Exclusive: The future of foam with Fomtec

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Fomtec looks at some of the challenges around firefighting foam in the Middle East

Foam remains the predominant agent for use on liquid hydrocarbon fuel fires because of its unique ability to both extinguish and to provide post extinguishment security against reflash, which other agents are unable to do. The majority of firefighting foams have for more than 50 years been based on “fluorine chemistry”.

This chemistry was extremely beneficial to the fire performance of the foams but environmental concerns on the impact of PFAS mean that in many parts of the world there are already restrictions on what foams can be used and how they can be used. These restrictions are likely to see the use of our current PFAS containing foams having an end date in the next decade – in some locations and for some industries this end date has already past.

Environmental transitions

The Middle East Region is one of the largest producers of oil and has an increasing downstream petrochemical industry. This allied to the requirements of municipal, military and aviation fire and rescue services means that the region has an inventory of firefighting foam in excess of 10 million litres that should be considered for transition to more environmentally responsible fluorine free foam (SFFF) in the coming years.

Fomtec was established in 2001 and since then has earned a reputation for the supply of high performance foams and for formulating an extensive range of products to meet their clients requirement. Fomtec has sought to be customer focussed and to provide innovative solutions for their clients needs.

Fomtec’s commitment to continuous development has seen the company forge a presence in a market that was for so many years dominated by large corporations. Fomtec has committed significant resources to the development of high performance fluorine free foam agents and the Enviro Programme today stands at over 2,000 full scale fire tests with the Enviro range of foams boasting more than 15 different products for different applications.

Of particular note is the fact that Fomtec was the first company to achieve an FM Approval for a fluorine free foam suitable for use on water miscible fuels through a standard sprinkler. This was achieved in 2021 with the ENVIRO ARK.

This transition away from PFAS containing foams is not without it’s challenges and these will be faced in the Middle East region as well. The current SFFF’s commercially available are rarely “drop-in” replacements and the need to adopt a holistic approach to the design and deployment of SFFF’s rather that the PFAS containing foams is critic if the mission to suppress a liquic hydrocarbon fuel fire is to be successfully achieved.

The safety margins that we were used to with our AFFF’s and AR-AFFF’s were generally forgiving when foams were used with foam proportioning and discharge devices that the foam was not actually tested and approved with. Fomtec’s experience with our Enviro range of foams is that making that assumption is not a safe policy.

Tried and tested

Fomtec works in the principle of data not opinion, such that when we promote a foam solution to a client it is backed by testing and approvals to established international standards, witnessed and approved by independent third parties such as FM or UL.

Since we launched our Enviro range of SFFF’s we have worked with end users on their transition projects by sharing our data and clearly defining what has been tested and proved, and what has not. This in some cases has led to establishing fire performance test programmes with specific discharge devices and / or specific fuels to prove the suitability of the foam system solution. We are looking at the IFSJ Conference as an opportunity to meet key industry professionals and share our experiences .

Fomtec have never tried to say that fluorine free foams perform the same as PFAS containing foams but after 2,000 + fire performance tests and participation in many end user evaluations we are comfortable in saying that “Fluorine Free Foams DO work”. We will use the IFSJ Conference as a platform to explain why we are comfortable in making that statement, and discussing the data that we draw upon that allows us to state this.

We are excited that the Conference will also allow us to hear from industry leaders how they think the transition will take place in the region and further how fire professionals in the region will embrace (or not) the new “fluorine free foam” technology. We are also keen to learn if there are other factors unique to the region that will impact the transition. We look forward to meeting like minded professionals and sharing information.

Dafo Fomtec is proud to be a Gold Sponsor at the forthcoming IFSJ Leader in Fire & Safety Conference in Dubai. Fomtec is a Sweden based manufacturer of firefighting foam concentrates and foam systems and firmly supports events such as this where valuable knowledge can be shared between manufacturers, consultants, and end users.

This article was originally published in the March edition of IFSJ. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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