Victaulic Vortex Hybrid Fire Extinguishing System

Posted by ORR Protection on Mar 8, 2021 9:30:00 AM

Steven Owens, Application Engineer, discusses hybrid fire protection systems, how they work to extinguish fires, and specifics around the Victaulic Vortex hybrid system. 


Video Transcript:

Hello everybody. Today we're going to go through a introduction to hybrid fire extinguishing systems and specifically the Victaulic Vortex hybrid fire extinguishing system.

My name is Steven Owens. I'm an application engineer for Victaulic company. I work in their fire protection technologies division. I'm a mechanical engineer out of the Temple University in Philadelphia. I've been with Victaulic for over 31 years. Now I spent 18 and a half years in the construction piping services division as a project manager. And I spent the last 12 years as an application engineer in the fire protection group, supporting our Vortex hybrid suppression system. So today I'd like to go through a few topics here. We're going to go through and define the hybrid fire protection systems. We're going to talk about how hybrid fire protection systems work and extinguish fires. Then we're going to talk about some of the specifics of the Victaulic Vortex hybrid system and finishing up with a discussion on some testing listings and approvals and codes that apply.

Hybrid fire extinguishing systems. They utilize a combination of both water and inert gas. Both are critical to the extinguishment of the fire. The inert gas that we use in most of the manufacturers in the hybrid world use is nitrogen. Although it could be any inert gas, and of course, then the water is, uh, good old water. So some of the benefits of the hybrid technology in general are that, you can reduce your room integrity requirements. Regular rooms are fine. They don't need to be sealed like you do in gases. They don't have to be fan tested. Basically, you need six barrier walls and you're good to go reduced discharge pressure. Our system runs at about 25 PSI at the, uh, at the emitters or nozzles, if you will. They use utilize readily available extinguishing agents, again, nitrogen and water.

They optimize the water utilization by creating small drops, uh, which have a tremendous heat absorption characteristics and very efficiently extinguished flames. There's no environmental impacts. Again, we're using nitrogen and water. We're not using gases, very low maintenance, which reduces potential system downtime. So the Victaulic Vortex hybrid system has a series of nozzles that deliver a hybrid media consisting of nitrogen and water as very fine droplets, less than 10 microns. 10 microns is about the thickness of a spider's web. So by producing millions of very tiny droplets, you increase the surface area and heat absorption, and you can very efficiently extinguish fires. We also only drop the oxygen levels in the rooms to between 16 and 12.5%, which is safe for limited human occupancy, giving anybody time to get out of the room in the event of a fire or a false discharge. So the hybrid media, on the vortex end consists of extinguishing fires by cooling the flame, cooling the fire plume and cooling the fuel also as well. You use oxygen displacement again, forcing oxygen out of the room,  by delivering nitrogen into the room. We get tremendous attenuation of radiant heat during our discharges, which protects any of the adjacent equipment inside the room as well. And of course we're inserting the hazard area, but as I mentioned, only down to safe oxygen levels for human beings.

So it all comes down to the fire triangle. So here's a basic fire triangle. We know that it's a little bit more complicated than this, but basically you've got your three legs that the fire needs to exist. You've got your heat, your oxygen and your fuel. So hybrid systems and Vortex system in particular, very efficiently attacks both the hate heat leg of the triangle, as well as the oxygen leg of the triangle, uh, to extinguish a fire. So I'm going to show a nice little video here of a live commissioning discharge, and I'm going to narrate and point out some of the things that are happening. This is a control pulpit in a steel mill inside this room. You have two hybrid nozzles, or like I said before emitters, that we call them up in the ceiling, in the room itself. And then you have one in the sub floor.

