Magma LWI pumping package
Upstream Technology Magazine June 2016
A whole variety of relatively small vessels should be able to use a compact deployment package now in the late stages of commissioning by Magma Global.
In a significant step on the path to commercial breakthrough for its uniquely strong lightweight composite pipe, UK-based Magma Global has now evolved and built a deployment system that could see that pipe at work on a light well intervention project by the end of this year.
Magma has teamed up with Scotland’s Maritime Developments (MDL) – a specialist in designing and building back-deck equipment – to produce a deployment package that any contractor in the light well intervention and stimulation business can rent out and mount on whatever suitable vessel it chooses.
Dubbed IDP (integrated deployment package) by Magma, the system is designed to reel out up to 3000 metres of 3 inch internal diameter Magma pipe rated for pressures up to 15,000 pounds per square inch. This is at the leading edge of light well intervention (LWI) requirements.
The first IDP is even now being assembled, tested and made ready for shipment from Magma’s Portsmouth facility on England’s south coast, with a departure to the Gulf of Mexico scheduled for September. It is provisionally destined for either Galveston or Louisiana’s Port Fourchon, where it will be available to the first customer to sign a deal, unless snapped up before that.
The compact package can be placed onto a vessel, complete with its 30 tonne complement of pipe, in a single 180 tonne lift. Or it can be split into two parts if lifts have to be smaller: base frame plus reel, and strongback with main equipment. The system stands 17 metres tall and has a footprint of 15 metres by 8.5 metres.
Magma is hoping the LWI industry will soon begin to appreciate the qualities of its bonded thermoplastic composite carbon fibre ‘m-pipe’ for such work. Not only can it handle very high pressures, but its unusually smooth bore makes for low pressure drop and hence high flowrate, and it is also impressively resistant to attack by the highly corrosive fluids regularly pumped in this sector.
As ever, Magma’s ultimate goal is still to effect a game-change on the deepwater floating production stage by introducing its bonded composite pipe for full-blown large-diameter riser applications (Upstream Technology, May 2015). Its product is only a tenth the weight of an equivalent steel pipe and the company wants to see it replace today’s heavy thick-wall steel risers, or equally heavy and expensive multi-layer unbonded flexible pipe.
But meanwhile it knows that such a breakthrough is not going to come overnight and that it must first allow the offshore industry to gain familiarity with its product by applying it in less dramatic settings. Hence its current push to break onto the commercial scene with relatively small diameter pipe in a downline role for LWI.
At the smaller end of the diameter range, from 2 inch to 4 inch, “there is a real demand in the market for high spec pipe – from 10ksi, even up to 20 ksi – for applications like chemical stimulation and scale squeeze,” says Magma technical director Steve Hatton.
The company sees this role as its optimum point of entry to demonstrate a track record before building up to larger pipe sizes. It also sees renting as a good commercial model. “The day-rate rental approach allows us to take advantage of the longevity of the pipe ourselves, rather than sell it on to others,” notes Hatton.
“No customer wants to take responsibility for designing the installation equipment for our pipe themselves,” he says. “They want a package, they want a system, they want it all engineered”. Which is what Magma and MDL have done.
In fact, “we will go on to build a number of kits with a spread of pipe specification and reeler size,” Hatton continues. This first example is Magma’s likely top specification. “I don’t think we’ll do anything bigger than this. It will do everything and most of our customers want the high flow rate you get from 3 inch pipe”.
So Magma has gone from making a pipe to now offering a complete intervention system. “Both commercially and technically this is a significant step,” says Hatton, “so as you can imagine, it all took quite a lot of bouncing around”.
Ringing the changes
Use of a long-life and expensive product like m-pipe in the LWI business is a definite change from the traditional approach for such work. Over the last twenty years or so, contractors in this field have chiefly used relatively simple, relatively low cost, thick wall steel pipe, often thrown away after just a few campaigns.
But although the pipe used in coiled tubing (CT) operations can be wound tighter than m-pipe by plastic deformation, it is heavy, prone to damage by handling, fatigue and chemical attack. Also the upward trends in water depth, pressure and corrosive fluid demands are moving traditional coiled tubing towards the limits of its capability.
Compared with that, the Magma approach is definitely more sophisticated. And the equipment it has evolved for such work is definitely expensive, costing much the same as the several million pound’s worth of pipe it carries.
“But we are able to build a business case around that because we have confidence that the pipe will last a long time and we’ll get a number of years of use as a rental system,” says Hatton. “As always, the problem will be ‘uncontrolled damage’ and we’ve tried to protect it by having it in its own box.”
