Monthly Archives: March 2010

Report 30th March 2010

Gas From Coast To Customer

Barry Wilkinson, making a very welcome return visit, spoke of the complex system and many challenges of getting North Sea gas into our homes. UK is the largest user of gas in Europe.

Starting at the giant drilling platforms, some of which tower over 250 feet above sea-level, many miles from our coast, which are the home of up to 150 mainly young, fit men and women responsible for carrying out the arduous task of drilling for and then supplying gas to us from the inhospitable North Sea.  The men work 12-hour shifts, two weeks on – two weeks off.

Each rig has to be self-contained with accommodation, medical staff, cooking facilities, rest rooms and cinema.  All supplies have to be brought in by supply ships and helicopter. A safety boat is on station at all times.

When subterranean gas is discovered it can sometimes be at pressures above 3,000 PSI  (pounds per square inch). It is then left to blow off for two days during which time various measurements are taken.  The pressure of the gas is then reduced to 2000 PSI, filtered and odorised ( natural gas which is 91.8% methane is odourless, non-toxic and has twice the calorific value of coal gas.)  before being piped ashore in a pipeline buried in the seabed.  Once ashore the gas pressure is again reduced, to 1,000 PSI before being piped to regional centres in the UK.  Pipelines run mainly North/South with interconnections East/West for maintenance and safety purposes.

In urban areas the gas pressure is then reduced to 100PSI and finally to almost 1 PSI  for supply into domestic homes.

Gas can be stored underground in specially treated salt caverns and even in exhausted gas fields under the sea.  Liquid gas has to be stored at very low temperature in large insulated tanks.

Barry finished his talk by listing some common-sense safety precautions when using domestic gas.

When asked about remaining gas supplies, he said that he was confident that the North Sea could supply us with natural gas for the foreseeable future.

George Mountford

Report 23rd March 2010

The Work of the Highways Agency

Mr. Graham Riley gave a very detailed and informative talk about the work of the Highways Agency, which looks after all motorways in England and major trunk routes like the A1 and A64.  The Agency aim to “keep us moving” and Mr.Riley is the Regional Manager for Yorkshire and the North East for Influencing Travel Behaviour.

The key challenges which he outlined were tackling congestion, improving safety (road deaths are greatly reduced from the 50s ), ensuring sustainability and supporting economic growth.  The problems multiply as traffic has risen 85% since 1980 and is still growing.  In the past new lanes on motorways have been filled as soon as they opened, so the emphasis now is on improving reliability, predicting bottlenecks and using measures such as the Bradford – Leeds car share lane to manage the flow.  200 Traffic Officers, who are not policemen, are used in the region to deal with incidents as quickly as possible.

Maintenance is done at night whenever possible but cones may remain in the daytime.  The traffic cones may infuriate Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear but it would be far more expensive and dangerous to keep moving them in and out every day.

The Agency’s mantra is safe roads, informed travellers and reliable journeys. Travellers can check via mobile phones any roadworks or incidents which may delay them on their chosen route. 

Questions from members showed that Mr. Riley’s talk had been followed very closely.  Roy Howard, who said that he does not venture beyond Harrogate in his car, spoke for all members when he praised our speaker for his absorbing presentation.

 John Taylor 


Note on Annual Outing

Visit to Synagogue

The number of members visiting the synagogue on 27th April must be limited to 27.

Gentlemen are reminded to wear some kind of head covering inside the synagogue.

George Mountford

Report 16th March 2010

Moorish Spain     

Mrs J. Brooks gave us an enthralling history of Moorish Spain starting at the birth of Mohammed in 570 AD and the spread of Islam in the 6th century through North Africa and into Spain and France.

Through many centuries of culture and learning in cities such as proud Cordoba and Toledo, we have benefited from words such as algebra, alcohol, orange and from advanced mathematics using the symbol for zero, imported from India, and Arabic numerals not to mention medicine, art, astronomy and the invention of paper. The Bishop of Norwich even sent a monk, Daniel of Morley, to Toledo to gather this knowledge; he stayed for three years and returned to England with many books and mathematical instruments. With this information the grateful Bishop decided to found a place of learning; this place is now the University of Oxford.

Architecture passed through different styles culminating in the magnificent Alhambra, (The Red One) in Granada, (Pomegranate, and the English, grenade) one of the last Moslem strongholds and famous for its silks.

In 1556 came the Spanish Inquisition when all Jews and Moslems were required to convert to Christianity or be expelled.

Amazingly many Spanish people speak of the time of Moorish Spain as a dark age in Spanish history, a time best forgotten.  Such was the racialist propaganda put out by Francisco Franco when he was head of State, (1939 to 1975).

George Mountford

News of Annual Outing

27th April 2010

Visit To Place of Interest

It was decided by members in a vote on 9th March that we would visit the Synagogue on St Mary’s Walk, Harrogate.

George Mountford

Report 9th March 2010

The Police Treatment Centre

 30 members were present for an illustrated talk by our Chairman’s near neighbour, Mr. Michael Baxter, formerly a senior police officer but since 2007 the Chief Executive of the Police Treatment Centre on Harlow Moor Road, formerly the Police Convalescent Home.  The centre was founded in 1902 by Catherine Gurney, the “Florence Nightingale” of the Police Service who founded six police charities. Hundreds attended her funeral in Harrogate in1930 and she is buried on Harlow Hill.

Many are unaware of the work of the charity because of the need for discretion until very recently, because of the large number of Northern Irish officers recuperating in Harrogate during the troubles.  Police officers pay £1.18 a week to support the charity but are charged nothing when they use the facilities.  The government does not support the centre directly but recently granted £1.3 million for refurbishment of the facilities which now include 17 physiotherapy plinths, sports hall and new gymnasium with grounds of 10.5 acres for rest and recreation.  Nursing staff are on duty 24 hours a day.  The new facilities were opened in May 2009 under the patronage of the Duke of York.

Mr. Baxter’s clear and interesting PowerPoint presentation led to a number of questions from members.  John Teasdale gave the vote of thanks and spoke for many when he said that the talk had brought alive the work in a building which he had passed many times without knowing its history and importance.

Members will be glad to know that Mr. Baxter has offered to visit our forum again.

                                                        John Taylor

Report 2nd March 2010

We Apologise For The Delay

Geoff Queen gave us a most interesting and enjoyable talk on his life as a Civil Engineer working with the railways.

First he clarified for us some of the logic behind announcements such as: “We apologise for the delay to ….. .This was due to snow on the track,” or “a lion on the track,” or “an elephant in the tunnel,” or more intriguingly, “a failed virgin in Birmingham,”or perhaps the most unbelievable of them all, “ the Spanish Armada. – This was beyond our control.”

Geoff told us of the “Whisky and Soda” disaster near Runcorn.  Then with the aid of some excellent slides he described the problems caused by derailments, bridge bashing, mining subsidence, and even landslip caused by rabbits! 

We welcomed new member, Harry Mitchell and visitor, Paul Barrass.

George Mountford