And the gentlemen inside here during our test are the commissioning agents for the steel mill itself. So these are the show me guys. So they wanted to see a live discharge. We said, no problem. And they came equipped. The gentleman on the right is holding some paper. The gentleman on the left, he really did his homework. He's got a coffee filter and they're checking the amount of wetting, that they get on a, on the piece of paper and the coffee filter. So no excess of wetting inside the room. I might point out now that we're 30 seconds or so into the discharge, it's getting kind of foggy in there, but all the gentlemen in there are standing, they're fine. They're not falling over, they're safe. We're dropping the oxygen level over a three minute period in this room to about 13%.

So they've got plenty of time to get out. You're able to see any kind of strobe lights or emergency lights to follow your way out. As you can see blinking there, you can see a gentleman has started to try to light his lighter inside the room and can not do that. And you can see the, again, the room is fully filling up. This is a 3D extinguishment system. So fire is underneath or inside of cabinets will be extinguished as well as surface fires. He's now just stepped out of the room. We've been doing this discharge with the room open and you can see because of that neutral buoyancy we're using nitrogen and 78% of what's in that room is nitrogen already. And the dynamics of the flow, the emitters are just keeping that mist and pulling it right back into the room, thus, the minimal room integrity requirement.

So that's a nice little video of a live discharge test that we did. It was done with an iPhone onsite. So it was a little rough, but it gets the point across. This next slide basically is a nice little cutaway of one of our emitters showing us kind of how they work. You can see, uh, the nitrogen flows through the center of the emitter and the water comes to the emitter over the nitrogen, she's at 25% PSI. The water comes to the emitter at five PSI. It flows into the water jacket and it surrounds the emitter. And you can see the little water jet nozzles on the outside of the center, orifice where the water exits the emitter and into the flow of the nitrogen. So let's talk about atomization. So the way that we create these small droplets is we atomize water through shockwaves through sound waves shock waves. Basically what's happening is while the pressure is very low flowing nitrogen, the velocity is extremely high, basically supersonic speed, as it's going through the piping. As it leaves the emitter, and it transfers into atmospheric pressure. It drops from supersonic to subsonic speed. Now just the same as a jet coming back down through the barrier, you get a shock wave, a sound wave, and that's what you're seeing on either side of the foil or a deflector, if you will, now, this emitter is pointed upwards, but you can actually see in the center of the shock diamond, and you can see the additional shock diamonds around the side. Now this is just nitrogen flowing, but then the water would be injected right into that flow stream, right into the shock waves. And that atomizes the water, a series of different times into that, down into that little less than 10 micron size, which again gives us millions of little droplets, tremendous surface area and very efficient heat transfer and heat absorption.

So talk a little bit about the actual media itself, the Vortex media itself, it's a homogenous suspension. It's a blend like you saw on the video. It fills the entire room. The nitrogen pressure is only flowing at 25 PSI out of the heads. The water pressure is only flowing at five PSI out of the heads. Each emitter will cover, uh, an average of between 1,520 and 2,500 cubic feet per emitter, depending on the design and what size emitter we're using for that design. Okay. The nitrogen flow is about 250 cubic feet per minute. In our class A emitters it's about 150 cubic feet per minute out of our class B application emitters slightly less than the class B. The waterflow however, on the class a is slightly less at 0.26 gallons per minute, or one liter per minute. While we use a little bit more water on the class B side, we use 1.06 gallons per minute, or four liters because with the larger class B fires, a little more cooling, a little more water helps, extinguish and on your smaller class, A type fires, class C environments, a little less water, a little more inerting going on, thus the ratios.

So, as I mentioned, very important is the relative surface areas, a sprinkler droplet, from a regular vortex sprinklers about a thousand microns. A high pressure mist droplet is about a hundred microns. And as I've mentioned, the vortex droplets are only 10 microns, but there's tens of thousands more of them. So I always use the analogy. If you take a five gallon bucket and you drop a basketball in there, you ark the height, it comes up to pull the basketball out, measure the surface area. Then you just fill that same five gallon bucket with golf balls. It's up to that same level and pull the golf balls out and measure the cumulative surface area of the golf balls. It's going to be much greater on the golf ball side, thus, the more droplets, the smaller droplets, the greater surface area, again, more efficient cooling and extinguishing.

