When it comes to fighting flammable liquid fires such as oil and gasoline, one of the most effective suppression agents is firefighting foam. There are a number of types of firefighting foams, each designed to combat unique fire hazards, from Class A and Class B foams to alcohol resistant and even foams that expand at different rates. While all of these firefighting foams are effective in their given fire hazard classes, some do present significant environmental threats.
Why Proper Storage of Firefighting Foam is Important for Your Oil & Gas Facility
One of the most commonly discussed concerns with fluorinated firefighting foams is their use of PFAS. Most commonly associated with Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF), PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” which means they do not break down, they do not dissipate, and they can persist in the environment forever. This is problematic as PFAS chemicals are associated with a number of adverse health conditions for humans.
Given these concerns, firefighting foam manufacturers have long been looking for an alternative to these fluorinated firefighting foams. While new fluorine-free foam options are rapidly becoming available, a direct alternative to many types of fluorinated firefighting foams has not yet been found.
For that reason, any facility that employs fluorinated firefighting foams must take great care to store those chemicals safely. This article is focused on helping you understand best practices for storage, from where to look for guidance to what to do should there be a release at your facility.
How to Store Fluorinated Firefighting Foam Concentrates
Every fluorinated firefighting foam concentrate is a little different. From different manufacturers to unique fire hazards, there are a number of different chemicals that require different storage best practices. To ensure fluorinated foam concentrate at your facility is stored properly, here are a few best practices to follow:
Follow MSDS Guidelines
MSDS or Material Safety Data Sheets are documents provided from the fluorinated firefighting foam concentrate manufacturer that offer information on:
- How to handle your specific type of fluorinated firefighting foam concentrate
- Best practices for storage, from best storage temperatures to ideal storage containers
- How to clean up the substance in the event of a release
Follow State and Federal Law Overviews
In addition to the MSDS for your particular fluorinated firefighting foam concentrate type, it’s also a good idea to consult state and federal law overviews. Each state has different guidelines, especially regarding the release of substances that contain PFAS, so that’s a great place to start. From there, make sure you’re checking that information against federal law guidelines as well, to ensure you’re not missing any overarching best practices for storage or cleanup.
What if Your Fluorinated Firefighting Foam Concentrate is Released?
Your facility employs fluorinated firefighting foam concentrate for a reason — to protect your facility and your personnel from a large-scale flammable liquid fire. In the event that fluorinated firefighting foam concentrate is released on-site, whether in response to a fire hazard or on accident, it’s important to know who to call once the hazard has been suppressed.
In most cases, your facility will need to contact an environmental company to clean, mitigate, and dispose of any leftover fluorinated firefighting foam concentrate. Again, it’s always best to consult your local, state, and federal guidelines to ensure that any cleanup is done exactly according to best practices and legal guidelines in your area.
Storing Fluorinated Firefighting Foam Concentrates at Your Oil and Gas Facility: Who Can Help, and How?
Your oil and gas facility has a lot going on. While you understand the importance of storing fluorinated firefighting foam concentrates properly, it’s not always easy to become an expert in that process on your own, especially when meeting the NFPA 25 code requirements. Luckily, there are oil and gas fire protection specialists like Vanguard Industrial Fire Protection who can help. Here’s how:
Meet NFPA 25 Requirements With Regular Testing
To meet NFPA 25 standards for the inspection, testing, and maintenance of your fluorinated foam fire protection system, regular testing should be completed. This testing will ensure your foam is properly proportioned, stored, and ready to use in the event of a fire hazard. A few of the tests the Vanguard Industrial Fire Protection team provides to help oil and gas facilities maintain NFPA 25 compliance include:
Water Equivalency Testing on Foam Proportioning Equipment
This test functions to ensure you have the right proportions of foam concentrate and water. The initial test will establish a benchmark flow rate. After the initial test, testing will be performed with water only. This testing is important because in the event of a fire hazard, these proportions ensure that you have enough firefighting foam and that the distributed foam is of the right mixture to effectively suppress the fire.
Load Rack Foam System Flow Test
This test works to ensure that there are no obstructions in your foam system. Essentially, the fire protection specialist will complete a flow test to check that no nozzles are plugged, nothing is blocking the system from actuating, and that water pressure and spray patterns are working as they should. The load rack foam system flow test will also confirm that the detection and control system is working properly. This test confirms that in the event of a hazard, your foam system is prepped and ready to actuate appropriately.
Draw Samples for Third-Party Testing
Another part of the Vanguard Industrial Fire Protection team’s regular foam system inspection is sampling. Our team will draw samples of the fluorinated foam concentrate in your system to send to third-party testing experts. There, your samples will be tested to ensure the viability of the foam in your system.
Detailed Reports of all Testing, Inspection, and Maintenance
Finally, to make sure you have all the documentation you need to maintain NFPA 25 compliance, our team will provide you with detailed reports of all the testing, inspection, and maintenance we’ve completed, as well as the findings from any third-party testing. In these reports, our team will offer insight on any noted deficiencies, and will offer recommendations for improvement, so you know exactly what to tackle first, and how.
Get Expert Industrial Fire Protection Support
Your industrial or oil and gas facility has a lot of moving parts. From your regular daily operations to safety protocol and beyond, there’s not a lot of extra time to consider testing and regular maintenance. Don’t leave fire hazard protection for last. If it’s been some time since you’ve even considered how your fluorinated foam concentrate is stored, talk to the experts at Vanguard Industrial Fire Protection. Our team can take the maintenance and compliance headache off your hands, provide all the inspection, testing, and maintenance you need, and offer clear, specific directives that help your facility stay safe, and on track. For more information, get in touch with our team today!