Better understanding threats to infrastructure assets from natural hazards

13th October 2017

A project from the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) will produce a guide to better understand the threats to infrastructure assets from natural hazards relevant in the UK such as extreme wind, flooding and hail. 

The Natural Hazards Project is being led for ETI by EDF R&D UK supported by the Met Office and Mott MacDonald. The guide will be made available to industry, academia and individuals by the end of 2018 through the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE).

It will also consider how climate change might influence these hazards. It is intended that use of the guide will help support the development of new and resilient energy infrastructure assets which can better inform investment choices into new or existing assets.

Designed as a three phase project, the discovery phases are now complete.  This next and final phase will capture the knowledge and learning from this project to date in a way that makes it accessible to project engineers with responsibility for new or existing high value energy infrastructure assets.

When the project was launched in 2014 it was recognised that the UK would be investing in a wide range of high value assets, including power generation, over the next three decades.

The detailed designs of these assets are likely to include a combination of new to the world and new to the UK. In addition, the best scientific advice indicates that extreme weather events are likely to become more frequent. Therefore the design and operation of these high value assets will require levels of robustness which satisfy scheme developers, financiers and industry specific standards and regulation.

So far the project has characterised a complete list of natural hazards in the UK applicable to UK energy infrastructure assets. These include extreme wind, flooding and hail.

It has also included new methods of characterising hail, the biological fouling of assets in the marine environment, cooling water intakes, space weather and lightning. The combinations of hazards have also been demonstrated.

As well as delivering the “how to” guide, the latest phase of the project will also use case studies to demonstrate the identified methods at different types of locations including offshore, coastal, estuaries and inland.

ETI Strategy Manager Mike Middleton who is running the project said:

“Major infrastructure projects deliver high investment capital assets that need to be resilient to the effects of climate change, extreme weather conditions and other natural hazards.

“This project will use a robust evidence base to improve awareness of the range of natural hazards and the methods used to characterise them. This greater awareness has the potential to improve decision making in the investment in design, construction and operation of high value energy infrastructure assets necessary to protect them against the range of threats from natural hazards.

“Whilst this applies to new assets, it also applies to ongoing investment or life extension of existing assets.

“The guide will be designed to be easy to use and accessible to project engineers making decisions about a range of future infrastructure projects, including energy assets, road and rail schemes and residential developments.”

Pietro Bernardara EDF Energy R&D UK centre, project Chief Technologist, said:

“The project consortium is quite impressive, including Met Office, Mott Mac Donald and contributions from EDF Energy Nuclear Generation, Nuclear New Build, Air World Wide and HR Wallingford. Definitely the best players for delivering a high impact engineering product.

“Safety is the EDF Energy overriding priority and we are proud to share our safety culture and our knowledge with the wider UK infrastructure community.”

Claudia Flavell-While, Director of Policy and Publications at IChemE, said:

'IChemE is delighted to support this project. News reports from Houston remind us of the importance of risk management in the chemicals sector in the face of natural hazards, including extreme weather.
We will work with our partners to share insight from the project, and to help professional chemical engineers to understand and plan for natural hazards.
Tackling complex engineering challenges requires close collaboration between engineering disciplines and we welcome this opportunity to work with the ETI and IMechE.'

Dr Jenifer Baxter, Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers said:

'We are really pleased to be able to support this important project being carried out by the ETI.  Working with IChemE we will ensure that awareness raising and outputs from the Natural Hazards project are disseminated continuing the great work done by the ETI.'