by David Ponchon, Technical Manager, and Jonathan Petit, Product Manager, Trelleborg Fluid Handling Solutions first published in Offshore Industry, April 2017
Oil industry professionals expect current cost-cutting measures to become a new reality as the industry recognises the need to become leaner and more efficient. We believe that suppliers have a crucial role to play in effecting this transition, starting at the design stage. By examining and understanding how equipment operates under varying conditions, designers can find innovative, field proven solutions that deliver the reliability and efficiency their customers need.
By recommending smart design choices, suppliers can help their customers employ solutions that are easy to maintain, reliable and flexible. This is why we believe R&D and technical departments should be involved at the earliest possible stage on any project, in order to create bespoke designs that are truly based on an understanding of a customer’s needs.
This discovery process starts with a detailed understanding of the environment and operating conditions in which the equipment will function. To accurately assess the impact of environmental and situational conditions, Trelleborg’s R&D team for oil and marine hoses, based in Clermont-Ferrand, France, routinely use prototypes to undergo rigorous mechanical and chemical testing, as well as hydrodynamic analysis. This helps to determine material behavior, establish ageing models within realistic service conditions and provides a detailed analysis of performance under fatigue.
A crucial element in the design of a hose is the flange that connects it to other hoses or equipment. Trelleborg offers two different types of technology – nipple and nippleless flanges.
In most cases, the suitable solution for non-harsh, low cost extraction environments will be a single or double carcass nipple hose such as Trelleborg’s SEALINE. This design consists of binding steel wires that are fixed on a nipple, using a standard metallic flange and pipe to connect with the hose body structure. High operational resistance is achieved through a perfect link and adhesion between hose body structure and flange. The main advantage of this configuration is its adaptability and compatibility with a wide range of other attachments, in both floating and submarine configurations. Nipple hoses are also often the most cost effective solutions as they can withstand all but the most extreme environments with ease, and are certified to the stringent GMPHOM 2009 guidelines.
For more challenging environments, specialised applications or where a particularly long service life is required, nippleless technology is recommended – a field proven technology that is unique to Trelleborg. With this technology there is no stiff metal connector to reduce flexibility – instead, the flange is embedded in the rubber itself. This design can be optimized for reeling with products such as REELINE, allowing extra space on deck when transporting or handling. The extra flexibility also reduces wear, meaning that service operations of up to 25 years can be achieved.
Design innovation also requires an understanding of the wider environment in which a product functions.
An example of this is the ABM, the Adjustable Buoyancy Module. This came from two observations. In congested areas, it is necessary to create submergible lines that allow traffic to pass. It is also important to adjust the shape and angle of a submarine line to accommodate density changes in the conveyed product. To address these issues simultaneously, Trelleborg developed buoyancy modules that can be placed along the line, maintaining the hose’s ideal shape and configuration. This maximises flow, minimizes risk of breakages or leaks, while allowing the hose to submerge or float as necessary.
Adapting to the new climate will not be easy – but the industry is learning and changing. A recent study by Trelleborg’s offshore operation found that 61% of facilities are willing to spend more on a project upfront to ensure longevity and reduce the need for future upgrades. This is a welcome trend, but integral to the success of these investments is a focus on analysis and innovation at the design stage – in collaboration with suppliers - to create solutions that make projects safe, efficient and reliable.