At most fire schools, an attending firefighter would be known as a student. At Petrofac Training, a leading provider of safety specialist training to the international oil and gas industry, attending firefighters are referred to as "delegates."
Delegates come from all parts of the world: the UK, all of Europe, Oman, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, said Peter Dennett, fire training manager for Petrofac Training.
"Apart from the delegates who come to us, we also go to them," Dennett said. "We work in all corners of the world."
Petrofac Training is the training and consulting arm of the Petrofac Group, a leading international oil and gas facility service provider. The training arm provides a range of competency-led training services, consulting and managed solutions designed to increase competency and reduce risks.
The company offers more than 30 fire training courses meeting accredited industry standards, including the Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organization (OPITO), Marine Coastguard Agency (MCA), and Joint Oil and Industry Fire Forum (JOIFF). Instructors come from a variety of specialties, including the oil and gas industry, military, civil fire services and pharmaceutical companies.
Petrofac Training's flagship fire training ground is a 17-acre site in the town of Montrose near Aberdeen, Scotland. The fire ground can handle as many as 150 delegates at once, for an annual average enrollment of 4,500 to 6,000.
The training facility allows Petrofac Training to deliver first class training in pressure, spill and LPG fire fighting techniques to both offshore and onshore emergency response teams including industrial fire brigades.
"The facility contains various training modules or 'props' as the Americans call them," Dennett said. "It simulates offshore and onshore emergencies, including confined space rescue, oil spills, pressure fires, helicopter crashes, accommodation fires and search and rescue."
Of the eight fire training modules onsite, the largest is the three-story module used to demonstrate gas and hydrocarbon fire fighting techniques. Adaptable to different training scenarios, the module is also used to train delegates on internal fire fighting and rescue work, with delegates demonstrating their ability to deal with severe heat, smoke and poor visibility conditions.
Another two-story module boasts a full-size helideck, which can simulate a heavy landing or a low impact crash scenario with the helicopter on its side. It can also be used to re-enact a full size burning helideck, allowing for exercise scenarios with foam monitors and ancillary equipment to be performed.
An extensive two-story simulation production and process module, known as the offshore installation module provides delegates with experience of gas and hydrocarbon pressure fire and hydrocarbon spills. The module simulates fires from wellheads, flanges, ruptured pipework and vessels with flame impingement on structure and vessels.
As fuel, Petrofac Training burns kerosene and propane.
"We are conscious of the environment and are active in reducing emissions," Dennett said. "We use a patented clean-burn nozzle burning atomized kerosene. It gives us a better flame without so much residue smoke. Regarding foam, Petrofac Training uses a biodegradable substitute providing the same extinguishing ability as AFFF without the surfactants, to avoid problems for the local wastewater treatment plants, as Petrofac Training uses regular sewers for discharge and the surfactants can present problems to the plant."
Live-burn exercises are conducted at Petrofac Training in Scotland year round. One recent innovation has been the introduction of night time fire training to highlight the potential difficulties and risks that the emergency response team could face when responding to an incident in total darkness.
The school has no dormitories, but the surrounding community provides ample hotel accommodations. The training facility has a canteen for meals onsite. Petrofac Training also provides bunker gear and breathing apparatus for training.
"All we ask the delegates to bring is a change of clothes," Dennett said.
Use of Petrofac Training modules by companies providing their own instructors and curriculum is subject to negotiation, Dennett said. Modules may only be operated for the purpose of live-burn exercises by employees of Petrofac Training.
Petrofac Training operates in five regions around the globe: Europe; the Americas; Middle East and Africa; Russia, Central and Southern Asia; and Asia Pacific. Each region has its own team of training professionals working with industrial fire customers both on and off-site.
Visiting some industrial operations for onsite training in these parts of the world can be an unexpected adventure, Dennett said.
"Many years ago I went to a training facility that said they had their own fire ground," Dennett said. "We built the course around that. What they forgot to tell us was it hadn't been used in 20 years. One of my colleagues had to break out the brush cutter and clear away the jungle."
The company recently acquired a property in Baku, Azerbaijan, that will serve the former Soviet republics. Petrofac Training is also commissioning a fire ground in the Middle East shortly, Dennett said, and is partnering with a local provider in Russia to provide a range of fire training to oil and gas personnel in the area.
In the Americas, Petrofac Training operates from their facilities in Houston, TX and Lafayette, LA, where a range of health and safety, survival and major emergency management courses are offered. Shortly they will be delivering the same training standards they have in Scotland through a partnership with a fire training facility in the United States from which they will offer a range of fire training courses and will be able to adapt to company-specific needs and standards.
Even though these developments have been made, it will be many years before any of these new locations are the equal of their training facility in Montrose.
"There is not another facility to the standard we have in Montrose," Dennett said. "There may be fire grounds that are fit for the purpose, but there is nothing like Montrose."