Firefighting foam: Local blending, global impact

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Fredric Pettersson, Sales Director, Fire Safety Group, Perimeter Solutions looks at the new firefighting foam blending facility in Saudi Arabia

A secure supply chain has always been an important facet of international business, but the pandemic of 2020-2022 taught us all that the unexpected can happen and underscored the importance of close availability of mission critical materials.

Firefighting foam is said to be one of the most mission critical materials we have.

This is particularly true for the petroleum industry whose existence is based on storing and transporting highly flammable raw materials and end products.

As a fire safety company with more than 60 years of experience supplying our products in a timely manner to some of the most remote locations all over the world, Perimeter Solutions has developed a range of delivery and deployment capabilities.

For more than 15 years, as part of our continuing efforts to service our customers, Perimeter Solutions has served different local blending plants with super concentrates to manufacture local firefighting foam concentrates.

There are a number of benefits to local blending, but also concerns with maintaining consistency and quality far away from the quality control programs and procedures employed at a centralised manufacturing facility.

Perimeter Solutions collaborated with fire protection equipment supplier Saudi Sicli to open a new firefighting foam blending plant in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to support the Kingdom’s fire safety industry.

Nearly a year after its startup, this project has proven to be highly effective, and the experience can be instructive on how local blending programs can be implemented around the world.

Why local manufacturing of foam concentrates?

A secure supply of mission critical materials is one of the major reasons for local blending of firefighting foam concentrates.

All things being equal, companies around the world prefer to source locally if possible.

Local manufacturing has other benefits.

It builds infrastructure and supports local economic development.

It also has the potential to reduce total costs of goods delivered through enhanced production efficiencies, reduced transportation costs and the possibility of lower import costs.

Sourcing commodities and raw materials locally, while blending key materials at their point of use, is the perfect combination to assure availability of large quantities of product that are delivered to end users more quickly.

A leader in the Saudi Arabian fire safety industry

Headquartered in Jeddah, Saudi Sicli provides mechanical, electrical, and plumbing products and services to various government agencies and companies in the private sector, including railways, airports, seaports, water/electricity, defense, and industrial sectors.

The company specialises in the design, installation, operations and maintenance of firefighting, fire extinguishing and fire detection systems and equipment.

Saudi Sicli was the first company to supply certified premium firefighting foam in Saudi Arabia and has been helping to protect lives and property in the region for over four decades.

Challenges and solutions

Previously, Perimeter Solutions had been supplying Saudi Sicli with firefighting foam and equipment for nearly 15 years from facilities in Norway, the United States and northern Spain.

The overall goal of the new project was to supply a foam super concentrate blended into a standard foam concentrate using water and locally sourced chemicals.

This type of operation requires equipment systems, local expertise and the ability to tightly control finished product while continually monitoring quality.

The blending plant follows a process in which third-party bodies certify and authorise their manufacturing practices.

In 2021, Perimeter introduced a Mobile Blending Plant to accomplish these goals.

The mobile plant consists of two 40’ maritime containers that contain the means to blend, control quality and pack the foam concentrate.

The plant includes a quality control lab to assure the quality of local batches.

It is also fully automatised and can be controlled from Perimeter’s site in Spain.

The automatised system for blending and packing is managed by software that can: issue a work order specifying quantity and product type; add raw materials in the correct sequence and quantity; control the stirring speed and time; support the packaging by controlling recipient filling; and connect with Perimeter Solutions in Spain

All the data generated during the manufacturing process (sensors, video cameras, QC results, etc.) are transferred to Perimeter Solutions in real time.

The control room and quality control lab allow the manufacturing process to carry out quality control analysis.

Equipment includes: pH-meter, refractometer, densimeter, precision scales, surface tension meter, viscosimeter, digital thermometer, crystat, and other standard lab equipment.

At installation, Saudi Sicli personnel were trained by a Perimeter Solutions team in the operation of the facility.

During operation, every facet of the blending process is monitored and information is provided in real-time to Perimeter Solutions in Spain.

The facility allows Perimeter Solutions personnel to troubleshoot should it be necessary, and it can even be run remotely if required.

Once the equipment for the Mobile Blending Plant was delivered to the Saudi Sicli site, it was operational within a few months.

A ceremony to inaugurate the new blending plant was attended by leaders from Saudi Sicli and Perimeter Solutions as well as the Saudi Arabian ambassador of Spain, management from Saudi Aramco, representatives from the Saudi Arabia industry and infrastructure leaders from Modon, GACA, SEC, KAUST, and SAR.

Since operations first started, the plant has produced more than 800,000 liters of Perimeter Solutions firefighting foam products.

Fluorine-free technology leadership

Perimeter Solutions is today’s innovation and market leader in the development and implementation of effective, new fluorine-free firefighting foam technology, serving well-recognised end-users worldwide.

With R&D teams in North America and Europe, Perimeter Solutions is developing the next generation of high-performing fluorine-free Class B firefighting foams with new products introduced on a regular basis.

The Perimeter Solutions fluorine-free line contains foam concentrates suitable for use on most types of applications for both hydrocarbon and polar solvent fuel fires, training foam, specialty foams, and a complete line of Class A foam concentrates.

It includes products with certifications and approvals for commonly used systems and discharge devices.

Fluorine-free foam concentrate for the petroleum industry

In 2022, Perimeter Solutions introduced an alcohol-resistant firefighting foam concentrate developed specifically for the petroleum industry called SOLBERG® VERSAGARD™ 1×3 Multipurpose Fluorine-Free Foam Concentrate.

It is non-persistent, siloxane-free, and contains no intentionally added per- or polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

The foam concentrate is designed for extinguishing and securing both Class B (hydrocarbon fuel and polar solvent fuel) and deep-seated Class A Fires.

It is ideal for industrial emergency response and is used at multiple facilities that store crude oil on site.

Product testing has shown that SOLBERG VERSAGARD 1×3 foam concentrate performs similarly to AR-FFF products that are currently on the market, and several major multinational oil companies have already signed on to use SOLBERG VERSAGARD 1×3 in their transition programs to fluorine-free foam concentrates.

For a project of this magnitude to run smoothly, it takes a significant amount of technical expertise.

Colleagues from R&D, manufacturing, quality assurance, engineering, and business have to be perfectly synchronised and work together to execute the project successfully.

This is what Perimeter Solutions brings to the market in addition to flexibility and high-quality products.

Deploying new technology

The Perimeter Solutions Mobile Blending Plant currently in use by Saudi Sicli is an example of how the best technology can be delivered globally at the best cost with security of supply.

It is expected that this approach will be used in other countries in the Middle East and around the world.

This exclusive article was originally published in the September 2023 issue of International Fire & Safety Journal. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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