A prototype of a garment which could save the lives of offshore workers in the event of an accident at sea has been unveiled.
Dundee-based Iron Ocean has worked with the Oil & Gas Innovation Centre (OGIC) and Heriot-Watt University to develop the Centurion 3, an offshore survival system. It comprises a three-layer upper body garment that produces heat when immersed in cold water and is designed to be worn under the traditional offshore survival suit.
The three layers are tear resistant, fire retardant and compression fit, making the Centurion 3 less bulky and restrictive compared to traditional suits, and giving the wearer increased mobility and protection. Current garments worn under the survival suit do not provide active heating.
Consequently, immersion into the cold waters of the North Sea, for instance, causes the body temperature of the wearer to decrease very rapidly, with an estimated life expectancy of 10–12 minutes. By comparison, the newly developed material incorporated into Centurion 3 immediately activates when in contact with water and produces a heat output above the average body temperature for more than 20 minutes. The self-heating material therefore allows the wearer to retain body heat, during a critical period, preventing the fatal effects of cold water immersion.
Throughout the project Iron Ocean has worked with Heriot-Watt University’s schools of Engineering and Physical Sciences and Textiles and Design. This Heriot-Watt team developed innovative smart materials for incorporation into Centurion 3, which, either individually or in combination, provide new offshore survival garments that withstand even the harshest conditions.
Simon Lamont, founder of Iron Ocean, and former industry health and safety manager, said:
“I came up with the initial concept of the Centurion 3 following the 2009 Super Puma crash. I realised something had to be done to protect workers from the harsh elements of the North Sea in the event of an offshore incident. OGIC’s support at the very beginning of this journey was invaluable, having their backing opened the door for me to work with the expertise of Heriot-Watt University and provided the technical expertise to make my idea a reality.
“With all of our prototype garments now complete, the next step for us is to introduce the Centurion 3 to market so it can begin saving lives offshore. There is also great potential to bring this innovative technology to other industries including leisure, military and maritime to improve safety in harsh environments.”
The development of the Centurion 3 involved two phases of research co-funded by OGIC. Phase one saw the development of the water-triggered heat-generating materials, which led to Phase two, in which the heat-storage material was further developed for use within the prototype Centurion 3 garments.
Mhairi Begg, OGIC project manager, said:
“The development of the Centurion 3 is an excellent example of how an innovative idea can become a reality. Having worked with Iron Ocean from the start we saw the potential this project had for improving safety offshore and what a disruptive technology it will be when brought to market.
“Often when people think about innovations in oil and gas the focus is on engineering technology; however, this project shows just how much potential there is for innovations to take place across the whole industry including new materials to benefit health and safety.
“Translating the initial Iron Ocean concept from materials chemistry principles right through to prototype development has come with many scientific and technical challenges. It is however, immensely satisfying to now see the garments, knowing that one day they could save lives.”