Growing from this initial staff of two, today PDE employs approximately 50 technically qualified personnel including chartered engineers, mechanical, civil and electrical project engineers, and design personnel. From its head offices in Antrim, Northern Ireland, PDE offers a multi-disciplineone-stop-shop for engineering design and project management services. This is fully supported by extensive computer aided design (CAD) and computer aided engineering (CAE) facilities.
Throughout its 21 years of operations, PDE has developed a strong specialisation in oil storage and distribution facilities and has undertaken considerable industrial projects both on home soil and in the wider market. Sustained growth, matched with a consistently expanding customer base, emphasises the company’s success in providing professional, quality driven and cost effective solutions. Due to this extensive experience, PDE has developed numerous proven systems and controls, thereby offering assurance of successful project implementation. The company’s solutions incorporate engineering design, project and construction management, procurement, commissioning and validation, including industrial control system developments, such as SCADA.
The business has developed around manufacturing and process businesses, including the oil storage and distribution industry, initially within Northern Ireland, but today it also undertakes work across the whole of the UK and Republic of Ireland. It specialises in the engineering and technology required for the oil storage and distribution industry, and is also currently working with three significantly sized power stations in the development of their fuel storage facilities. PDE also has ongoing contracts with the major oil companies for project work in their distribution and storage facilities in the UK and Ireland.
“In fact much of our work for existing clients, such as LSS Oil (a joint venture terminal between Statoil AB and LCC Oil located in Northern Ireland) is to carry out expansion and modification works on the existing facilities that we designed and built for them in previous years,” says Seamus. “As an example, some of these works involve modifications to allow the injection of biofuels into the traditional fuels,and facility changes for the combined storage of gas oil and diesel following recent harmonising of product specifications. Quite a lot of our work comes from projects such as this, as terminals require regular upgrades and modifications to keep pace with the market.”
In terms of the challenges posed by modifying existing structures, one of the
biggest considerations is the continual change in statutory regulations. This may mean fire protection, containment facilities, build quality, environmental protocols, or health and safety requirements. Given the potentially hazardous nature of the oil and gas industry and its commercial products, remaining abreast of industry standards is a primary requirement and vital to the continued safe operation ofstorage and distribution terminals. Once a preconstruction safety report has been prepared for the proposed modifications, this has to be approved by the relevant health and safety statutory body prior to work beginning.
“From a commercial point of view one of the biggest challenges to the business is the decrease in the number of new build terminal projects within the UK and Ireland. This is due to the volume of storage already located in the region. Additionally there is a reduction in active involvement from the major oil companies in all areas of Western Europe. Given these conditions we have been fortunate to gain the design,construction and project management contracts for two of the three terminals built in Ireland, the LSS terminal and the Atlantic Fuel Supply Company (AFSC) terminal, in the last six years,” notes Seamus.
In fact, the 79,800 cubic metres capacity AFSC terminal, located in Limerick, Republic of Ireland, has been a key project for PDE, which designed and managed the project from concept to commissioning. Originally a brownfield site, the facility took two and half years to develop and opened on schedule in October 2010. The
terminal’s oil storage capacity comprises of 16 storage tanks and is divided between five main products – unleaded petrol, diesel, gas oil, kerosene, and heavy fuel oil.
In addition, the AFSC terminal has biofuel blending facilities for FAME (Fatty Acid Methyl Esters), ethanol and heavy fuel oil blends. Products stored at the facility are either loaded into bottom loading road tankers via four loading gantries, or top loaded through one top loading gantry, with ship bunkering facilities also available. Many of these aspects are similar to the LSS terminal, which was constructed in 2005, therefore enabling PDE to incorporate its previous experience into the AFSC project.
Importantly, the AFSC terminal is one of the first oil terminals of this size to be constructed in Ireland or the UK following the Buncefied oil storage depot fire in 2005. During the design process and construction phase, reports and recommendations from Buncefield were taken into account, resulting in a terminal that is fully compliant with, and in many ways exceeds, the final Buncefield recommendations. One example of this is that every tank, regardless of product class, is protected by independent SIL rated Hi-Hi level detection and alarm, with inlet and outlet remotely operated shut-off valves (ROSOV’s).
The tanks are located in two bunds, which have been designed and constructed in line with the Buncefield recommendations including totally impervious containment structures built to BS 8007 specifications. The site also incorporates both secondary and tertiary containment systems ensuring that no spilled product or fire water leaves the site.
The AFSC terminal has been designated a ‘top tier’ Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) site. The COMAH regulations for such sites require bulk storage operators to identify potential major accident hazards and to implement measures to prevent or to limit their consequences for both people and the environment. As part of the terminal’s environmental commitment, a carbon bed vapour recovery unit has been installed to reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions being released into the atmosphere and to recover useable products from the vapour. The petrol and ethanol tanks have also been fitted with floating decks, which prevent vapours venting into the atmosphere during normal operations.
Given the challenging economic climate of recent years, PDE’s ability to secure major contracts such as AFSC is particularly impressive. Commenting on the key characteristics that make PDE successful, Seamus says: “Our track record has been instrumental in our success, and given the levels of repeat business we have gained from established clients we have been able to maintain our workforce and involvement within the industry. Having remained abreast of developments within the industry, such as the introduction of biofuels, we are able to offer clients the more specialised knowledge that is necessary for smaller modification projects. This, combined with our expert workforce, puts us in a strong position when looking to gain new business.” In addition to its permanent employees, PDE maintains a register of engineers and designers available on a contract basis, to satisfy the requirements of particular projects or during periods of short term overload.
Despite the downturn in new build terminal projects within Ireland and the UK, Seamus is positive about the future opportunities for PDE in the wider market: “The amount of oil used in the UK isn’t going to change significantly in the coming years, and it still has to be transferred through a distribution terminal. In this respect, although there may be fewer large capital spends, there remains the potential for substantial levels of modification and upgrade works within the industry. I also see greater applications for our skills within other aspects of the oil distribution business.”
Over the years PDE has established a reputation for being consistent in the high quality of its services, whilst remaining committed to constant future development. Continuing this tradition, PDE is working to implement a new development and business strategy, which involves the company bringing its engineering capabilities to new industries and markets, such as Europe. To this end, PDE has employed a new business development manager, Warren Bell, to assist in implementing this approach. Additionally, this month PDE plans to have a presence at the European StocExpo in Rotterdam.
With thoughts on the future, Seamus concludes with his aims for PDE: “We have been working with established UK companies in other geographical markets, to support their activities with specific project management, engineering design and organisation services. The European StocExpo is a key promotional opportunity for the business, as well as enabling us to investigate the potential of the European market, which is clearly one of our targeted sectors. Our skills in electrical, mechanical, civil, instrumentation and control, and automation engineering services, are transferable and lend themselves to a variety of different industries, and moving forward we will be looking at tackling other sectors.”
Project Design Engineers Ltd
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