ST ANDREWS, Scotland -- New technology which aims to enhance safety for deep sea divers in the oil and gas industry has been produced by a Scottish research and development company.
PhotoSynergy Limited (PSL), a spin out company of the University of St Andrews, has further developed its award-winning unique fiber lighting system LIGHTPATH, which offers an innovative technical solution to many sectors where safety of life is paramount.
Its new SLS2000 is a small, compact unit at just 30 mm in diameter and 70 mm long, which has been designed to provide a light source to saturation divers using an LED attached to the umbilical at the divers’ end.
Its development follows requests from industry for a minimal-sized light source which would not impede the diver during his work.
The development of the SLS2000 closely follows the successful launch earlier this year of the deep water SLS7000, a version of LIGHTPATH that may help identify the position and orientation of seabed operations down to 3,000 m to reduce the time for installation, maintenance and repair by work-class ROVs.
Its development followed increasing investment by oil and gas companies in deep and ultra-deepwater operations, and PSL has been asked to enhance its product, making it capable of being used at more significant depths.
PSL Director Don Walker said that operational sea trials of the new SLS2000 would begin with existing clients later this year, following final in-house and external pressure testing.
“We had been testing the SLS5000 with a number of clients during its development phase and had received feedback from divers and their teams on the benefits of having a low power, minimal sized package, which would not impede the diver and which could be illuminated from the diver end as opposed to the dive bell end,” Walker said. “The first unit was ready for testing just two months after we received the initial feedback on specific requirements. As a sealed-for-life unit, it’s a first for PSL and simplifies the construction in terms of its complexity, part count and minimal size, and maintenance while retaining the lighting concept. It’s our aim to start sea trials by the end of this year at the very latest.”
LIGHTPATH—which won the Subsea UK Innovation for Safety Award 2014—is a patented side-emitting flexible fiber that projects a continuous and flexible line of light that carries no electrical power. It combines second-generation, high-performance light emitting diodes (LED) with a life expectancy of 50,000 hours/five hours continuous operation. A unique coupling system for the optics to allow more light into the fiber, which is just 5 mm in diameter, is used in combination with a new fiber quick release coupling system.
Simple yet highly effective, it can be used for a wide range of applications, from guide path illumination through to the extremes of challenging, hazardous and submerged environments.
To date, PSL has targeted the subsea sector, using the technology to illuminate saturation diver umbilicals, enhancing safety and productivity for all parties, including the individual diver, colleagues in the water, the bell-man and giving confidence to the ROV pilot as to the location of diver umbilicals.
This awareness for ROV pilots of the route of the umbilical minimizes the risk of collision and can significantly reduce the incidence of umbilical snagging.
PSL, which has its origins in scientific research undertaken at the University’s Photonics Innovation Centre, aims to turn the LIGHTPATH concept into a global commercial product allowing it to become part of the broad and growing domestic upstream oil and gas supply chain.