So let's take a look at some of the main components of the Victaulic Vortex system in the center on your right are your cylinders. We use 80 liter cylinders at 3000 PSI. Each of them hold about 500 cubic feet of nitrogen. On the left-hand side of that, you see one of our control panels or combination panels as we call them because both the water is controlled and the nitrogen is regulated through that combination panel. And we'll take a closer look at that in a moment. To the left of that is the hybrid emitter set, where you've got your emitter. You've got a strainer on the water side, a flow cartridge on the water side, which controls the amount of water that we just talked about on the last slide and connects to the side of the emitter and the water jacket. On the right hand side, you've got a water tank.

Vortex systems offer a self-contained water tank that can be pressurized right from the high pressure manifold through a regulator that you see on the upper left hand side of the rack, down into the water tank and makes it a self-contained unit. So you can actually have any kind of water you want in that tank. We recommend basically your clean, potable water. It can be distilled or, demineralized water as well as many people use in a data center class A delicate equipment type applications. So those are the main components of the vortex system. And we'll take a little closer look now. So here's a cylinder rack, again, it's the 80 liter cylinders, 3000 PSI, right? The amount of nitrogen that you need, the amount of cylinders that you need is dictated by the volume of the space you're protecting, and then the flooding factors.

And we're not going to get into design equations right now, but roughly 40% of the volume of the room is what you need in cubic feet of nitrogen for your worst case applications with the vortex system. Again, each one of those cylinders holds 500 cubic feet of nitrogen each. Here's a snapshot of the water tank. The water tank is a 200 PSI, ASME rated water tank. It has a one 50 PSI relief valve on it. It also has a, a relief valve and a isolation valve, and is pressurized, as you can see in the upper right-hand side, uh, by a hose coming off the regulator on the manifold. So you I've done systems up to 120 PSI already in order to meet my water delivery requirements. So this is a very, very nice, tool. You also, it also has a check valve on it, which after you pressurize it and bleed the manifold off of the high pressure nitrogen holds a blanket of nitrogen on top of the tank, which does several things.

Number one, it gives you immediate pressure, but also and more importantly that static blanket of nitrogen keeps that water nice and clean, cuts down corrosion, no mic or aerobic bacteria. It's a nice clean water source. So here's a picture of our combination panel. We have several different panels. We have zone panels or select their valve panels. We also have a fluid panel, which has just our regulating valve that we'll talk about in a moment for the nitrogen, but this is our combination panel. And you can see the water on the right hand side, right? It's got an automatically released ball valve. And then on the left-hand side, you have the nitrogen train with the regulating valve assembly. This is one of our newer models that we've incorporated a printed circuit board into so that you can land all of your wiring. It's also got a set of led lights on it.

In case you have problems it's easily troubleshoot. And then also it has a small button on it that you can use to actually regulating valve on a yearly basis so that you don't have to flow any nitrogen in order to, uh, exercise, uh, the valve itself. Okay. Also in the upper left hand side, there's a touch screen. You can see the back of it that helps us communicate with the panel out in the field. So you can do things like adjust the water pressure, turn on, uh, the nitrogen pressure, uh, and tweak the system to its most efficient settings. This is a picture of the automatic regulating valve assembly on the left-hand side are the brains of the panel as a programmable logic controller in the center is a gearbox, you've got a stainless steel STEM, and then you've got the aluminum bronze cast body.

This is what regulates the high pressure nitrogen at 3000 PSI coming out of the cylinders down to the 25 PSI that transfers from the panel out to the emitters in the protected zone, but still allows for that high velocity that we talked about, which is so important to the atomization process. This next slide gives you some samples of our emitter family. We've got our series nine 54 emitters that we use for our class A and C fire applications, uh, that is a low to moderate heat release application. Remember, this is that little bit higher ratio of nitrogen to water, right? It does a little bit more inerting out there than wetting on your smaller class, a and class C application fires. The series nine 53 emitters for our class B applications on the moderate to high heat release applications. Again, a little bit lower nitrogen, a little bit more water ratio for a little bit more cooling.

