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Using fibre lighting systems underwater

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1 June 2015 | Don Walker

Don Walker, Director of Photosynergy Ltd (PSL) says that opportunities for collaborative working have never been better than now and explains PSL’s fibre lighting system.

Knowledge transfer and innovation is often seen as the way forward and PSL, as a spin out company of the University of St Andrews, exemplifies this route. We at PSL have developed a unique fibre lighting system offering an innovative technical solution to many sectors where safety of life is paramount.

LIGHTPATH is a patented side-emitting flexible fibre 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 fibre, which is just 5mm in diameter, is used in combination with a new fibre quick release coupling system.

Simple yet highly effective, LIGHTPATH 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, we have 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 minimises the risk of collision and can significantly reduce the incidence of umbilical snagging.

PSL has its origins in scientific research undertaken at the Photonics Innovation Centre at the University, and we aim 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.

The opportunities for collaborative working have never been better than they are now, and the various bodies – ITF, OGiC, CENSIS, along with NSRi and the industry bodies such as Oil &Gas UK and Subsea UK – can provide a framework for networks and collaboration to build partnerships and spread the cost of and attendant risks attached to innovation.

At PSL, we will continue to focus on increased safety and productivity through innovative forms of illumination broadly based on LIGHTPATH. We can, we believe, find applications in many operational scenarios many of which we are ignorant of; however exposure to a wider experienced knowledge base will allow for the joint development of new applications.

Last year, LIGHTPATH won the Subsea UK Innovation for Safety Award 2014. Since then, reaction to the product has been overwhelmingly positive, with both divers and companies alike endorsing it as a significant contribution to safety.

In recent months, there has been increasing investment by oil and gas companies in deep and ultra-deep water operations, and we have been asked to produce products which are capable of being used at more significant depths.

As such, we have developed the deep-water SLS7000, a version of LIGHTPATH that may help identify the position and orientation of seabed operations down to 3,000 metres to reduce the time for installation, maintenance and repair by work-class ROVs.

We are happy to develop new products to address opportunities to enhance subsea operations both in terms of safety and efficiency.