Industrial Fire Journal - Fire & Rescue - Hemming Group Ltd
Answering those foam calls
Published:  01 April, 2006

Let’s begin with a brief look at the role of the Angus Fire Emergency Service which swung into action after being notified by Hertfordshire F&RS at 07.05am on Sunday, December 11. Within a few hours the company despatched emergency foam stocks from its facility at Bentham, North Yorkshire, by road tanker under full police escort.

Let’s begin with a brief look at the role of the Angus Fire Emergency Service which swung into action after being notified by Hertfordshire F&RS at 07.05am on Sunday, December 11. Within a few hours the company despatched emergency foam stocks from its facility at Bentham, North Yorkshire, by road tanker under full police escort.
Angus FP70 at Buncefield
Over subsequent days the Angus Fire Emergency Service transported additional foam stocks to support firefighters at the scene - more than half a million litres of foam, mostly Angus Fire FP70.
Throughout Sunday and Monday foam stocks were rushed to the scene not only by Angus Fire, but also by local authority and industrial fire services all over the country. By midnight on Sunday 250,000 litres of foam concentrate were either on site or en-route to the scene.
A major foam attack was launched on Monday morning using high-capacity foam monitors including three Angus Fire Titans. It quickly became apparent that Angus Fire FP70 foam was performing extremely well. Despite working under arduous conditions fire crews extinguished fires in 10 of the 20 burning tanks by midday.
Angus FP70 is a high performance foam specially formulated to extinguish large storage tank fires. Its fluoroprotein-based bubble structure provides exceptional resistance to heat, enabling it to pass through flames, impact on hot fuel and move over the burning liquid surfaces, says the company. Its bubble walls are tough enough to seal tightly against the hottest tank shells, and even under a torrent of cooling water its stable foam blanket remains intact.
By Wednesday, 14th December, Hertfordshire F&RS announced that the last of the fires had been successfully extinguished. Fire crews went on to prevent re-ignition and burn back by covering the exposed fuel surfaces with a medium expansion foam blanket using Angus Fire Bund Pourers.
Roy Wilsher, Chief Fire Officer, Hertfordshire F&RS comments: “The successful and relatively early resolution of this incident was due to many factors including the support of many fire services, oil industry fire fighters and companies such as Angus. The assistance given by Angus in terms of advice and bulk foam concentrate was invaluable and I am pleased to make my appreciation public.”
BIO-EX currently offers an eco-friendly alternative to AFFF firefighting foams. One of its products, ECOPOL, is said to combine both ecological performance and extinguishing efficiency.
“Finding the best eco-friendly foam around involves making tough choices: not wishing to compromise, BIO-EX decided to eliminate all fluorocompounds from its products and refuses to use technology based on fluorosurfactants; although efficient they are pollutants and extremely persistent in the environment and it is this which led BIO-EX to innovate and select components that are totally biodegradable,” comments Séverine Badmington for BIO-EX.
“The fluorinated foams extinguish based on their chemical structure; it is the perfluoro tail which protects the foam from the effects of heat and the fuel.  ECOPOL combines special polymers and natural surfactants, which by synergy create an extremely stable foam blanket working by mechanical action, i.e., cooling and smothering the fire, thus achieving the extinction,” she reports.
ECOPOL is certified under European standard EN 1568 and is capable of extinguishing heptane and acetone fires in less than two minutes.  BIO-EX has made a full study of the best suitable methods for applying ECOPOL. Based on that starting point, a comparison has been made against a standard fluorinated AFFF-AR foam, applied in the usual way.
“From these figures we can see how efficient ECOPOL is, when applied under realistic conditions, achieving extinction three times faster and with less than 50% of the foam compared to a conventional fluorinated foam,” explains Severine.
ECOPOL can be used with all the usual equipment, including proportioning systems, induction at 3% and 6%, normal nozzles or monitors, High-Ex generators, or in a fixed system.  It withstands storage temperatures from -30°C to +60°C and is guaranteed for 10 years.  ECOPOL offers all the advantages of an eco-friendly product: it can be discharged to a water treatment facility without interfering with it. It has real advantages for HSE officers and meets the requirement for ISO 14000. All of its components are fully biodegradable and comply with the United Kingdom Groundwater Directive 1998 SI 2746. Compared to a standard AFFF foam, ECOPOL represents zero discharge to the environment of fluorinated persistent material. Additionally, it exhibits a reduced COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand / Organic Mass) of 40% less than a FFFP-AR. If we consider the average consumption of foam products by a medium size fire brigade, this means a drastic reduction of approx. 1 ton of polluting and persistent compounds being released into the environment every year! Procurement officers should consider seriously moving over to totally fluorine-free foams if this is operationally acceptable’’ thus protecting the environment as far as is possible,” says Severine.
