Hazard Control Technologies originally developed F-500 Encapsulator Agent for spill control. It was designed to encapsulate hydrocarbons and render them nonflammable. Over time, additional properties of F-500 EA revealed it to be more than a spill control agent. In addition to encapsulating, it had an amazing ability to cool. Independent testing proved it also interrupted the free radical chain reaction, meaning it reduced smoke and toxins, increasing visibility. It removed the scalding steam generated when applying water or foam to a fire and it could be applied to three-dimensional fires, Class A, Class B polar or nonpolar, Class D and even some Class C fires (refer to firefighting SOGs). Many industrial and municipal firefighters found F-500 EA to be far superior to foam on most fires. So, F-500 EA became a firefighting agent.
Ultimately, F-500 EA’s ability to encapsulate fuel is the root of its other capabilities. So, how does it do this? The F-500 EA molecule is a large, amphipathic molecule with a polar head and a nonpolar tail. The head is attracted to water and the tail is attracted to hydrocarbons. In a sufficient quantity of water, the nonpolar tails attach to hydrocarbon molecules forming micelles, or protective “chemical cocoons.” These micelles prevent the hydrocarbons from vaporization, so there is no ignition. A simple formula of 40 parts of water and 1 part of F-500 EA will neutralize 8 parts of hydrocarbon.
An example would be a fuel spill on the highway of 8 gallons of E10 ethanol-blended gasoline. The firefighter needs to apply 40 gallons of water and one gallon of F-500 EA. Applying F-500 EA at 3% with a 125 gpm nozzle, the firefighter can spray the spilled fuel for 20 seconds. He will have applied over a gallon of F-500 EA and over 40 gallons of water. The spill is completely neutralized.
Why is this Important?
If the fuel was burning, it had to be extinguished. F-500 EA or foam could do that rapidly. With F-500 EA, the scene is safe. Traffic can literally be directed to drive over the encapsulated fuel, depending on state and local regulations. It isn’t slippery or flammable. The cost with F-500 EA was 1 gallon of F-500 EA. Foam however does not encapsulate. To make the spill safe, it must form a perfect blanket to starve the fuel of oxygen. If there was a fire, the fuel will remain hot, possibly above autoignition temperatures. The foam will blanket in the heat. NFPA 11 (188.8.131.52) states AFFF or AR-AFFF must be applied for a minimum of 15 minutes to a nondiked hydrocarbon spill since the fuel remains hot. Applying foam at 0.10 gpm/ft2 for 15 minutes, as specified by NFPA 11, will require 36 gallons of AFFF and 1,200 gallons of water. The road will remain closed until the scene is cleaned up.
The total cost of 36 gallons of foam, manpower and cleanup is staggering compared to using F-500 EA. Applying 1,236 gallons of solution will probably run-off requiring a diking operation to protect sewers or streams.
F-500 EA is approved by the EPA as a surface washing agent and can be very useful in industrial settings for washing down vessels after a leak or spill. The residual from the wash down can be left to evaporate, in most cases.