PFP Training – A Global Event

PFP Training – A Global Event

Who Will Benefit from PFP Training, and How Can You Get On Board?

In previous articles, we have discussed the financial cost of getting passive fire protection wrong and why PFP is critical for health and safety and asset integrity.

We’ve uncovered the need for improved standards in training, knowledge and expertise to prevent damaging and costly accidents occurring, especially in dynamic environments; for example, where modification to existing structures may require removal of or damage to the original PFP installation.

Simply put, well-designed, properly applied, and comprehensively inspected PFP protects people, assets and businesses. If the application process is not controlled and aligned with QA/QC standards for the coating used, you risk:

  • The final system not meeting the design’s fire specification
  • Flaws in the coating system leading to corrosion underneath the coating which is not externally visible and has consequent impact on fire performance
  • Degradation of the coating over time due to severe environmental effects

Market dynamics are directing a new approach to PFP inspection

Market dynamics are directing a new approach to PFP inspection. This approach is industry-led rather than mandated by legislation.

As margins have reduced for manufacturers of PFP coatings, the free-of-charge on-site technical service personnel provided by manufacturers are no longer extensively offered. In addition, the oil and gas industry has sought to keep project costs down, with the effect that nobody in the contract chain wants to pay for PFP specialist qualified inspection services. The result is little or no inspection from individuals who can identify and prevent problems with PFP installation.

The knock-on effects of this reduction in expertise for the oil and gas and hydrocarbon processing industries, where PFP is critical, are expensive complications further down the line:

  • The cost of substandard PFP can be experienced in the tragic loss of human lives
  • The financial cost of rectifying problems is many, many times the cost of initial application

Consequently, there has been a strong desire from companies and individuals in the industry to develop best practices, navigate regulations, and improve standards that remove confusion and conflict. This has culminated in the development of new PFP training courses designed to accredit individuals who are involved in PFP installation and inspection.

Who will benefit from PFP training?

Driven by industry needs and defined by industry experience, the new and unique Institute of Corrosion/PFPNet Fire Protection Coatings Inspector Training Programme will qualify inspectors of epoxy intumescent and cementitious PFP coatings used to protect against hydrocarbon fires. The course is designed to provide evidence of distinctive competence to properly understand and inspect PFP installation in new construction or retrofit situations.

In brief, there are three categories of operator who will benefit from this training:

  • The owner operator/engineering house who will need to build the course into specification, to ensure that PFP is fully considered and that the design and application of PFP meets improving standards and industry best practices
  • The fabricator/applicator who will need to have their inspectors competently trained, demonstrating that they are committed to maintaining improved standards of application and inspection
  • The inspection houses who will need to have trained inspectors ready to meet the market requirement

Gain PFP expertise through blended learning

Blended (sometimes called ‘hybrid’) learning combines online training with traditional ‘classroom’ training to maximise effectiveness. The decision to present this PFP course in this manner was easy to make. It also means that COVID-19 risks are minimised, as you’ll be doing around 10 to 20 hours of study online.

The online part of the course will prepare you for the classroom learning. In the classroom, you’ll benefit from working in a group, gaining different perspectives, and improving the effectiveness of learning. The classroom sessions are delivered over four and a half days.

When you have completed the classroom sessions there will be a half-day exam, with peer review completed within 28 days.

Who is delivering the training?

Training of this status deserves to be delivered by the best of training establishments. The Institute of Corrosion is pleased to have been selected as a partner, and training will be delivered via IMechE Argyll Ruane.

In addition, you will also be able to access this training via the PFP manufacturers. In alphabetical order, these are:

  • Carboline
  • International Paint
  • Jotun
  • PPG
  • Sherwin-Williams

The official launch of this exciting new training is set to take place on 23rd September, via a Teams meeting to be delivered in the East and then delivered in the West later the same. At this launch, you’ll also be introduced to some of our expert course presenters for this PFP training.

To register for the launch, or to discuss which of the three training mechanisms will be best for you, contact either John Dunk at PFPNet or David Mobbs at ICorr.

PFP Training – A Global Event

PFP – Critical for Health & Safety and Asset Integrity

Mitigating Installation Risk to Keep Assets and People Safe

Asset integrity, health and safety, and PFP (passive fire protection) should be comfortable bedfellows, because PFP primarily works in two ways:

  • Employing construction elements to contain fire or limit its spread
  • Fire protection to structural elements to protect from the heat of a fire causing those structures to fail and collapse

By protecting structures from fire using PFP, you protect the integrity of an asset and this helps you achieve what is your first concern – the safety of your people.

PFP – Protection for people

Passive fire protection, such as intumescent epoxy or cementitious coatings, provides protection for people because it provides protection for structures and maintains structural integrity. In an ideal world people who live or work in a building or other installation should be able to escape hazard such as fire.

