Fire Wire is a quarterly fire suppression newsletter about 3M™ Novec™ 1230 Fire Protection Fluid for specifying engineers, architects, and anyone working in special hazards fire protection.
In 2020, Celulosa Arauco, one of South America’s leading producers and managers of renewable forest resources, announced that it intended to become the world’s first known carbon neutral forestry company. As part of a new multi-billion dollar factory modernization and expansion project, Celulosa Arauco decided that its fire suppression solution should be updated, modernized and made sustainable.
Aerosol systems had previously been the agent of choice for critical spaces, but after a system discharge coated the electrical rooms with residue that required seven days to clean up, the company was looking for a new, non-residue solution that would prevent downtime.
After a testing and analysis process, Celulosa Arauco determined that 3M™ Novec™ 1230 Fire Protection Fluid was the best combination of a residue-free agent for critical spaces and a sustainable solution. All in all, by selecting 3M Novec 1230 fluid over HFCs, Celulosa Arauco will avoid almost 100,000 metric tons of CO₂-equivalent emissions from fire protection.
According to Christian Rodríguez Lewald, Head of Climate Change for Chile’s Celulosa Arauco, “Integrating the carbon neutrality goals of Celulosa Arauco with sustainable innovation from 3M is of utmost importance.”
The U.S. EPA’s rulemaking is complete, and allocation data is now available.
The AIM Act is a major new piece of climate legislation in the U.S., passed into law in December 2020, that directed the EPA to:
The phasedown was set to begin with a 10% reduction in production and consumption for HFCs in 2022, stepping down to a 40% reduction in 2024, 70% in 2029 and 80% in 2034 before settling at an 85% reduction in 2036 and beyond.
Over the course of 2021, the EPA received public comments and conducted a rulemaking process for how to implement this phase down. In early October, the final rule was published in the Federal Register, including a system of allowances (PDF, 178 KB) for companies wishing to produce or import HFCs for a range of applications, including fire suppression (PDF, 240 KB).
What is an allowance?
An allowance (PDF, 171 KB) is permission to produce or import HFCs up to a certain CO₂ equivalency. That is, each HFC’s global warming potential is equivalent to that of a certain amount of CO₂. In fire suppression, this includes agents such as HFC-227ea, with a GWP equivalent to 3,220lb of CO₂, HFC-23, equivalent to 14,800lb of CO₂, HFC-236fa, equivalent to 9,810lb of CO₂, and HFC-125, equivalent to 3,500lb CO₂. (IPCC 2007 report, Table 2.14 errata). So if a company had an allowance of 100,000lb of CO² equivalent, it could choose to produce or import 6.75lb of HFC-23 or 31.06lb of HFC-227ea, but not both.
Companies that produced or imported HFCs in 2020 received allowances for 2022 based on a calculation of their production or importation across several previous years between 2011 and 2019, less the 15% reduction. Electronic tracking requirements are now in place to ensure compliance, and allowance trading is permitted, with a 5% offset. There are also some exceptions for six specific applications and for new market entrants. Exceptions, as well as the 2022 breakdown of allocations by company, are explained in detail in the EPA’s fact sheet.
What does this mean for existing HFC-based systems?
HFCs will not be gone tomorrow; the phase down will take place over time. But it is worth discussing with your distributor the long-term availability of your required HFC, as the rule may impact how distributors and system manufacturers support HFC systems in the future.
What does this mean for new HFC-based systems?
Consider all aspects of choosing a system supplied with an HFC that is mentioned in the AIM Act, and consider selecting a system with a GWP of less than 1 for your new applications.
Fiction. Several Original Equipment Manufacturers of fire suppression systems authorized to use 3M™ Novec™ 1230 Fire Protection Fluid also offer UL and/or FM approved multizone valves for these systems. The concept of dedicating a central storage of a fire suppressant provides an efficient design for protecting many hazards (zones) with a dedicated bank designed for the largest hazard.
These types of systems have been used for decades and commonly reduce the footprint of the fire suppression system for agents such as AFFF, CO₂ and inert gases. However, for normally occupied areas, where footprint, life safety and or residue are concerns, multizone valve systems using 3M Novec 1230 fluid provide an excellent solution for mission critical spaces by overall reducing the total amount of clean agent required.