Final Report: High Performance, Zero ODP Halon 1301 Replacement

EPA Contract Number: 68D00255
Title: High Performance, Zero ODP Halon 1301 Replacement
Investigators: Nimitz, Jonathan S.
Small Business: Nimitz Inc.
EPA Contact:
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2000 through March 1, 2001
Project Amount: $70,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2000) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: SBIR - Pollution Prevention , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


Goals of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) include elimination of ozone-depleting substances and reduction of high global warming substances. Halon 1301 has high ozone-depletion potential (ODP) and global warming potential (GWP), and its production has been phased out in developed countries including the U.S. Most current EPA-approved alternatives to Halon 1301 are much less effective, have high GWPs, and require new equipment. The purpose of this Phase I project was to determine the technical and commercial feasibility of an innovative, low cost, high-performance, zero ODP, low global warming, total flooding firefighting agent for direct replacement of Halon 1301 in new and existing equipment.

The Phase I objectives and questions answered included:

  • Determine effectiveness of the proposed agent in suppressing combustion of a variety of common fuels. Will the proposed agent be as effective as predicted?
  • Determine effectiveness of the proposed agent at larger scale. Is the agent still as effective when used at somewhat larger scale under conditions that more closely resemble real world conditions?
  • Measure compositional stability of the proposed agent. Will the proposed agent maintain effectiveness?
  • Estimate cost versus benefit for proposed agent compared to Halon 1301 and current alternatives. Does the proposed agent appear to be an attractive product and what customer savings can be realized?

To establish technical feasibility, cup-burner, stability, and small chamber extinguishment tests were conducted on selected compositions of the new agent. From the results of testing and known data from the literature, costs and benefits of the new agent were estimated and compared to those of Halon 1301 and current EPA approved alternatives to determine commercial feasibility.

Testing based on the apparatus and procedure of the new International Standards Organization (ISO) Cup-Burner standard test was conducted by an experienced independent third party test laboratory. The extinguishment effectiveness on n-heptane of a carefully chosen selection of agent compositions was determined. A near-optimal composition was tested for its extinguishment effectiveness on the fuels n-heptane, propane, JP-5 jet fuel, JP-8 jet fuel, diesel fuel, hydraulic fluid, turbo hydraulic oil, and gasohol. From the cup-burner results an optimal composition was chosen based principally on estimated cost-effectiveness per volume protected.

Compositional stability of the optimal composition at three different temperatures was measured in the ETEC?s laboratory based on standard procedures.

Small chamber total flooding extinguishment tests of n-heptane pan fires were conducted on the optimal composition in a chamber of approximately one cubic meter volume by the independent third party laboratory. Small chamber tests are larger scale than the cup-burner and closer to real-world fire scenarios. Small chamber tests were conducted over a range of ETEC Agent A concentrations from 2.9% to 4.3% by volume in air.

Costs and benefits were analyzed by ETEC based on the test results and known costs. In addition, Foresight Science & Technology, Inc. prepared a Commercialization Assessment Report that examined the market for and estimated the commercialization potential of the new agent.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

ETEC Agent A was found to be an excellent fire suppressant. The optimum composition was effective at about 3.5% by volume in air for extinguishing a variety of fuels. The optimum composition is just slightly less effective than Halon 1301 and about twice as effective as HFC-227ea. ETEC Agent A is sufficiently effective that it could be used as a direct replacement for Halon 1301 in existing Halon 1301 systems with addition of a small auxiliary tank.

The new agent was found to be compositionally stable over a range of temperatures.

Cost analysis shows that ETEC Agent A will have a decided cost advantage over existing alternatives, and at the same time use a smaller, lighter weight system or an existing Halon 1301 system. New systems using ETEC Agent A would be significantly less expensive in both capital cost and life cycle cost than new HFC or inert gas systems. Estimated capital cost for a new ETEC Agent A fire suppression system is about 20% less than HFC and inert gas systems. The estimated 20 and 30 year lifecycle cost of an ETEC Agent A system is 5 ? 25% less than HFC and inert gas systems. For retrofit of existing Halon 1301 systems, ETEC Agent A is estimated to be much less expensive, having only one-fifth the capital cost and one-third to one-quarter the life cycle cost of HFCs or inert gases.

Foresight felt that the market for total flooding fire suppression systems is growing well (about 7% annually) because of increasing use of computer, networking, and telecommunications equipment that require total flooding fire suppression systems. Foresight felt that the benchmark price for a total flooding fire suppressant (but not including estimated system equipment cost) was $20/lb. We estimate ETEC Agent A?s price to be 20% below the Foresight's benchmark price.


The Phase I effort has established the technical and commercial feasibility of a new, low cost, high-performance, zero ODP, low GWP, total flooding firefighting agent (ETEC Agent A) that can directly replace Halon 1301 in normally unoccupied areas.

ETEC Agent A is just slightly less effective than Halon 1301 and could be used in the same equipment. In Halon 1301 retrofit applications ETEC Agent A will have a large cost advantage over existing Halon 1301 alternatives. In new installation applications ETEC Agent A will have a significant cost advantage over existing Halon 1301 alternatives.

ETEC Agent A has less than 15% of the global warming potential per use of any hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) agent, and is significantly less toxic than trifluoromethyl iodide, the only other direct Halon 1301 replacement. ETEC Agent A should also produce much less of the highly toxic and corrosive compound hydrogen fluoride (HF) during fire suppression actions. ETEC Agent A will produce less pressure surge than inert gas systems, and there will be no reduced oxygen level concerns during discharge of ETEC Agent A.

The independent commercialization assessment by Foresight Science & Technology concludes that ETEC Agent A has a good possibility of commercial success because of its increased effectiveness versus HFC and inert gas agents and its ability to use smaller, lighter extinguishing systems than HFC or inert gas agents in new installations. Recommendations:
The new agent has great promise and it is recommended that it be prepared for commercialization in Phase II of this effort. Several Phase II tasks are recommended to help prepare the new agent for commercialization. Discussions will be held with major fire suppression equipment manufacturers to establish the framework for licensing or joint venture agreements to commercialize the new agent. With the additional funding available in Phase II, a version of ETEC Agent A with promise of further reduced toxicity will be investigated to determine whether the agent might be adapted for use in normally occupied areas. Either the current formula or, if successful, the reduced-toxicity formula will be carried forward into advanced development. The long-term compatibility of the new agent with common materials of fire suppression equipment, and in particular existing Halon 1301 system materials of construction, will be determined. Additional fire suppression testing including testing at larger scale will be conducted to meet the requirements of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the EPA Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program. A SNAP application will be prepared and submitted. Engineering studies will establish the requirements for new systems and what changes are needed to retrofit existing Halon 1301 systems.

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