Ferguson Group unveils new HVAC system

The Ferguson Group has unveiled a new HVAC system for its workspace modules, which will protect workers from high temperatures and excessive humidity levels whilst offshore.

The new HVAC system has been installed in the new workspace modules that are en-route to bases in the Middle East and later to Singapore.  It has been designed to maintain tolerable working conditions for offshore workers close to the actual wellhead, and other excessively hot and humid environments. Even under this stress, the interior of the workspace unit remains at a constant temperature.

This is due to a purpose built supercharged HVAC system which can cope with temperatures in excess of 50°C. Staff regularly face these temperatures when working offshore in places such as the Arabian Gulf, Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. The new HVAC system ensures that the offshore staff work in a safe and temperature controlled environment - helping them to perform their job, no matter how high the temperature reaches. 

Ferguson Group’s Engineering Team wanted to further enhance workspace modules for the Middle East and Oceania regions. The concluded that a critical improvement would be to increase the HVAC unit’s ability to function efficiently under extreme temperature fluctuations, particularly during start-up or purge sequences.  Often the unit would be starting from a very low temperature or be required to start-up and work at maximum efficiency in a short space of time, in order to purge the module of any potentially toxic gases.  The unit had to be able to work for long periods of time in extreme weather, particularly extreme heat and also during extended periods of high humidity, which are some of the most challenging environmental circumstances for unprotected personnel to work in. The team wanted to test that their new system would be more tolerant to these environmental conditions.

The system was then tested at the world renowned Motor Industry Research Association (MIRA) in Nuneaton, UK, in test chambers that could accurately simulate the extreme conditions the unit had been designed to withstand.  The unit was tested to well over 50°C, according to UK military standard Def Stan 00-35 Element 4.  These standards are some of the most exacting available, as there is the presumption that the subject will be working under permanent stress.  The unit was assembled as part of a module and taken to a test chamber where it was subjected to over 50°C and 70% humidity for five continuous days, without any degradation of efficiency in operation.

The HVAC units were tested to the very edge of their capabilities, simulating some of the worst extremes which can happen on earth. Excessive temperature coupled with very high humidity is a rare combination, but it can happen offshore particularly when drilling is occurring.

Dr. Julian Poyner, Group Engineering Director at Ferguson Group, explained why they took the unit to the edge of its capabilities in the demanding UK Ministry of Defence approved STAN tests: “Def Stan 00-35 describes the meteorological and biological environments likely to be experienced by materials used for shelters, and the effects of these environments on the shelter itself.  They are non-destructive tests which challenge the materials being used. We felt that if we could simulate the worst possible climatic environments in the test chamber over an extended period, then this would mean that we would have a robust HVAC system that could be installed specifically on those modules destined for offshore locations which experience high temperatures and under constant stress for a long period of time.” 

Dr Poyner continued: “The HVAC (air conditioning) system can operate at maximum efficiency at a much higher temperature than the industry standard.  Our HVAC system can work comfortably at 50° C (fifty degrees Celsius), it can also cope with very humid conditions, up to 70% humidity at the same time as the high temperature, or very cold temperatures without loss of efficiency.  Gas leaks of flammable gases are particularly common in the Arctic and the units can protect the inhabitants from the effects without any change in the circumstances inside the modules.  This means that the module’s HVAC system can cope with two of the worst possible working environments simultaneously."

Dr Poyner adds: “We have also re-engineered the fan supply system, which gets fresh air into the cabin more efficiently.  This is useful for the purge sequence when the units are being installed as it purges the air out of the module much quicker than before.”

This unit has been constructed in response to customer feedback, and has been designed with the Gulf and South East Asian markets in mind.  

Dr Poyner says: “We are value engineering our entire product range to further ensure that each piece of equipment can meet its function and more importantly investigate where we can enhance safety features. Customer feedback is essential to this, and we then look at how we could build the best tank, container or accommodation space possible.”


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