Leading the change with Perimeter Solutions

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Fredric Pettersson, Sales Director, Fire Safety Group, explains why Perimeter Solutions is ready to lead the shift to fluorine-free firefighting foam

Intersec has returned to Dubai. As the world’s leading event focused on emergency services, security and safety, this is an ideal time to discuss the state of the Middle East’s transition from aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) to synthetic fluorine-free firefighting (SFFF) foam.

In a region where regulatory frameworks have yet to comprehensively address the use of fluorinated foams, the impetus to switch to fluorine-free technology will be propelled by organizational leaders who prioritize environmental consciousness and are eager to embrace more sustainable firefighting solutions.

Perimeter Solutions, the industry’s innovation leader in SFFF technology, has developed SFFF foam concentrates since the early 2000s and is primed to support Middle East businesses ready to make the switch from fluorinated foam concentrates.

Firefighting Foam Regulation

The global fire safety industry’s transition to fluorine-free actually started a quarter century ago.

In the 1990s, scientists started raising concerns about whether the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in firefighting foam and other products had an impact on humans.

A few years later, 3M, the world’s largest producer of fluorinated foams and the fluorochemicals used to produce them, decided to exit the business.

It was at this time that the conversation about the use of PFAS started grabbing more attention – from the fire safety industry and regulators.

In 2006, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched a new voluntary stewardship program with the eight largest manufacturers of fluorochemicals.

It was called the 2010/2015 PFOA Stewardship Program, and the participants established a goal to reduce the amount of PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid, a synthetic PFAS chemical) by 95 percent by the year 2010, and by 99.5 percent by 2015.

In 2009, international restrictions were introduced when PFOS (perfluorooctanoic sulfonic acid, another synthetic PFAS chemical) and related compounds were included under Annex B of the Stockholm Convention for Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), restricting their use and production in the more than 100 ratifying countries.1

Inclusion in Annex B only required countries to reduce the risk, but not eliminate the use of PFOS and related compounds, and many countries did take steps to reduce risks associated with PFAS.2  In 2019, PFOA and PFOA-related compounds were added to Annex A of the Stockholm Convention list, which calls for the elimination of their use.3 The following year, the European Commission published the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, which included the phase out of PFAS in the EU, unless their use is essential.4

Fluorine-Free Innovation

Before the US and EU started introducing regulations to address the use of fluorinated foams in firefighting foam, Perimeter Solutions had already taken the initiative to develop SFFF technology that would help the industry to reduce its reliance on AFFF.

The company started research and development on SFFF in 2000, and within the next ten years it had built a broad portfolio of fluorine-free alternatives.

While developing this technology, the focus was to create fluorine-free foam that had comparable efficacy to the AFFF solutions that had served firefighters so well for the past 40 years.

Perimeter Solutions began collaborating closely with clients who took a proactive approach to making the switch to SFFF alternatives, including international airports, end users in the oil and gas industry and fire departments.

Perimeter tailored fire safety system transitions that suited each project’s unique requirements.

The complexity of these projects is influenced by various factors, such as application type, individual needs, and the current design of the system being replaced.

Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam was eager to make the transition to synthetic fluorine-free foam (SFFF) and was concerned about maintaining their level of firefighting performance.

Active fires are not a frequent occurrence at the airport, but the airport’s fire brigade wanted to upgrade their trucks to provide sustainable firefighting performance with their trucks.

“They also needed to achieve the same performance they had with their existing foam, and that is why it was so important to select the right SFFF  for the transition.

There are huge stakes at the airport if one of our trucks doesn’t perform well.

For the fire brigade of Schiphol, it’s literally a matter of life and death,” said Hans Harding, manager of the department Risk Management and Operations.

After conducting research on the SFFF market, Schiphol selected SOLBERG® RE-HEALING™ Fluorine-Free Firefighting Foam (RF3x6), a sustainable, fluorosurfactants and fluoropolymer-free foam concentrate that is used to extinguish Class B fuels, developed specifically to replace traditional AFFF and alcohol-resistant AFFF concentrates, like those previously used at Schiphol Airport.

We also partnered with the Pennsylvania, US-based Lehigh Valley Airport Authority on a project to modernize their fluorinated foam system within one of their expansive 40,000 square foot hangars.

This is considered one of the largest hangar sizes and is a National Fire Protection Association 409 Group 1 hangar.

That means that it requires an aircraft access door height of more than 28’, it can house an aircraft with a tail height over 28’, and that it needs to have a single fire area in excess of 40,000 square feet.

We converted their deluge fire sprinkler system, initially designed for 0.16 gallons per minute per square foot and retrofitted the existing system to employ SOLBERG RE-HEALING RF3 3% Class B Foam Concentrate, a fluorine-free alternative with the same design application rate as their previous AFFF foam.

