Axiom secures a 3-year term contract deal with leading renewable energy business

As they prepare for a return to full production in early-2022, Humber-based Vivergo Fuels have selected Axiom Engineering Associates as their inspection partner of choice under a new 3-year term contract.

Vivergo Fuels opened their bio-ethanol plant, sitting alongside other class-leading chemical and renewable energy businesses at the Saltend site in Hull. However, it announced in 2018 that it was to halt production due to continued delays from Government in the implementation of E10 petrol as the standard in the UK. With announcements in recent months that E10 will now be mandated in the near future, Vivergo Fuels will restarting production to support this vital cleaner energy initiative. This revival of the plant means that wheat grown locally will again be processed into bio-ethanol (a green fuel combined with regular petrol at the pump) along with protein-rich animal feed.

Axiom previously delivered their UKAS-accredited inspection services to Vivergo Fuels before production ceased, and had maintained these already-strong alliances with the business in the intervening period. This new term agreement will now facilitate the ongoing delivery of Inspection and Engineering services to a major renewable energy-based business at a critical time in its history. This will include a comprehensive Risk-Based inspection (RBI) programme to ensure the most effective Asset Management strategies are implemented across the pressure systems and storage assets across site, taking account of the evolving plant risk profile. Axiom’s Inspectors and NDT personnel will be a continued presence on site gathering key data to inform the approach and enable a de-risked return to production.

Axiom Managing Director Adam Potter, said, “Over the past 18 months, we have continued to support our clients through the difficult conditions during the Covid pandemic, and as a business we are excited to be looking toward the future with major clients such as Vivergo Fuels. This new agreement will allow Axiom to demonstrate the merits of a long-term partnership with Axiom and the implementation of a robust Asset Management strategy.”

Despite the uncertainty of the economic climate during the Covid-19 pandemic, Axiom has continued to forge ahead with its ambitious growth strategy. The company has enjoyed an increasing presence and profile in the Humber region, which will be supported by the planned opening of a new office at the Saltend site in Q4 2021. Axiom continues to differentiate itself from its competitors through its integrated offerings, creating value for both their clients and wider stakeholders.

The Vivergo Fuels plant is the UK’s largest single source supplier of animal feed and Europe’s second largest producer of bio-ethanol.

Teesside Innovators

To achieve net zero by 2050, it is essential that the major industrial hubs such as Teesside and the Humber Bank push forward with the development and implementation of renewable energy and carbon capture schemes. It’s great to see innovators and leadership coming from the regions, such as Teesside University which is leading an ERDF-funded project in ‘Process Design & Simulation for a Hydrogen Economy.’

This is very much a collaborative project involving R&D at the University but also partnering with talent from SMEs to much larger companies.

This collaborative ensures that the best minds, from both academia and industry, are harnessed to address the climate emergency whilst ensuring that a range of stakeholders  play a  central  role in the energy  transition. This  also presents pioneering opportunities for regional economies involved in the Process sector and the UK plc. as a whole.

A key takeaway from the work the University is doing, is to use process simulation to essentially filter the myriad of options being put forward to generate Hydrogen, or to improve its production efficiency, and deal with carbon capture. What Axiom knows from experience is that once a potential process innovation shows promise then the next stage will invariably involve multi-discipline feasibility studies.

Material selection is a key consideration, as is how pressure systems are designed to cater for what maybe challenging pressures, loadings and temperature burdens. The re-use, and re-purpose, of existing infrastructure in the deployment of new solutions is another key consideration which relies on detailed domain knowledge.

Axiom has already engaged in advising and helping emerging companies involved in renewables and green technology  solutions.  If  you  require  any  assistance  in material selection or innovative design, we are waiting for your enquiry.


HSE expects process facilities to catch up with Inspections – we’re here to help you!

One year on, we are still battling through the pandemic, but with the success of the vaccination programme, we can all see the light at the end of the tunnel and have a new found sense of optimism.

