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Safer, low-cost containment system for valve actuators realises 90% cost saving

Project Summary

Infinity has developed a product that could diffuse “ticking time bombs” on platforms. Degradation of spring-return valve actuators has led to instances of uncontained failures in the UKCS, with the potential to harm personnel and nearby equipment.

Actuators are automated devices used to open and close valves – they contain huge amounts of potential energy. If they break, the powerful springs inside them can eject components at high velocity which undoubtably can cause significant injuries and damage equipment. The Fail-Force Actuator Safety Gauntlet – similar to a bullet proof bag – can be fitted over actuators which have fallen into poor condition offshore, making them safe for personnel and infrastructure.

The Actuator Gauntlet is made of layers of Kevlar, inside a water-tight, UV-resistant bag. It is intended for single use, but the material could be recycled (depending on the level of damage caused by an actuator blowout).

NZTC supported the development of the design through to certification and trial. This included the manufacture of a prototype, which was then tested and approved by Lloyds Register.

Industry value:
There are approximately 600 actuators on board each offshore installation, with 261 operational assets in the UKCS – this is potentially more than 156,500 actuators in the UKCS alone.

The cost of installing the Fail-Force Actuator Safety Gauntlet is 90% cheaper than replacement.

Key results:

  • Design and development of a prototype was successfully completed
  • Design parameters were tested and endorsed by Lloyds Register
  • The device was also successfully trialled by fitting to an actuator from Chrysaor

The Fail-Force Actuator Safety Gauntlet was successfully designed, developed, certified, and trialled to the point the technology is now ready to be deployed in a live environment.

To ensure safety a key deliverable of this project was the development of a test and qualification programme to prove the robustness of the device in the event of a spring failure. The most important of these tests conducted was the V50 impact test which was performed at a ballistics test facility (OTS Limited). The firings were conducted over a two-day period to ensure the structural integrity of the device in the event of an actuator failure. The mounting system used in the test provided a reasonable and repeatable method of evaluating the material under operational conditions. This test assisted in determining the required thickness of the Kevlar Bag, providing a clearer understanding of how many layers of Kevlar@ were needed to ensure containment of any projectiles.

The Fail-Force Actuator Safety Gauntlet went through qualification and a test program which was approved by Lloyds Register including a Statement of Endorsement issued to Infinity.

Infinity will now bring this technology to market, embarking on full commercialisation, engaging with the supply chain and initiating their marketing campaign.

Lessons learned:
Based on feedback through engagement with NZTC members, additional consideration was required to decommission the Gauntlet system at the end of its useful life.

Infinity developed a safe decommissioning procedure including how to remove stored energy from actuators with the Actuator Safety Gauntlet system in place and engaged with local valve companies to incorporate the procedure into their process. This will give end-users greater confidence to use the product knowing that it can be safely decommissioned.


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