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Chemguard Foam Systems Training Seminar Draws Design and Application Professionals From Around the Globe

August 15, 2008 

Fire suppression system designers, engineers, and contractors traveled from as far as South Africa, Argentina, and Panama – and California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and all over Texas – to attend the Foam Systems Design and Application Training Seminar at Chemguard headquarters this spring.  The three-day seminar combined classroom presentations and discussions, a live fire test, equipment demonstrations, and a close-up tour of Chemguard’s production, test, and research facilities. 

“We enjoy hosting these well-attended seminars,” said Chemguard Vice President of Sales and Marketing John Vieweger.  “The meetings are an opportunity to discuss new products and processes as well as a chance to get feedback from the field about system design and implementation challenges.  In addition, these seminars give us an opportunity to show off Chemguard’s full-service facilities.  You won’t find a lot of companies in the global fire suppression field with the manufacturing and fabrication expertise of Chemguard.”

The comprehensive, interactive seminar – a component of Chemguard’s extensive customer support was conducted by three field-trained instructors: Senior Systems Sales Manager Bill Varone, Senior International Business Manager Max Oyola, and Foam Systems Senior Regional Sales Manager Skip Westbrook

Foam, LNG & Ethanol, Loading Docks, and Warehouse Storage

Bill Varone opened the seminar with a review of the principles of firefighting foam: history, chemistries/properties, functions, strengths and weaknesses, characteristics, selection parameters, application comparisons, types, classes, mixing, handling, environmental impact, discharge devices, and application equipment.  Varone, who can claim more than three decades of field experience with fire suppression systems, provided guidelines for foam selection, particularly with regard to polar and nonpolar solvents, and discussed foam application techniques. 

Later, Varone provided insightful information on emerging approaches to protecting liquefied natural gas (LNG) and ethanol.  Varone included a discussion of procedures for protecting truck and rail loading docks, highlighting the challenges created by ethanol, which is a water-miscible fuel and requires alcohol-resistant foam. 

Varone also presented an overview of flammable liquid and warehouse storage.

Proportioning, LASTFIRE, Bladder Tanks

Max Oyola, who has extensive experience with foam system design and implementation in Latin America and the Caribbean, discussed the basics of proportioning with the group, including calculating density.  Using system schematics as illustrations, Oyola pointed out the features of various proportioning approaches – premix, portable in-line eductors, fixed in-line eductors, self-educting nozzles, in-line balanced-pressure (ILBP) proportioning systems, and foam balanced-pressure pump proportioning skids.   

Oyola also reviewed the LASTFIVE Project.  LASTFIRE (large-area storage tank fire) tests were developed to test how foam concentrates will perform in tank fire incidents.  The round, 50-square-foot LASTFIRE test pan has high sides and 12-inch protrusions along the sides to make extinguishment more difficult.  In addition, the test has the longest preburn time of any fire test today, resulting in very hot metal edges that must be cooled with the foam.  Foams are tested with three different types of nozzles: aspirated, semi-aspirated, and system nozzles.  The three application types test the flexibility and resistance of the foam to fuel pickup.  (See Chemguard Ultraguard 3%x3% AR-AFFF Passes LASTFIRE Test.)

Oyola initiated a review of bladder tank designs, operation, and maintenance.  Joined by Skip Westbrook, Oyola engaged the group in an informative discussion of proportioner and bladder tank applications and related issues.

Aircraft Hangars, Storage Tanks, Foam Sample Testing

Westbrook provided intensive instruction on the design parameters for aircraft hangars, including military facilities.  Reflecting on his extensive hangar experience, Westbrook described the major aircraft hanger groups and led the seminar participants in example calculations of hangar system flow rates and equipment requirements.  He also compared foam products with differing properties, noting that understanding the numerous product and equipment variables can help foam system designers and contractors control system cost while maximizing system effectiveness.  For illustrations, Westbrook used photographs and videos of hangar systems and system tests from the many hangars in the United States and abroad that protect civilian and military aircraft and equipment with Chemguard fire suppression foam, high-expansion foam generators, bladder tanks, and other products.

Westbrook described the design details of storage tanks, including fixed-roof (cone) tanks, covered (internal) floating-roof tanks, and open-top floating-roof tanks.  Using photos and schematics, Westbrook reviewed the application of foam chambers and foam makers and the responses to various rim-seal fires and other storage tank fire and vapor suppression challenges.  Max Oyola added information on subsurface injection, explaining why this technique is used in some locations and not others, when it is appropriate, and techniques for effective application.

Westbrook also discussed the importance of periodic foam sample testing to confirm the effectiveness of foam systems.  Using the Chemguard foam sample test kit, he led the group through a hands-on sample-test exercise, creating foam test samples at various concentrations to test against a mock test sample. 

Plant Tour, Product Demos, Live Fire Test

The class spent an afternoon at the Chemguard Mansfield headquarters.  In the busy Chemguard equipment manufacturing building, Westbrook pointed out the bladder tank fabrication equipment, noting that Chemguard is a custom shop and designs, tests, and fabricates bladder tanks, carts, and other fire suppression equipment to meet customer requirements. 

In the bladder tank assembly area, tank fabricators Javier Sigala, Alfredo Cervantes, and José Rivera demonstrated how to insert a bladder into a tank and prepare the tank for use.  All Chemguard bladder tanks are ASME tested and certified before being painted and prepped for shipment. 

In the foam processing building, Senior Warehouse Manager Leroy Moreno showed the seminar group the foam blending tanks and raw materials storage areas and explained the process for mixing and testing foam formulations.  Chemguard is equipped for extremely quick blending and shipment – including all quality control tests, which are conducted in an adjacent laboratory.

At the Chemguard Fire Test Facility, the group observed a live fire test.  Conducted by Senior Chemical Technology Manager Randy Hendrickson, the test demonstrated all phases of fire suppression – initial knockdown, edge sealing, and re-ignition control.  Chemguard performs both "top-side" and sprinkler fire tests in the three-story burn building.   

At an outside bladder tank test station, Project Manager Scott Luzader demonstrated the steps for testing bladder integrity and properly filling a bladder tank.  Luzader reminded the group that Chemguard’s customer support is only an email or phone call away, should the designers and contractors or their customers have questions about equipment operation or maintenance.

At a test station adjacent to a storage tank, Westbrook and Luzader demonstrated the setup and operation of Chemguard’s water-powered oscillating monitor.  Suitable for automatic and manual operation, the heavy-duty monitor sprayed geysers of water and foam in a frothy arc onto the storage tank.  Chemguard’s oscillating monitors are suitable for use in high-risk areas, such as tank farms, aircraft hangars, offshore, refineries, chemical plants, and heliports. 

Next the group toured the Chemguard R&D facility.  Committed to continuous product development and innovation, Chemguard has increased R&D staff and expanded laboratory facilities in recent years. 

At the conclusion of the plant tour, the seminar attendees met with Senior Applications Engineering Manager Tom Leach and Applications Engineering Specialist Adrian Palacios of Chemguard’s Applications Engineering Department

The Chemguard Foam System Design and Application Training Seminar was worth 24 National Institute for Certification of Engineering Technicians (NICET) continuing education points. 

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Chemguard is a global, full-service, ISO 9001:2000 Certified manufacturer of fire suppression foams, equipment, and systems; specialty pumps; and fluorosurfactant specialty chemicals.  Known for advanced R&D, engineering/design expertise, quality manufacturing, and high-quality, field-tested products, Chemguard provides unmatched customer support.