The message Axiom is getting from our Clients in the process sector is that we are very much needed by them. We report weekly to several Clients, at their request, to keep them appraised of our operational capacity and ability to help them to keep operating safely and reliably.

We have restructured our operations to remain as productive as possible, whilst still abiding by the social distancing measure expected. A new way of working has emerged as we work remotely and take advantage of technology via video calling to maintain strong communication within the Axiom team, our Clients and wider stakeholders. Our new offices in both Grangemouth and Runcorn remain our bases by which we will serve our Clients in the localised areas once restrictions ease.

During the Coronavirus (COVID -19) pandemic, the HSE recognised that businesses may have found it difficult to carry on their legal duty to perform thorough examination and testing of equipment. The HSE expected duty holders to make reasonable efforts to arrange thorough examinations and testing within legal time limits. But they adopted a pragmatic and proportionate approach towards enforcement action if the pandemic meant that duty holders could not arrange examination and testing, as long as they made sure equipment was still safe to use.

As an Inspection body, Axiom has been working with clients to manage risk and asset safety throughout the Covid-19 restrictions. During recent seminars, the HSE have indicated that as we emerge from lockdown, their expectations are that Companies catch up with their inspection programmes. They will not be prescriptive in advising companies how to do this but they will expect companies to have a plan in place. We will continue to work with our Clients and are here to help should any company needs help or advice.

At Axiom, we have a reputation for technical excellence, making informed, evidence- based decisions in the way we help and advise our Clients manage the integrity of their assets. We have applied the same principles to the way we run the company in terms of financial and procedural governance. Thus, we are confident that we shall remain operationally strong and adaptive, not just during this pandemic emergency but also afterwards.

We are proud to support you through this challenging time. So, please do not hesitate to contact us if you need our help.

Axiom New Year Charity Donations!

Despite the challenges of Covid, Axiom were still determined to continue with the charity initiative started several years ago across the Tees Valley region.

A donation split between charities nominated by Axiom employees were put to the recipients of this year’s Axiom Christmas e-card and the donation divided according to the number of votes received. Following voting during the Christmas break, the results translated into the award of donations to Macmillan Cancer Support, MND Association, Daisy Chain Project and The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.

In addition, a further sum was donated to the charity, Pathways Through Dementia as selected by the winner of this year’s Axiom Winter image competition, Jeannie Moore from Guisborough Photo Group.

Director, Rob Johnson said, “So much changed in 2020 and charities suffered massively when fundraising events, which they so badly rely on to maintain their facilities, were hit by the pandemic. We hope that this small gesture helps in some way to support the vital part they play in our community.”

For more information, please visit each individual website at:

What do you know about hydrogen damage?

Hydrogen atoms are minutely small and able to diffuse (tunnel) through iron, however a proportion remain trapped, causing reduced ductility in high strength steel by restricting internal ‘slippage’ along crystal planes. Low strength steels may blister due to the pressure of gas molecules, which are orders of magnitude larger than individual atoms.  Austenitic stainless steels are immune to embrittlement because their FCC structure has 4 more slip planes than BCC iron.

Hydrogen may be present in steel from manufacture, or it may enter due to corrosion or from process gas.  Sour (H2S) corrosion is more virulent because the sulphur inhibits the formation gas molecules, making available substantially more atomic hydrogen.  Molecules dissociate to atomic hydrogen above 205°C resulting in hydrogen ‘charging’, which doesn’t reduce ductility whilst hot but can when cold or if welding is undertaken.  Above ~240°C hydrogen combines with the carbon in steel, forming methane, surface fissuring and decarburisation (HTHA).  Hydrogen can be driven out of steel by heating to above ~300°C, but HTHA is irreversible.

The mysteries of hydrogen damage remain because, really, we don’t know the first thing about how atoms work, hence we ended up believing quantum entanglement is actually a thing!

Supporting Butterwick by cycling height of Everest (in 24 hours!)

