Subsea Expo

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New Standards for Flexible Pipe Technology To Meet Future Challenges

04 May 2009

Subsea technology company, MCS, will present the advances in new industry standards for flexible pipe during a special flexible riser session on Tuesday 5 May 2009 at OTC.

The outcome of a four-year-long joint industry partnership (JIP) led by MCS, this work represents the first major revision of the API and ISO standards since the originals were produced in the mid-nineties and will incorporate new industry experience and learning gained over the last ten years. The work of the JIP is due to be completed later this year.

The overall aim is to ensure that flexible pipe technology remains a competitive, safe and enabling solution for the challenges of future offshore exploration in harsh, deepwater environments.

““Flexible pipe technology was largely pioneered in the North Sea,” explains Michael O'Sullivan, project manager of the JIP, “Since then the range of applications for flexible pipe has grown significantly. The industry has learned more about the long term performance of the product and the reasons for failure which has prompted the initiative to significantly update the standards.

“The new standards will re-define the minimum design, manufacturing, qualification and testing requirements for flexible pipe.”

MCS has extensively studied the use of flexible pipe technology in increasingly deeper water and harsher environments and has learned how and why they fail. This learning will enable the industry to improve their design and their operational use so that integrity is ensured, safety improved and risks reduced.

MCS led the first JIP to design the initial standards from 1994-1998 and since then has been involved in four other JIPs looking at this technology as well as over 100design and engineering projects involving flexible pipe.

“As a wholly independent engineering consultancy, we are seen as an honest broker and are able to work with the operators, the suppliers, manufacturers and regulatory bodies to bring together our findings and work to develop a consensus on the requirements to be incorporated into the standards,” adds Frank Smith, engineering team leader at MCS in Aberdeen who will present the paper at OTC.

The primary objectives of the JIP were to identify gaps between the current versions of the standards and the state of practice, liaise with other on-going industry initiatives and carry out detailed studies on specific topics that require in-depth investigation.

A key focus in MCS' scope of work was to review existing design requirements and testing and then develop a prospective design philosophy for flexible pipe. The latter will provide a rigorous and consistent methodology for the selection of design requirements.

The key results to date include:

· Alignment of the flexible pipe standards to other standards for offshore tubulars

· The introduction of new design criteria for structural layers

· The revision of design criteria

· New load capacity design criteria for end fittings

· A proposal to introduce value-creating testing for metallic and polymer materials

· Clarification of the purpose and acceptance criteria for Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT), qualification and prototype tests

· The introduction of new FAT and qualification and prototype tests

· The development of new prototype scaling relationships

· The development of a design philosophy based on a combined limit state and working stress design approach to provide a rigorous basis for future revision of design criteria

“Once the new standards are adopted, it is also planned to publish technical reports on specific studies carried out by the JIP to facilitate a broad industry debate through which the concepts can evolve and mature,” concluded Smith “Additionally a web-based discussion forum used by the JIP participants will be opened up to the industry on completion of the work to provide on-going discussion and dissemination of flexible pipe issues and lessons learnt.”

MCS' engineering capability in flexible pipe is underpinned by the development and practical application of their proprietary software product, Flexcom. The latest version of Flexcom (7.9) is being launched at OTC. Major technical enhancements to this software, which provides simulated analysis of flexible pipe, include the ability to model contact between adjacent risers, a wake interference modelling facility, plus comprehensive coupled analysis capabilities.

An advanced subsea technology company with offices in Galway, Aberdeen, Houston, Rio, Perth, Paris and Kuala Lumpur, MCS is a subsidiary of international energy services company John Wood Group PLC (“Wood Group”). It provides engineering solutions including riser design experience, proprietary software and subsea integrity management across a wide variety of projects worldwide.