Material integrity: collaborating with Salford University

A new collaboration with the University of Salford’s School of Computing, Science and Engineering has put BD Systems’ composite blast panels to the test, proving the inherent strength of the company’s modular architectural systems for greater spans in offshore applications.

Bending and shear tests were carried out on both 50mm and 100mm thick panels, to look specifically at the mineral wool that makes up the core of the panels and the adhesive that bonds the panels’ component parts together.

“We now have the tools to deliver the same levels of integrity for greater spans in large-scale offshore projects”

Combined with known parameters for steel, the findings can be used to evaluate panels of different lengths and widths – and ultimately to build a highly accurate model for blast analysis properties.

“What this actually means,” says Ian Leppard, BD Systems’ group managing director, “is that we now have the tools to specify and deliver the same levels of integrity for the ever-increasing spans that are required for large-scale offshore projects.”

As the UK’s largest producer of fire and blast solutions for the marine and offshore industries, testing and retesting the integrity and capabilities of its modular architectural systems is, he says, business critical.

“It’s not enough just to say our fire and blast rated systems are up to the job. Technologies, risks and threats develop and evolve all the time. Offshore structures are getting larger and our blast walling must continue to deliver structural integrity, irrespective of the spans involved.”

Peter Jay of Epsilom Experts has worked closely with BD Systems for 20 years, developing FEA (Finite Element Analysis) models for the blast performance of the company’s composite systems. “What these tests have unequivocally established is the failure strength of the mineral wool and the deflection limits of the panel,” he says, “creating a solid basis for analysis and knowledge-building in terms of how BD Systems’ composite structures react under load at any size or span.”

Paul Busby is project manager at the University of Salford’s School of Computing, Science and Engineering and was instrumental in setting up the testing for BD Systems. He says: “This was a great example of collaboration between research/academia and business, which also enabled us to access some internal funding through our in-house Innovation Funding Scheme.

“BD Systems came to us with several panel designs, which were tested to establish the degree of composite action between their outer skins and mineral wool cores. From the results obtained, a stiffness value for each panel was determined. With this information, BD Systems has solid data to support product certification and the design of composite architectural blast walling for different and much larger sizes or spans in application.”

BD Systems will, says Ian Leppard, work with the University again. “Paul and his team have delivered invaluable knowledge that will provide watertight data for product certification.”

New blast walling contract for Hornsea windfarm

Bury-based BD Systems is to design, engineer and supply major internal hydrocarbon blast walling and associated doors for Hornsea Project One offshore windfarm, one of the largest infrastructure projects in the UK – and what will be the world’s largest offshore windfarm once completed.

Located 120km off the Yorkshire coast, Hornsea Project One is wholly owned by DONG Energy. The development, scheduled for commissioning by 2020, will accommodate 174 wind turbines in an area of approximately 407 square kilometres, with the capacity to generate 1.2 Gigawatts: enough to supply electricity to well over one million homes.

BD Systems was awarded the contract by Babcock International, DONG Energy’s engineering and fabrication partner for the project, to design blast walling that will enclose the windfarm’s shunt reactors.

A key element of the design for the Reactive Compensation Substation (RCS) is to reduce the loading transferred by the blast walls to the main structure, so that in the eventuality of a blast scenario not all of the loading from the blast wall will be transferred back into the main structure.

“The construction of BD Clearspan Blast Wall is such that blast loading is absorbed by the structure of the wall,” explains Ian Leppard, BD Systems’ group managing director, “particularly by the composite panels and internal trusses, which flex in a controlled manner to reduce the loads taken by the main structure.”

“This is an exciting, future-focused project. Hornsea Project One will contribute significantly to meeting the UK’s demand for energy from renewable sources and achieving carbon reduction objectives – and we are delighted to be involved in making that happen.”

Duncan Clark, Hornsea Project One Programme Director, concludes: “With eight operational offshore windfarms in the UK and four in construction, DONG Energy is committed to investing in the UK. We’ve made a real effort to encourage UK suppliers to take part in this project, so it’s great to see that our Tier One suppliers are doing the same.”

Offshore construction for Hornsea Project One is due to begin next year.