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Withstanding harsh environments

07th November 2012

As offshore exploration is affected by new environmental and logistic challenges, OGT reports on the latest technological developments which are set to boost the sector

Withstanding harsh environments
As easy-access oil reserves dwindle oil companies must venture into harsher environments, requiring the next generation in technology

With offshore oil and gas exploration beset by increasingly harsher environments and long distance deepwater gas transportation becoming an ever pervasive challenge, the age of easy oil seems to be drawing to a close. As new technological developments further the safety conditions and efficiency of offshore pipelines, OGT rounds up the oil and gas sector’s most promising pipeline innovations during the first half of 2012.

Dow’s Neptune, a new subsea insulation system

First on the list is American multinational Dow Chemical Company. Its business arm, Dow Oil & Gas in May announced the launch of Neptune, a new subsea insulation coating system which was the culmination of a multimillion dollar research and development project implemented over the past years.

“Our customers asked for an advanced flow assurance insulation system to withstand the increasingly harsh conditions they encounter in deepwater oil production, and we delivered,” said Dow Oil & Gas general manager Larry Ryan.

Neptune is a technology designed for line pipe, field joint and subsea architecture. Its temperature performance ranges from -40°C (-40°F) to 160°C (320°F) during both installation and use at depths of up to 4,000 metres.

Unlike other coatings which need as much as up to seven layers to provide pipelines with corrosive and thermal protection, Neptune requires only two, a fusion-bonded epoxy anti-corrosion coating and an insulation coating made of hybrid polyether thermoset material.

“Market knowledge, chemistry expertise and innovation capabilities of Dow - combined with the application expertise of the coaters with whom we have collaborated - have enabled us to deliver a flow assurance wet insulation solution with the widest temperature range available on the market today,” Ryan added.

Magma Global’s m-pipe to replace steel and un-bonded flexible pipes

Also in the pipeline technology sector, UK-based pipe manufacturer Magma Global this year launched m-pipe, a carbon and polymer pipe for riser and subsea applications. The new technology was announced at the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) held in Houston, Texas between 30 April and 3 May.

M-pipe is a new technology which meets the needs of operators experiencing issues with steel and un-bonded flexible pipes. It boasts a light weight/high strength performance, according to Magma, as it has 10 per cent of the weight in water of its steel or un-bonded flexible counterparts; a smoother internal surface; a thermal conductivity which is ten times lower than that of steel; and better erosion resistance compared to steel.

M-pipe also has a high fatigue capacity unaffected by sour service, in addition to corrosion resistance to seawater and CO2, as well as a high temperature operation of up to 198°C (390°F).

“[M-pipe’s] weight and high resistance to fatigue and corrosion solve many of the problems that riser designers are currently struggling to accommodate with current steel and flexible solutions,” said 2H Offshore’s principal director Steve Hatton during OTC. “I believe the new technology developed by Magma will reduce risk and installed cost of riser systems - the time has finally come for the use of this type of material in the offshore industry.”

DNV’s X-Stream, a new deepwater pipeline concept

In other pipeline technological news, marine classification society and risk manager DNV announced this year its latest deepwater pipeline concept, X-Stream. X-Stream can reduce both the pipeline wall thickness and time spent on welding and installation compared to current deep-water gas pipelines.

“By further qualifying the X-Stream concept, huge financial savings can be made for long distance, deepwater gas pipelines without compromising pipeline safety and integrity,” said DNV CEO Henrik Madsen, who announced the news at a January press briefing in London.

“Typically, for a gas pipeline in water depths of 2,500m, the wall thickness reduction can be 25 to 30 per cent compared to traditional designs,” DNV said in its written announcement of X-Stream in January.

X-Stream is able to constantly control the pressure differential between the pipeline’s inner and outer pressures, DNV said. According to the firm, this makes it “easier” and “cheaper” to manufacture and install the pipeline.

“By utilising an inverted High Pressure Protection System - i-HIPPS - and inverted Double Block and Bleed valves - i-DBB - the system immediately and effectively isolates the deep-water pipe if the pressure starts to fall,” said DNV global pipeline director Asle Venås at X-Stream's January launch in London.

During the operation, the i-HIPPS and i-DBB systems regulate the pipeline’s internal pressure so as to prevent it from dropping below the collapse pressure.

DNV headed a team of engineers in Rio de Janeiro to develop the X-Stream concept.
The DNV study is still a concept study, and as such a basic and detailed design will need to be carried out before the X-Stream is actually put on wheels, the firm also said.

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