Fire is a serious threat to oil and gas facilities on and oﬀshore where a number of incidents related to ﬁre occur every year. Materials with good reaction-to-ﬁre properties constitute an important barrier that prevents small ﬁres from starting and developing with serious consequences.
Consequences of a ﬁre in the petroleum industry can be very large. Fires on oﬀshore facilities can start in several types of equipment and sites. An analysis of the 985 ﬁres registered in the Norwegian Petroleum Safety Authority’s database between 1997 and 2014 showed that approximately 67% of the incidents were registered as ﬁres or explosions that did not involve hydrocarbons. About one-third of the ﬁres happened in the ancillary systems, which cover a wide range of functions. Six of the 985 events were categorized with the highest severity level, with a great potential for serious accident or fatalities - three of those occurred at oﬀshore facilities. 66 of the incidents took place in living quarters.
This shows that serious incidents related to ﬁres do not occur very often. However, some of the reported incidents could have developed into ﬁres with disastrous consequences. This stresses the need for continued eﬀorts to increase the safety and to focus on the barriers that prevent escalating events. The right choice of materials in components, construction and furnishing is an important barrier to prevent the ﬁres from starting, and prevent small ﬁres from developing into larger ﬁres that will be diﬃcult to control. The HSE regulations in the Norwegian petroleum sector are primarily performance-based. The materials used on the Norwegian continental shelf must meet the ﬁre safety requirements given in the facilities regulations. These regulations give requirements to the performance of materials and the related guidance documents describe acceptable methods for documentation of reaction-to-ﬁre properties.
Important principles in selection of material
The facilities regulations describe important principles in the selection of materials in or on plants, and the guidelines specify which test methods should be used to document the ﬁre properties. This list of test methods has not been updated in many years, it contains several outdated methods, and several of the references do not set criteria for approval of products.
RISE Fire Research AS published recommendations about how to interpret the regulations and other speciﬁcations (e.g. the NORSOK standards) in 2008, which have been frequently used within the industry. These recommendations for testing and documentation are now updated. They include references to new and updated test standards and are published in English. The recommendations can also be useful for other industrial applications of combustible materials all over the world, both for on and oﬀshore plants.
Guidance for proper documentation
RISE Fire Research AS is in close dialogue with industry and suppliers about the documentation, test methods and criteria to be used for installations in the North Sea. We help the parties to meet the regulations, and to maintain a satisfactory level of ﬁre safety. It is up to the various operators to determine which documentation they will require for diﬀerent products, based on requirements given in the facilities regulations and the NORSOK-standards. We have developed guidelines and recommendations for appropriate ﬁre safety documentation requirements for materials covering various products and applications within the oil and gas industry. The recommendations are based on an assessment of the ﬁre risks in diﬀerent areas of oﬀshore installations, combined with our knowledge of materials’ reaction-to-ﬁre properties, as well as knowledge of how the selected test methods can be used in a sensible way.