In parallel to the continued exploration and development of oil and gas reserves, major oil companies are investing in alternative energy technologies.

The recent Fukushima nuclear reactor catastrophe in Japan and its lasting consequences have triggered a review and even a total reconsideration of the existing alternatives to oil and gas for our future energy supply. Germany has already decided to leave the nuclear path completely and it is expected that other countries might follow. Renewable energies, and in particular solar energy, are seen by many environmental commentators as the most viable alternative to nuclear energy when oil and gas resources become scarcer.

At Catania in eastern Sicily, the production of a new generation of solar panels has recently started in the largest photovoltaic panel manufacturing plant in Italy. They are manufacturing ‘triple-junction thin-film solar cells’ which have a three-layer structure instead of the conventional two-layer cell system. This greatly improves the conversion efficiency.

The production is a direct result of a strategic joint venture named 3Sun. 3Sun is a joint venture between Enel Green Power, Sharp and STMicroelectronics.

Enel is Italy’s largest power company and operational in 23 countries worldwide. Sharp is, apart from being a huge consumer electronics manufacturer, one of the leading solar companies in the world. The third partner, STMicroelectronics, has the manufacturing skills to make this cooperation possible.

Fire protection of process pipework

Just as in the oil and gas industry, fire safety and protection of process pipework is a key concern.

A significant challenge for the insulation was the fire rating of the fire-wall pipe penetrations throughout this high-tech manufacturing facility. The specification was clear: the insulation had to be non-combustible and have a fire class rating R120.

Additionally, the insulation had to be ‘impervious to fire and flue gases, waterproof, resistant to fire fighting water, non toxic and shock proof.’

Just like in critical plant areas in refineries and on offshore production platforms, this specification ruled out plastic foam insulations and fibrous insulations.

But FOAMGLAS® meets these exacting requirements, providing both process protection and maximum safety for the plant personnel as well as impermeability to water and vapours.

FOAMGLAS cellular glass insulation was chosen as the only dependable option to fully comply with both the fire class standards and the required system-performance properties.

FOAMGLAS insulation solution

The system installed consists of prefabricated FOAMGLAS half shells which were installed according to our certified fire-wall-penetration specifications. All site joints were filled with our PC® 56 Adhesive. Metal bands and a thin metal cladding were applied on top of the FOAMGLAS insulation to secure it. Any remaining gap between the insulated pipes and the fire-wall penetration was closed with fire-protection mortar. Intumescent sealers were not required.

FOAMGLAS fire-safe cellular insulation

The unique combination of being a 100% closed cell glass foam and genuinely fire safe means that FOAMGLAS cellular glass is used throughout the energy industries, both in the renewable and in oil and gas sectors.