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Inert Gas - The Agent and System Equipment

1.1 Inert Gas Extinguishing Agent


Inert Gas is identified in the NFPA 2001 Standard on Clean Agent Fire
Extinguishing Systems, as IG-01 (Argon), IG-100 (Nitrogen), IG-55
(Argonite) and IG-541 (Inergen).
Inert Gases has a low order of toxicity. At the normal concentrations of
use, it can be safety used to protect normally occupied areas.
After the discharge, Inert Gas does not require the clean-up of the
protected enclosure, making it extremely useful in applications where
damages by other extinguishing methods would be prohibitive.
Additionally, Inert Gases is an electrically non-conductive media. It can
therefore be used to protect electronic and delicate equipment.
Inert Gases are chemically inert and it does not create any type of
oxidative reaction. It is non flammable gas and remains stable in the
presence of fire without producing any decomposition products. In order
to minimize the amount of combustion fire products, the discharge time
must be 60 seconds or less, leading to a rapid extinguishing and
avoiding the fire to grow.
The mechanism by which Inert Gases extinguishes the fire is not fully
understood. The best explanation is the combination of three different
actions:
1. Chemical action, which interrupts
between the fuel and the oxygen.

the

combustion

process

2. Cooling effect and


3. Displacement of oxygen.
Unlike Halons, Inert Gases do not deplete the ozone layer. Its
Atmospheric Lifetime and Global Warming Potential are very low,
making Inert Gases an overall environmentally acceptable alternative to
Halons 1301.
Environmental Factor

INERT
GASES
Ozone Depletion Potential, CFC 11 = 1
0
Global Warming Potential, CO2 kg 100
0
years

Halon 1301
12
n/a

Atmospheric Lifetime, years

65

1.2 Physical Properties


Inert Gases are colorless gases. Its physical properties make it suitable
for total flooding applications. With a boiling point between -189 to -196
Deg. C , when released to the atmosphere Inert Gases quickly
extinguishes the fire by cooling and cutting Oxygen supply throughout
the enclosure. Important! System Operating Temperature Range: 0 Deg
C + 50 Deg. C.
Description

Units

IG-01

Molecular Weigh

n/a

39.9

Boiling Point @ 760 mm Hg

Deg.
C
Freezing Point
Deg.
C
Critical Temperature
Deg.
C
Specific
Heat
vapour
at kJ/kg
constant pressure (1 atm) and Deg.C
25 Deg.C
Heat of vapourization at boiling kJ/kg
point
Relative dielectric strength at 1 n/a
atm at 734 mm Hg, 25 Deg.C
(N2=1)
Solubility of water in agent at n/a
25 Deg.C

IG100
28.0

IG541
34.0

IG-55

189.85
189.35
-122.3

-195.8
-210.0

196.0
-78.5

-146.9

n/a

0.519

1.04

0.574

190.1
199.7
134.7
0.782

163

199

220

181

1.01

1.0

1.03

1.01

0.006
%

0.0013 0.015
%
%

33.95

0.006
%

Table I.2A Inert Gases Physical Properties


Inert Gas system storage containers are super-pressurized at 150, 200
and 300 bars @ 21 Deg. C to propel the agent through the pipe
network.

1.4. Use and Limitations


Inert Gas systems are designed for total flooding applications to
extinguish Class A, B and C type of fires.
Inert Gas is suitable for use in rooms, vaults, enclosed machines,
containers, storage areas, and bins or wherever fixed enclosures are
used. The use of Inert Gas in total flooding systems required the
protected areas to be sealed at the time of discharge. Therefore, it is
important that closable openings such as doors, windows, dampers, and
vents be closed during discharge so the proper agent concentration can
be reached and maintained. After discharge, Inert Gas atmosphere must
remain in the enclosure for a minimum of 10 minutes. This 10 minute
period is referred to as the soak period.
Fires that can be extinguished by Inert Gas are divided into two
categories, depending on the type of fuel/s involved in the fire:
- Class-A Fires, surface fires involving ordinary combustible
materials, such as wood, cloth, paper, rubber and many plastics.
- Class-B Fires, fires involving flammable liquids, gases oils,
greases, tars, oil-base paints and lacquers.
For most common applications involving Class A fuels, the recommended
volumetric design concentration is 38.7% (IG-01), 37.2% (IG-100), 37.2%
(IG-55) and 36.8% (IG-541) for protection of normally occupied areas. As
per NFPA, the minimum extinguishing concentration for Class 'B' fuels is
determined by the cup burner value. The minimum extinguishing
concentration for the specific fuel, plus a safety factor of 20% gives the
Design Concentration.
Inert Gas is stored in seamless containers and super pressurized to ensure
rapid discharge. Once the system is activated, the container valves are
opened the Inert Gas which is under pressure propels through the pipe
work to the nozzles where it vaporizes. High rate of discharge through the
nozzles ensures that homogenous mixture with the air.
Important! Inert Gases, like other clean extinguishing agents, have not
been found to be effective on the following materials:
1. Chemical compounds or mixtures supplying their own oxygen for
combustion, such as gunpowder and cellulose nitrate.
2. Reactive metals such as sodium, magnesium, titanium, zirconium,
uranium and plutonium.

3. Metal hydrides.
4. Chemicals capable of undergoing auto-thermal decomposition
such as hydrazine and certain peroxides.
1.5 Safety Considerations
Although Inert Gases is non-toxic to humans in concentrations
necessary to protect most hazards, certain safety considerations should
be observed.
I.5.1 Acute Toxicity
The INERT GASES safe human exposure limits shown in Table I.5.1A are
derived from the US EPA approved and peer-reviewed Physiologically
Based Pharmacokinetic model (PB-PK), which measures how long it
takes the human arterial blood to reach the critical concentrations that
may produce adverse effects (cardiac sensitization).
Concentration by Volume Safe
Human
Exposure
(% v/v)
Times (min.)
<43%
5.00
43% to 52%
3.00
52% to 62%
30 Seconds
>62%
Only in unoccupied areas.
TABLE I.5.1A, Inert Gas Safe Exposure at Stated Concentrations
Important! Only concentrations that allow safe exposures of 5 minutes
are recommended for use in normally occupied areas.