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Flammable Gas Testing to Improve Offshore Oil Platform Safety
Together with GexCon US, SRI is designing and conducting experiments to improve and validate tools used to minimize the risk of explosions or fires on offshore platforms.
A large vapor cloud explosion followed by fire constitutes one of the most dangerous and high-consequence events that can occur on ultra-deepwater oilrigs. Gas explosions can expand at over 6,000 feet per second, rendering escape virtually impossible. A prime example was the BP Deepwater Horizon offshore platform explosions and fire in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 1, 2 .
SRI’s Poulter Laboratory is conducting large-scale flammability tests to validate advanced computational fluid dynamics (CFD) tools that predict how quickly, and in which direction, a fire or explosion can grow. SRI will also proof test mitigation concepts. Using these improved models, industry will be able to design inherently safer platforms. GexCon US, a safety and risk management consulting firm, is leading the project and developing the CFD models with support from Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA).
To conduct these tests, Poulter Laboratory built a full-scale congestion test facility at its remote test site in California. The facility can use flammable gases of differing sensitivity (ethylene, propane, and methane) to produce a 2400 m3 volume of flammable gas and air. The facility includes adjustable congestion modules that researchers can configure to design explosions of varying strengths. Gas concentration, blast pressure and flame speeds can be measured at the test site.
1 Deep Water, The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling, Report to the President, National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, January 2011
2 Deepwater Horizon Accident Investigation Report, BP, 8 September 2010