ITI Energy, and Californian-based Sub-One Technology are to jointly develop a new interior surface coating. The technology will, for the first time, allow an ultra-smooth, hard, diamond-like carbon film to be used in a range of applications in the oil & gas, utility, food processing and pharmaceutical industries.
Although high performance coatings are already used widely on exterior surfaces, none have proved adaptable to give a low-cost means of protecting interior surfaces. The technology being developed by the two companies, however, promises to address this issue. They say that it has the potential to at least double the existing in-service life expectancy of high-wear critical components and provide a significant improvement in fluid and gas flows by delivering a step change in erosion and corrosion resistance.
Sub-One will establish a new European operations base in Scotland to work with ITI Energy to further develop the technology and to commercialise it in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
ITI Energy estimates the market potential for applications in the oil & gas industry alone to be several hundred million pounds per annum. Until now, the operators of most high-wear critical components, such as pumps, valves, and specialist down-hole equipment, have had to accept that conventional coating technologies only give partial protection against erosion and corrosion. These effects, in combination with loss of line pressure resulting from the high friction levels, have a negative impact on operational performance.
A new interior coating technology, with significantly enhanced corrosion and erosion resistance properties, combined with improved flow dynamics, has the potential to create substantial value through the reduction of costs related to the replacement of failed and worn parts.
The process and technology – Hollow Cathode Plasma Immersion Ion Process (HCPIIP) – builds on a combination of existing techniques such as plasma vapour deposition, and metallic and ceramic sputtering. These techniques are already used today to apply diamond-like carbon coatings on a variety of surfaces but these are restricted to external surfaces only. HCPIIP promises to make these techniques applicable to a variety of internal surfaces, in a fully automated and scaleable way.
Sub-One will work alongside ITI Energy and Scottish Universities to further develop the core technology to enable a better understanding of the molecular structure of the coating’s surface. This will allow a range of potential applications to be developed and commercialised across a number of market sectors.
The project will harness and further strengthen the expertise already present in a number of Scottish Universities, particularly in the area of plasma, molecular and erosion modelling.
All the commercialisation activities for European markets will be managed from Sub-One’s base in Aberdeen, and this will enable a number of Scottish companies to become involved in manufacturing, component supply and sales in realising the potential of the technology.