Differentiating PFAS Series: Should I Be Worried About the Future of Novec 1230?

In December 2022, 3M announced its plans to exit the manufacturing of 3M™ Novec™ 1230 Fire Protection Fluid and their fluorochemical line of products completely by 2025, shocking the fire protection industry, as no one saw it coming. There is still a lot of excitement and maybe some angst or concern out in the marketplace. The best advice is to stay calm because regulatory resolution is not something that will unfold very quickly. There currently exist proposed changes offered or enacted state legislation that have taken place, particularly here in the United States. Even with current action, time is needed to determine what really needs to be done. There will be much discussion but watch for action.

Halocarbon clean agents are not going away anytime soon. Halon manufacturing was banned in Article One countries back on December 31st, 1992, at 11:59 PM EST, yet decades later we still see halon systems in use. This is not to say that things will be exactly the same for systems using Novec 1230 fluid, but these things do not tend to move very quickly. What is important is that halocarbons are not going away anytime soon, and 3M has made it clear that they plan to honor their commitments to fulfill orders of the product already made.

The issues with Novec 1230 fluid are not with fire suppression performance or even supply, but more on the manufacturing side for 3M. It is important to know there are plenty of sources of FK-5-1-12 (ASHRAE nomenclature for Novec 1230 fluid, used in the standards NFPA 2001 and ISO 14520). FK-5-1-12 has been around for over two decades and 3M is not the only company that manufactures the material. In fact, 3M’s fire protection use and manufacturing patent covering Novec 1230 fluid expired in July of 2020. Since this has been a very successful product in the marketplace, with over a hundred thousand systems installed in the last 20 years, other manufacturers have begun to produce FK-5-1-12. FK-5-1-12 supply is readily available even if 3M’s name brand product of Novec 1230 fluid is discontinued. This should be a relief to anyone who is currently using a fire suppression system using Novec 1230 fluid. It’s also important to remember there are plenty of other in-kind and not-in-kind technologies available in the marketplace.

There exists at least 13 entities with a UL component recognition with FK-5-1-12 and at least 9 with an FM global approval. So not only is there ample supply of the product, but plenty of manufacturers with available systems and parts. So, if you are an installer with systems that are specified using Novec 1230 fluid or FK-5-1-12 you can continue to fulfill those obligations. 

It is also important to note here that FK-5-1-12 remains an acceptable fire suppression solution to be considered where clean agents are necessary. It is considered acceptable by the U.S. EPA via their SNAP program and is included in NFPA 2001 and ISO 14520 standards as well as other similar, global standards.

In a recent meeting, no comments were submitted to the NFPA Gaseous Fire Extinguishing (GFE) Committee governing NFPA 2001 that would affect FK-5-1-12 in terms of its supply or restrictions in any way. It is still considered acceptable in NFPA 2001 and in the U.S. EPA SNAP Program, the same as other commercial clean agents, just as it was in the Federal Register in 2002 when it was first commercialized as Novec 1230 fluid.

The following is a statement that was in the Federal Register at that time and is still applicable today:

  "EPA has reviewed the potential environmental impacts of this substitute and has concluded that, by comparison to halon 1301 and other acceptable substitutes, C6-perfluoroketone significantly reduces overall risk to the environment. With no ozone-depletion potential, a global warming potential value of less than 1, and an atmospheric lifetime of less than three days, C6-perfluoroketone provides an improvement over use of halon 1301, hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in fire protection. We find that C6- perfluoro ketone is acceptable because it reduces overall risk to public health and the environment in the end use listed.”  

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