Future Technology

What technologies should the sector be investigating to ensure future competitiveness? What technologies may be a threat to the sector and what should we do to challenge them and what future products/activities might this enable?

5 answers

  1. Answered by Mike Groves MIExpE

    Our aim should be to increase education (the reason why), training (the way how) and get young educated folk into the industry as apprentices.
    Whilst earth bound systems are probably static in growth, the focus on space, defence and its research are growing sectors…
    Management is another area as we continue to seek increased productivity…by better systems engineering, financial advances …
    In Defence…TBX (see recent Journal article) is an example of Western inability versus Eastern diligence/research…

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  2. Answered by Peter Shelley

    Some of the technologies the sector be investigating to ensure future competitiveness are,
    1. the application of electronics in firing systems, instrumentation and manufacturing.
    2, the application and validation (with the risks involved) in using and writing software for explosive applications.

    Technologies may be a threat to the sector are,
    1. propellant/pyrotechnic rock breakers
    2. software designed and controlled firing patterns
    3. modelling of explosive effects with no real world validation
    4. increasing restrictive legislation from officials who do not understand the subject, i.e. HSE, BIS, Police etc.

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  3. Answered by David Lindsay

    Certainly one area that needs investigating to ensure future competitiveness, is the use of explosives in the Offshore Oil and Gas Sector.
    From the earliest days of oil exploration in the North Sea explosives were used frequently in the abandonment/removal of redundant wellheads from the sea bed as well as to cut up and remove redundant oilfield infrastructure. However, in recent times we have seen a dramatic decline of these services with Operators (Oil Companies) favouring the use of “cold cutting” techniques such as hydro-abrasive grit entrained cutting tools.
    The main driver for this change would appear to be driven by environmental reasons such as avoiding harm to Cetaceans (Whales and Dolphins), despite environmental agencies such as the JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee) openly stating, in an IExpE Offshore Branch forum, that the type of use of explosives in properly planned and managed Oil and Gas related activities poses negligible levels of risk to marine mammals.
    In addition to the environmental concerns there also appears that there is a misconception amongst operators that any planning consents being sought, for explosives use, would be a long and laborious process met with condemnation or even rejected out of hand, by bodies such as the JNCC or BEIS (The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy). When actually it’s the contrary that is true. The JNCC would willingly assist any operator, that wished to use explosives on a project, with their planning and approval process and as JNCC advise BEIS on matters such as these, it’s unlikely that BEIS would offer any objection to the use of explosives either.
    Of course there are also the Service Companies that provide “Cold Cutting” techniques as part of their business, who have over the years played the environmental card and decried the use of explosives in their efforts to promote their own business, and they have been very successful in their efforts, to the detriment of explosive services businesses that have seen some of their product lines all but disappear due to the decline in explosives use and the preference to use “environmentally friendly” cold cutting techniques.
    So how do we go about challenging the Oil Companies and change this perception that explosives can’t, or should not be used? As I mentioned earlier, explosives have been used from the earliest days of oil exploration and had proven to be a useful and effect method of severance for many years. However, what didn’t happen during that time was any significant advances or improvements in the equipment or techniques being used to provide these services. The methods used remained unchanged and weren’t developed over time to improve reliability or efficiency. Resulting in the perception that the use of explosives is rather crude, unreliable and not fit for purpose.
    Going forward the oil and gas industry is going to be faced with the enormous challenge of decommissioning ageing oil fields, including large structures and the associated seabed infrastructure. Given the potential scale and size of the decommissioning market this presents explosives serve providers with a great opportunity to reinvent themselves and promote their services in a market that will demand reliable, efficient cost effective solutions.
    But in order to have any chance of success, there are a number of challenges that will have to be overcome.
    The biggest challenge, it would appear, will be to convince the major oil companies to completely change their opinion on the use of explosives. This won’t be an easy task given that the use of explosives, for certain tasks, has pretty much been outlawed in the past decade, meaning that many of the current managers that are responsible for decision making, may never actually have been directly involved, or even be aware of the many successful large scale decommissioning projects that used explosives extensively without harm to environment or marine life.
    So what needs to be done? As an Industry we really need to look at the improvements and advancements that can be made to existing technologies and methods. We also need to fully understand the extent of the technical challenges that will be faced during the various phases of large scale decommissioning projects.

    Things to consider will include but not be limited to:
    • Making operations as safe as possible
    • Reducing the NEQ of charges used
    • Eliminating misfires
    • Reducing environmental impact by using practical blast mitigation techniques
    • Improving cutting efficiency
    • Guaranteeing cut success
    • Improving the quality of cuts made
    • Ease of charge deployment and placement by Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV’s)

    All of the above points would then have to be communicated effectively to industry.

    So there you have it, my views on a particular area where the explosive sector is under thread but also where there is also a huge opportunity for the sector to reinvent itself and succeed.
    For those that are up to the challenge, the prize on offer is huge.

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  4. Answered by Thomas Burky

    I think that the comments made above are all excellent and right on point. Therefore, though I cannot readily improve upon them I would like to re-emphasize what I think are the most salient points:
    1 – The chemical science portion of explosives technology is very mature, therefore significant returns should not be expected for invested efforts.
    2 – Practically all fields of industry are being revolutionized by electronic controls, feedback/monitoring systems and flexible software-driven control systems. Explosive systems, for the most part, have not kept up, particularly in oil and gas. Surface blasting and fireworks are really the only two areas that have begun to realize these gains.
    3 – To gain a strong understanding of the principles of explosives engineering, one should not rely on university study alone. Many of the classic explosives engineering defense handbooks written in the 1960s and 1980s are freely available on-line and provide an excellent background in explosives engineering and pyrotechnics. An individual mastery of these classics will serve anyone in the field very well as most of these time-proven design techniques are not known or taught by many of today’s university staff.
    4 – Fireworks industry disruption. This is purely speculation from me, but after witnessing the awesome display of “electronic fireworks” at the 2018 Winter Olympics, I think that every fireworks display firm had seriously consider the incorporation of this technology to their programs. Imagine a city council trying to choose between a stunning fireworks show using tons of explosive materials in a metropolitan area, or a somewhat less stunning show using only a swarm of inexpensive drones that present no hazards to the spectators… These swarming drones may not fully replace fireworks displays – yet – but I think a shrewd fireworks operator should consider incorporating this technology into their displays, or risk being displaced.

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