This strategic choice eliminated the need for extensive changes to discharge devices and piping infrastructure, significantly reducing the overall investment.

The upgrade simply involved introducing new foam storage, adjusting the proportioner, and adopting the new foam formulation.


More recently, Perimeter’s suppressant team has been highly active in the US, helping airports make the transition to SOLBERG® 3% MIL-SPEC SFFF, the company’s newest fluorine-free solution.

SOLBERG 3% MIL-SPEC SFFF was the first SFFF foam concentrate to be added to the United States Department of Defense Qualified Products List (QPL) and remains the only one on the list as of this writing.

With a fluorine-free solution added to the QPL, US federal regulations give airports and other government agencies required to use MIL-SPEC-qualified products the ability to transition from AFFF to an SFFF solution.

SOLBERG 3% MIL-SPEC SFFF is specifically designed for fast knockdown and extinguishment of gasoline and Jet A fuel spills as identified in MIL-PRF-32725 (I1), a specification for land-based, freshwater applications introduced in January 2023.

The new foam easily exceeds the MIL-SPEC’s expansion ratio, burn back, and 25% drain time requirements, and also meets its saltwater requirements, based on internal testing.

Airports around the country started reaching out to Perimeter Solutions before its SOLBERG 3% MIL-SPEC product was even added to the QPL, so that they could be early adopters of the new technology.

Mark Siem, Business Development-Industrial, Chemist at Perimeter solutions, is proud of the leading role the company is taking in this area.

“While some foam manufacturers have decided not to participate in the new MIL-SPEC qualification program, Perimeter Solutions remains committed to serving the MIL-SPEC market with high quality fluorine-free foam solutions,” said Siem.

Perimeter Supports Middle East Transition to Fluorine-Free Tech

Compared to the US and Europe, the Middle East has not been as active making the transition to fluorine-free technology, but that is starting to change.

With its experience helping fire management teams make the transition to fluorine-free foam in markets around the world, Middle East organizations have reached out to Perimeter Solutions to leverage its two decades of expertise as they take proactive steps toward adopting eco-friendly firefighting solutions.

One multinational organization based in Middle East signed on with Perimeter to switch to SOLBERG RF3x3 SP-100, which is the industry’s first UL-listed fluorine-free 3×3 foam concentrate with the full complement of hardware and sprinkler listings, including non-aspirated, standard sprinkler heads.

Biodegradable and non-persistent, SOLBERG RF3x3 SP-100 secures both Class B (hydrocarbon fuel and polar solvent fuel).

Meanwhile, an international airport based in the Middle East just recently partnered with Perimeter Solutions to transition to SOLBERG® AVIGARD™ Fluorine-Free Foam Concentrate.

Our SOLBERG AVIGARD line is designed to meet or exceed ICAO regulations and provides fast knockdown and extinguishment on Jet A/Jet A1 fuel with high fluidity, slow drainage and delivers Newtonian flow characteristics.

SOLBERG AVIGARD is compatible with existing aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) equipment, and like Perimeter’s other fluorine-free products it presents no concerns for persistence, bioaccumulation or toxic breakdown.

Another solution gaining interest in the Middle East is SOLBERG VERSAGARD 1×3.

Developed specifically for the petroleum industry, SOLBERG VERSAGARD 1×3 is a non-persistent, siloxane-free foam that contains no intentionally added PFAS and can extinguish and secure both Class B (hydrocarbon fuel and polar solvent fuel) and deep-seated Class A Fires.

SOLBERG VERSAGARD 1×3 have passed several international test standards, showing excellent extinguishment and burn-back properties.

As more Middle East organizations decide on transitioning to fluorine-free solutions, there are considerations to keep in mind.

Perimeter Solutions works with end users to confirm compatibility between the next generation foam and existing hardware in the foam system, and to determine how they will maintain business continuity and minimize the capital investment required to make the transition.

The final solution is almost always influenced by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) approving the foam system – i.e., Fire Marshall, Municipal Fire Department, or Insurance company.

Organizations also must factor in third party approvals from Underwriter Laboratories (UL), Factory Mutual, EN 1568 standard and or other vertical market foam standards, including U.S. MIL-SPEC, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), International Maritime Organization, LASTFIRE, or the U.S. Coast Guard.

As the Middle East continues its fluorine-free journey, Perimeter Solutions is ready to help provide support.

For more information on our fluorine-free solutions, visit www.perimeter-solutions.com or contact [email protected].

Intersec Dubai will take place between the 16th and 18th of January at the Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai.

This article was originally published in the January 2024 issue of International Fire & Safety Journal. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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