Building Construction, Firefighter Training, Hazmat, Health & Safety

Advisory on ethanol-gas mixtures

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is alerting emergency responders to new and revised proper shipping names and identification numbers (ID) that may be used on shipping papers for fuel mixtures composed of ethanol (or “ethyl alcohol”) and gasoline in various concentrations. The proper shipping names and IDs are added to the Emergency Response Guidebook.

Consult this PDF for a chart provided as guidance in identifying proper shipping names and identification numbers for Ethanol, Gasoline, and gasoline/ethanol fuel blends. Voluntary compliance began January 28, 2008.

Fires involving ethanol/gasoline mixtures containing more than 10% ethanol, such as E85, should be treated differently than traditional gasoline fires because these mixtures are polar/water-miscible flammable liquids (they mix readily with water) and degrade the effectiveness of non alcohol-resistant fire-fighting foam.

For this reason, PHMSA recommends First Responders refer to Guide 127 of the 2008 Emergency Response Guidebook (ER2008) when responding to incidents involving fuel mixtures known to contain or potentially containing more than 10% alcohol. Guide 127 specifies the use of alcohol-resistant foam.

Gasohol, E10, fires may be extinguished using conventional aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) or AR-AFFF but increased application rates may be necessary especially for prolonged burn back resistance.

Denatured ethyl alcohol fires, E95, can only be extinguished with AR type foams. All other type of foams or water additives are ineffective as the foam blanket is destroyed when it strikes the fuel surface.

AR type foams must be applied to ethyl alcohol fires using type II gentle application techniques. Direct application to the fuel surface will likely be ineffective unless fuel depth is very shallow.