New foam testing

Published:  17 September, 2018

Lastfire and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport are jointly embarking on a new phase of testing new-generation foams next month.

Two fluorine-free foams are to be tested on a large-scale fire using four different application methods at rates in accordance with NFPA 11.

The latest series of tests seek to answer some of the issues raised by extensive testing and research previously carried out by Lastfire (see IFJ Q1 2018 and IFJ Q3 2017).

Earlier work included a range of tests from small-scale through to large-scale bund and tank fires. These were conducted with various fuels at critical application rates in accordance with recognised standards, such as NFPA, as well as using other application techniques and rates.

Earlier tests found that the new generation of fire-fighting foams, which include high-purity C6 foam and fluorine-free foam, provide a wide range of performance. The results suggested that it is not possible to make performance-based assumptions based on whether a foam is fluorine-free or high-purity C6, because both types extinguished fires in all the range of tests at rates equal to, or below, standard NFPA application rates.

The tests revealed some unexpected outcomes, such as that in some cases it seemed more difficult to extinguish Jet A1 fires than gasoline fires with some fluorine-free foams.

Other findings included that the use of a well-engineered and optimised CAF system, in the form of either a monitor or pourer, equalised the performance of different foams, suggesting that this system could be a highly efficient method of foam application for tank and spill incidents.

One major finding was that further testing of the flow capability over long distances of fluorine-free foams – and CAF-generated foam in particular – was required.

The protocols for the work with Dallas/Fort Worth Airport have been established based on this earlier work. The main tests planned for October will include two foams, both fluorine free, with one specifically formulated for spill fires and the other for tank-related incidents.

With a fire size measuring approximately 40m x 8m, the two foams will be tested using four application methods: conventional pourer, conventional monitor, CAF pourer and CAF monitor, all at application rates in line with NFPA 11. Some of the tests have been introduced specifically to meet the needs of fixed systems being considered for 80m-diameter tanks.

In addition, a C6-based foam meeting the latest high-purity requirements will be tested with one application method as a comparison. The work will be supplemented at a later date with further tests involving other fuels and application methods.

According to Lastfire, the foams that have been chosen for the next round of tests have been selected based mainly on the previous test results. This includes the results of proportioning tests that were carried out to determine the feasibility of using new generation foams with conventional proportioning systems while still achieving accurate pick-up rates. Niall Ramsden of Lastfire commented: “Lastfire would be pleased to test other foams at a future date in similar large-scale testing but the objective here is to test principles rather than compare specific foams.”

The tests are planned for 8–12 October and will be followed by a foam conference on 16-18 October. The conference, which is being organised in association with Arcadis and DFW, will cover the issues of whole-life foam assurance as well as including two demonstrations using a large fire pit.

DFW Foam Summit 2018

The Summit will take place at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport’s Fire Training Research Centre on 16-18 October 2018. It will focus on balancing fire performance and environmental consequences and, as part of the event, a large-scale test of both C6 and fluorine-free foams is planned.

The independently-managed event will also review the current situation related to selection, use, and management of firefighting foam, covering the current status and options for future foam policies concerning poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances.

Scheduled speakers include Fay Purvis, past chair NFPA11 Foam Systems Committee, USA; Niall Ramsden, Lastfire coordinator, UK; Chief Brian McKinney, DFW Airport; Chief Randy Krause, SEATAC; Jaco Erasmus on behalf of Rod Rutledge, national process safety and regulatory advisor, Caltex Australia Petroleum; and Ian Ross, partner, global remediation, Arcadis.

Dwight Williams is also due to give a presentation on some memories of large tank fires and the importance of getting foam performance right.

To register, visit: https://lastfire.regfox.com/dfw-research-summit. For more information, email: info@lastfire.org.

Images: Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport's Fire Training Research Center.

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