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Underwater welder to float

A COMPANY that has bought the rights to a system that allows a dry-weld quality repair to be done underwater is seeking to raise $2.5 million by listing on the Australian Stock Exchange.

Neptune Marine Services Limited plans to list on March 22 and is running a $0.20 cent a share offer that is scheduled to close on March 8.

The money is to be used to commercialise the technology, known as Neptune Dry Welds that the company claims can be used at depths of up to 200 metres.

Neptune bought the underwater welding system from its inventor Clive Langley in return for 8.4 million shares in the to be floated vehicle.

Mr Langley has been using the technology in his company XLT Industrial Training for several years.

One of its coups was to repair cracks in a flow pipe at the Bakun hydro electricity plant in the Philippines. The technique succeeded where other attempts had failed.

The system works by attaching a small chamber, which also admits a welding electrode, to the area that needs to be repaired. If it is a flat surface such as a ships hull magnets are used or if its is a circular structure such as a pipe then a shroud is applied.

The chamber is flooded with heated inert gas, usually argon, and the welder conducts the repairs. The inert gas allows the weld to be conducted in dry conditions without the build up of weakening hydrogen atoms in the repair.

XLT had received the approval of the American Bureau of Shipping, Lloyds of London and several other accrediting agencies, however, only the American bureau allowed its name to be used in the prospectus.

Neptune marketing director Andrew Harrison said the company’s initial focus would be on repairing ships in Australia and also the world’s third largest port by volume and tonnage, Singapore.

"Once established in those key markets we plan to expand to the US and Europe in parallel with further research, development and licencing initiatives," he said.

The company’s prospectus does not include any forecasts other than to say the potential market for deepwater construction and engineering is thought to be worth more than $US10 billion a year by 2005.

Mr Harrison said forecasts had not been included because it was hard to predict how well a product such as Neptune’s could penetrate that market.

He said there could also be regulatory issues with including forecasts in prospectuses.

An independent market research report by Market Equity suggests that offshore pipeline construction, maintenance and repair work is moving to deeper waters that would benefit the company’s technology.

However, it points out the cyclical nature of the oil and gas industry that could result in peaks and troughs.

It also identifies possible competitors including a better wet-welding electrode developed by Ohio State University, and building a hyperbaric chamber around the area to be welded – currently the preferred method of fixing metal rends in deep water.

The company has patents pending on the technology in the US, Australia and Europe – which includes Austria, Belgium, Cypress, Denmark, Finland, France, Liechtenstein, Monaco, the UK and Luxembourg.

Mr Harrison said while the company had no contracts at this stage, it was working to obtain some.

Any work won would be carried out by Neptune’s staff, firstly to bring in income and secondly to work out the costs to help develop a licensing model for the technology.

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