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Clean agent fire protection designed to keep your

computer room connected

Kurt Werner, environmental affairs manager at 3M, on sustainable fire protection to keep your operations safe, secure, and connected.


small fire in critical facilities such as data centres, telecom rooms, control towers,

clean rooms, laboratories and computer- controlled operations can result in catastrophic loss by interrupting vital operations and damaging high-value equipment.

In these situations, it’s important that fires be knocked down quickly – before they have a chance to spread – and that sensitive data, electronics and other equipment are not damaged in the process of putting out the fire.

but their global warming potential (GWP) and atmospheric lifetimes are relatively high. The GWP of HFC-227ea is 3,220. This means it is 3,220 times more potent than CO2 in its effect on global warming and it has an atmospheric lifetime of 34 years. A recent journal article has highlighted the accelerating concentrations of HFC-227ea in the atmosphere.1

HFCs used in fire suppression have a higher GWP than those HFCs used in other applications. It has been reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy for Sciences2

that if nothing changes, HFC

emissions are likely to be equivalent to between 9-19% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Not all fire suppression agents are created equal. Fortunately, there has been great progress in the availability of truly sustainable fire protection. These chemicals, including water mist, inert gas, CO2 and 3M Novec 1230 Fire Protection Fluid are readily available alternatives to immediately replace the use of HFCs in fire suppression, enabling the industry to essentially eliminate its dependence on potent greenhouse gases.

Above: GWPs of HFCs sold into various markets and applications

3M Novec 1230 Fire Protection Fluid is a highly-efficient fire suppression agent alternative to HFCs and halons, with properties ideally suited to clean fire protection for critical telecommunication and data centre facilities and equipment.

Clean agent fire suppression options

During the phase-out of halon fire suppression agents, many in the US and EU began looking into other fire protection options that did not damage the ozone layer.

One of the most popular alternatives to halon at the time were hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs are man-made compounds used in refrigeration, air conditioning, insulating foam, aerosols, medical devices, solvent cleaning and fire suppression systems. One of the more widely used examples in the fire protection industry is HFC-227ea (ie: FM-200 brand), considered a first-generation halon alternative. The ozone depletion potential of HFCs is zero,

Novec 1230 fluid has an ozone depletion potential of zero with a GWP of one and an atmospheric lifetime of just five days. It does not damage sensitive equipment, paper or furnishings and leaves no residue. It is stored as a liquid, making transportation much safer and easier than the alternatives. This fluid has been used successfully in data centres, telecommunication centres and other types of high value, critical applications, as well as archives and museums and in the marine and oil and gas industries.

Decisions about fire protection need to be for the long term and the type of extinguishing agent used is an important part of that decision. Data centres have a unique opportunity to choose a solution that demonstrates their commitment to environmental sustainability and select a solution that makes the least impact on the environment.

Regulations on HFCs

For those stakeholders trying to get a read on the future of HFCs in fire suppression, the

mixed messages to the market regarding global policy, legislative and regulatory initiatives are undoubtedly confusing and frustrating. 2012 will more clearly reveal the unsustainable path for HFCs in all sectors, including those sold into fire suppression.

Beginning in July 2012, for instance, Australia is driving down use of HFCs by implementing a carbon price that will dramatically impact the future of HFCs sold into fire suppression. Carbon will initially be priced at $23 AUD per metric tonne and gradually increase until 2015, at which time the price will be determined by the market. HFCs, including those sold into fire suppression, will face an equivalent carbon price magnified by their global warming potential. This results in at least $30/lb($66/ kg) added to the cost of the HFC agent.

In the fall of 2012, the European Union will reveal the policy direction for the next revision of the F-gas regulation. Two prominent options include marketing restrictions on HFCs in select sectors and a phase-down in production or import of HFCs. These and other regional initiatives are unfolding under the backdrop of the United Nations continuing to find common ground for implementation of a global phase- down in production of HFCs. Again, the EU Commission has recognized these policies are possible in sectors such as fire suppression where alternatives are readily available.

To meet their sustainability commitments, manage environmental impact, and avoid costly future changes to systems, those in the data centre market will need to embrace more sustainable fire suppression. Luckily there is a proven clean agent fire suppression technology – Novec 1230 fluid – that is truly environmentally sustainable.


1 Accelerating Growth of HFC-227ea in the Atmosphere – Laube et. Al. 2010 www. /2010/acp-10-5903-2010.pdf

2 Proceedings of the National Academy for Sciences July 7, 2009 vol. 106 nol. 27 10949-10954

Kurt Werner


public sector executive Jul/Aug 12 | 41

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