire not oxygen, hence it interrupts the chemical chain reaction of the combustion process. The system discharges the agent within a mere 10 seconds.
The system comprises of two main functions, which are the detection and notification of a fire before combustion and the subsequent suppression.
The type of detectors the end user installs relies on the kind of application and equipment present in the room. The right kind of intelligent heat detector and control panel can trace overheating electrical wires long before they reach combustion, so there is no need to activate the FM-200 system, because the circuit can be identified and turned off.
Computer and telecom rooms are damaged very easily by smoke, soot, fire and its byproducts. Disk drives, for instance can be damaged at temperatures as low as a 150°F/ 65°C.
Particles and soot as small and 0.5 microns in diameter can cause severe damage to electrical equipment. Acid by products of combustion and the suppression gas - HF, HCI, Hbr - are not as much of a concern as the corrosive properties of smoke, soot and particulate matter.
As well as Novec 1230, the FM-200 system detects the fire in its incipient stage, before it can do any damage to the equipment in the room, and more importantly, it is completely safe for humans. FM-200 is currently the only halocarbon with an ozone depleting potential of zero. The agent is also approved by EPA and included in the SNAP programme. EPA itself installed FM-200 Waterless Fire Protection systems in its new National Computer Centre in 2003.
More information, please visit: http://cms.3m.com/ and www.fm-200.com y