Fluorine Free Foams – Are we there yet?

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10 years into their Enviro Programme, Fomtec Owner and CEO John Ottesen reflects on how far Fomtec’s range of Enviro Fluorine Free Foams have progressed towards the target of being able to achieve similar performance to the last generation of PFAS containing C6 fluorinated foams manufactured by Fomtec.

2024 will see Fomtec entering the 11th year of what we call the Enviro Programme, which is our internal name for the project (and cost) centre for the research and development of fluorine free foams.

We were looking at Class B fluorine free foams earlier than 2014 and in fact in 2012 commercialised the Enviro PLUS range which were our gen’ 1 Class B fluorine free foams, which are still available today.

In 2014 as we were finishing up the transition from C8 to C6 chemistry the Enviro Programme kicked into a higher gear and the development of fluorine free foams now receives more than 80% of our R & D budget.

Development is a PROCESS and not necessarily an EVENT

When I look back at the transition from C8 to C6 chemistry the industry in hindsight played down the challenges in reformulating our fluorinated foams, and certainly in marketing terms the C6 foams were marketed as “drop-in replacements”.

In most cases although we were dealing with similar chemicals it really wasn’t a case of removing X% of the C8 fluorosurfactant and replacing it with X% of the C6 fluorosurfactant.

Achieving the same performance as the C8 versions of AFFF’s and AR-AFFF’s, particularly the higher performance products such as Mil Spec, AR-AFFF 1 X 3’s for the emergency response market sector, or AFFF & AR-AFFF for use with standard sprinklers all involved more reformulation work and more full-scale fire testing than I thought would be necessary.

It is true to say that the transition from C8 to C6 chemistry still involved working with similar chemicals and finding the correct blend of fluorochemicals and the right percentage of each to get a successful product.

My foam chemist he won’t argue with the fact that removing the fluorosurfactants, and fluoropolymers, from the mix meant almost starting with a blank piece of paper. 

We, like most manufacturers, had some Class A and Medium/High Expansion Synthetic foams so the paper wasn’t completely blank, but as we have mentioned in many articles development (to date) has involved more than 2000 full-scale fire tests and the well proven development process of “trial and error”.

The development of high performance fluorine free foams is still in it’s infancy but even in the last 3 to 5 years we have seen some impressive advancements in performance.

The Clients’ WISH LIST v current status of Fomtecs’ ENVIRO Foams?

I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that all clients would like a drop-in replacement i.e. has the same physio-chemical characteristics and can be deployed through the same equipment at exactly the same proportion rate, and flow rate and has the same firefighting performance (at least) as the foam it will replace. Ideally it should not  cost more than their existing foam!

I was involved in the industry when halon was phased out and we had to use different agents to protect spaces that had previously been protected by Halon 1301.

None of the proposed clean agents available then or now was or is a drop-in replacement and all transitions involved removing old equipment and replacing the complete system – storage tanks, discharge controls, discharge piping and the discharge nozzles.

Relatively the transition of gas systems is straightforward compared to foam systems as at the very least the number of different applications makes comparison impossible.

Add in variables such as different fuels, fresh or salt water, different discharge devices and respectfully achieving a drop-in replacement was always a WISH rather than an achievable goal.

So where do we start with the development of a fluorine free foam ? Firstly, we need to remember that it is the finished foam that comes out of the nozzle / discharge device that puts out the fire and NOT the foam concentrate.

I fully accept that the chemical composition of the foam concentrate is critical for the performance of the finished foam but it is NOT the only factor.

The function of foam is to suppress and extinguish the fire so firefighting performance must be the primary goal of the development project. As foam is used through a variety of discharge devices the secondary goal is to develop products that are suitable for use with these different discharge devices.

Operational compatibility extends to storage and proportioning devices as if we can’t generate the correct mix of water and foam concentrate then it is unlikely that the finished foam will have the necessary foam qualities to achieve suppression or extinguishment.

There are other considerations such as the physio-chemical characteristics, the ecotoxicological profile of the foam concentrate and not forgetting the cost!

Characteristics such as viscosity or freeze point can determine if the product can be used with existing equipment, or in the final deployment location, whereas in developing a product based on a new chemistry must not knowingly use chemical compounds that may themselves be restricted or have a greater negative impact on the environment than the PFAS foams they are to replace.

Verifying foam performance

It should also be remembered that a variety of test standards exist and whether these are geographic based such as EN 1568 or UL 162, application specific such as ICAO or IMO, industry preferred protocols such as LASTFIRE, Gesip or a purchasing specification such as MIL SPEC, foams need to be formulated and approved to meet the appropriate test standard.

Much like the fluorinated foams before them we have found that it is very difficult to formulate one foam that can achieve the best PASS in all of the different fire tests.

