The Magazine for Underwater Professionals

Nov/Dec 2018


Society for Underwater Technology

The technological challenges of drilling deepwater wells

The SUT’s London lunch and learn meeting Drilling Deepwater Wells – the Technological Challenges was held in Charles Taylor Adjusting’s impressive new offices in Minster Building, with more than 50 attendees making up a wide-ranging audience from the technical, insurance and financial sectors.

Presented by Yuejin Luo, the talk provided an overview of deepwater drilling (water depths greater than 500 metres), outlining the major operational steps and drilling techniques developed over the past two decades to meet the challenges and potential risks. This was very pertinent as the energy industry is very conscious that drilling wells in deep water presents unprecedented challenges in terms of drilling environment and operational complexities. Yuejin is a senior engineering adjuster and drilling consultant with Charles Taylor, having considerable experience in the industry, including 25 years working for BP based in London, Aberdeen and Houston.

The presentation was based on four major sections: an overview of rigs and records; the main steps in drilling; major technical challenges; and review of incidents.

The overview provided an excellent introduction to drilling and completion principles – this was most useful as it provided the background to drilling concepts. Yuejin informed the audience that the deepest exploration well was at 11500 feet (3505 metres) water depth and deepest production well 9750 feet (2972 metres) water depth, significant numbers! And he explained the overall technology of linking to the seabed via a typical 36-inch conductor, connected to the lower marine riser package (LMRP) that connects to the blow out preventer (BOP).

The major operational steps were presented, starting with the components of the background of the conductor through to casing to the packer. The methodologies of drilling top holes and the running of the riser and BOP were presented.

The summary of deepwater challenges was illuminating; Yuejin focused on the five major ones which were: rig positioning, system integrity, shallow hazards, reduced drilling window and well bore pressure management and well control with BOP. Examples were provided and discussed.

Examples were presented of two incidents with BP in the Gulf of Mexico (the risers were left on the seabed) and Shell with Stena Icemax offshore Nova Scotia (for both cases drilling risers became disconnected and dropped).

The slides were impressive, presenting a complex operation on a topic that had significant scale and magnitude of issues.

Innovative technologies showcased

The Perth Branch’s October 2017 evening technical meeting, Subsea Electrical Technologies and Innovations in Pipeline Construction and Materials, was held at the Parmelia Hilton, opened by branch chairman Chris Saunders, and chaired by committee member Mark Casey. The event was kindly sponsored by ATV, DORiS, SHAWCOR and SPEC.

The four presentations given during the evening were designed to showcase new and innovative technologies whose benefits range from time saving during offshore construction to the potential to become economic enablers for projects in this region. The chair kicked off the night with a Wikipedia definition of the term “exnovation”, which is not very well known as the opposite of “innovation”.

The first presentation of the evening was given by Mathieu Beaujon, regional commercial manager APAC at SERIMAX. Mathieu’s presentation provided an overview of a number of technologies that can ultimately contribute to an increase in productivity and pipeline integrity for CRA pipeline construction, from linepipe manufacture to final offshore installation. The CleverScan tool utilises laser technology to provide repeatable linepipe end matching for CRA pipes through pipe end laser dimensioning and sorting, resulting in increased productivity in combination with enhanced pipeline integrity.

Other technologies presented to the audience included the Roxane gas purging and monitoring system and the Scanvision tool, all integrated onto the ILUC (internal line up clamp).

Finally, Mathieu described Cleverweld, a fully automated integrity management solution designed for customisable, fit-for-purpose pipeline production reporting, including full traceability for welding, NDT and field joint coating, and data storage that may be accessed remotely.

Our second presentation was by Marcos Mockel, senior manager, Global Technical Solutions, Pipeline Performance at SHAWCOR. Marcos’s presentation first provided a background to the conventional pipeline wet insulation technologies used by the industry for temperatures less than 150°C, as well as the associated design process. The latest innovative wet insulation technologies were then discussed, including Thermotite, ULTRA Solid and ULTRA Foam insulation materials, as well as NEMO field joint coating, as alternatives to traditional polyurethane (PU) systems.

Marcos then detailed a case study, which demonstrated how hybrid mixes of these new technologies could provide an optimum solution for wet insulation for subsea pipelines, before concluding by showing how these systems can be applied and tested in the factory. Marcos had arrived from Houston shortly before the presentation, so we appreciated his efforts in providing an informative presentation, despite his jetlag.

The third presentation of the evening was given by Benoit Lamourex, director, Doris Engineering Australia. Benoit began with the timeline for the development of thermoplastic composite pipes (TCP), which began in the 1980s. He then focused on the technical and commercial differentiators between steel and TCP jumpers, with key advantages identified for TCP. The same comparison was then presented for flowlines, with some key differences identified, including on-bottom stability, limitations in size and cost as issues for TCP flowlines, with the conclusion that TCP pipe suppliers need to further develop/qualify the technology to meet demanding subsea development scenarios, such as ultra-deep water and high pressure and temperature. In conclusion, Benoit summarised that TCP is considered to be a promising technology to enable cost effective field development, with some qualifications.

The final presentation was given by Peter Baker, senior subsea engineer, SPEC Consultancy, who addressed offshore and subsea electrical technologies as economic enablers. Peter initially presented an overview of subsea electrical technologies developed for subsea applications in recent years, including active electrical heating, all electric production systems and subsea processing (including separation, boosting and compression), which have provided key advantages over traditional solutions. Peter concluded with details of other offshore technologies being developed currently, including long distance power transmission and distribution, as well as “gas to wire”, which involves the novel concept of converting offshore gas fields directly to electricity, and transmitting electricity to shore.

Mark Casey

Future engineers summer school

The Future Engineers Programme is a high school outreach project championed by WISE (Women in Subsea Engineering) and supported by the Western Australia oil and gas industry at large, including SUT Perth.

From the 1-5 October 2018, 30 high school girls were treated to an educational experience with technical lectures, hands on activities, soft skills development, office visit and site visits. The week concluded with students presenting to their parents, sponsors and volunteers on what they had learned during the week … and competing for amazing robotic prizes of course!

All of the students received a copy of the SUT published book Can a Lobster be an Archaeologist, an engaging (and educational) read. Maybe we’ll see some of the girls in the industry in a few years’ time!





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