Q&A with senior design engineer Tony Westerlund from Trelleborg

Materials World magazine
1 Feb 2019

Trelleborg Senior Design Engineer Tony Westerlund, talks to Ellis Davies about fire protection in offshore oil and gas environments, and the company’s recent DNV-GL certification for its fire protection product.

Tell me about your role at Trelleborg.

I’m a senior design engineer of passive fire protection solutions for Trelleborg, responsible for technical solutions and design from inquiry to delivery. Throughout my 28 years with the company, I have had various roles including operator, manufacturing manager, planner, project manager, and project group manager, which have increased my knowledge of the materials and solutions we offer exponentially. My personal interest in technical solutions, qualifications and functionality of passive fire protection products resulted in me taking my current role in 2011. Additional responsibilities include involvement in passive fire protection product development for our riser and Vikodeck solutions.

What are the risks associated with fire at sea, on oil rigs and on ships?

Safety of offshore oil and gas installations is of paramount importance and having effective and reliable surface protection is vital to ensure on-board safety. 

Advanced fire protection systems are critical, whether they are for the protection of a platform’s surface, an on-board deluge system or to protect pipes and flanges. The performance of these systems is essential for the safety of personnel, asset protection and preventing fire escalation. 

So, in the offshore oil and gas sector, where the risk of uncontrolled rapid fire spread is greater than most, firestop solutions need to provide full assurance to the on-board team that they will not fail. If damage is caused, costly shutdowns and repairs would be required and in the worst-case scenario, the platform may fail altogether.

What is Vikodeck?

Vikodeck is a tile product designed to offer surface protection against blast, jet and pool fire in harsh offshore oil and gas environments, and it can be tailored to withstand various chemical and mechanical conditions and is based on our firestop technology. It is a passive fire protection material used to protect personnel and equipment. It minimises fire escalation by providing time to evacuate people, close down critical equipment and for responders to gain control of a fire. The certified rubber material protects structures from exceeding critical temperature limits.

Firestop is made up of a number of different compounds and has a design life of 40 years. It is fire resistant up to two hours with a service temperature range -50°C to +155°C.

The tiles are prefabricated in sheets, which are then placed into a preheated steel mould in a moulding machine. Typically, for this product, sheets are produced at around 1m2 and moulded at a temperature of around +135oC to +150oC for a given amount of time, depending on the thickness of the material – usually around 1.5 hours with a pressure of about 350t to produce a solid rubber tile. These are then checked to verify that they meet our quality standards and to make sure they are the correct thickness, which varies depending on the application, between 16–30mm.

How does it provide protection?

The tiles can provide protection against all kinds of fires, from simple cellulose to hydrocarbon and jet fire. The rubber materials meet corrosion, thermal, fire and mechanical protection requirements. Rubber is a naturally flexible, durable and a corrosion-free material that can be engineered to meet desired characteristics specified by our customers. The dampening, noise-reducing nature of the material can protect equipment from vibrations, impact, explosions and earthquakes. The flexibility means it can take up movement in any direction, which reduces the likelihood of cracking.

Tiles can be removed and reapplied to structures as they are glued directly onto a surface, including flooring, walls and roofing. They can, therefore, be used for protection in a number of places – load bearing applications, an escape route or a critical control room. Without fire protection these areas could rapidly heat up and risk collapse or failure. A typical hydrocarbon fire can hit 1,100oC to 1,200oC very quickly and continue to burn at this heat for a long period of time.

Hang fire protection occurs when there is a delay between the ignition of a projectile and its release. When the tiles are installed on the surface below the ignition flame, the tiles protect the covered surface from the extreme temperature – approximately 3,000oC – and erosion of the flame.

Another area of application is where containers are dropped and transported. This is due to strong properties for protection against mechanical wear and tear. As these areas tend to be close to the living quarters on offshore platforms, the dampening and noise reduction properties of the material are a real advantage.

As I touched upon earlier, the rubber compound can be tailored according to the fire rating and specifications. We have an in-house laboratory and fire testing facilities at our facility in Norway, where we can perform project specific tests. The shape of the tiles can also be customised and modified.

Do the tiles need to be replaced regularly?

The replacement intervals will depend on the application and project specification and can range between 25-40 years. 

What does gaining DNV-GL certification mean for the product and company?

The material was tested for the most extreme conditions to simulate a worse case scenario on an 8m2 deck mounted in the roof of the testing chamber at an independent testing facility. Both securing options typically used to glue the tiles to the surface were tested and include an adhesive and a sealant. By obtaining DNV-GL certification for the thin and light Vikodeck tiles, we intend to identify new applications for the material using the new hydrocarbon ratings.

DNV-GL certification will ensure confidence in the functionality of product performance in a fire scenario, and stamped type approval certification will give security of project specific fire requirements. 

Any future projects? 

We have had several offshore projects recently. The majority have been on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, but tiles have also been installed at several international projects.