Article - Issue 59, June 2014

High risk modelling; Sustainable games; Entrepreneurs' award; Ready to respond; Wind energy report; Accessible ATMs

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HIGH RISK MODELLING

Lloyd’s Register won the Energy Industries Council Award for Supply Chain Excellence 2013 for its work on blow-out preventer (BOP) risk modelling, leading to safer and better-performing deep-water drilling. Lloyd’s Register developed the risk model following the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, as part of a joint industry project between its own technical BOP experts, drilling operators, BOP equipment manufacturers and US regulators.

A BOP is a set of specialised safety critical equipment used to seal and control oil and gas hydrocarbons contained in wells. BOP failures are not common, but there have been at least two major incidents since the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and subsequent oil spill. Failure in such complex systems, controlling 500,000-750,000 pounds of ram force in water that can exceed 9,000 feet deep, can pose a catastrophic risk of fire and explosion.

Blow out preventer

Blow out preventer components seal and control hydrocarbons within a well. BOPs have been developed to cope with extreme erratic pressures, temperatures and pressurised flow emanating from a well reservoir during drilling

Every year, drilling operators experience large periods of downtime in their drilling activities due to time spent on unforeseen BOP pulls to the ocean surface to examine potential equipment problems. The subsequent repair, testing and running of the device can require days when oil cannot be accessed, costing up to US$1million per day. The industry needed a transparent BOP failure-decision model to define any change in operating risks and regulatory compliance in a time frame of hours, not days. The model also needed to provide an unbiased assessment of risk, removing the potential influence of cost on the decision to pull the BOP to the surface. The resulting BOP risk model, now in use in the Gulf of Mexico, is derived from Scandpower’s proprietary RiskSpectrum software, which is already used at 50% of the world’s nuclear power plants and in offshore oil and gas platforms. This provides real-time data to guide decision-making. It also improves audit traceability and supports regulatory compliance, as decisions can be supported by evidence-based explanations.

In a 12-month period, Lloyd’s Register’s Well Control Centre of Excellence in Houston – acting as an independent third party – recommended the continuation of operations on 29 occasions when, following the detection of potential failures, the Regulator would otherwise have forced the operator to pull their BOPs to the surface.

SUSTAINABLE GAMES

The organisers of the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, which begin in July, are developing a Games with sustainability at its core. Over 70% of the competition venues for the Games will be repurposed existing venues. The organisers will also be saving money and resources by not building a new stadium, choosing instead to convert Scotland’s existing high-capacity national soccer stadium, Hampden Park, into an athletics arena for the track and field events. The arena will then be returned to its original purpose once the Games are over.

Within Hampden Park a new deck, 1.9m above the soccer pitch, has been laid using 1,200 panels, supported by 6,000 high load-bearing steel stilts. These cover a surface area of 16,500m² which accommodates the track, in-field and associated competitive and warm-up areas.

Hampden park

A visualisation of Hampden Park transformed into an athletics stadium

The new deck took around a month to install before a layer of asphalt was applied, along with a turfed infield and, under the running track itself, a stone subbase and layer of tar that took over two weeks to cure before the readily recognisable red track surface could be laid.

One striking new construction built for the Commonwealth Games is the SSE Hydro Arena designed by Foster+Partners and engineered by Arup. It features an Ethylene Tetrafluroethylene façade made up of translucent cushions which allows natural light to illuminate the foyer during the day and the arena to ‘glow’ at night – see photograph on back of this Ingenia.

The Arena and Athletes’ Village have been constructed to minimise waste and carbon emissions. The power from the combined heat and power centre will be used to provide hot water for the Emirates Arena and the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome.

ENTREPRENEURS’ AWARD

The Royal Academy of Engineering - ERA Foundation Entrepreneurs’ Award is given to electro-technology researchers in UK universities to support the commercialisation of their work. The joint winners of the 2014 award are Dr James MacFarlane from the University of Bristol, and Dr David Heath from the University of Strathclyde, who will each receive a £15,000 development fund for their innovations, a £5,000 prize, and mentoring from renowned engineers.

Dr James MacFarlane

Dr James MacFarlane

Dr MacFarlane, from the University of Bristol, is the inventor of the Advanced Airborne Radiation Monitoring system. This integrates an unmanned aerial vehicle with a gamma spectrometer and positional sensors. It is lightweight and low-cost, and able to capture high-resolution images. It could significantly improve the safety and effectiveness of rapid response monitoring of nuclear events, as well as routine monitoring at nuclear sites, mining operations and oil and gas facilities.

Dr David Heath

Dr David Heath

Dr Heath, of the University of Strathclyde, has designed a new, painless home applicator device which uses electrical energy, like that used in painrelieving TENS machines, to penetrate the uppermost layer of the skin. Previously, the effective ingredients in skin creams were unable to penetrate this barrier. By stimulating deeper levels of the skin, key ingredients can be absorbed at these levels, delivering faster and more dramatic results.

The Royal Academy of Engineering delivers the award as part of its Enterprise Hub, a new national resource for the UK’s most promising engineering entrepreneurs. The winners become Members of the Enterprise Hub and will receive business training and mentoring from the Academy’s Fellowship, which includes some of the UK’s most successful technology entrepreneurs and business leaders.

