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27/05/2013

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Isolation, recovery tools speed pipeline repair


Planning, engineering key to timely service restoration Mark Sim - T.D. Williamson Inc. Every pipeline operator is acutely aware of how important safe and efficient repairs are. When a pipeline operates at a billion cubic feet of gas throughput per day, and the flow is shut down for even one day, there is a significant loss in revenue. When repairs are made planned or unplanned it is essential to maintain pipeline pressure and gas flow at safe levels. To achieve this, the safest, most cost-effective method is to isolate the pipeline pressure in the affected part of the line prior to carrying out repairs.

Challenge in the Gulf


As a specialist in emergency pipeline repair systems, TDW Offshore Services is familiar with the challenges faced by operators when repairs are necessary. The company completed a critical subsea flex-joint isolation operation on the Independence Trail natural gas pipeline for Enterprise Products Partners L.P. in the Gulf of Mexico. Repairs were made to a leaking flex-joint assembly on the 20-in. (508-mm) export riser on the Enterprise Independence Hub platform in Mississippi Canyon block 920. Safe and timely repair of the leaking subsea flex-joint was essential due to the important role of this natural gas export riser. Independence Hub can handle more than 10% of all natural gas transported from the Gulf of Mexico. Approximately 85 ft (26 m) below sea level, the flex-joint allows the riser to accommodate the movements of the platform. To facilitate repair, Enterprise retained TDW to isolate the flex-joint assembly with its piggable, tetherless SmartPlug isolation tool. The platform riser had been assessed for possible isolation with the remote-controlled, high-pressure pipeline isolation tool. This allowed TDW to quickly mobilize a double-block module, 20-in. version of the tool to the platform for temporary installation. The tool was launched and pigged (pumped by water) into the riser just below the flex-joint, making it possible for Enterprise to maintain pipeline pressure downstream of the flex-joint. With ambient pressure above the flex-joint, divers replaced the O-ring gasket. After it was resealed, the entire riser was successfully pressure-tested. Enterprise resumed the gas flow through the riser in 10 days.
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27/05/2013

Isolation, recovery tools speed pipeline repair - Print this page

A 26-in. pipeline was completely severed by a dragging anchor, which caused catastrophic failure of the line. The recovered pipe was severely deformed.

The customized SmartLift pipeline recovery tool. It was a challenging situation for Enterprise, especially in view of the 134-mi (216-km) length of the pipeline, and the fact that the steel catenary riser (SCR) reaches a depth of 8,000 ft (2,438 m) subsea. The flex-joint repair did not degas and flood the riser, so recommissioning it post-repair was not required. Had this been necessary, it would have incurred additional production downtime and marine spread cost.

Mediterranean anchor drag hazard


While pipeline operators in the Gulf of Mexico prepare for hurricanes, anchor drags also remain a potential hazard. Damage inflicted by a passing ships anchor occurs with increasing frequency. A dragging anchor can inflict much greater damage than just pulling a pipeline out of alignment. Such was the case in December 2008 when an anchor severed a 26-in. (660-mm), high-pressure subsea gas pipeline in the Mediterranean. This incident resulted in a catastrophic failure, and a simultaneous l4% reduction in a parallel 20in. subsea high-pressure pipeline. Fortunately, these lines were part of a common system with parallel lines; so
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27/05/2013

Isolation, recovery tools speed pipeline repair - Print this page

gas deliveries were maintained. As a result, response time was not as critical as it might have been, making it possible for the operator to carry out a more measured and planned response. Following the incident, the operators pipeline repair contractor, which has an established emergency pipeline repair capability, retained TDW to isolate the damaged sections of pipe so they could be cut, removed and replaced. The plan was to combine the SmartTrack remote tracking and pressure-monitoring system, pipeline recovery tools (PRTs), and pressure isolation tools to effectively isolate the affected sections of the pipeline. The Mediterranean operation featured two common pipeline emergency scenarios: a wet buckle and a piggable dent. A wet buckle indicates that the pipeline is damaged and breached, allowing water to enter, making the pipeline wet. A piggable dent describes limited pipeline damage whereby a pig can still pass through the obstruction or dent. When an anchor collides with a pipeline, the pipe normally deflects the anchor; and it did in the case of the 20-in. pipeline. Although TDW has repaired pipelines damaged by dragging anchors, this was the first time that it had been called in to facilitate repair of a pipeline that had been completely severed by one as was the case with the 26-in. pipeline. Although severe, the overall impact of the anchor drag damage could have been much worse. On one side of the pipeline, water depth drops to below 600 m (approximately 2,000 ft). Had the line been completely flooded at that depth, the decommissioning, repair, and recommissioning would have been a massive undertaking. Fortunately, the damaged pipeline was situated in just 70 m (230 ft) of water. This meant that a range of repair options could be considered. Regardless, any solution would require using remotely operated diverless technology.

