The use of composite pipes to enhance production in the North Sea

By Martin van Onna, Airborne Oil & Gas

The first Anasuria Jumper Spool installed on the North Sea in October 2017 (photo: Airborne Oil & Gas)
The first Anasuria Jumper Spool installed on the North Sea in October 2017 (photo: Airborne Oil & Gas)

Traditionally, oil and gas pipelines are constructed from carbon steel as it is generally low cost and widely available. However, carbon steel has several inherent disadvantages, including corrosion, fatigue and weight. According to research, an estimated one-sixth of all steel production worldwide is used to replace corroded metal, much of it deployed in cooling water piping systems, and yet the rate of corrosion in pipelines is increasing and becoming more difficult to combat. Next to fire, corrosion in pipelines remains the biggest potential risk of catastrophic loss for any production plant operation or industrial building.

Now, composite pipe pioneer, Airborne Oil & Gas is leading the charge on the use of Thermoplastic Composite Pipe (TCP) as an alternative to carbon steel. With innovation and insight transferred from aerospace to the oil and gas sector, TCP features a non-corrosive, solid pipe wall constructed from glass or carbon reinforcement fibres and thermoplastic materials. This creates a strong, yet flexible pipe that is 80% lighter than metallic equivalents. It is completely spoolable and can be installed with smaller, more cost-effective vessels than traditional steel-based pipes.

For example, as TCP flowlines are supplied in long, spoolable lengths, it is particularly cost-effective for horizontal lay methods and has around 40% saving on as-installed cost. In addition, its corrosion-averse properties eliminate the supplementary costs of steel such as pumping of corrosion inhibitors, related pigging, and inspection and maintenance requirements.

North Sea implementation
Compared to the rest of the world, the adoption of game changing technologies and products is more widely embraced in the mature North Sea basin. The need to safely and economically optimise remaining reserves and extend field life is increasingly becoming the main driver in the region and, as a credible and cost-effective alternative to carbon steel, TCP is quickly becoming a market disruptor, with more and more companies adopting the solution.

Last year, Airborne Oil & Gas secured an award from Anasuria Operating Company Ltd to deliver a second, high flow TCP Jumper Spool in the Central North Sea.

The 2-inch ID 345 bar rated gas lift jumper will support operations in the Guillemot field, located approximately 175 km east of Aberdeen, and will be manufactured at the company’s IJmuiden facility, in the Netherlands.

Over the past few years, the company has supplied three flexible TCP Jumper Spools for permanent installation in the North Sea basin to enable production from mature fields. In 2016, the world’s first TCP in a permanent application was delivered to Chevron North Sea Limited for use on its Alder project. A high-pressure flexible TCP well jumper (12,500 psi) now connects the manifold with the tree to inject methanol within the tree and wellhead tie-in spool downstream of the tree. This project was two years in development and was born from a joint industry initiative to qualify thermoplastic material.

TCP Jumper Spools can be used for any service application including hydrocarbon, gas lift, water and methanol injection and can be fitted with appropriate insulation.

TCP is proving its credibility in the region to help enhance production, particularly for brownfield developments which need old pipelines replaced to enable continued production from maturing fields. Beyond the North Sea, TCP flowline solutions for hydrocarbon production, water, gas lift, and chemicals injection have also been installed in West Africa and Asia.

Unique characteristics
TCP is a non-conductive, non-corrosive composite pipe which can withstand high levels of corrosion, deepwater pressure and fatigue resistance. Airborne Oil & Gas’ TCP Jumpers are the only high-pressure pipe commercially available, combining a smooth bore with high collapse resistance and flexibility.

Chevron Alder Jumper Spool for permanent installation (photo: Chevron North Sea Ltd)
Chevron Alder Jumper Spool for permanent installation (photo: Chevron North Sea Ltd)

The TCP Jumper has some unique characteristics that make life simpler for subsea connector designers. Fatigue life is superior, allowing it to be used in applications where slugging/high fatigue loading is expected. The TCP Jumper Spool also has lower stiffness compared with steel spools and most flexible pipe, yielding lower loads on the connectors.

The TCP Jumper Spool designs and selection of materials are adapted to the specific requirements of each project, ensuring a fit-for-purpose and highly cost-effective solution for each project. Airborne Oil & Gas manufacture TCP up to 7.5-inch ID, 121° C (250° F), and 10 ksi working pressure.

The TCP Jumper Spools are installed either on a subsea pallet with a swivel hook, horizontally with two cranes, vertically with one crane, through a spreader bar or conventional vertical lay system.

The custom-made material is a viable and credible alternative for flowlines, risers and jumper spools to support hydrocarbon production, water injection, chemical and methanol injection, wellbore access, choke and kill, (de-)commissioning and intervention activities. Depending on the application, the company selects the correct thermoplastic matrix of glass or carbon fibre to ensure it has the best fit-for-purpose solution for each application in the challenging offshore and subsea environments.

For flowlines for water or methanol injection for instance, the choice for the glass fibre in combination with polyethylene polymer provides the best choice for flexibility, stiffness and minimum bend radius. For high pressure dynamic risers, the combination of carbon fibre with the high-end PVDF polymer is the best, field proven solution in the context of install-ability and subsea stability and configuration.

Life extension and production optimisation
Composites are lightweight and offer high levels of strength. They can be formed into complex shapes and can provide high levels of resistance to fatigue and corrosion. Maintenance needs are relatively low, and they can be installed via reel lay. When compared to steel, TCP has low axial and bending stiffness. Other benefits include reduced vessel hang-off loads, cheaper installation costs due to lessened weight, lower maintenance requirements and increased flow rate due to a smoother internal bore.

TCP Jumper Spools outperform rigid steel pipes and conventional unbonded flexible pipes by saving up to 50% on overall investment and procurement costs. Furthermore, TCP can be installed with smaller vessels than traditional steel-based pipes. Where required, a weight coating can be applied, again based on the same polymer with additional heavy compounds.

Airborne Oil & Gas is fully qualified to DNV GL standards and was instrumental in the creation of the first standard for TCP in offshore applications, DNVGL-ST-F119. In line with the standard, it has carried out several qualification programmes with major operators to certify its design methodology, production and materials for all its products. The company offers training courses to clients on the design, qualification and installation of TCP.

The company has recently doubled its team of skilled manufacturing operators from 25 to 50. It forecasts a sustained period of productivity gains resulting in a five-fold increase in production capacity and capability by the end of 2022 at its plant in the Netherlands.

Martin, van Onna, CCO
Martin, van Onna, CCO

Martin van Onna joined Airborne in 2007 and setup Airborne Oil & Gas as a business unit. After a 5 years period, following the company’s relocation and establishment as independent company, he moved to his current role of Commercial Director. In this role he is responsible for the successful market entry and business development of Thermoplastic Composite Pipe in the SURF (Subsea Umbilicals Risers & Flowlines) and Subsea Well Intervention markets.