Franz Kitzwögerer told Aidan Turnbull: “The major problem with fire extinguishing agents is not the PFOS but the xeno-biotic tensides. PFOS  is a topic that relates to destruction of the protection of the ozone layer, however synthetic tensides, which nearly all fire  extinguishing agents have, are completely and all together eco-toxic. During the use of cheaply manufactured tensides, the bacteria  that naturally degrades hydrocarbon are very badly damaged and sometimes destroyed.
“This basically means that some of the fire extinguishing agents which were used in Buncefield have ruined the natural regeneration strength of  nature. In the long term natural regeneration strength cannot take place and the pollution that was caused by the synthetic tensides is far greater that the spilled hydrocarbon.
“Nearly all detergents contain xenobiotic tensides which are considered fairly degradable. However, they prevent the very important natural process taking place because the diaphragm of the bacteria skin is destroyed. Often oil spills are treated with conventional detergents and this is completely counterproductive. Conventional firefighting foam agents are extremely harmful to the microbiology and in turn bad for the groundwater. Firefighting foams and conventional detergents have a similar chemical structure, neither should be put into our environment,” he comments.
Bioversal QF consists of tensides with botanical origins, therefore the natural bacteria does not suffer and die, says Franz.” The natural regeneration strength of nature can start immediately with Bioversal in the case of mineral oil spills. The advantages are not of  environmental benefit only but of economic value as well. It is expensive to remove, store and treat firewater, it should be easier to solve the problem during application, where none of this will be necessary. “
The product Bioversal QF contains an additional BIOACTIVATOR which increases dramatically the population of autochthones bacteria. This in turn will accelerate the biological biodegradation process of the lost mineral oil. An accelerated biological biodegradation is reflected in the active environmental protection and this technology should be preferred, argues Franz.
BIOVERSAL is the collective name for a range of highly effective cleaning and fire extinguishing agents which dramatically accelerate the biological degradation of mineral oil pollutants. The bioactivator used in BIOVERSAL products functions like a catalyst. BIOVERSAL’s main advantage is that the agents do not create any ecotoxic effects and intensify Nature’s self cleaning powers.
In Austria more than half the fire services have opted to use alternative firefighting foam extinguishing agents. BIOVERSAL products do not carry any hazardous markings for transport and the products do not carry any hazardous labelling whatsoever. BIOVERSAL QF meets the highest standards in the world, EN-standards and also international standards, i.e. ICAO, GOST etc.
The BIOVERSAL fire extinguishing technology can’t be compared with film-foaming products. Essentially, the product encapsulates particles of the hydrocarbon when foaming, which means there is a high portion of water which creates a very effective cooling efficiency, making three-dimensional fires much easier to control. The most important thing about this process is that the BIOVERSAL QF prepares the hydrocarbons for a rapid biological breakdown during the extinguishing process. This so far, has been unequalled any where in the world.
Post-fire clean up costs and damage to the environment can be avoided by using the BIOVERSAL range of products which contain special natural substances which can fight fires and oil pollution but are completely harmless to the environment. These organisms are based on highly degradable surfactants. They stimulate the micro-organisms to multiply substantially, thus bringing about a rapid biological degradation process,” reports Franz.
“BIOVERSAL products very rapidly treat the oil contamination to give an easily usable energy source for the numerous micro-organisms present in nature which break down the oil. The natural residual products CO2 and H2O ultimately remain as the end products of the degradation process. The bioactivator in collaboration with the natural surfactants makes nature its ally,” he comments.
“The range of BIOVERSAL products offers a high-quality and economical alternative for every application in the field of cleaning oil and grease spills and for fighting fires.”
In September 2002 approximately 5,000 litres of heating oil spilled into Lake Goldegg. The lake supplies mud packs to many health farms in Austria, supplies drinking water too and provides a big draw for tourism. Thanks to the use of environmentally-sensitive BIOVERSAL by April 2003 the lake water was approved for drinking by the local authority in Salzburg. This was an incredible achievement considering the level of contamination that had entered the Lake 6 months earlier.