Balmoral Offshore Engineering introduced two additions to its drill riser buoyancy portfolio at the OTC.
The new materials, Durafloat Superlite and Durafloat Superlite-X, are rated to operating depths of 15000ft; typically 3000-5000ft deeper than industry-standard drill riser buoyancy.
The syntactic foams are an extension to the company’s existing Durafloat range and were developed by the technical and engineering teams in Aberdeen as part of a six-figure R&D investment program.
With the launch of the new materials Balmoral anticipates increased levels of demand for its drilling buoyancy creating a potential jobs boost in Aberdeen of up to 50 people. A conservative estimate puts the global drill riser buoyancy market in excess of £200m annually.
Drill riser buoyancy provides ‘uplift’ by effectively decreasing the submerged weight of the steel riser joints which run between the drilling vessel and the blow-out preventer (BOP) on the seabed.
According to Jim Hamilton, Balmoral’s international business development director, drill riser buoyancy can no longer be looked upon as a ‘commodity’ product.
“Drilling operations in waters of great depth and high currents – such as the Gulf of Mexico and offshore Brazil – demand the deployment of ultra-heavy riser strings”, he said.
“Deepwater buoyancy modules are also substantial in size and weight and are susceptible to damage caused by vessel motion and strong ocean currents.
“That’s why we had to look at the development of a lower density, lighter weight material that would operate successfully beyond the 12000ft previously offered. It was stressed in the design brief, however, that the new system should not incur a cost penalty and I’m delighted to say that this has been achieved.”
Balmoral’s technical and engineering teams were tasked with developing the lighter syntactic material for use at operational extremes of 15000ft.
Technical director, Dr Bob Oram, said: “Having successfully developed our range of Durafloat riser buoyancy to working depths of 12000ft it became clear, as the industry moves into ever-deeper waters, that further product development was required.
“However, the essential increase in mechanical performance demanded to operate at these depths cannot be accompanied by a reduction in available buoyancy, and so foam density reduction was targeted alongside mechanical performance improvement.
“With the addition of Durafloat Superlite and Durafloat Superlite-X, Balmoral Offshore Engineering now offers market-leading densities and performance levels across the entire spectrum of drilling operations.
“In very simple terms, you get more uplift for your money.”