Hydrocarbon flammability research goes forward

By Michael Garry, Jan 06, 2017, 00:35 2 minute reading

The Fire Protection Research Foundation will evaluate the fire hazard posed by flammable refrigerants as a pathway to raising their charge limit.

Having secured sufficient financing via a fund-raising effort, the Fire Protection Research Foundation is proceeding with a research project aimed at evaluating the fire hazard posed by ASHRAE Class A3 (flammable) refrigerants.

“I can confirm that we have reached our fund-raising goals and will be moving forward with this research project,” said Amanda Kimball, project manager for the Fire Protection Research Foundation, an affiliate of the National Fire Protection Association, based in Quincy, Mass.

The project, expected to be completed in June 2017, would lay the groundwork for raising the 150g federal charge limit on hydrocarbon refrigerants in the U.S. Kimball put the project’s total cost of implementation at $170,000, which includes the cost of an engineering contractor, project management, and information dissemination (including a sponsored webinar).

As previously reported, the Foundation disseminated a letter in mid-November seeking sponsors for the project; this was followed by a similar appeal in late November from Target Corp., a co-leader of the project, along with the North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council (NASRC); Minneapolis-based Target has installed self-contained refrigerated cases using propane (R290) refrigerant in 580 of its more than 1,800 U.S. stores.

I can confirm that we have reached our fund-raising goals and will be moving forward with this research project."
– Amanda Kimball, The Fire Protection Research Foundation

“There is a need to assess the fire hazard of Class A3 refrigerants, and specifically propane, in large volumes,” said the Fire Protection Research Foundation’s letter, authored by Kimball. “Results could support an increase in charge limits and offer alternatives to traditional refrigerants in more applications.”

The overall goal of the project, added Kimball, is to evaluate the fire hazard of up to 1,000g of propane in refrigeration appliances used in a commercial retail setting. “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,” she wrote.

The project will leverage computational fluid dynamics and FMEA (failure modes and effects analysis) processes to develop specific recommendations on how to mitigate the risk of using A3 refrigerants with charge sizes greater than 150g.  

The Fire Protection Research Foundation is not the only U.S. group conducting research into flammable refrigerants. Last year, a $5.2 million research program focused on risks associated with flammable refrigerants was announced by its primary backers, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). The research initially focused on mildly flammable (A2L) refrigerants, and was expanded to include A3 refrigerants.

By Michael Garry

Jan 06, 2017, 00:35

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