For more information visit www.enterprisehub.raeng.org.uk or follow @RAEng_Hub

READY TO RESPOND

Engineering aid organisation RedR has established a new threeyear programme, with financial backing from Lloyd’s Charities Trust, called Ready to Respond, focusing on urban disaster relief. RedR began in 1979 as a register of people with engineering skills who could provide expert knowledge in crisis situations. It has grown to become the foremost specialist training organisation in the sector, and, last year, provided training to 8,000 aid workers living and working in 84 countries. See www.lloyds.com/readytorespond

When RedR was set up, fewer than 40% of the world’s population of 4.5 billion were urban dwellers. When it came to providing disaster relief, the resources and knowledge utilised reflected the rural conditions in which the majority of relief operations took place, but already a need was emerging for a different kind of expertise. In 2010, the planet reached a significant demographic milestone, with more than half of the global population living in towns and cities. It is anticipated that by 2050, urbanisation in the world’s population will have reached 70%.

DRR engineer

A RedR Disaster Risk Reduction trainer showing bracing methods on a course delivered in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan © RedR

This population shift, coupled with an increase in extreme weather events, has resulted in a dramatic increase in aid emergencies with an urban component. When RedR evaluated previous emergency responses, it saw gaps in the knowledge available on the ground to deal with specifically urban issues. In an urban situation, the challenge is to work with what was already there before the humanitarian emergency, which creates numerous possible complications.

For example, if a water network does not meet the demands of the whole city, a major pipeline going through a slum area without legal connections is likely to have been tapped into illegally. A municipal water system might have been starved of regular maintenance over years by under-resourced authorities. Suddenly, the area could be facing a large influx of people or major damage to the system. Some municipal staff may have disappeared or died in a conflict or a natural disaster, and the need to respond quickly requires outside expertise.

A consultation report, entitled Ready to Respond: Addressing Gaps in Technical Skills, set out skills shortfalls in urban water, sanitation, shelter and construction systems as areas where RedR engineers will need to target their training.

Ready to Respond comprises two main parts. The first is to identify, select and train teams from UK engineering and construction companies as well as from the lead humanitarian agencies. These need to be swiftly deployed to urban disaster zones in order to assess and carry out emergency repairs to infrastructure and enable people to have access to potable water and safe shelter areas.

The second part of the programme will give existing aid workers around the world more practical solutions to on-theground challenges in both urban and rural areas. More than 1,000 staff will be trained in all aspects of disaster response, including disaster preparedness, risk reduction, project management and logistics.

Most lives are saved in the hours immediately following a disaster, or even before that, through proper risk reduction in the weeks, months and even years prior to disaster striking. It is community members who can save most lives and RedR’s aim is to spread lifesaving engineering and humanitarian expertise to those most likely to need it – read the report at http://tinyurl.com/m9xwm67

WIND ENERGY REPORT

In April 2014, the Royal Academy of Engineering published Wind energy: implications of large-scale deployment on the GB electricity system. The report assessed wind energy’s potential contribution to British government targets to provide 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 and to cut greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050.

Wind energy report

The Academy’s working group set out to identify the engineering challenges that are associated with the deployment of wind energy and the implications of its deployment at greater scale from the perspective of security, cost and decarbonisation.

The working group determined that the national grid is capable of accommodating a 20% contribution from wind energy without major system upgrades and using existing balancing mechanisms. Beyond 20%, however, system management would become increasingly difficult and longterm planning decisions would be vital to achieving a fully decarbonised energy system.

The energy industry and infrastructure would have to evolve ahead of, or in line with, changing electricity demand from transport and heating to accommodate more wind energy. This evolution would also require other forms of low-carbon generation, along with innovations in energy storage, management and interconnections with grids in other countries.

The report concludes that electricity market reform should be implemented rapidly and the costs and benefits of wind vs fossil fuels would need to be made crystal clear. It also asserts that a long-term, strategic direction in government plans for decarbonisaton of the electricity sector should form part of the next Carbon Budget. A partnership between government and industry is needed to plan decarbonisation interventions and to engage with the public on the effects and benefits of more wind energy, particularly as the requirement for more and bigger turbines would impact on local communities and businesses.

Download the report at www.raeng.org.uk/windreport See page 24 for an article on Wind energy c1 developing offshore wind turbines.

ACCESSIBLE ATMS

The Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB) has worked over the last few years with banks, interface designers and software engineers to make the UK’s 70,000 ATMs accessible in a campaign entitled Making Money Talk. It has supplied a set of accessibility principles, advised on the merits of different speech engines and by the end of 2014 nearly all the ATMs in the UK will be accessible to blind and partially sighted people.

In 2011, the RNIB had conducted a survey that found only 11% of the UK’s blind and partially sighted people used ATMs – in contrast to 80% of the general public. The reluctance was mainly due to ATMs being inaccessible. People are unable to use the on-screen information and with no audio output there is the embarrassment and risk caused by having to ask strangers to type in PIN numbers.

atm

The charity recommended that headphone sockets should be easy to identify both visually and tactually and that all audio instructions needed to be concise, with the important information at the start, so that users could move quickly and efficiently through the interface. In addition it requested that users be able to interrupt the speech and move on to the next item when they were ready.

The security features of the talking ATMs are similar to those of non-talking ATMs: the PIN is not shown on the screen and is not spoken when the audio is on. People are still responsible for covering the number pad when they enter their PIN; a warning to do this is spoken.

All the major banks have committed to providing talking ATMs and the task should be complete by the end of the year. By then, blind and partially sighted people will be able to plug in their earphones and be verbally guided through their transactions and have independent access to their own money.

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