Subsea Expo

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Seal Change-out Tool Transforms Emergency Breakaway into Permanent Solution

27 August 2012

A self-sealing emergency breakaway that is being used successfully on vessel-operated workover projects has been transformed into a permanent solution after its creators SECC Oil & Gas developed a system which allows operators to replace its elastomer seals subsea.

The two-part system combines a Seal Change-Out Tool with a replacement Inner Piston Seal Cartridge to widen the potential uses of SECC’s Hot Make Hot Break connector and provide permanent injection solutions with connect and disconnect capability.

The new technology means the Hot Make Hot Break fitted with the Inner Piston Seal Cartridge can now provide direct access to a well from a manifold or Xmas tree via a vessel, making it a viable connector for scale squeeze and gas compression projects. As a result, a Hot Make Hot Break connector and Inner Piston Seal Cartridge were recently installed on a North Sea manifold for scale squeeze injection.

"The outcome for the operator is a more cost effective and safer scale control strategy with a lower operational cost and increased flexibility for other weather and vessel availability,” says Justin Marshall, business development manager at SECC Oil & Gas.

The Hot Make Hot Break connector, which is now specified by most service companies in the light-well intervention market, uses a pressure-balanced, full-bore, external check valve design to remove the risk of pollution and protect offshore personnel and equipment in a drive off emergency. It does this by instantly and automatically sealing each end of the bore when disconnecting under pressure, eliminating high pressure fluid loss or seawater ingress at the point of connection and disconnection.

However, its elastomer seals which are essential to its pressure balanced design and automatic disconnection and reconnection capability, are not considered by the industry to last the 25 year life time required of permanent connectors.

"Being able to replace seals subsea means the Hot Make Hot Break with its elastomer seals now provides a realistic option over metal to metal seal for permanent subsea use,” explains Marshall.

The new technology is built around a removable cartridge or Inner Piston which is integrated into the connector’s permanently installed female component and simply removed and replaced via ROV. The ROV lowers the change-out tool into the female receptacle and twists out the Inner Piston cartridge, replacing it with a new one.

"By inventing the Inner Piston and Seal Change-Out Tool, we have overcome a major hurdle that previously made operators reluctant to use a system with elastomers permanently on subsea infrastructure,” says Marshall.

"As a part of permanently installed subsea architecture we can now offer an emergency disconnect solution that is relevant from field development stage, rather than just being part of the intervention solution for older fields, and provides quick, simple and extremely cost-effective access points for vessel-deployed equipment.”