A Stroud-based mechanical engineer who invented a small-bore subsea gate valve has won a Department of Trade and Industry Smart Achievement Award.
The awards are given to companies which receive DTI innovation grants and go on to commercialise a project. Richard Pond’s award follows an idea he had when working in the offshore industry.
‘Twenty years ago, when designing sub-sea tree systems, I could never get hold of small and compact gate valves. So out of frustration, I embarked on some design work embodying features not found in larger valves, and created and tested a valve prototype in my garage,’ he said.
Using a £15,000 grant under the DTI’s Smart scheme, Pond with local firm LB Bentley built a half-inch bore version of the valve in mild steel. The valve had several patentable features, including static metal sealing seats and a spring-loaded system which enabled it to operate at very low pressure.
He won a further Smart grant worth £30,000 to build half-inch and one-inch bore models, with additional manual overrides for the hydraulic operated version, and gate valves with integral check valves.
The valves can operate at pressures up to 10,000psi, in depths of 3,500ft or more.
Pond claims they are smaller than others on the market. ‘By the early 1990s we could offer a range of small- bore valves which were able to work in any conditions the oilfield operators could throw at us,’ he said.
For LB Bentley, then a filter supplier, valves were a new line of business. But with the help of a former colleague, Pond persuaded it to support his ideas.
Pond’s valves’ first sale was to Framo Engineering for use on Shell’s multi-phase underwater booster station in the North Sea.
The valves have since been sold to companies in the Far East, Australia and the Gulf of Mexico.