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Industrial dangers brought to life for learning

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Observers react to controlled gas blast at Spadeadam Testing and Research
Protected observers react at a safe distance to a gas explosion carried out in a domestic garage-sized chamber.
DNV GL has made a substantial investment to further develop its Spadeadam Testing and Research Centre as one of the world's most advanced locations for full-scale destructive- and non-destructive testing for the oil and gas, chemical, utilities and security industries.
Lord Cullen presenting at the opening of the new centre at Spadeadam Training and Research
Lord Cullen, who led the Public Inquiry into the 1988 Piper Alpha explosion, opened the new training and conference facility.
Interior of the new centre at Spadeadam
Spadeadam’s new centre boosts hazard awareness through classroom-learning and live demonstrations.

A multi-million pound, state-of-the-art training and conference centre was officially opened on-site in June 2016 by The Rt Hon The Lord Cullen of Whitekirk KT, the former Scottish judge who led the Public Inquiry into the 1988 Piper Alpha oil platform explosion in the North Sea. 

This new 100-seat facility will host hazard awareness courses involving classroom-based learning and large-scale live demonstrations such as jet fires from high-pressure pipelines, hydrocarbon pool fires, and gas and dust explosions. 

Spadeadam Testing and Research Centre is the largest facility of its kind in the UK, covering more than 50 hectares within Ministry of Defence land in Northern England. It gives companies a rare opportunity to conduct ’real-life’ research in a controlled, confidential, and secure environment. An associated research programme is available to explain the threat of cyber attacks, an area of increased vigilance and prevention within global energy industries.  

“From pipeline fracture tests to blast and product testing, engineers and analysts can examine in detail the aftermath of such events,” said Gary Tomlin, vice president, safety and risk, DNV GL. “In line with our mission to safeguard life, property and the environment, this enables design and production of new and enhanced processes and products.  

“Most importantly, the centre as a whole gives visitors the unique chance to see, hear and feel the full impact of ignited releases and, crucially, to learn how to avoid their potentially catastrophic effects in the workplace.”  

Raising awareness of risk  

Over the years, Spadeadam has staged re-enactments of major UK accidents and events ranging from Piper Alpha and the 2005 Buncefield oil storage terminal fire to the aerial bombing of buildings, such as happened in London in World War II. 

These, and similar ‘real life’ scenarios, can be more useful than theoretical work, explained Hari Vamadevan, regional manager, UK and West Africa, DNV GL – Oil & Gas.  

“To have all your senses experience the feeling and intensity of a jet fire, for example, can be so much more impactful than theoretical work,” he said. “The ability to show first-hand the reality of these types of scenarios shows just what can happen when things go wrong. Our highly specialized hazards awareness courses demonstrate how this can be prevented.”  

Groundbreaking projects  

Spadeadam is a centre of excellence for research into industry safety by conducting experiments for the development of new industry practices, and testing new concepts and technology for DNV GL’s customers.  

In one example, the team at Spadeadam recently conducted the world’s largest-ever controlled release of CO2 from an underwater pipeline. This joint-industry project (JIP) aims to understand fully the environmental and safety implications associated with the development of CO2 pipelines.  Spadeadam is currently running full-scale experiments using available test rigs for CostFX, a new DNV GL-led JIP to investigate cost-efficient explosion load descriptions for process areas. The aim is to reduce complexity and over-design in current models and methodologies for explosion protection, while balancing this goal against demand for valid, accountable safety margins. The results will be used to generate standards and guidelines to allow structural engineers to pre-define design explosion loads for standard installations, mitigating the need for costly, specialist analyses.  

Discover the full capabilities of the Spadeadam Testing and Research Centre here.