So going left to right, we have one of our stainless steel escutcheon type emitters, very aesthetic also sealed with O-rings. We've used them in Biolabs where you don't want any of the, uh, contaminants getting out. The next one over our brass industrial body style emitter. That's the workhorse of the fleet. That's our class B half inch that we're showing there. In the center, we have a dome style, eighth inch emitter used for very small volumes and special applications. And on the right-hand side, we have two of our PVDF plastic emitters that are used in caustic environments, where you've got corrosion concerns like in the tanks and the steel mills where you have assets, right? So that's a nice little snapshot cross-section of all the different emitters in our family ranging from one eighth inch orifices flowing only about 13 CFM up to the five, eighth inch orifice on the left there, uh, the class a five eighth inch emitter flow is at 250 CFM.

We talked about. Here's a nice little single zone schematic, just to give you an idea of the layout of the entire system. On the left-hand side here, we have our nitrogen cylinders with our primary pilot line system. There's a primary release on the main cylinder, and then that actuates all the secondary cylinders. So they're all tied together into a high pressure manifold. There's a regulator off of that manifold that we talked about to supply pressure to the water tank. There's also a supervise manual isolation valve between the cylinders and the panel. In the panel is a regulating valve that we looked at also the water side down here, right? It's a twin pipe system out to the emitters itself. So your nitrogen's piped separately, low pressure nitrogen, um, can be, uh, can be schedule 10 regular sprinkler piping, 175 PSI. Your water piping, typically going to be your standard schedule water piping galvanized minimum.

We use black steel on the nitrogen galvanized minimum material on the water. They join as the emitters, uh, like we looked at on that, a picture of all the equipment, right? And then, uh, and then of course you have the flow of nitrogen out of the emitter and the atomization going on. Okay. And then on the water side, you have a strainer at each emitter, you have a flow cartridge, and then of course, transfers into the water jacket on the emitter itself, right? We've got a pressure transducer up here, which is our feedback point. This is what's talking to the regulating valve letting it know, Hey, I've gotten to the pressure. I need stop opening up. And then maintaining that pressure while the cylinders are dropping, it continues to open slightly keeping that maintained pressure out here in the piping side, by the emitters. Alright, typical singles own layout.

We have several different types of systems in the vortex world. We have our vortex 500, that we're not going to spend too much time on, but that's our pre-engineered unit that comes with a cabinet if uh desired. Uh, it's meant for your smaller class a type environments, uh, data centers up to about 4,000 cubic feet at sea level, it's a pre-engineered pre-packaged unit. Then we have our Vortex 1000 unit that is one of our FM approved system designs, basically all the same componentry, only 10 minute discharges, as opposed to three to five on the vortex 1500 system. And we're going to talk about these two systems a little bit more in depth in a moment on the vortex 1500 system. That is our application specific, uh, system, uh, designs range from three minute to five minute discharges, right? And then we have a vortex 2000 system, which is also FM approved for specialty applications like wet benches and glove boxes.

Again, we won't spend too much time on those, but we are going to look a little closer now at the Victaulic vortex 1000. Again, this is our FM approved design and equipment. So approved for machinery spaces, combustion turbines, and cable vault applications. It is the 10 minute discharge. The coverage area maximum is 127,525 cubic feet, 3,600 cubic meters. It's one of the largest approvals in the industry. We use that half inch series 953 emitter for these applications, which flows the 150 CFM nitrogen and the 1.06 or four liter gallons of water per minute. Some of the testing that we've had to go through at FM, we've got a nice little video here. Um, this is a two square meter heptane fire in a very large room with a two meter by two meter opening in the sidewall of the enclosure. Now this is a total flood test and it demonstrates the, the minimal minimized need for room integrity.

