Why did Magma invest so much in just one TCP product?

01 Mar 2020

Magma was founded to solve the problems that continually challenge steel and flexibles: Corrosion, fatigue, high pressures, high temperatures and speed and ease of deployment. Our vision is to simplify the transfer of oil and gas from the seabed to the surface. It’s taken us 10 years to develop and qualify m-pipe and get it deployed around the world for hydrocarbons. Matthew Massey explains why Magma exists, and why we invested so much into this one TCP product.

Some operators, particularly those in the Gulf of Mexico, prefer to work with steel but for the most part it makes for a very cumbersome and complicated solution because it is just so heavy, which makes for high hang-off loads and massive buoyancy structures. Some of the world’s most impressive engineering feats are in subsea steel hydrocarbon architecture. On the whole steel is difficult to handle and needs a lot of protection and maintenance to prevent corrosion and to manage the flowrate of hydrocarbons. 

Despite being a great solution for many situations and offering benefits in terms of ease of installation, non-bonded flexibles are not without their challenges. We’ve seen issues with stress corrosion cracking in Brazil due to gas permeation or damage to the outer sheath compromising the steel armour. Many flexibles are in service in conditions that are unexpectedly beyond the original specification leading to some of our customers having pipe that lasted 2 years in-field instead of the anticipated 25 years. In the North Sea, ongoing field extensions mean that flexibles are reaching the end of their service life and potentially suffering from aging and erosion of the internal carcass as a result. All of these issues end up costing, through inspection, repairs, downtime and replacement.

Given all the challenges with existing pipe that was available, Magma wanted to develop something that would change everything. This new product needed to use better materials, to be as strong as steel but light and flexible to enable much simpler structures. It needed to be quick and easy to produce and install. It needed a long life under high pressure and high temperature, without suffering fatigue. It also had to use materials that would not be affected by anything in hydrocarbon production: from sea water, to intervention chemicals and sweet to sour service.

We took a long time refining the right combination of materials and manufacturing that would produce a subsea pipe that would meet our product objectives. The result is a thermoplastic composite pipe made from PEEK and carbon fibre. Our raw materials are fused together using automated machines and a clean-running production line that uses few human resources. The result is very tough, very light, flexible and chemically inert. Despite using the very best materials, m-pipe is actually lower cost than alternatives, because less materials are needed. Having one product also means we’ve been able to optimize the whole process from raw material to transport, continually improving to reduce costs and identify new efficiencies. We have Victrex on site supplying the material components which eliminates inventory, transport and storage.

When it comes to installed cost the savings are significant. A Calash commercial review of m-pipe versus steel in M-shaped and Z-shaped jumper applications estimated an as-installed cost saving of 43%. In practice, our customers have regularly found cost savings by using TCP in short length jumpers, typically up to 500 meters. Orders for short lengths can be set-up in a few hours to produce short lengths for individual client orders. This fast product set up also means we are able to respond quickly to customer demand whereas traditional pipe manufacturing methods are optimised for longer length production runs.

The light weight, flexibility and strength of m-pipe makes the project design, transport and installation incredibly straight forwards. There is no need for precise metrology and accurate pipeline fabrication because it’s flexible. Smaller vessels can be used for installation because of its low weight which also makes for easy handling on deck and underwater.

The use of PEEK means m-pipe does not corrode from contact with saltwater or sour service which minimises the need to monitor over time and the smooth PEEK bore gives better flow rates than clad stainless steel because of its resistance to wax and hydrate build-up.

Now that m-pipe is deployed in subsea hydrocarbon service in-field and proving itself in places where steel and flexibles have failed the question from operators is not why they should consider using TCP, but rather, why not?

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