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The University of Southampton
Rifi An Enterprise Consultancy Unit

Case Study: Qualification of polyurethane PUR foams for a floating LNG platform

Shell ship
Shell ship

Objective: Conduct a series of mechanical, physical, chemical and thermal testing of foam materials for Shell FLNG.


  • Shell FLNG are building the worlds largest floating platform for the liquefaction and offshore distribution of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
  • LNG pipework must be supported with an insulating material which can operate at cryogenic temperature (-160°C).
  • Polyurethane foams with a density >320kg m-3 can provide sufficient thermal and mechanical performance if manufactured correctly.
  • Shell LNG had limited sample material to conduct testing in the form of tubular sections.
  • Shell FLNG required test data within 4 weeks to enable them to make informed decisions before the installation.
  • What we did

  • Used 15 years of experience in the field of cryogenics to help the client select the most critical tests and produce a suitable testing matrix.
  • Deployed internal high speed milling capabilities to prepare a range of test specimens.
  • Utilised a bespoke test facility to measure the thermal conductivity of the foams at -160°C.
  • Obtained the failure limits and examined anisotropy of each foam under a compressive load at -160°C.
  • Measured in millimetres how much the foams contracted at -196°C (thermo-mechanical effects) to evaluate whether cracking could be a concern.
  • Worked in conjunction with experts from the Chemistry Department to analyse the pH and chloride content of each foam and identify if corrosion of insulated metalwork could be a problem.
  • Impact

  • RIfI's technical reports included additional information which compared the final test results against relevant industry specifications like CINI and ASTM.
  • RIfI's work assisted in expediting the installation of the pipe supports.
  • RIfI's reports used as evidence of qualification.
  • The client commended the excellent communication between the teams based in Singapore and the UK and look forward to working with RIfI again.
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