Advanced science.  Applied technology.


Southwest Research Institute new pollution abatement system significantly reduces hazardous waste

For immediate release

San Antonio — Sept. 2, 2015 — Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has added a custom-designed, state-of-the-art pollution abatement system to its Steiner tunnel fire test facility, a 25-foot vented tunnel for testing construction materials, reducing the amount of hazardous waste emitted by nearly 90 percent. The $900,000 system removes acid gases, volatile organics, metal vapor, and particulate matter that may occur as an after effect from fire research.

This system is the first of several SwRI Fire Technology Department renovations and upgrades, which includes the development and installation of a $2.5 million custom pollution abatement system to handle emissions for furnace fire, jet fire, and car burn facilities. SwRI recently received a $500,000 grant from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to help defray the cost of installing this technology. The new system will be fully operational by October 2015.

“ASTM E84 can be an extremely challenging test, and most Steiner tunnels do not have pollution abatement systems,” said Dr. Matt Blais, director of the SwRI Fire Technology Department. “Our new system for the Steiner tunnel/ASTM E84 test increases reliability by 50 percent and reduces hazardous waste by 90 percent while removing odors, acid gas, and particulate with greater efficiency. The end result is a more reliable test that produces less waste and is more environmentally friendly.”

Using ASTM E84, Standard Test Method for Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials, SwRI subjects construction materials, such as wall coverings, foam insulation, and more, to a controlled burn to measure smoke and flame development indexes. Annually, SwRI conducts more than 500 of these evaluations in its Steiner tunnel facility along with custom fire research.

The new system provides controlled air flow to allow faster heating and cooling of the tunnel, improving overall operational efficiency to help meet client demands.

Last year, SwRI installed a $2 million baghouse air pollution control device to reduce particulate emissions from its diesel engine labs, reducing the Institute’s overall particulate emissions by more than 50 percent.

Combined, SwRI has invested approximately $5 million in pollution abatement equipment in the last few years.

For more information about SwRI’s fire technology program, visit

For more information, contact Tracey M.S. Whelan, (210) 522-2256, Communications Department, Southwest Research Institute, 6220 Culebra Road, San Antonio, TX 78238-5166.