This is the last of our four-part series on clean agent fire suppression systems. This series aims to educate organizations on various types of special fire hazard solutions (FM-200, ANSUL INERGEN, 3M Novec 1230, and different types of CO2), helping them to gain a better understanding of the best option for their facility.  

Clean Agent Series: 3 Types of CO2 Clean Agent Systems

Industrial facilities that deal with high-value and/or highly sensitive materials require specialized fire protection solutions. Oftentimes, the best solution is a clean agent — a non-conductive, non-corrosive fire extinguishing material that doesn’t leave residue upon evaporation. 

Over the past few months, we’ve worked through a series of popular clean agent options. If you’ve been following along, you already know about FM-200 (soon to be phased out), ANSUL INERGEN, and Novec 1230. If you haven’t been, no worries — you can find those blogs here:

In this article, we’ll discuss the last popular clean agent option out there: CO2. We’ll talk about three CO2 clean agent systems, how they differ from each other, and what unique benefits they could bring to your facility. 

Is CO2 a Clean Agent? 

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) doesn’t classify CO2 as a clean agent. However, CO2 does have all the properties of one, and is sometimes even referred to as the “original” clean agent. Many industrial facilities have trusted it to protect their buildings, materials, and staff for years. It can protect against Class A, B, and C fires

Why the declassification then? The answer has to do with how CO2 works to extinguish a fire. 

A fire can only start when three elements are present: a fuel source, heat, and oxygen. In order to extinguish a fire, one of these elements must be eliminated. For CO2, that element is oxygen. When released, CO2 displaces oxygen at a level that’s fatal for humans. 

So, while CO2 clean agent systems are still allowed and effective at fire suppression, they are limited in their applications. For instance, they’re typically not permitted for use in occupied spaces like an office, but can be cautiously used in unoccupied spaces like dust collectors. If they are used in occupiable spaces, certain safety features are required, such as lockout valves for maintenance, pneumatic sirens, time delays, and odorizers. 

3 CO2 Clean Agents Systems

There are three common types of CO2 clean agent systems — each with their own applications, advantages, and disadvantages. We’ll take a look at each of them below. 

1. High-Pressure CO2 System

High-pressure CO2 systems are ideal for industrial processes where flammable materials and gasses present fire hazards. Their cylindrical system can quickly cover all parts of a machine to suppress some of the trickiest of fires in just seconds. It doesn’t contaminate any of the machine’s components, and usually the machine can return to service a few minutes after discharge.

High-pressure CO2 systems are FM and UL/ULC listed and approved, meaning they meet the highest property loss prevention product testing and certification standards. 

Some applications that high-pressure CO2 systems are best suited for include: 

  • Additive manufacturing equipment
  • Cutting and forming tools
  • Heavy machinery
  • Dust collectors
  • Engine rooms
  • Coating machines

2. Mini-Bulk Low-Pressure CO2 System

Mini-bulk low-pressure CO2 systems provide the same benefits as their high-pressure counterparts, but they bridge the gap between high-pressure cylinders and low-pressure bulk tanks. These mini-bulk tanks offer capacities between 1,000 and 1,500 lb. They’re also configured in a way that opens up floor space. 

Mini-bulk low-pressure CO2 systems are FM and UL/ULC listed and approved, meaning they meet the highest property loss prevention product testing and certification standards. 

Some applications that mini-bulk low-pressure CO2 systems are best suited for include: 

  • Printing presses
  • Transformer vaults
  • Flammable gas or liquid storage areas
  • Generators
  • Exhaust and fume handling systems
  • Rolling mills

3. Bulk Low-Pressure CO2 System

Bulk low-pressure CO2 systems also provide the same benefits as their high-pressure and mini-bulk low-pressure counterparts, but with a few unique capabilities. They’re ideal for non-occupied spaces that require large volumes of an extinguishing agent. 

One bulk tank can store up to 46 tons of CO2, which allows the system to effectively distribute the clean agent. It also allows for multiple discharge capabilities between refills, resulting in a fairly economical option. 

Bulk low-pressure CO2 systems are FM and UL/ULC listed and approved, meaning they meet the highest property loss prevention product testing and certification standards. 

Some applications that bulk low-pressure CO2 systems are best suited for include: 

  • Transformer vaults
  • Electrical cabinets
  • Dip tanks
  • Flammable gas or liquid storage areas
  • Inerting applications
  • Open pits

Pros & Cons of Using CO2 As Your Facility’s Clean Agent Solution

CO2 is a controversial clean agent solution. While it’s worked for many facilities over the years, others are staunchly against it. It really depends on the application. If it can be safely used in a way that doesn’t harm human life, it’s a viable solution. If not, there are other options that may work better. 

Advantages of CO2 Clean Agents

The main benefit of using a CO2 clean agent is that it can effectively extinguish even the most challenging fires. By taking that oxygen out of the equation, it can quickly reduce the amount of damage caused. 

CO2 clean agents are also relatively well-known and affordable. As the “original” clean agent, there is a lot of information out there about them, as well as a lot of availability in product. 

Disadvantages of CO2 Clean Agents

Some facilities steer away from CO2 clean agents because of their potential to harm human lives. CO2 isn’t recommended for facilities with lots of occupied space for this reason. However, it’s still an effective solution, so if occupied spaces aren’t a concern at your facility (or in certain parts of your facility), it could be a great choice for you. 

Get CO2 Clean Agent Solutions at Vanguard

At Vanguard Fire & Security Systems, we offer a variety of clean agent fire suppression products, such as ANSUL INERGEN and Novec 1230 — both of which could be a viable replacement for FM-200.

If you work in an environment that requires special hazard fire protection solutions, we can help you. Our experts will listen to your needs and recommend the clean agent that will work best to meet them. For more information, give us a call at (800) 444-8719 or contact us online.