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Flammable refrigerants firefighter training: Hazard assessment and demonstrative testing

The ongoing push toward sustainability of refrigeration systems will require the adoption of low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants to meet the shift in environmental regulations. Fire safety is a lingering issue with the new age of flammable refrigerants being adopted and first responders may not be familiar with the change in material hazards or the appropriate response procedures required to safely handle these fire scenarios.

 

Flammable refrigerants: Fire Fighter Training Material Development Workshop

The goal of this workshop was to identify the optimum safety guidance and information to develop materials for training emergency responders and others for the safe use of flammable refrigerants as alternatives for traditional refrigerants. The general concepts of refrigerants and the expected changes in the form of fire risk with the introduction of flammable refrigerants were discussed. In addition, the workshop also included breakout group discussions which addressed: 1) relevant codes and standards; 2) hazard identification; 3) emergency response tactics; 4) post incident considerations; 5) gaps; and (6) outreach needs. These are documented in this workshop proceedings.

 

Fire Hazards of Class A3 Refrigerants: R-290 Propane

Due to the potential environmental impact, there has been a shift to consider use of natural refrigerants, which have a lower Global Warming Potential (GWP) than traditional fluorocarbon-based refrigerants. One type of natural refrigerant are hydrocarbons (e.g. propane), which are classified as Class A3 refrigerants per ASHRAE Standard 34. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a charge limit of 150g of hydrocarbon per appliance, which is defined as a closed loop refrigeration circuit. Previous work has been completed on Class A2L refrigerants, but Class A3 refrigerants need more study to provide technical basis for any changes to the current limits for use in refrigerator units. There is a need to assess the fire hazard of Class A3 refrigerants, and specifically propane, in larger volumes to evaluate their viability as alternatives to traditional refrigerants in more applications.

  
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