Raising standards in passive fire protection

Published:  03 October, 2016

The Hydrocarbon Passive Fire Protection Network was officially launched in September during a one-day technical meeting at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK.

Over the next few years, PFPNet aims to become an international centre of excellence, offering training courses and advice on passive fire protection in the hydrocarbon industry.

The event was attended by 70 delegates, consisting of passive fire protection system manufacturers, facility owners and operators, testing companies, scientists, fabricators and installers, designers and consultants.

The purpose of PFPNet is to raise standards in an industry that, by its very nature, is highly dispersed throughout the globe and where standards, where they exist, are often inconsistently applied, even though they apply to life, business, and environmentally-critical components.  Simon Thurlbeck, a founder member of PFPNet and a consultant specialising in major hazards risk management, explains the problem: “It’s quite normal for a multi-national company to have a facility designed in Dubai, fabricated in Korea, and installed in somewhere like Russia, Australia or South America.  Our company has had a lot of exposure to the area of hydrocarbon passive fire protection systems, and we have seen a lot of the problems at first hand because we are involved in designing and specifying protection schemes, developing and testing systems, and supervising their installation.  This means we are frequently called upon to inspect systems that have been incorrectly specified – we see where things have gone wrong.  We find that hydrocarbon passive fire protection is less well understood than other systems that are well regulated and have good oversight.”

The potential benefits of improving this area of fire protection are huge, says Thurlbeck, because incorrect, design, specification, installation and maintenance can leave owners with high maintenance bills and deficient systems when problems are finally identified: “Fire protection has a safety and environmentally critical function, so owners need to make sure these systems are fit-for-purpose.  But quite often, when they look at the systems, it’s not certain whether the damage means that the system will still provide the required protection, or was ever really the right thing to use in the first place.”

PFPNet’s launch meeting was specifically structured to reflect the PFP supply chain, with four streams running in parallel; design and specification; material testing and certification; application and installation; and inspection, maintenance and repair.  Delegates were randomly split into groups and then rotated between the sessions so that by the end of the day each had attended all four work streams.  “We did it like this because we need to define the future scope of work for PFPNet.  By using this method, we were able to drive out all the issues under each segment heading.”

The next stage will see a proposed work scope developed and agreed on by an independent steering committee, which has governance over PFPNet and consists of six representatives, each from a different section of the supply chain.

Thurlbeck expects the final shape of PFPNet to be revealed in early 2017, with the development of membership structures, competency registers, training courses and accreditation for PFP application and inspection.

It is hoped that the premise of saving costs whilst driving up standards in safety and loss prevention will prove highly appealing to owners and to the PFP supply chain, so that everyone can play their part in contributing to these aims.

To find out more about PFPNet, visit www.pfpnet.com.

  • Operation Florian

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