Industrial Fire Journal - Fire & Rescue - Hemming Group Ltd
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Foam - there must be a proper application technique
Published:  01 June, 2007

Over the past decade, there has been a growing concern about the impact of foams on environment, due to scientific evidence of the detrimental effect of fluorinated compounds and their behaviour in the environment.

Over the past decade, there has been a growing concern about the impact of foams on environment, due to scientific evidence of the detrimental effect of fluorinated compounds and their behaviour in the environment.
Environment is key
No one would deny that environment is key concern for our future; on the other hand, it is mandatory to select the best option for reasons of safety.
To address this dilemma of choice, we can examine the question from two angles. Does AFFF provide a real ‘do-it-all’ solution and do fluoro-free foam alternatives exist as a real alternative?
For chemicals such as polar solvents, AFFF does not help that much for extinction because the film formation (water film) is virtually impossible to maintain on any polar solvent type fuel because the water film will dilute with the fuel (miscible).
Additionally, the delivery of the finished foam should always be as a ‘gentle’ application, so there is no need to protect the foam from fuel pick-up. The main application for AFFF has generally been the oil industry. All the relevant standards (EN1568 and UL) establish a top rating for direct application, and a second level for gentle application.
A significant study has recently been undertaken by French Safety Committee for Oil Industry to ascertain the various scenarios on oil fires.
It clearly concluded that in all cases and for any foam, it is always recommended to apply the foam in gentle application, and with automatic and fixed systems. Again that indicates that forceful application with monitors and AFFF should be only considered as an exception and not a rule.
One would wonder why it is widely accepted that - as a rule in the chemical industry, the method of gentle application of foam via fixed systems is common practice and why this method could not be adopted by oil industry? It would increase the efficiency  of the fire attack , reduce the consumption of water and the need for AFFF.
For the second part of the question, the answer is YES. Fluoro-free foams are available and meet international standards, such as EN1568, LastFire and GESIP.One can see now that, by altering our foam application methods, it is possible to switch from fluorinated foam such as AFFF and FFFP to an eco-friendly fluoro free technology and address both the issues of extinction and environmental with confidence.