ITF Tackles Subsea Pipeline Operational Challenges
Monday, November 04, 2013
Peter Brazier, ITF’s regional manager for Australia

ITF, the global technology facilitator, together with subsea and pipeline engineering and project management company Subsea Engineering Associates (SEA) Pty Ltd. in Perth, Australia, has recently launched a Joint Industry Project (JIP) that will explore and demonstrate a new approach to assessing pipeline span issues on the seabed.

Phase I of the JIP is expected to run for six months and cost in the region of $250,000 (AUD) and involve four regional oil and gas operators.

Due to an uneven seabed, tidal currents or scouring, some pipelines may develop free spans. A free span on a pipeline is where the seabed sediments have been eroded or scoured away and the pipeline is no longer supported on the seabed.

Pipeline free spans have been studied extensively over the last two decades. Though the extreme limit states of the pipeline are understood and defined in DNV guidelines, traditional analyses fall short during the pipeline’s operational phase on mobile seabeds, where free spans form, move and often disappear between pipeline surveys.

The aim of the JIP with SEA is to demonstrate that the creation of an enhanced partial safety approach with the delivery of more accurate data may negate the need for often unnecessary and costly intervention. The project will then focus on developing a methodology to demonstrate a ‘do-nothing’ approach to mobile free spans that will meet the failure probability required by DNV-OS-F101.

Peter Brazier is ITF’s regional manager for Australia. “Each year large sums of money are spent by regional pipeline operators on detailed Finite Element analysis of spans identified in the survey campaigns. These studies often recommend offshore intervention, more surveys and regular reanalysis. Due to the mobile nature of the seabed and the span lifecycle behavior, in most cases no intervention or reanalysis is required.

“The methodology developed through the JIP will go beyond traditional approaches to span assessment. It will investigate significant variables to define more accurately the failure probability of subsea pipelines. This will give operators greater knowledge of the behavior of the seabed and how this impacts on pipeline surveys and integrity.”

Afton Galbraith, Operations Manager at Subsea Engineering Associates added, “Accurately defining failure probability allows for more cost effective and enhanced risk analysis decision making, which we believe will be of great interest to oil and gas operators. We are grateful for the support received. The project would have been impossible to do without ITF’s involvement.”

Formed in 1999, ITF acts as an honest broker and has so far invested around £57 million into JIPs and is currently funding £15 million worth of projects. This allows industry players to articulate their technology needs while providing a trusting environment for collaboration with technology developers who are assured of complete confidentiality and ownership of any intellectual property they bring to or develop during their projects.

ITF, the technology facilitator for the global oil and gas industry, is a not-for-profit organization owned by 32 international oil and gas operator and service companies. It is the only global collaborative R&D funding program operating across continents. The organization has facilitated the launch of more than 200 joint industry projects (JIPs) from early stage projects through to field trials and commercialization. It aims to secure a further £50 million for technologies over the next three to five years.

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