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New 'soft' barriers for oil platforms

Cameron Balloons’ aero and mechanical engineers are working closely with the BP design team, to develop a ‘soft barrier’ system

by Hannah Cameron

New 'soft' barriers for oil platforms

Cameron Balloons’ aero and mechanical engineers are working closely with the BP design team, to develop a ‘soft barrier’ system which would contain any leakage of explosive gas produced downstream of the normal extraction processes.

These tensioned barriers are made from a highly specialist fabric; to be precise, an electrostatic, dissipative, silicone-coated, glass-fibre material which, when supported by the very strong steel framework, creates the ‘soft barrier’ systems. 

‘Containing leaks rather than allowing them to spread steadily over a wide area, increases the opportunity for early detection enabling remedial action to be taken quickly. ‘Says Nick Purvis, Cameron Balloons Sales Director, who has been working on the project with BP over the last five years.

‘This bespoke system also has the added benefit as ‘soft’ structures react differently under pressure, they tend to dissipate explosions whereas solid structures tend to fracture or distribute shards, which can cause further risk to life and the remaining platform structure.

Dave Boxall, Cameron Balloons Design Engineer explains, ‘We had to visit a number of platforms around the globe, produce test sections, obtain precise and detailed measurements and ensure our method of manufacture and design would work effectively - not only for the longevity of the product, in the harsh conditions on board but also during the installation process where specialist lifting equipment for example, would not be available…’

Hannah Cameron adds, ‘The process of getting us being the contractors, to visit an oil platform is not an easy one either; with visas, medicals, travel inoculations, specialist helicopter training, life-on-board training, being far-from-home travel, having cramped and noisy working conditions, permission for just a few personal belongings on board, having to wear hard hats and Nomex overalls all the time, as well as earplugs and then ear defenders too…keeps it interesting as it not our usual way of working…but of course we are happy to comply’.

Cameron Balloons are the world’s most popular manufacturer of hot-air balloons, with over 8000 balloons built to date, based in the city of Bristol in the UK.

'We use aero engineering technology and over four decades of lighter-than-air expertise to make all types of sewn or welded, cold-air inflated or gas filled, fabric structures.' explains founder, Don Cameron

- Cameron Balloons used more than 200 metres of fabric to make one set of soft barriers and it took two engineers about a week to install them on BP’s oil platform, which was more than 30 miles out to sea.

- Cameron Balloons builds on average a balloon every few working days.

- Cameron Balloons has 55 staff who have nearly a millennium of experience between them.

- Cameron Balloons built the world-recording breaking, successful, round-the-world non-stop combination helium and hot-air balloon (1999). Known as the Cameron Roziere-650

Cameron Balloons Roziere 650 – ‘Breitling Orbiter 3’:     
AM-15 and Absolute Duration: 19 days  21 hours  47 minutes
AM-15 and Absolute Distance: 40,813 kilometres
AM-15 Altitude: 11,755 metres
AM-15 & Absolute Shortest Time Around The World: 15 days 10 hours  24 minutes.

- Cameron Balloons won The Queens Award for Export in 1989. (For exporting 85% of our products which actually we will still do even today!