There are nine half inch emitters in here. It's a 2.5 minute discharge design. The room, as I mentioned is 90 meters and 580 cubic meters. So this is about a three minute video while we're watching the video on the right hand side, you can see a list of some of the approval tests that have to be done. When you go to an agency like FM for approvals, you basically in our world, we started with diesel fires first. We went through spray fires, angled, spray fires. We went through concealed diesel spray fires, high pressure diesel spray. We went into, after we passed all the diesel fires, then we went into the heptane fires, concealed heptane pool fires, flowing fires wood cribs and heptane pool fires, saturated insulation mat, and spray fires, saturated insulation mat fires that replicates the insulation on a turbine and then low pressure concealed spray.

And concealed fires with diesel and low pressure spray and plate fires with heptane. So you kind of work your way up from your smaller fires to your larger, more typical fires through your diesel, to your heptane, which is much harder to extinguish, right? You do three tests, each run, and if you pass them all, you get your approval. So we can see on the left-hand side, our fire is now on its way down and out. You can tell you're getting the best of the fire, because now you can see steam trying to bill out of the opening, right? And when you see steam, that means that a large amount of the mess we're creating is not being absorbed anymore. It's not required because the heat release on the fire is going down. And of course, you're winning the battle at this point to extinguishment. So this fire is just about out. Again, that's a total flooding test with a two meter by two meter opening in the side of the wall.

This is another one of the FM type tests. This is a class B fire test with a large diesel pan two meter by two meter. This is a local application test, as opposed to a flooding test. There are four of the series, 953, half inch emitters positioned over top of the fire, about eight feet above them. The fire on the right is a telltale fire. That's a fire we don't want to go out because it's local app and we're concentrating on just the immediate area. Now you can see they've introduced a spray fire into this. It's now a six megawatt fire at that point. The discharge is taking place. You can see the mist. So, you know, the fire is basically extinguished and we extinguished that fire in basically one minute. Again, that's a two meter by two meter pan of diesel, six megawatt fire that was extinguished with 40 emitters in a little over one minute, local application. So that's some of the testing that you have to do when you go through an FM approval.

So the 1500 is our performance based design. Again, used on combustion turbines, machine spaces, also data centers, manufacturing equipment, and one of our recent applications that's becoming very popular is archive protection, museums and so forth and so on. Uh, again, no maximum enclosure volume. Um, it is scalable right where your FM has a 127, 525 cubic feet. Our 1500 system can be used on any volume. You basically, as the volume goes up, you add more emitters and more nitrogen and water, right? It's straight scale. They are a three to five minute design discharge. Can be application specific as well. We've done specific testing on different applications, with the 1500 systems.

Again, it utilizes the series 953 and 954 emitters. The material that you can get those emitters just to revisit brass stainless steel 316, and PVDF plastic, the size range, eighth inch all the way up through five eighth inch. And there you can see a nice picture of a 1500 system, the cylinders in their rack, all the discharge hoses, the pilot hoses, and the high pressure piping to the combination panel. And then from here out to your system, low pressure piping. So I'd like to talk a little bit about listings and approvals. So listings are granted by an agency based on established product standards. Our approvals are through factory mutual. Our approval is under the FM 5580 standard for hybrid water and inert gas fire extinguishing systems, we also have an environmental protection agency approval, uh, for the significant new alternatives policy. So if you're looking for green standard, um, this is it right here.

This is based on that nitrogen and water use. Right around the corner is the release of the NFPA 770 standard on hybrid fire extinguishing systems. The committee was organized back in December of 2014. We just recently went through the third set of public input. The committee has approved the standard and we expect its issue to be fourth quarter of 2020 into the first quarter of 2021. The standard will cover class A B and C applications. It'll also cover local applications, with the section in the future for marine. It'll cover design installation, acceptance inspection, testing, and maintenance of hybrid extinguishing systems. Thank you very much for your attention. This concludes our presentation on the Victaulic Vortex hybrid extinguishing systems. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to visit for more information. Thank you and have a good day.

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