U.S. group seeks sponsors for hydrocarbon flammability research

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

In an effort to lay the groundwork for raising the 150g federal charge limit on hydrocarbon refrigerants in the U.S., the Fire Protection Research Foundation is seeking sponsors for a project aimed at evaluating the fire hazard posed by these ASHRAE ClassA3 (flammable) refrigerants.

The Fire Protection Research Foundation – an affiliate of the National Fire Protection Association, based in Quincy, Mass. – 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 started installing self-contained refrigerated cases using propane (R290) refrigerant in its fresh-food outlets.

“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 Amanda Kimball, project manager. “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 research project is expected to start in January 2017, with completion in June 2017.

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). Sponsors are being asked to individually contribute $25,000, which will give them “the opportunity to monitor results and provide guidance, comment and oversight to ensure that the overall project goals are met,” she wrote. In addition, sponsors will receive periodic reports of project progress, receive early access to project results, and will be recognized for their contributions in a published final report and the webinar.

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 a 501 ©(3) corporation, for which contributions are generally tax deductible. For more information, contact Kimball at akimball@nfpa.org.