The influence of fire on the design of polymer composite pipes and panels for offshore structures
Stainless and other high quality steels are used extensively in the topside construction of oil rigs. Steel is heavy, expensive and even the special grades are prone to corrosion in the aggressive marine environment. New materials are needed which are lighter, more cost effective and free from corrosion related problems. Glass fibre reinforced plastics (GRP) have the required properties but their performance in fire conditions is not known. Fire is a very real and possibly catastrophic threat. Before specifying the use of GRP components it is essential to quantify their reaction to fire. Panels and pipes to be used in fire risk areas were the components of interest, and the objectives of the research, based on experimental testing, were as follows: 1) To evaluate GRP laminates for use as structural panel skins, noting their structural and fire performance. 2)To develop incombustible, low cost cores for sandwich panels. 3) To produce sandwich panel design proposals which satisfy specified fire exposure requirements. 4)To assess the fire performance of empty and dry, stagnant water filled and flowing water filled polymer composite pipes with or without fire protection. 5) To use finite difference modelling as part of the design process for fire exposed pipes and panels. Factors of water content for hygroscopic cores and the ablation mechanism of fire exposed GRP were taken account of. 6) To assess the validity of the standard furnace fire resistance test with respect to combustible materials, and with respect to the reproducibility of results between different furnace arrangements.