Circular fire protection with A-Gas

March 5, 2024

In conversation with Bill Polits, Director of Sales and Strategy at A-Gas, we delve into the creation and approval of FM-200R™

The introduction of FM-200R™, a fully UL- and FM-approved reclaimed HFC-227ea (generic term for FM-200/FE-227), brought to market through a collaborative effort by A-Gas in the Americas and Chemours marks a significant step in offering circular fire suppression solutions, aligning with global efforts to increase the circular economy of products and the mandates of the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act.

FSJA Editor Iain Hoey sat down with Bill Polits, Director – Sales & Strategy at A-Gas, to explore the journey, implications, and benefits of FM-200R™, providing insights into its development, approval process, and potential impact on the fire suppression industry.

Could you start by telling us a bit about your role at A-Gas and your involvement with the FM-200R™ project?

I am the Director of Sales and Strategy for A-Gas’ Fire Protection business in the Americas.

At the core, my job is to provide businesses with clean agents for their critical purposes, supporting a circular approach to their fire suppression solutions.

I have a great personal interest in helping businesses gain a competitive advantage while achieving positive results with respect to environmental impacts.

This comes into good use with clean agent fire suppression, where the chemicals used to protect lives and critical infrastructure have environmental risks.

I was part of the A-Gas team that worked with The Chemours Company to license FM fire test data for HFC-227ea (marketed under The Chemours Company’s trademark, FM200TM).

As a result, A-Gas now produces an American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) certified version of FM-200, sourced from 100% reclaimed material.

We’re going to market with this product to select suppression OEMs under the name FM-200R TM (the R is for Reclaimed).

For our readers less familiar with fire suppression agents, could you explain what HFC-227ea is and its significance in the market?

HFC-227ea was developed after the Montreal Protocol’s total production ban on halons went into force in the early 1990s.

For all but the most demanding critical uses, HFC-227ea was recognized by the US market as the leading Halon 1301 total flooding replacement, combining the best human health profile and extinguishing performance.

As critical technical infrastructure spread with the rise of globalization, this trend continued worldwide.

However, HFC-227ea, with its high global warming potential (GWP – a measure of a substance’s ability to trap heat in the atmosphere), faced competition from low GWP alternatives.

Nevertheless, as of this writing, HFC-227ea is the most widely deployed total flooding clean agent worldwide.

The UNEP TEAP’s Fire Suppression Technical Options Committee’s (FSTOC) 2022 Assessment Report noted that the worldwide installed bank of HFC-227ea is estimated at 168,500 MT.

Compare this to the FSTOC’s peak bank level for Halon 1301 of 77,000 MT (a reminder that it is still widely used in new critical-use equipment today).

Can you elaborate on the importance of FM-200R™ being the first UL-listed, FM-approved reclaimed HFC-227ea for OEM fire suppression systems?

UL listing and FM approvals are critical for the risk management profile of safety equipment going into commercial buildings everywhere, but especially in the US.

FM-200R™‘s dual Agency approval makes it feasible for suppression system end-users to expand and maintain their HFC-227ea-based suppression systems during an HFC Allowance for production and consumption environment; reclaimed products are not subject to allocation.

In the end, that saves those end-users money as they won’t need to convert to new systems before the end of the suppression system’s useful life, supporting the circular economy.

How does the introduction of FM-200R™ align with the objectives of the AIM Act and its implications for the fire suppression industry?

As stated on the US Environmental Protection Agency Website: “The American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act authorizes EPA to address HFCs by phasing down their production and consumption under an allocation framework, maximizing reclamation and minimizing releases from equipment and facilitating the transition to next-generation technologies through sector-based restrictions on HFCs”

With full Agency approval, the path from reclaiming HFC-227ea to redeployment in buildings is now clear.

Such a clear path for the use of reclaimed products ensures there will be sufficient demand to drive value in reclaimed HFCs.

This, in turn, prevents emissions to the atmosphere, while removing the need to mine and manufacture new chemicals for suppression uses.

In this way, FM-200R™ directly fulfills the primary goal of the AIM Act.

What challenges did A-Gas face in developing a recycled fire suppressant that meets rigorous Agency approvals, and how were these overcome?

To oversimplify a very in-depth process, we went through a 24-month R & D and implementation effort.

It began with evaluating vendors, options, etc., and ended with FM approval in July 2023.

To say it was a lot of work is an understatement That is all a testament to A-Gas’ commitment to quality (our reclamation facilities in the US are ISO 9001:2015 and 14001:2015 certified) and our incredible Quality Team.

How do you see FM-200R™ influencing the design and implementation of fire suppression systems in critical infrastructure and valuable asset protection?

One of the great advantages of FM-200R™ is the absence of any design, engineering, etc.

work needed for those who once faced the choice between legacy FM-200 and a not-in-kind replacement.

FM-200R™/FM-200/HFC-227ea is a very effective legacy firefighting clean agent whose properties are well known and understood throughout the industry.

FM-200R™ is 100% “plug & play” with respect to existing FM-200 engineering.

The added benefit: FM-200R™ is reclaimed, so it does not face the allocation hurdles and availability issues associated with virgin HFCs.

In what ways is A-Gas working with stakeholders across the industry to increase lifecycle management and participation in the circular economy?

Our Head of Regulatory & Government Affairs for the Americas was a Technical Advisor for the 90 Billion Ton Opportunity report published by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development (IGSD), and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) at the end of 2022.

That report outlined the Lifecycle Refrigerant Management approach, which included a focus on increasing recovery, reclamation, and re-use of all refrigerants, including fire suppressants.

Now, we need to show end-users that they will continue to have the right extinguishing agent for their legacy extinguishing systems thanks to that circular economy approach.

Looking to the future, how do you envision the evolution of circular fire suppression solutions, and what role will A-Gas play in shaping this landscape?

For us, it is our continued circular approach, fully managing the lifecycle of these products, for which halons blazed a trail.

For instance, halons are still being installed on most aviation platforms coming off the assembly line today, 30 years after the total production ban for halons under the Montreal Protocol.

The dynamics of supply and demand for reclaimed fire suppressant clean agents have maintained a predictable value model for halons.

The AIM Act provides a similar value model for HFCs, so we see FM-200R™/HFC-227ea maintaining the integrity of the supply chain for this clean agent through greater circularity.

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

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