On August 22, 2014 Dr. Scott Davis, President of GexCon US, signed a contract valued at 3.7 million dollars with the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA).

This contract was awarded to GexCon based on its proposal for the Development of Advanced Computational Fluid Dynamics Tools for the Enhanced Prediction of Explosion Pressure Development and Deflagration Risk on Drilling and Production Facilities.

A large vapor cloud explosion (VCE) followed by a fire is one of the most dangerous and high-consequence events that can occur on ultra-deepwater (UDW) drilling and other offshore facilities.  A fire or explosion must be contained quickly. Given the remoteness of ultra-deepwater activity in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) and in places such as the Arctic, any fire or explosion on board can quickly turn into loss of life and vessel without the availability of rescue, external fire control, or containment of any subsequent blowout. 

Gas derived explosions can expand at over 6,000 feet per second (1,800 m/s), rendering escape to safety virtually impossible. Predicting how a fire or minor explosion can grow, how fast and into what parts of a vessel is essential to human safety.

Designing topside structures to withstand a maximum credible event (MCE) by avoiding unacceptable escalation of events and damage to safety-critical equipment is an essential part of the path toward safer designs. Two main factors inhibit inherently safer designs: (1) lack of validated design tools to predict risk of deflagration-to-detonation transition (DDT), where the consequences can be orders of magnitude larger than typical deflagrations (determining under what conditions a DDT can occur and what mitigation measures will work are crucial in calculating MCE for offshore facilities); and (2) lack of detailed geometry information identifying congestion in the early design phase, which results in severe underestimation of design blast loads when not accounted for in explosion studies. 

GexCon has teamed with SRI International (SRI) to further develop and validate DDT onset capability of GexCon’s CFD package. This will include performing large-scale tests to assess DDT onset of methane, ethylene and propane both with and without active mitigation measures.  The test data will be used to: (1) improve, adapt, and validate the tools necessary to predict MCE early in the design phase of Gulf of Mexico (GOM) UDW facilities and (2) provide guidance and recommended practices to facility owners and designers which, when utilized, will minimize the consequences of fire/explosion incidents.

The results of this project will enable oil and gas companies operating in the GOM to design “inherently safer” offshore facilities that can minimize VCE consequences and the potential for escalation, including those in the early design stages.

Work will commence on this project in September 2014 and run for 2 years ending in 2016.

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