Indeed, individuals who work in commercial office buildings have become used to unannounced fire drills to test how quickly and effectively they are able to exit the building to a safe location on hearing the fire alarm.

However, what do you do when you can’t simply get away? Imagine an offshore oil and gas installation, most likely hundreds of miles from dry land with the working and living areas of the structure possibly hundreds of feet above the sea, which in cold climates may be cold enough to cause death by hypothermia for anyone entering that environment within a very short time.

In these cases, containment of the fire within the area that is burning and protection of the surrounding structure to allow an orderly abandonment by lifeboat is indeed a matter of life and death.

Unfortunately, over the years a number of offshore fires and explosions have taken the lives of offshore workers, and whilst valuable lessons have been learned on how to prevent fires and put in place rigorous safety practices, these tragic events still occur.

Types of PFP

There are several types of PFP to protect assets and people.

For example, defend-in-place strategies seek to limit the spread of fire and smoke to other compartments. Installations may be designed to restrict the ability of fire and gas to move beyond their point of origin.

In oil and gas installations, steel is treated with PFP products to protect it against hydrocarbon fires which are rapid temperature rise fires that can raise the temperature of unprotected steel to beyond its point of collapse within a few minutes. Epoxy intumescent coatings are commonly used. They need to be adhesive, hard but flexible, tough, and protect against corrosion. When they are exposed to heat, they need to create an insulating carbonaceous char to protect the steel.

In comparison to paint used for anticorrosion, PFP coatings are more complex and may have stages in their application, such as the installation of reinforcing mesh, where specific controls and skills are vital to ensure that the final installation meets design requirements for the lifetime of the asset.

Failure to control the application process and follow the appropriate QA/QC standards for the coating in question can lead to many problems, including:

  • The final system will not meet the design fire specification in the event of a fire
  • Flaws in the coating system such as voids, uncured material or other defects can lead to corrosion underneath the coating which is not externally visible
  • Degradation of the coating over time due to severe weathering which is common in certain environments

Application, maintenance, and safety

Issues with PFP installation can occur well into the lifetime of the asset, as oil and gas installations are often dynamic environments where modification to existing structures and addition of services such as cabling and piping may require removal of or damage to the original PFP installation.

Frequently, those carrying out such works are not aware of the original design PFP requirements. In some cases it has been shown that maintenance staff are not aware that they have removed a fire safety-critical item during modification works.

Thus, having individuals well trained in PFP to supervise and ensure remedial works are carried out to a high standard is extremely important.

Applicators often have no knowledge of PFP

Materials used for PFP are highly regulated in terms of their quality and performance, which is independently verified, but the application and inspection of PFP is less well regulated.

At the time of writing, owner operators typically specify that inspectors of PFP coatings should be Paint Inspector Level 2 qualified – but anticorrosion coatings knowledge and experience is not adequate when it comes to PFP coatings. This is an issue that is putting the integrity of assets at risk, and, most importantly, means that people within high-risk installations have a higher risk to their health and safety. 

The Passive Fire Protection Network (PFPNet), together with the Institute of Corrosion, is developing and delivering PFP training courses designed to accredit individuals who are engaged in PFP installation and inspection. The courses may well also be of interest to engineers and professionals who need to have an understanding of the practical elements of PFP installation and maintenance.

Training will be provided by qualified individuals, and an important part of the overall programme is accreditation of the course along with qualification of the individuals who successfully conclude the training. Within the training, there will be elements that cover health and safety while at work – meeting CSCS H&S requirements for UK-based work.

This new training has been developed by drawing on the experience and needs of the industry, and will ensure that best practices are followed to and above current regulations. We expect the PFPNet Competency Framework to be mandated by asset owners and other stakeholders as a requirement for projects and operations.

For more information, contact either John Dunk at PFPNet or David Mobbs at ICorr.

Passive Fire Protection – The Financial Cost of Getting It Wrong

Passive Fire Protection – The Financial Cost of Getting It Wrong

There is change afoot in the world of passive fire protection (PFP), especially in the protection of structures in high-risk industries such as oil and gas. Unlike in many other sectors, it is the industry itself that is leading the way in more stringent competencies in application and inspection of PFP to ensure quality installations.

What are the forces that are driving this change? In this article, the first in a six-part series we’ll be publishing over the coming weeks, we look at the financial cost of getting passive fire protection application wrong.

What is passive fire protection?

PFP systems reduce the rate at which temperature rises on the protected structure. They do this primarily through heat absorption, reflection and insulation. They are passive because they don’t require external activation to work, such as water deluge, which is why they are considered more reliable, provided they are installed correctly.

In high-risk facilities such as offshore oil and gas installations, the most common form of PFP is epoxy intumescent coatings. These protect structural steel from extreme heat and provide full corrosion protection. They work by swelling and producing a carbonaceous char when heated, which insulates the steel substrate.

