OIL and gas workers in the North Sea and elsewhere may soon be shedding their thermals for a whole new range of clothing that could prove to be a lifesaver.

For the prototype of a garment which could save the lives of offshore workers in the event of an accident at sea is due to be unveiled today.

Dundee-based Iron Ocean has worked with the Oil & Gas Innovation Centre (OGIC) and Heriot-Watt University to develop an offshore survival system called Centurion 3.

It comprises of a three-layer upper body garment that is the stuff of science fiction – it produces heat when immersed in cold water.

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Centurion 3 is designed to be worn under the traditional offshore survival suit. The three layers are tear resistant, fire retardant and compression fit, while current garments worn under a survival suit do not provide active heating.

In the event of an accident that puts a worker into the cold waters of the North Sea, the body temperature of the wearer very rapidly decreases with an estimated life expectancy of 10 to 12 minutes. By comparison, the newly developed material incorporated into Centurion 3 immediately activates when in contact with water and produces a heat output above the average body temperature for more than 20 minutes.

Throughout the project Iron Ocean has worked with Heriot-Watt’s School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, as well as the university’s School of Textiles and Design.

The team developed innovative smart materials for incorporation into Centurion 3, which provide new offshore survival garments that withstand even the harshest conditions.

Simon Lamont, founder of Iron Ocean, said: “I came up with the initial concept of the Centurion 3 following the 2009 Super Puma crash. I realised something had to be done to protect workers from the harsh elements of the North Sea in the event of an offshore incident.

“OGIC’s support at the very beginning of this journey was invaluable, having their backing opened the door for me to work with the expertise of Heriot-Watt University and provided the technical expertise to make my idea a reality.”