We’ve seen some fantastic acts of fundraising and kindness during these difficult times, and Axiom was delighted to support another amazing effort recently. On 21st June, friend of the company Peter Greenan set off to cycle the height of Everest at Hartside Pass, Alston in Aid of Butterwick ( 

Peter rode up and down the 5-mile climb 22 times (each way) and through the night without sleep, reaching an elevation of 29,900 feet – pedalling a total of 216 miles in 22.5 hours. Peter was supported by a team of family, friends and relay team of colleagues who helped guide him to the summit.  He was supported by a number of generous sponsors and Axiom Engineering Associates was one of the largest, helping Peter to raise almost £4,500 for a wonderful cause. Well done Peter on a fantastic achievement!

Taking on the Lyke Wake Challenge!

Rob Johnson, Director of Axiom Engineering Associates Ltd, is trying to help the Cleveland Mountain Rescue Team keep running during the Covid-19 pandemic.  He’s looking to take on the Lyke Wake walk challenge, which is a traverse of the North York Moors National Park on foot, a distance covering 40 miles of heather upland, to be completed within 24 hours.

Cleveland Mountain Rescue Team are still working hard to provide a service, especially as people are moving back into wilderness areas for leisure and exercise, now restrictions are easing.  However, the Team have suffered a funding shortfall as their main fundraising event had to be cancelled back in late March due to the lockdown.

The Team already have a Covid-19 fundraising page set up and Rob asks anyone who would like to sponsor him to use the link to make a donation.  He will be setting off during the early hours of the 19th June from Osmotherley, looking to finish hopefully within the 24-hour limit at Robin Hood’s Bay.

Rob says his training has consisted of growing a lockdown beard in the style of a Mountaineer – which he hopes will help stop his legs from aching – maybe wishful thinking!

Adapting your inspection programme in these challenging times

We are all living through extremely challenging times. As the situation around Covid-19 impacts on us personally and our families, we are all learning how to work differently, and, more often than not, remotely from the colleagues and assets that have been a constant in our working lives.

For operators of high-hazard plant, ‘business as usual’ in terms of inspection management, may not be feasible in light of these unprecedented factors. Shutdown / Turnaround scopes involving scores of contract personnel converging on a plant to deliver inspection and maintenance activities – whilst applying social distancing – is seemingly an unrealistic option for now. Operators are now considering options to ensure that plant integrity continues to be maintained, whilst ensuring the welfare of all stakeholders.

Axiom are on hand to advise on appropriate means of meeting your regulatory requirements and protecting your people and assets, whilst optimising intervention. Examples of this include:

  • Asset Prioritisation Exercises. What is the real ‘Achilles Heel’ on your plant? In these trying times, where can you get the most ‘bang for your buck’ in an optimised inspection scope? At Axiom, we can work with you to undertake a holistic review of your plant and existing inspection scopes, to ensure that, with a shorter intervention period and potentially reduced manning, you are addressing only the most crucial integrity and business risks. Our multi-disciplinary team – including team members with notable experience on the ‘client side’ for an alternative take – have the knowledge of asset degradation and through-life management to offer a pragmatic, rationalised strategy.
  • Postponement. The work highlighted above will provide the confidence that interventions can be pushed out or eliminated, channelling limited resources towards the right areas. Nonetheless, for Pressure Systems, formal notification to the HSE will be required should there be a desire to deviate from an upcoming ‘due date’ during this uncertain period. This can be done once and once only. Axiom, as SAFed members with a link through this to the HSE’s position, are uniquely placed to advise our clients on requirements surrounding the preparation of a robust postponement safety case that will ensure full regulatory compliance. For more complex cases, this can be augmented by specialist engineering input from our Mechanical and Materials teams.
  • Non-invasive inspection. So, as can be seen, support is on hand to ensure that you are only assessing what needs to be assessed, but are you inspecting these items in the most efficient manner? Targeted non-invasive inspection (NII) is another means of both supporting a postponement safety case, and bringing still-scheduled ‘invasive’ Shutdown / Turnaround inspection work outside of a congested ‘standard’ inspection window. NII could encompass nothing more involved than a detailed external visual examination, but the latest specialist NDT techniques can provide previously unimaginable levels of insight which, combined, may eliminate the need to open up an asset. Axiom are already working with a number of clients in a similar manner to keep their inspection / integrity programme moving, and bring tasks outside of a bottleneck situation with potentially-compromised Shutdown / Turnaround manning levels.

