Composite Pipe – OE Digital
Elaine Maslin of OE Digital surveys the new solutions for bonded thermoplastic composite pipes. This extract from OE digital was Published Dec 2016.
Frontier exploration and big vanity projects remain firmly off the agenda in the oil and gas business. In a low capex and opex environment, composite risers might finally get a look in, as operators move toward more near-field tieback opportunities to hold up their production numbers.
If so, it’s good timing for a small group of firms that have been busy proving the in-service capabilities of bonded thermoplastic composite pipes (TCP) over recent months and years. UK-based Magma Global and Dutch firm Airborne Oil & Gas have fully bonded TCP offerings.
Meanwhile, others are taking a more incremental approach, adding new materials to existing flexibles to reduce weight.
GE Oil & Gas, for example, is offering a hybrid solution from its northeast England-based Wellstream business.
Portsmouth-based Magma Global has also been busy expanding, proving its product and getting ready to deploy its first, 3,000m water depth, 15,000psi-rated, 3in integrated deployment package (IDP) hydraulic light well intervention rental system.
Magma’s m-pipe® is a bonded TCP, made using a composite of carbon fiber and Victrex PEEK (polyether ether ketone), which is built up on a mandrel in an additive manufacturing type process, which enables dimensional control (i.e. incorporating end-fittings).
The first IDP, built with Scotland-based backdeck equipment firm Maritime Developments, had completed system integration testing in early October and was due to be deployed in either West Africa or the US Gulf of Mexico, depending on contract agreements, as OE went to press.
The move follows Magma’s completion of a project with DeepStar to prove in principle a 4in, 20,000psi version of its m-pipe®, alongside work with Oceaneering on a 2in jumper and ROV (remotely operated vehicle) lightweight connector package, plus various other projects for clients, including gas lines and H2S service m-pipe® and ongoing work to qualify m-pipe® as a 6in, 10,000psi riser or jumper under a project with BP and Subsea 7, which is due to complete late 2017.
Meanwhile, the firm has just moved into new factory space, doubling its production line capacity from two to four production lines, giving it a 60km of 8in, 5,000psi a year equivalent capacity. As well as adding production line capacity, the move creates more space for testing, says Charles Tavner, commercial director, Magma Global.
Being made from carbon fibre and PEEK, the product is lighter than steel by a factor of 10, Magma says, whose ultimate target is the flexible riser market, where moves towards depths beyond 3,000m, and higher temperature and pressures as well as corrosive fluids have started to challenge existing technologies.
There are moves towards such a use in the market, Tavner says. “There are a few riser projects where people have very specific constraints, like trying to put a single well tieback into an existing host and the host being near payload capacity,” he says. This is an issue seen particularly in the US Gulf of Mexico, Tavner adds. “The American market seems very keen to tie-in some smaller fields.” This includes a few smaller companies which seem to be pushing pretty hard in these tough times using the low prices in the market, he says.
While so far it’s only been downlines, booster lines, and jumpers that have entered service, these effectively lay the ground work for risers, Tavner says.
“We have now done permanent water, hydrocarbon [liquids] and gas service and we are building some H2S and hydrocarbon jumpers at the moment. We are doing a full range of permanent service applications and the BP program will do all the qualification for a riser to a standard an international oil company would want it done to. Bring those together and you have got all the building blocks for a deepwater riser. Now, what it takes is a customer with a need and with an economic need to do it. And we are starting to see those.”
While the 6in, 10,000psi riser project with BP and Subsea 7 isn’t due to complete until late 2017, the work will mean less demanding product developed as part of this program – water injection lines or short-term applications – could be used before then as the final product would be for more demanding applications.
Magma started its project with Deepstar in 2015. The project has seen a 4in, 20,000psi flexible m-pipe® jumper produced and successfully tested to 32,500psi, then tested to destruction, seeing it reach 35-45,000psi.
“There’s a large interest in high-pressure flexibles,” Tavner says. “DeepStar has been looking for several years for a high-pressure flexible. They then came to us last year.
We built a 4in, 20,000psi flexible and carried out a set of tests to demonstrate its capabilities. It’s not fully qualified, but it does demonstrate the performance of m-pipe® right up to the pressure range they are interested in.” Deepstar had wanted to take the project further, Tavner says, but the body stopped all spending from 2016.
Earlier this year, Magma also built a 2in, 15,000psi jumper for Oceaneering, to be integrated with the firm’s M5 connector. Oceaneering has been demonstrating the jumper to clients in the US, Tavner says, and is due to test it at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab outside Houston. One of the key hurdles has been demonstrating its flexibility. “Until clients actually see it, they don’t believe it,” Tavner says. At NASA, ROV manipulation trials will be run to get ROV operators comfortable with the product, he says. “It is a big deal with them because it allows it to be used for flying leads and simplifies installation techniques.”
Meanwhile, Magma is working through client projects, including some high H2S jumpers for a national oil company in the Middle East. For Saipem, it built a 2.5in, 10,000psi gas line for subsea deployment in place of a non-bonded flexible. The system was delivered this year for use in the North Sea.
Still, the market remains fairly tough, Tavner says. “It’s clearly very difficult at the moment. The number of opportunities are down, but we are seeing a lot more acceptance from operators of doing something different. Two years ago operators would say we just don’t want to do anything new. At the moment, they are saying they don’t want to do anything unqualified or risky, but they’re happy to do something new if it saves some money. There is also much more senior engagement. Six to nine months ago, there was complete paralysis. It’s all about timing and we are now seeing it (bonded TCP) becoming a project requirement.”
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