Here at Fomtec our Enviro Programme has produced a foam concentrate suitable for use on hydrocarbon fuel fires, with freshwater that does achieve good results on most of the tests and in some tests has even out performed some of our last generation of C6 AFFF’s.

If you have read any of our articles over the past 18 months you will seen that we always talk about the importance of DATA. In the following tables I will share some data for our Enviro USP that comes from the many tests performed with USP and compare with our C6 AFFF products.

EN 1568-3:2008

 RatingExtinguishing Time
AFFF 3% (EN)I B1’ 36” to 1’ 43”
Enviro USPI A1’ 25” to 1’ 45”


  1. Testing carried out to 2008 standard as both products were approved before the 2018 standard was introduced.
  2. Enviro USP tested at 2% concentration

UL 162

 Test Application DensityExtinguishing Time
AFFF 3% S0.04 gpm/ft2 (1.64 lpm/m2)1’ 25” to 1’ 45”
Enviro USP0.06 gpm/ft2 (2.46 lpm/m2)1’ 25” to 1’ 45”
Enviro USP0.04 gpm/ft2 (1.64 lpm/m2)2’ 00” to 2’ 20”


  1. As per the 8th edition of UL 162 the test protocol for fluorine free foams is the same as for other “non film forming AFFF’s or AR-AFFF’s”
  2. Test fuel as per UL is n-heptane
  3. Tests on Enviro USP according to the test protocol for an AFFF are not accepted by UL and are only for internal performance data comparison (i.e. this is Fomtec data only)

ICAO Level B

 99% control @ 60 secondsExtinguishing Time
AFFF 3% (EN)PASS1’ 19”
Enviro USPPASS1’ 30”


  1. Data taken from test reports generated by MPA Dresden and RISE Sweden
  2. Test fuel is Jet A-1
  3. Enviro USP tested at 2% concentration.
  4. Fomtec has AFFF formulations specifically formulated for the ARFF market which are approved to ICAO Level C, and has already developed a low viscosity SFFF, called Enviro AIR which is approved to ICAO Level B with extinguishing time of 1’ 15” (faster than the AFFF 3% (EN))

FM 5130 Sprinkler:


Foam Concentrate
Nominal K-factorSprinkler Identification Number (SIN)HeightListedFoam Design DensityWater Discharge DensityExtinguishing Time
U.S.MetricUprightPendentFt.mFt.mgpm/ft2Lpm/m2gpm/ft2Lpm/m2Min . Secs
 5.680.6VK145    VK30051.5206.’10” – 1’30”
51.5206.10.312.20.312.21’30” – 2′ 40″
AFFF 3%S C68.0115.2VK200   VK204   VK35051.5309.10.312.20.312.21′ 05″ – 1′ 30″
 8.0115.2VK206    VK35281.8309.10.312.20.312.21′ 25″ – 1′ 58″
 11.2161.3VK53062.43310.10.312.20.312.21′ 15″ -2′ 07″
 11.2161.3VK37781.83310.10.312.20.312.21’22” – 1’57”
 16.8241.9VK58082.43310.10.520.40.520.41’53” -2’00”

Foam Concentrate
Nominal K-factorSprinkler Identification Number (SIN)HeightListedFoam Design DensityWater Discharge DensityExtinguishing Time
U.S.Metric4UprightPendentFt.mFt.mgpm/ft2Lpm/m2gpm/ft2Lpm/m2Min . Secs
USP 3%5.680.6VK1001 VK300161.824.’40” – 2′ 0″
5.680.6VK1021 VK302161.84413.′ 0″ – 1′ 30″
8.0115.2VK200   VK204   VK350   VK35192.74513.70.312.20.312.20′ 30″ – 1′ 20″
8.0115.2VK2021 VK2022 VK3521 VK352282.44413.40.312.20.312.20′ 40″ – 1′ 15″
11.2161.3VK377    VK53661.825.280.312.20.312.21′ 40″ – 2′ 05″

Foam Concentrate
Nominal K-factorSprinkler Identification Number (SIN)HeightListedFoam Design DensityWater Discharge DensityExtinguishing Time
U.S.MetricUprightPendentFt.mFt.mgpm/ft2Lpm/m2gpm/ft2Lpm/m2Min . Secs
USP 3%5.680.6VK1021, VK30218.52.64413.′ 20″ – 1′ 40″

Enviro USP has also been extensively tested and proven to meet industry standards such as the LASTFIRE batch quality assurance test protocol (with Good, Good, Good levels on Heptance with freshwater), the GESIP approval and is also suitable for shipboard fire fighting according to IMO 1312 / MED (as a 6% with saltwater).

