High integrity distribution systems for AstraZeneca’s ground breaking biomedical facility

High integrity distribution systems for AstraZeneca’s ground breaking biomedical facility



High integrity distribution systems for AstraZeneca’s ground breaking biomedical facility





We have provided AstraZeneca Research and Development Centre, Cambridge with the high integrity distribution systems required for its mission to discover and deliver biopharmaceutical products to improve the lives of people with respiratory, cardiovascular, renal and metabolic conditions and cancer as part of an £8.5 million contract.



AstraZeneca is at the forefront of science in Britain, innovating in medicines to improve the lives of people with respiratory, cardiovascular, renal and metabolic conditions and cancer. Seeking to add biopharmaceutical products that will make ‘a meaningful difference to people’s lives’ to the portfolio of over 40 products which it currently manufactures and supplies to 130 markets worldwide.

AstraZeneca’s £500 million-plus global headquarters and research and development centre on Cambridge Biomedical Campus represents a major leap towards the company’s ambition to foster a collaborative culture and provoke innovation. Its innovative open design and location at the heart Campus – near to Addenbrooke’s, the new Royal Papworth Hospital and to external collaborators such as the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute and University of Cambridge research institutions –  specifically intended to facilitate this.

We are unique in our ability to deliver both purified water and laboratory gas delivery systems to this scale of project.  As the recognised market leader in our field, we were selected to deliver turnkey high integrity distribution systems for both these and for liquid nitrogen, super critical fluid (SCF), clean steam, solvent delivery and waste collection plus a hydrogenation suite.


Every one of the systems in this project is potentially dangerous if not designed and installed with close attention to detail – we are dealing with high temperatures, high pressures, asphyxiants, flammable and volatile elements.

Robert Smith, Sales and Commercial Director

The project

T0 design, manufacture, co-ordinate, supply, install, test and commission turnkey high integrity distribution systems:

  1. Laboratory gases, including compressed air, vacuum and anaesthetic gas scavenging
  2. Purified water
  3. Hydrogenation
  4. Liquid nitrogen
  5. Solvent systems
  6. SCF
  7. Clean steam

Innovative laboratory gas delivery system for flexi labs

The innovative laboratory gas delivery systems we have designed for the AstraZeneca Research and Development Centre, which comprises over 75,000 metres of pipework and more than 3000 outlets, makes flexi lab working a reality. The copper pipes supplying the gases have outlets in the laboratories which connect to special flexible hoses, providing those using the laboratory with the option to reconfigure the layout of it and still safely deliver the gases required to wherever they are needed, or to add additional lines. Although this is a  high specification specialist system this innovative approach means that modifications can be carried out by on-site maintenance with no compromise to the system’s integrity and without specialist intervention. The couplings between the hoses and taps are specific to the gas to be supplied to avoid cross contamination and the various threats to health and safety that may result from this.

Maintaining a supply of purified water and clean steam

Purified water for the laboratories at AstraZeneca Research and Development Centre is generated using a Puretech OASYS pharmaceutical water system. Water direct from the mains (at approximately 200-1000 millisiemens per centimetre) is softened then passed through reverse osmosis (RO), which removes about 95% of microbes, particulates,, minerals etc. Electrodeionisation (EDI) then removes the remaining ions, leaving H2O with a purity of circa 0.1 mS/cm. This is stored in a 5000-litre tank and then pumped around a stainless-steel ring main to the various user points in the laboratories, ensuring a constant supply of purified water.

The OASYS provides purified water for the Centre’s plant and clean steam system. Purified water is evaporated in a pure steam generator and piped to the laboratories where it is primarily used for sterilisation.

As with all our systems, the pipework for the purified water and the clean steam systems at the Centre is stainless-steel and orbitally welded to give the cleanest surface possible internally and externally and to ensure the maximum possible integrity to the joints. An argon purge of the system is used to prevent oxidisation internally and a borescope is used to check the system prior to commissioning.

