Exclusive: Exploring advancements in aerosol fire suppression with Lance Harry

June 7, 2024

Lance Harry, P.E., President and CEO at Fireaway Inc., talks aerosol fire suppression technology, the AIM Act and innovative solutions

Leading Fireaway Inc., Lance Harry, P.E., is steering the company to the forefront of aerosol fire suppression technology.

With a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, Harry began his career with extensive product testing, gaining hands-on experience with a wide range of fire suppression systems, from dry and wet chemical to clean agents, CO2 and inert gases.

Stat-X® is not a new technology, but it may be relatively new to many people in the industry.

Its mission, as told by Lance, is to continue educating people about aerosol suppression technology and ensure users feel confident in its effectiveness.

Fireaway’s solution boasts several strengths: a simple and cost-effective design and installation, no pressurized containers or piping required, and credentials as an environmentally sustainable and safe suppression agent.

In the following article, FSJA editor Iain Hoey spoke to Lance to delve into the implications of recent legislation, the environmental impacts of their products, and explore what the future holds for Fireaway and the industry at large.

How has the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act influenced the fire protection industry?

 The AIM Act has had a substantial impact on our industry and will continue to do so in the coming years.

Although the legislation and rules were primarily targeted at the HVAC industry, the fire protection industry has also had to make significant adjustments.

The Act mandates the phase-down of some of the most popular clean agents used in our industry, such as HFC-227ea, known by the brand name FM-200®, and HFC-125, known as FE-25®.

Manufacturers and installers who work with these systems have had to reevaluate their business models and consider alternative systems moving forward.

Currently, the AIM Act has reduced the use and consumption of these products to 60% of the baseline levels set from a calculation of Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) use from 2011 through 2013.

This reduction will continue over the next decade, eventually dropping to 15%.

As a result, these agents will become increasingly difficult to obtain, particularly for new systems.

What has been the impact of the AIM act for Fireaway?

 As an environmentally sustainable alternative to traditional clean agents, we’ve seen a significant uptick in interest from all areas of our industry and globally.

This includes end users, contractors, engineers, and authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs).

They’ve all shown a keen interest in finding alternative technologies to fill the gap left by the phasedown of HFCs.

This gap is real and will continue to grow.

The fire protection industry, in particular, has experienced a significant impact due to the basic dynamics of supply and demand.

We’ve observed increased costs for these traditional agents because their availability has decreased.

Additionally, there are longer lead times to get new systems and longer times to recharge existing systems.

For Fireaway, this shift has been beneficial.

As the availability of traditional agents declines, more stakeholders are looking to sustainable alternatives like our Stat-X product.

How does Stat-X aerosol technology work, and what are its benefits over traditional methods?

 Stat-X systems use a solid aerosol forming compound created from a proprietary mixture of powders.

When a chemical reaction is initiated, this compound produces the desired aerosol particulate matter.

The containers are compact, rugged and easy to design and install.

They take up minimal space and in their ‘ready state’, are non-pressurized, which is a significant difference from HFC or other fluorine-based systems, or even inert gas systems, which can have pressures up to 1800 2300 psi.

The Stat-X units are activated, either by an electrical signal or a thermal control head triggered by increased temperature in the protected space.

The thermally activated units are completely self-sufficient and require no external power, which is a nice benefit.

Once activated, the aerosol is discharged and suppresses the fire by interrupting the chemical chain reaction that sustains and feeds the fire.

This interruption effectively puts out the fire, attacking one of the key elements necessary for combustion—fuel, oxygen, heat, and the chemical reaction itself.

One of the additional advantages of this technology is that the units can be quickly replaced.

You can simply remove the unit from its bracket and put a new one in it’s place, allowing for rapid system restoration.

This is a huge benefit to end users in terms of minimizing downtime and getting back up and running quickly.

What are common applications for Stat-X systems, and why are they suited to these environments?

There are a few specific applications and industries where we see the most interest and activity, though it spans across many sectors.

Power generation is probably our biggest application industry, including both traditional power generation and renewable energy sources.

The system is particularly well-suited for crowded, tight enclosures that might have flammable liquid hazards or electrical ignition sources.

We also see a lot of use in energy storage systems (ESS) and wind turbine applications, both of which are rapidly growing industries within the energy transition space.

Other common applications include electrical rooms and cabinets, basically anywhere with electrical infrastructure.

This could be in rooms dedicated to transformers, switching gear, and other types of equipment.

These spaces are ideal for Stat-X technology due to their compact and often crowded environments.

We also see significant use in transportation, such as rolling stock transport and industrial vehicles.

Most vehicles have both flammable liquid and electrical hazards, and Stat-X systems are well-suited for these tight, challenging environments due to their rugged design.

The marine industry is another area where we do a fair amount of business.

Similar to other transportation sectors, marine environments require rugged equipment and often have tight enclosures where space is limited, making Stat-X an excellent fit.

Lastly, CNC equipment and other specific equipment protection applications are common.

These environments often involve smaller, enclosed spaces with high hazard potential, including flammable liquids and rotating machinery.

Stat-X systems are particularly effective in these high-risk scenarios.

What challenges does the industry face in adopting aerosol technology for fire suppression?

I think the primary challenge is education and the willingness to understand and adopt what we don’t necessarily consider new technology, but is relatively new to many in our industry.

Most businesses, whether they are contracting, installing, or manufacturing, are heavily reliant on established technologies.

Initially, it was Halon 1301, then it transitioned to HFCs, and later to other fluorine-based chemicals.

These technologies are ingrained in these businesses.

The key is education—understanding that there will be a shift in the technologies used in our industry and being able to adapt to that.

Historically, our industry sees a shift in the type of technologies being used roughly every 10 to 20 years.

We moved from Halon to HFCs, and more recently to PFAS based chemicals.

I believe we are at the early stages of another technological shift, and I am confident that Stat-X and aerosol technologies will be part of that transition.

Are there any new Fireaway products or innovations coming in 2024?

We have some exciting developments on the horizon.

We’re focused on education because we believe the opportunity for this type of technology is enormous.

It’s about gaining acceptance as a viable alternative to other technologies.

That said, we’re always looking to improve and create new products.

One area of focus is enhancing the aerosol chemistry itself, refining the mixture we use to produce the condensed aerosol pellet.

Another area where we expect to see innovation is in integrating our systems with other types of detection systems, such as smoke and gas detection.

We see a significant need for integration with hazardous, flammable, and volatile gas detection in ESS environments.

Developing our products to work seamlessly with these technologies is certainly a priority for us moving forward.

How do you see the role of aerosol fire suppression evolving?

I believe that aerosol fire suppression will continue to grow both in the U.S. and globally.

The market dynamics are well set up for us to sustain the growth we’ve experienced, and our management is focused on facilitating this expansion.

We’re already seeing a clear transition from HFCs and other fluorine-based chemicals to Stat-X, and as adoption continues, we expect to see significant growth in our business and partnerships.

As businesses recognize this technological shift, we anticipate continued innovation from Fireaway, both in our aerosol technology and the overall system design.

It’s an exciting time for us, and we are eager to be at the forefront of this evolving industry.

For more information click here.

This article was originally published in the June 2024 issue of Fire & Safety Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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