Passenger vehicle for ATEX Zone 2 operations


The first protected passenger transit vehicle to meet the Oil and Gas industry’s ATEX Zone 2 standard for operation in hazardous and explosive environments has been produced bySupacat, the Devon, UK, based specialist vehicle and engineering company.


The Protected Transit Vehicle (PTV) will be operated by Agip ENI for transporting work crews between facilities on the man-made offshore island, Complex D, which has been created in the Experimental Phase of the Kashagan oil field development in the North Caspian Sea. The PTV is based upon a 4×4 Mercedes Sprinter adapted for safe use in exploration and extraction operations in the harsh environment and extreme weather conditions experienced in Kazakhstan. The PTV is fully ATEX Zone 2 compliant thereby providing the user with the utmost confidence and the employer with the requisite regulatory compliance and on-site safety.


This week Supacat delivered the first PTV. In 2009 Agip KCO awarded Supacat a GBP 4.5 million contract for a fleet of seven PTVs, marking Supacat’s entry into the Oil and Gas sector where its experience in all-terrain military vehicles and hostile environment engineering are applicable to the sector’s specialist transportation requirements.


Nick Ames, Managing Director of Supacat commented, “Supacat is geared to this type of bespoke, low rate production contract; but as a UK MoD prime contractor we have the engineering skills and management systems to handle the complex compliance procedures also demanded by the Oil & Gas sector”.


The PTV occupants are protected from explosive hydrocarbons as well as toxic “sour gas” using an integrated Gas Detection System. Through constant hazardous gas monitoring, filtration and an over-pressured interior, the PTV creates a safe working environment. The PTV’s non-incendiary protection includes a water-cooled exhaust and turbo system and full electrostatic protection against sparks.


When the PTV detects a hazardous gas it initiates an evacuation sequence that disables the engine, ventilation system and all non-ATEX rated equipment. Simultaneously, visual and audible alarms inform both the occupants and surrounding personnel of the threat. The residual over-pressure and sealed interior provide protection from toxic gas ingress to allow the crew time to don evacuation breathing apparatus.


Designed for use in challenging environmental conditions, the fully insulated PTV is capable of operating in extreme temperatures whilst maintaining a habitable environment for the occupants.


Iconics World Tour and 25th anniversary vision

Iconics president and ceo Russ Agrusa presented the keynote speech at the Vision 360° World Tour event held in the UK in November, which coincided with the 25th anniversary of Agrusa founding Iconics in 1986. The World Tour series started in the USA in June, and explains the latest in industrial and building automation software solutions to Iconics customers, systems integrators, OEMs and channel partners, plus showcased customer applications that leverage the latest Microsoft technologies. Iconics has recently been confirmed by ARC as having a 4.4% global market share of the HMI market: in pre-Iconics days Agrusa worked on developing the HMI used on the Foxboro IA DCS.

The Northern correspondent for the Industrial Automation INSIDER attended the presentations, and reports on the Agrusa keynote and the flavour of the other presentations by Clive Walton, the Iconics UK md, and other inputs from Microsoft and Corning Glass!

Agrusa was clearly in no doubt about what the future held, and presented many technologies under the company’s 360° Vision banner, using a theme of ‘Any Glass, Anytime’. A core philosophy may be indicated in the keynote Iconics mission: Make the “Right Decisions”, delivered at the “Right Time”, put in the “Right Hands”, on the “Right Glass” – the “Glass” being any form of existing or foreseeable display.

For Agrusa, the Cloud was not optional or even the future – it was here and now, with examples such as the download of apps (watch out for industrial apps), and the use of Google Docs etc. Such acquired user habits quickly become the trend and the expectation for industrial automation and information systems. The benefits of Microsoft Azure were explained under the three headings of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS). This general visionary line was reinforced by a brave on-stage demonstration of the use of Microsoft Kinect (the motion sensor) to point at a 3D windfarm SCADA display and to then drill down into a detailed display of the status of one ‘faulty’ generator – so please do not wave your arms around in the control room of the future!

Mobile devices
Many of the particular product presentations included the demonstration of the full integration of tablets and smartphones within the Iconics Genesis64 for mobile data display and interaction with process automation.
It may just be that Agrusa is one of the first in line for the Visionary position that the industry sorely needs, whose job description could be paraphrased as, “I have seen the future, let me show you how it works”.

The Iconics Genesis line-up is both native 64 bit and also 32 bit. It was emphasised that the 64 bit products have been completely re-written to take advantage of now readily available 64 bit processing, while giving reassurance that 32 bit was fully supported and was maintained in the road map. Evidence of its effectiveness were presented in a case study from Cougar Automation featuring the University of Bristol campus monitoring system, and further endorsed by the Industrial Technology Systems (ITS) presentation of their partnering experience with Iconics.

