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October 13, 2014

Video – Hollywood-style deepwater diving suit set for offshore oil & gas industry

Canada-based Nuytco Research’s Exosuit, which enables deep-water diving without the need for risky decompression, could make subsea construction safer and cheaper for offshore oil and gas companies.

By Heidi Vella


Nuytco Research is best known for its futuristic-looking submersible technology used to film blockbuster movies such as James Cameron’s Titanic and The Abyss movies.

Away from the glamour of Hollywood, Nuytco’s latest offering, the Exosuit Atmospheric Diving System – a submersible pressurised suit – offers the offshore oil and gas industry an alternative to expensive saturation diving for subsea work.

Saturation diving involves a diver working at great depth – below 500meters underwater and living in a pressurized chamber either on the water’s surface or underwater for up to two weeks. Before a diver can return to the surface they must undergo decompression process which can take up to 12 hours and can cause decompression sickness.

The Exosuit, which looks like something out of a blockbuster movie, mitigates a lot of the cost and health and safety issues involved in this process. Actually classified as a submarine, as opposed to a diving suit, the Exosuit delves to depth of 1,000 ft while maintaining the same atmospheric pressure as the surface, allowing a diver to resurface without the need for decompression protocol which can take up to 12 hours

A unique rotary joint, invented by Phil Nuytten, an internationally recognised pioneer in the diving industry and founder of Nuytco Research, enables the suit to be flexible and non-rigid. Appendages at the end of each arm can be manipulated by the diver to carry out tasks. Under the water the diver manoeuvres the suit by four magnetically attached thrusters, which can be increased to eight for extra manoeuvrability.

A 1,250 ft (381 m) fibre-optic umbilical feeds the Exosuit’s telemetry, communications and HD video to the surface. The suit weighs between 227 – 272 kg and has an exterior made of aluminium alloy. LED lights, a HD camera and sonar can all be added to suit if necessary.

Mitigating risk

For extra safety, the Atmospheric Diving System carries primary and backup oxygen supply and is able to supply a pilot for up to 50 hours. Integrated back-up batteries are also fitted and capable of running the suit’s electronics for the duration of the dive.

The suit is reported to cost around half a million pounds but suits can also be leased from Nuytco.

Saturation diving carries serious risk for divers. Decompression sickness, for example, can be fatal. The condition is caused by bubbles of inert gas, which can occur in divers’ bodies following the pressure reduction as they ascend, meaning a diver has to limit their rate of ascent, and pause at regular intervals to allow the pressure of gases in their body to approach equilibrium.

Nuytten introduced his concept for the Exosuit in the year 2000 and the current Exosuit was launched in Toronto in 2012. Training of how to use the suit commenced at Nuytco’s facility in North Vancouver.

A Nuytco spokesperson says the Exosuit is currently marketed to the offshore oil and gas industry and, at present, the company has two such clients.

Follow Heidi Vella on Google+  

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