How are PFP coatings applied?

Epoxy intumescent coatings are usually applied by spray application using dedicated spray pumps. They must be applied onto properly prepared surfaces, and surface preparation and priming are critical to their adhesion and, in consequence, longevity. Epoxy PFP systems are frequently reinforced with a fibre mesh system, the primary purpose of which is to reinforce the char formed in a fire situation. On occasion they might be reinforced with a wire mesh, but in some systems there is no reinforcement. Typically, the thickness of an epoxy intumescent coating is between 3mm and 20mm.

The significant advantage of epoxy PFP coatings is their toughness and durability, meaning that they can be applied to steel before it is erected. In modular construction they have the ability to withstand the steel deformation when modules are loaded for transportation to their installation site and during the offloading and installation process.

PFP is failing – but why?

The international standards for PFP have been improved tremendously over the last few decades, especially in response to headline disasters like Piper Alpha and more recent incidents. However, in recent years the industry has witnessed a marked increase in the failure of PFP before the plant is commissioned. The reason for this appears to be changing market dynamics. Let us explain.

There used to be only very few manufacturers that produced epoxy PFP intumescent coatings. It was a highly specialised field, and consequently the margins were high. These manufacturers would provide free-of-charge on-site technical service personnel to help ensure correct application of PFP.

Over the years an increasing number of manufacturers have entered the epoxy intumescent market, chasing the same market opportunity. Consequently, margins have been reduced and a level of commoditisation has taken place. Additionally, the drive in the oil and gas industry to reduce project costs has exerted considerable pressure in all areas of construction and supply. The result has been an inability for manufacturers to offer the same level of on-site technical services that was previously provided free of charge, and instead fabricators and contractors are charged for these services. There is no doubt that this has resulted in a reduction in available competency to ensure quality installations.

A further factor is the tendency to treat epoxy intumescent coatings like paint and even to call them ‘paint’. Whilst they are similar, especially the epoxy types, there are significant differences requiring specific skills and understanding for quality PFP installations.

Shortage of early-stage technical competency is a false economy

PFP is an expensive necessity, and from a financial point of view keeping a lid on those costs is important. However, the cost of correcting poorly applied PFP is colossal. When a PFP system is incorrectly installed or fails, the impact can include:

  • Risk to the project schedule and potential delay of production due to lack of authority to operate whilst corrective action is taken
  • The high cost of access, including scaffolding, to carry out remedial work, particularly in the offshore environment
  • Impact on other trades whilst areas are ‘quarantined’ for corrective PFP work to be carried out
  • The sheer difficulty of removing and reinstating in an on-site environment

Experience from a leading coatings manufacturer shows that:

Offshore maintenance is 15 to 20 times more expensive than performing work at a yard, and corrosion accounts for 60% of offshore maintenance costs. Further, 85% of coating failures appear within 1 to 3 years, with 95% of failures occurring because of:

  • Incorrect specification choice
  • Poor surface preparation
  • Poor application
  • Climatic conditions

To put this into perspective, PFP that is commissioned at an implementation cost of, say, $10 million for a facility in an isolated area of the world (the best fields are usually isolated, right?) and is poorly implemented could cost $150 million to $200 million in rectification costs.

From a purely financial viewpoint, it’s clear that if you spend money upfront you save hugely on project overrun costs, let alone the project complexity of re-work.

How the industry is evolving

The industry is calling for improved competency in the application and inspection of PFP. It simply cannot continue to burn cash on rectification requirements that could and should be avoided. Whilst development, testing and certification for use of PFP materials is regulated, the application and inspection of PFP is not regulated in the same way.

Currently, owner operators specify that inspectors should be paint level 2 qualified as a minimum. What this means is that someone who has good knowledge of paint, but no knowledge or experience of PFP, can go onto a site and inspect PFP. As manufacturers continue to bring new and improved products to the market, with additional features and benefits, this issue is magnified.

In response to this and other issues, PFPNet was established around four years ago to tackle what was becoming a significant loss of skill in the industry across a broad range of PFP topics. With an objective to improve knowledge and understanding, and increase competency across the hydrocarbon passive fire protection industry, PFPNet – whose membership comprises owners, engineers, contractors, manufacturers, and others – has tapped into the skills of its members to tackle key subjects including improving quality of installation.

As PFPNet has evolved and grown with a broad range of membership of companies and individuals who truly understand the business, it has become clear that there is a real desire to develop best practice, navigate regulations, and remove confusion and conflicts.

The result is the evolution of a new PFPNet Competency Framework, which will lay out the knowledge and competency levels expected across all disciplines in the fireproofing of industrial facilities. It is expected that this framework will be mandated by owners and other stakeholders as a requirement for projects and operations.

To stay in the know and be part of the PFP conversation, contact either John Dunk at PFPNet or David Mobbs at ICorr.