So really, the message right now is that we are all being pushed to ‘think smarter’ in the current climate. We are here to work with you to explore alternative strategies that get what needs to be done ‘done’ at this time. However, some alternative thinking around how we plan and deliver inspection may form the basis of an optimised integrity management strategy for the longer-term. We’d be delighted to be a part of setting you on that path to maximising your assets and minimising risk – through minimising intervention!

Mechanical integrity insight – pragmatic solutions to optimise your spend

As the restrictions surrounding Covid-19 lead to challenges in progressing plant integrity management strategies, operators are naturally likely to search for means of minimising intervention whilst maintaining existing levels of integrity assurance. This introduces challenges when operating ageing assets – time-based, and operationally-induced, degradation will continue to come to the fore, irrespective of the issues we are collectively facing at present.

Repair and eventual replacement of degraded assets may be an established practice on any given site, however it should be remembered that Repair / Replacement constitute only two of the four ‘R’s assigned to potential outcomes from a fitness for purpose assessment. By engaging the right integrity management partner, and asking the right questions of both them and other stakeholders on your site, the following could be achieved:

  • Run. You may be surprised at the level of redundancy in the design of your aged equipment. Just how damage-tolerant is your asset? By employing advanced fitness for purpose tools such as Finite Element Analysis, you can simulate the true response of your component under complex loading, removing much of the inherent conservatism seen in a codal assessment. This may provide justification and confidence in leaving ‘as-is’ – at least until an opportune intervention window.
  • Re-rate. Quite often the most straightforward means of achieving fitness for purpose is to consider re-rating a piece of equipment based upon the actual required demands on an asset. This could mean reducing a liquid level in a storage tank, or undertaking an assessment of a pressure vessel using current (or revised) Safe Operating Limits rather than nameplate values. This approach would also seek to exploit redundancy in a component’s design, and with many assets designed for a far-more onerous duty than needed, a small change to the conditions seen may make a big difference.

At Axiom, our Mechanical team will be delighted to work with you and guide you through the options available to arrive at the most cost-effective means of demonstrating ongoing component integrity. Working with our team, you can be assured of a pragmatic solution to your most pressing integrity management concerns, allowing you to focus your maintenance budget, and personnel deployment, where they are truly needed at this time.

Axiom helps with emergency visor manufacture

Axiom, as part of the Teesside Engineering Network (TEN), recently supported a call out for industry to donate any spare PPE to our NHS.  Frustratingly, due to supply chain shortages, we weren’t able to donate ourselves.  

However, we did respond to a call out from Mark Elliott, who is Deputy Head of Engineering at Hartlepool College of Further Education. 

Mark is one of a whole army of home ‘3D printer’ owners across the UK, who is busy printing off the plastic head bands pieces that form part of the protective visors.  Where Mark was struggling, was for the clear plastic sheet to complete the visor.  We’ve been able to source these sheets and supply him with enough sheets to manufacture 300.  This is an impressive tally as the turn out rate is ~ 12 per day and Mark has made 60 so far.  These are to be used by North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust.

The Engineers amongst you will have noticed from the photo that Mark has been able to ‘nest’ three of the head band components to improve production rates.

It costs about 80p to 3D print each visor, so we’ve also agreed to make a donation of £200 to help cover the cost of these items.

Well done to Mark and the College – we wish you every success in reaching your target!