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Redesigning Manchester Airport’s fuel hydrant system

Release date:
March 2020
Redesigning Manchester Airport’s fuel hydrant system
Manchester Airport – the UK’s third largest airport and the global gateway to the North of England – is currently undergoing a massive £1bn transformation project


Incorporated into this transformation is the redesign of the airport’s aviation fuel hydrant system. Air BP has been engaged both as the designer and project manager for the works on behalf of MASHCo (a Joint Venture between the four companies that own and operate the fuel facilities at the airport).


“Our responsibility includes determining the design and operation of fuel storage, distribution and dispensing through the installation of a heavily modified fuel hydrant system,” explains Arthur Mitchell, Air BP’s manager of global engineering and projects. “Airport fuel infrastructure forms a vital part of the fuel supply chain. The system has to be able to adapt to the changing needs of the airport including modifications to aircraft parking locations,” he continues.


Relocating the fuel hydrant system


Having first put a spade in the ground in 2017, the airport celebrated the completion of the first major phase of its transformation programme – the opening of Pier One – in April 2019. The 216m pier is used by all airlines currently operating out of Terminal 2 and has been constructed to stick out perpendicularly from the face of the terminal building.

In order to carry out the work to Pier One, Air BP was tasked with excavating trenches to lay new pipe sections and pit valves for new aircraft parking positions, digging down to expose the existing fuel hydrant, which is up to 24” in diameter, to connect the new pipe to the existing pipe. As fuel hydrant pipe is usually made of welded steel and located at depths of up to 4m (to avoid a myriad of other buried services such as storm drains, high voltage electricity, fire mains and communication cables), such deep excavations for welding pipe that contains fuel requires total commitment to safety.

And this is only the start. Work is ongoing at the airport with two more piers and their associated infrastructure expected to be complete by 2024.

Challenges in the pipeline


Part of the challenge at Manchester, explains Mitchell, is that work on the fuelling infrastructure has to be carried out while normal day-to-day operations and flight schedules are adhered to. “There are times when the fuel system has to be shut down in order to carry out work such as welding. This involves the existing pipe being drained of aviation fuel, before being cut and that area being made safe to weld in the new pipe. But we do have a window every evening of around five to six hours when the fuel system can be shut down so we can carry out the necessary work, but it’s tight and work overrunning can delay the early flights,” he says.


The ability to work alongside other teams and to ensure minimal disruption to services while ensuring that the stringent fuel product quality requirements are met is all part of the service being provided by Air BP.


But as far as the passenger is concerned, Mitchell explains “the only element a passenger would ever see of the work being carried out below the apron’s surface is the hydrant pit. It’s from here that the hydrant dispenser (or fuel truck) connects to the hydrant pit valve to supply fuel to the aircraft.”  


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