Weld maps describing each weld and how it was inspected, with video evidence if available, are supplied to the client together with details of the welders’ qualifications, procedures used, material certificates and gas certificates. Once completed the we passivate the system to remove any oxidisation.

Ensuring system purity where it matters most – the hydrogenation suite

Hydrogenation is the chemical addition of hydrogen to a hydrocarbon in the presence of a catalyst, a severe form of hydrogen treating. The use of hydrogen requires precautions against creating an explosive mix of hydrogen and air. Typically, a hydrogenation vessel undergoes a pressure test followed by several nitrogen purges before hydrogen is introduced. Similarly, at the end of the reaction process, the vessel is purged with nitrogen in order to leave it in a safe condition.

Very small gauge stainless-steel pipework ( ¼”) delivers hydrogen, compressed CO2 and nitrogen serve the hydrogenation room where it feeds the 2-litre vessels which are at the heart of the hydrogenation process.

Not only is the purity of the installation of this intricate system critical in aesthetic terms, as it is all on show in this state-of-the-art facility, but it is critical because of the potentially catastrophic consequences of any fault, for example, a leak in the hydrogen delivery system.

AstraZeneca’s research facility is purpose built to carry out experiments at the very fore front of biopharmaceuticals, with researchers working with gases at high temperatures and high pressures and potentially in untested scenarios. The risk of this type of work is minimised by working in small scale, but it still exists. The hydrogenation suite design is? ‘explosion smart’, with blast panels designed control where the energy leaves the area should an explosion occur.

Once installed the system is fully tested and commissioned to the highest standards.

Delivering liquid nitrogen safely

To deliver liquid nitrogen, which has an extraordinarily low boiling point of -196C, from the 5000 litre storage tanks at AstraZeneca to the points of use (direct feeds and dewars) around the facility requires a system of insulated pipework. 1.5” stainless-steel pipes run through 3” stainless steel pipes with a vacuum between the two to minimise gas-off. The integrity of the pipework is essential in maintaining the vacuum and the temperature of the nitrogen and in keeping the nitrogen in its liquid form and  containing it. Nitrogen is deadly in its gas form, so a leak is potentially disastrous.

Solvent delivery system

The storage of solvents presents a number of health and safety risks as they can be flammable, toxic and corrosive so they are kept in a designated area from which they are pumped to the outlets where they’re needed. AstraZeneca solvent delivery system has three solvent lines, one dedicated to dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) and two others.

In addition, the solvent room is supplied with supercritical fluid (SCF or liquid Co2). The liquid Co2 acts like an organic solvent and is delivered from storage tank via orbitally welded insulated stainless-steel pipes. Unlike many organic solvents, supercritical CO2 is non-flammable. It is inert, non-toxic, has a relatively low cost and has moderate critical constants.


To make the installation of the gas system as efficient as possible we built an innovative system of pipework cassettes populated with blocks of quick connect points for the flexi hoses.  Once on site the cassettes are loaded into modules, with up to 10 pipes on each module carrying gases plus power, chilled water, sprinkler system etc.


Providing the high integrity delivery systems for ground breaking biomedical facility at AstraZeneca’s Research and Development Centre is a three-year project, which demonstrates the range of our capabilities, our innovative approach and our dedication to delivering systems with zero compromise on integrity or aesthetics, which deliver the gas or liquid they are designed for safely and purely.

Largest ever UK medical gases contract – Royal London Hospital and St Bartholomew’s Hospital

Largest ever UK medical gases contract – Royal London Hospital and St Bartholomew’s Hospital



Largest ever medical gas contract to be placed in the UK


Royal London Hospital


The Royal London and St Bartholomew’s Hospital project is an exciting and challenging opportunity – two hospitals built in the centre of London at a cost of £1 billion.

The Royal London will become Britain’s largest hospital providing clinically renowned general and specialist services to the population of east London.

The historic buildings of St Barts will be refurbished alongside a brand new clinical building to create a state-of-the-art Cancer and Cardiac centre of excellence.

The two new hospitals will have 1248 beds. Over 40% of the beds will be single rooms with en-suite facilities, with the remainder in roomy four bedded bays.