In a recent large scale test programme in Texas USP was used at the minimum recommended NFPA 11 application rate through a non-aspirating monitor and extinguished the 130 m2 fire in less than 60 seconds using approximately 23 litres of foam concentrate.

Alternatives to AR-AFFF

The gen’ 1 Enviro PLUS products were alcohol resistant foam concentrates and since these were commercialised we have developed a number of new “ARC” type SFFF’s all backed by extensive full-scale testing and approvals to justify deployment in the field.

In 2021 we launched the first FM approved alcohol resistant SFFF for use with standard sprinklers on polar solvents and below are some of the data for Enviro ARK compared to the ARC 3 X 3 S product that we set out to match.


Foam Concentrate
Nominal K-factorSprinkler Identification Number (SIN)HeightListedFoam Design DensityExtinguishing Time
U.S.Metric4UprightPendentFt.mFt.mgpm/ft2Lpm/m2Mins: Secs
 5.680.6VK145    VK34551.5206.10.312.21′ 17″ – 1′ 35″
5.680.6VK102    VK110    VK302    VK30351.5206.10.312.24’15” – 4’30”
8.0115.2VK200    VK204    VK350    VK35151.5309.10.312.21’37” – 2’18”
8.0115.2VK202    VK206     VK352    VK35361.8309.10.312.22’10” – 4′ 32″
11.2161.3VK530    VK53182.43310.10.312.23′ 25″ – 3′ 55″
11.2161.3VK377    VK53661.83310.10.312.23′ 16 – 4′ 02″
ARK 3%5.680.6VK1001 VK300161.824.87.60.312.22′ 03″ – 2′ 55″
5.680.6VK1021 VK302161.8247.30.312.22′ 40″ – 3′ 40″
8.0115.2VK200    VK204    VK350     VK3516.524513.70.416.32′ 10″ – 2′ 40″
8.0115.2VK202161.84413.40.312.22′ 30″ – 4′ 00″
11.2161.3VK377    VK53661.84413.40.416.31′ 50″ – 2′ 40″
11.2161.3VK530    VK53161.84513.70.416.33′ 20″ – 3′ 30″

Foam Concentrate
Nominal K-factorSprinkler Identification Number (SIN)HeightListedFoam Design DensityExtinguishing Time
U.S.Metric4UprightPendentFt.mFt.mgpm/ft2Lpm/m2Mins: Secs
ARC 3X3S C65.680.6VK100    VK108    VK145    VK300    VK301    VK34551.5206.10.312.21′ 16″ – 2′ 18″
5.680.6VK102    VK110    VK302    VK30361.8206.10.312.21’50” – 3′ 05″
ARK 3%5.680.6VK1001 VK300161.824.87.60.312.21′ 15″ – 3′ 00″
5.680.6VK1021 VK302161.8247.30.312.22′ 00″ – 3′ 00″
8.0115.2VK200    VK204    VK350    VK3516.524513.70.312.21’20” – 3′ 40″
8.0115.2VK2021 VK2022 VK3521 VK352261.84413.40.312.21′ 50″ – 3′ 00″
11.2161.3VK530    VK53161.84513.70.312.23′ 45″
11.2161.3VK377    VK53661.825.280.312.22’56 -3′”

Foam Concentrate
Nominal K-factorSprinkler Identification Number (SIN)HeightListedFoam Design DensityExtinguishing Time
U.S.Metric4UprightPendentFt.mFt.mgpm/ft2Lpm/m2Mins: Secs
ARK 3%8.0115.2VK200    VK204    VK350    VK3516.524513,70.312.21′ 00″ – 3′ 00″
8.0115.2VK2021 VK3521 VK2022 VK35226.01.844.813.70.3012.21′ 30″ – 2′ 55″
11.2161.3VK530    VK5317.72.320.66.30.3012.21′ 00″ – 3′ 30″
11.2161.3VK377    VK536 1.844.813.70.3012.23′ 49″ – 3′ 52″

Fluorine Free Foams: Are we there yet?

Accepting that some of the testing and approvals are different between a film forming foam and the SFFF’s and focusing on the first goal of fire performance, and more importantly whether the SFFF’s can be deployed in the field then my answer is we are a lot closer than we were in 2014!

On the journey so far we have learnt many lessons and reaffirmed some things we always knew about using firefighting foam. Key things when deploying SFFF are no different to AFFF, namely:

  • Choosing the product that is the right product for the application and ensuring that the product is tested and approved as being suitable for that application.
  • Remembering that it is the finished foam that puts out the fire and this means using the foam concentrate with appropriate hardware that is tested and proven to work with the foam concentrate to generate and disperse the finished foam with the correct foam qualities.
  • Using the foam in accordance with proven design standards or operational procedures

And lastly, follow the DATA!

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