Achieving weight savings through intelligent fire design

When attempting to solve complex problems we often rely on generalized assumptions and generous margins for error to reach a solution we agree is not perfect, but acceptable. This is often because it would take considerable time and effort to calculate the values needed to reach the perfect solution.

Let us consider an everyday example. When boiling water to make a cup of coffee the most energy and cost efficient method would produce only the exact amount of boiling water required to fill the cup. Achieving this perfect solution would require calculating, amongst other things, the exact volume of water needed and the amount of water which would be lost through evaporation in the boiling process. To avoid this difficult and lengthy calculation we instead estimate the amount required and add a generous amount more just to be on the safe side, accepting in the process that more than enough hot water will be produced and some wastage will occur.

Whilst fairly trivial in the context of making a cup of coffee this principal can become more problematic when considering the fire protection requirements of an oil and gas structure.

In this context it is the thickness of material applied which needs to be calculated. Material thickness is a key factor in determining the duration of fire protection afforded to a steel structure. Typically the thicker the material is applied the longer the duration achieved but also the greater the level of cost involved.

Arriving at an optimum thickness is a complicated process influenced by the fire protection standard specified for the project and a range of other variables. As with the previous example, not all of the variables required to arrive at an optimum thickness are known and they can be difficult and time consuming to calculate using traditional methods.

Historically, standard industry assumptions have been employed to arrive at a best estimate solution for the quantity of fire protection required to meet a certain fire resistance standard. Whilst effective at providing a straightforward estimate for the thickness needed, the margins for error which are employed can lead to over-specification. This can provide greater durations of protection than are required to meet the fire protection standard employed.

In the previous example, boiling too much water provided only a slight inconvenience and negligible cost penalty for the individual making the cup of coffee. However in the context of fire protection, over-specification of material can not only represent an increase in cost for a project, it also adds unnecessary weight to a structure. This can potentially limit the scope of design for process modules used in the offshore oil and gas industry and onshore where modular construction techniques are used.

In an attempt to address these issues engineers are now looking to remove as many of these standard assumptions as possible, instead applying greater focus to the specific requirements of each project.

Recently introduced fire design technologies can now be used to run complex heat transfer and structural modelling assessments which remove the need for generalized assumptions in the specification process. This provides a tailored fire protection solution for each individual project ensuring safety standards are met, whilst optimizing the quantity and weight of material required.

This not only provides greater certainty that the solution provided is fit for purpose for the specific requirements of the project, but also provides the potential for cost and weight reductions.

Register to take part in the full webinar to learn more about fire design and how it can be used to provide oil and gas construction projects with an optimized fire protection package.

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