Part of the £10 million project being handled by Skanska, the medical gas contract is the largest ever to be placed in the UK. It has involved over 75 installation engineers and a dedicated team of managers, supervisors, design engineers, CAD draughtsman and Q.A. engineers.

The installation will see 130,000 metres of degreased copper tube installed and 6600 medical gas terminal units.


The Design process

Medical Gases developed the designs for the medical gases at the Royal London and St. Bartholomew’s Hospitals over many months from November 2005 to Aug 2007

The design was developed from architectural floor plans and room data sheets produced by the other members of the design team.

The architectural floor plans were marked up to show all the medical gas outlets required within each department, ward and room.

Each specific gas was then identified with the quantities of outlets per area/space this information was then reviewed against the requirements as laid down within HTM 2022 (regards the provision of medical gases to hospitals) and the following information was derived; quantity of outlets served, pipe sizes, flow rates and max pressure drops

Once this exercise had been completed upon all the floors the total loads could be established for the various medical gas plant and manifolds.

Throughout the design process elements of the building were being amended to suit the changing requirements of the trust and Skanska Innisfree to ensure the contract met the budget.

Upon the completion of the base design it was agreed that Medical Gases would revisit the base designs to incorporate a number of major changes that reflected the trusts final requirements.

To keep a record of the changes to the design each revised drawing has been archived as a record so that it can be revisited if required at a later date.


The CAD Process

Once the design of the medical gases was completed for each floor the hand drawn marked up drawings were transferred to the in house CAD department where the drawings were re-drawn.

Over a period of months the drawings were completed and reviewed (in house at Medical Gases’ offices) prior to them being issued externally to the other members of the design team for comment/review.

Upon receipt of the comments from the design team all comments were reviewed for relevancy and all relevant comments incorporated.

For clarity purposes it was agreed to produce drawings in 1:200 scale and 1:100 scale based upon the floor plan drawings being broken into 4 or 5 sections.


Commercial process

From the outset it was evident that the development of the costs associated with the provision of the medical gases would need to be flexible to cater with the ever changing requirements of the trust and the PFI provider throughout the design process.

With this in mind it was agreed that we would take off and bill the materials/labour in a manner to allow maximum flexibility.

Initial estimates were based on marked up hand drawn designs added to architectural drawings prepared by our in house design team. As the project design progressed completed areas were passed to the commercial team so as to provide the package estimate in good time.

Detailed design drawings were produced using our CAD facilities and were re-submitted to the estimators and the whole project was taken off so as to provide a final estimate against which the project Trade Contract order was finally awarded.

The estimate was prepared utilising a highly structured spreadsheet developed by the company over a number of years.

The materials takeoff was progressed so as to provide separate prices with particular reference to individual gas service, individual riser, individual floor distribution or individual departments and individual plant areas all generally as required by the client.

Over time as the original design concept matured, we continually tracked the changes and advised the client of the differences that the design changes have made to the overall price.


Following the successful completion of the design for the medical gases at the new Royal London and St. Bartholomew’s hospital’s we produced a series of costs for the project.

These costs were reviewed at length by the Skanska Innisfree team prior to the contract being awarded to provide the complete medical gas installation.

Upon receipt of the contract , we set up a construction team including 1 no. Contract Director, 1 No. Project Manager, 1 No Site Construction Manager, Project Coordinator and Supervisors, foremen and 70 installation engineers(at peak construction). Initial work was based around installing corridor services within offsite constructed modules to minimise and speed up installation on site.


Medical gases for cancer centre at Guy’s Hospital

Medical gases for cancer centre at Guy’s Hospital

Medical gases for cancer centre at Guy’s Hospital


GUYS Hospital cancer centre

In May 2014 Medical Gases was awarded the contract to install a complete medical gas system in the new state of the art Cancer Centre at Guy’s Hospital. The £160m facility, which is scheduled to open in Autumn 2016, will be a hub for south east London providing specialist cancer services, training, development and research.

Project: Guy’s Hospital

Client: Crown House Technologies

Value: £420,000