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Fugro unveils £1M lab investment

Fugro officially opened its newly expanded laboratory testing facilities at its headquarters in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, in October.

Demand for complex soils testing from the offshore construction industry led to Fugro’s £1M investment, which expands the floor space of the laboratory by 50%. The investment has been made by Fugro Renewable Services and the laboratory will serve the needs of a number of Fugro businesses including Fugro Seacore, Fugro Geoconsulting, Fugro Survey and Fugro Subsea Services.

“We expect demand to grow from the marine renewables sector during the next few years and are now ready to meet expectations,” says Fugro global renewable energy business development manager Tony Hodgson. Fugro also expects significant growth to come from the oil and gas market.

“We do carry out some testing in the field but the majority of samples collected by our worldwide projects are brought back to Wallingford for testing,” says Fugro Geoconsulting managing director David Williams.

The newly expanded laboratory features automated equipment supplied by GDS Instruments and includes 12 computer controlled stress path triaxial systems, four cyclic simple shear systems, four cyclic triaxial systems, 10 high pressure incremental oedometer systems and two resonant column systems. Space to accommodate the expanded testing facilities has been created by the addition of a 200m2 mezzanine floor.

GDS Instruments technical sales manager Jerry Sutton says the investment marks a real step change in the type of equipment being used in a commercial laboratory.

“In general, the type of equipment that Fugro now has would only be seen in top university research labs and then the investment would only be in one or two machines at a time,” explains Sutton. “The applicability of the equipment in a commercial environment is a huge shift in the way that large projects are being specified.

“Traditionally, the minimum amount of lab testing would be undertaken and then large safety factors applied to the results to cover the lack of sophistication in the testing regime. The Fugro lab is really at the forefront of the shift to more rigorous testing and hence refined subsurface, land and sea, structural design.

“A good example of this is that all of the GDS-supplied triaxial systems within Fugro’s facility are equipped with bender elements for stiffness measurements, local strain measurement for small strain measurements, mid-plane pore water pressure measurements and a new generation of loadframe capable of much more accurate test control and a wider range of tests.”

The types of tests carried out far outstrip BS, EN, ASTM and other International Standards, adds Sutton, but are custom designed for each project. The other systems available in the Fugro lab are: dynamic simple shear, dynamic triaxial and constant rate of strain consolidation systems. “All of them are state of the art, even by academic standards,” says Sutton.

Commenting on the reasons for such a large investment, Fugro assistant director of laboratories Roger Brown says: “Unlike onshore ground investigations, there is very little previous knowledge about the ground conditions so testing is essential to ensure the right design parameters are used.

“The new equipment at Wallingford means that much of the testing programmes can be automated so that the laboratory can run 24 hours a day.” Hodgson adds: “A better understanding of the seabed conditions can result in a more costeffective foundation design, but the wide choice of foundation options
means different types of soil testing are required to determine the design parameters.”

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