Magma’s philosophy is that the IDP’s robustness and the pipe’s longevity will enable it to match the day-rates of CT systems while also outperforming them. It points to significantly faster pumping times because of the lower pressure drop in its pipe’s smooth bore. As an example of maximum flow rate, it quotes 45 barrels per minute of brine at 1,500 metres. Pipe deployment speed is billed as 1,200 metres per hour.
“Normally to do the job that our kit will do, you would need to use two standard CT spreads run simultaneously. Instead of taking ten days to pump, we can do it in five days, and we can get in and out quickly,” says Hatton. “Also we have lower downtime for weather.”
All in all, Magma says its research indicates that time saved through using its system should offer cost savings of about 30% for LWI operations compared with the traditional CT approach.
Magma’s chief executive Martin Jones summarises: “The IDP system will deliver significantly better flow rates, wider operational windows, reduced operational risk and lower overall cost. As such we believe it is a game changer.”
In developing its deployment system, initially the company looked at variations on the traditional way of combining the various necessary elements – powered reel, tensioner and overboarding chute – but concluded this would take up too much deck space.
It then started talking in more detail with back-deck equipment specialist MDL in its quest to enable use of smaller intervention vessels, evolve a light and compact system, and generally cut down the time needed for intervention campaigns. The IDP evolved steadily over the course of eighteen months or so.
Not least of the challenges is the relatively stiff nature of the pipe being handled. It is wound onto a reel with a hub diameter of 8.2 metres, corresponding to the tightest bending it will accept, and for flexibility in operation, the pipe is divided into three separate 1,000 metre lengths, each in its own compartment on the reel.
When wound like this the m-pipe is coiled like a clock-spring. “So some quite clever control and safety features are needed to ensure you don’t lose the pipe end and end up with a bird’s nest,” says Hatton. The driver and master control is a 25 tonne two-track tensioner that either pulls the product off the reel or puts it back on. In turn, the reel’s drive mechanism resists with a precise back-tension.
In a typical LWI riser configuration the main downline extends from the vessel to near seabed, where a ballast weight is attached at its lower end to maintain correct tension. Vessel motions are accommodated by a flexible jumper that bridges the last 100 metres or so to the subsea well.
The Magma system has to provide for aspects such as connection of a ballast weight in the 2-5 tonne range, as well as for passage of end fittings and the intermediate connection of 1000 metre pipe lengths. In Magma’s case, both the main line and the dynamic jumper near the seabed are formed by identical pipe, bringing the advantage of consistent structural properties either side of the connection at the ballast weight.
A further element in Magma’s strategy has been to commission an independent third party validation of the system, also examining optimum configurations and operational envelopes and procedures.
Boutique riser engineering consultancy RiserTec, headed by John Shanks, has just completed a four-month study whose details are due to be provided at an event organised by Magma in Houston on 29 June.
“We wanted to analyse a broad spectrum of riser configurations and be able to say ‘yes, we can do that’,” says Hatton. “The issue comes down to waves and currents – how big a wave can we accommodate, and what is the worst current profile we can take, with its drag on the pipe.”
The aim was to be able to work reliably for 95% of the time, which in the Gulf of Mexico equates to a 2.5 metre significant wave height and a current of about 1.2 knots.
“RiserTec have a way of running a lot of analyses very quickly – lots of ballast weights, jumper lengths, buoyancy distributions,” says Hatton. “They ran their analyses for five different vessels, ranging from a small one that moves around a lot under what is quite a large payload for it, right up to very stable large construction vessels.
“All the indications are that everything looks good and that we have a very broad capability to accept a wide range of vessels, a wide range of contents densities, and keep working through bigger waves and bigger current profiles without worrying about fatigue.”
In recent months Magma’s production line in Portsmouth has been working flat out to manufacture the three kilometres of m-pipe that the IDP will carry. The pipe’s 20 millimetre thick wall is built up layer by layer, winding on tape in a process likened to 3D printing as the pipe length shuttles back and forth between two large spools either side of the central ‘black box’ laser station.
At the same time, the elements of the IDP have been trucked from Peterhead to Portsmouth and are being re-assembled there for testing and loading with its newly-made supply of m-pipe. Early in September the package should be ready to ship out for its first job.
The destination is not yet set in stone, but “our base case at present is to send it over to the Gulf of Mexico where it will be kept, ready to go offshore,” says Hatton. “But this is a short lead-time area of business, and we’ve been chasing opportunities in the Mediterranean and West Africa as well, so if something comes up there before September the package might just go to one of those places instead.”