Quantified results
Some other notable applications were listed as: Dublin Terminal 2; Iconics WaterAnalytiX for Cork County Council; the Audi A4 & A5 production lines at Ingolstadt; the Nissan Battery Plant in Sunderland; and the ‘Energy Dashboard’ for the Microsoft Redmond Campus. All of these are large and prestigious projects and as such the question arises ‘why Iconics?’ – especially when the company just seems to get on with the work rather than devote its time to publicity or other distractions.

Embracing new technology
What may be at the core of the Iconics difference is their apparent wholesale enthusiasm and acceptance of new technology. The two day event was liberally scattered with discussions incorporating virtualisation, iPad, Android, Windows Mobile 7, Cloud based data repository, the use of ‘personal devices within the workplace’ (also a Microsoft theme, under the acronym BYOD – Bring Your Own Device), 3D visualisation for manufacturing and facilities operators, integration of Bing maps, the fullest exploitation of Microsoft technology and more. Several Iconics UK support engineers were at the event – their bandwidth, confidence and enthusiasm was infectious, and could be a very tangible aspect of the ‘Iconics difference’ – evident customer satisfaction.

Following the theme, a futuristic video from Corning Glass showed a whole host of ‘smart glass’ devices from interactive (with your in-car navigation device) motorway traffic signs, to group working active tables, roll-up screens, many portable devices and even ‘appliance veneer glass’ for domestic devices. Although it all seemed to be for a questionably optimistic future, Agrusa made a convincing argument that this was going to be sooner rather than later, with Iconics being at the forefront of the exploitation of it all for manufacturing and other facilities. Iconics might come to be reported in industry as the people who delivered the technology that we were all waiting for.

This article first appeared in the Industrial Automation INSIDER, January 2012 issue.

Sustainable Manufacturing Government Support

Sustainable manufacturing and growth in the UK’s process industries are to be stimulated through government investment of up to GBP5 million in innovative research and development.

The UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board ( is to award grant funding to support business-led feasibility and collaborative R&D projects that will lead to the development and commercialisation of innovative approaches to sustainable manufacturing for the process industry.

The competition opens on 27 February 2012 and the Technology Strategy Board will be seeking proposals for projects that will develop innovative approaches in areas such as:

  • Changing batch to continuous processes;
  • Novel catalysis;
  • Innovative heat management or input in process;
  • Solvent free reactions or use of novel solvents;
  • Process measurement and analysis.

Sustainable manufacturing is of critical importance across the full range of process industries, including sectors such as chemicals, pharmaceuticals, coatings & lubricants, food & drink, oil & fuel, mining and construction materials.  In such sectors there is a drive for faster, more effective product design and manufacture in order to become more globally competitive.

For further information please visit: SMPI

Fly fishing in Mexico

Nick with a recent beach front catch

On the coast of the Yucatan, in Mahahual, 300 miles south of Cancun, Nick Denbow runs the Western Caribbean Fly Fishing School. This is not where you would expect to find a Hampshire chalk stream trained dry fly fisherman, equipped with the best fly fishing rods and reels, but the weather is better, and the water is warm, all the year round. So now Nick fishes for Permit, and Jacks, and lobsters and octopus when they are around and he wants something for lunch. The fly fishing school is on the beach, just near Nohoch Kay, a really good beach front  bar and restaurant, which gives him something to do, as well as sailing in one of their Hobbycats or snorkeling inside the reef, while waiting for fishing clients. But just behind the shore line round Mahahual there are several inland lakes, where for a proper day fishing you can persuade him to take a boat out and fish for Tarpon or goodness knows what else, there are a few crocodiles too.

Hobbycat runs in the lagoon inside the reef off Mahahual

Hobbycat runs in the lagoon inside the reef off Mahahual: that’s Nick Denbow (senior) hanging on in the lowest possible point!

Contact details

Find more about the life here on, just enter ‘Nick Denbow’ as a search term, or ‘Fly fishing in the Caribbean’. Contact Nick to arrange a day or more fishing off the beach or in the lakes, on, or look for him on Facebook. New for 2015 there’s a real and impressive website:! Most Caribbean cruise liners seem to stop at Mahahual in southern Mexico these days, so you can even arrange a day’s fishing as an excursion from the liner, and its a lot less expensive than what the cruise liners will want to sell you. See the Nohoch Kay reviews on Facebook too.


Betty is in charge of the serving staff at Nohoch Kay

This is not a new sideline for the Industrial Instrumentation Insider editor and normal author of this blog: its a younger version, Nick Denbow, Spanish-speaking son of Nick Denbow the Insider editor: the younger Nick has been living in Mexico for some 8 years, hence the occasional editorials from here on Mexican beach and environment topics. Even the hurricanes don’t seem to have put him off yet.

Actually most of the rest of the family seem to speak Spanish too, even the ones in Cornwall, so I don’t need to!