Decommissioning solutions
The pipeline repair contractor and TDW reviewed options to decommission and repair each pipeline. Previously, the company had designed and manufactured a customized SmartLift PRT for a project carried out in significantly deeper water depths. The PRT makes it possible to recover and dewater the recovered pipe. The tools internal gripping function is activated hydraulically by a diver or ROV, and mechanically self-locks after it is set. Simultaneously, packers are activated, providing a seal. Dewatering is achieved by running a dewatering pig either from a launcher or receiver attached to the PRT. Early on, it was agreed that PRTs would be used, with design and delivery the primary issues. Dewatering port, grips and packer technology related to the incorporated pig catcher and detector were chosen.

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27/05/2013

Isolation, recovery tools speed pipeline repair - Print this page

Customized pig set up. As discussions progressed, it became apparent that the best solution was to blow the pipeline down using specially designed pigs to prevent seawater ingress. It would also allow for insertion of a PRT and for dewatering to take place. Because the 26-in. pipeline was already blown down, a standard bi-directional pig was selected for use with the SmartTrack system. This would allow the pipeline repair contractor to accurately track the pigs from either end of the line through to the damaged section. In addition to tracking the pig through the 120-km (75-mi) and 30km (18-mi) lines, the system served as back-up to the pig detector on the PRT, confirming positioning within +/5 cm (+/- 2 in.) Through-wall communications technology also made it possible for the technicians to read the pressure inside the pipe before removing the PRT. As the 20-in. pipeline was still flowing at operational pressures, a different approach was employed. The line had to be safely isolated to allow the damaged section to be removed, and for the pipeline to be recovered and repaired. Although the recovery and repair process was the same as that for the 26-in. pipeline, in this case, proper depressurization and isolation were critical.

Customized SmartLift PRT deployment (above). The line has been dewatered and the winch is connected to the PRT, pulling the pipeline onto the vessel (below).
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27/05/2013

Isolation, recovery tools speed pipeline repair - Print this page

A custom pig was required, so project engineers developed a design with the necessary parameters. The plan was to send two bi-directional, multi-diameter pigs to provide a sufficient barrier to allow the damaged section to be cut and removed without risking uncontrolled seawater ingress. These pigs would be positioned at either side of the damaged section. A test rig with a built-in dent in excess of the 14% actual deformation was designed and built at TDWs facility in Stavanger, Norway. In effect, a 16-in. to 20-in. dual-diameter pig was required. Various configurations were tested to simulate the subsea scenario. Launch pressures, flip pressures, holding pressures, and pigging pressure across the dent were measured and optimized during the test to ensure performance offshore. One purpose of the trials was to verify tracking signals and pressure readings through the pipe at the dent. Measurements were taken while running P in straight pipe; through the dent; restarting in the dent; and flipping of the dent-passing pig in straight pipe. Measurements while running P in straight pipe for the second pig and pig train were noted.

Executing the plan


Following careful analysis, surveys to detect water and analyze oil characteristics were carried out, along with a
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27/05/2013

Isolation, recovery tools speed pipeline repair - Print this page

subsea inspection of the 26-in. line to determine where sea water flooding occurred and to gather soil data along parallel routes. To prepare the 26-in. line for isolation, TDW cut the line, installed PRTs at both ends of the line, and removed the damaged sections. The 20-in. line was shut down, de-pressurized and vented. The 26-in. line then was dewatered and purged, and the 20-in. line purged and isolated. All pigging was performed from onshore terminals. Preparatory work and isolation of the 20-in. line was completed, including purging of all remaining pipeline sections. The damaged sections of the 20-in. line were cut and removed, as were remaining sections of the 26-in. line. PRTs were installed at each end of the line. The 26-in. line then was repaired by the pipeline repair contractor. The line was recovered, and new pipeline sections were laid by lay barge from the east and west ends, as was the above water tie-in. It was then recommissioned by drying, filling with nitrogen, and then packing with gas before being re-started, allowing production to resume. Soon thereafter, the contractor repaired the 20-in. line with the same process, and recommissioned it by drying and filling it with nitrogen. Then, the line was packed with gas before restarting, allowing production to resume. The operation went as planned. The SmartTrack system played a critical role, especially in view of its dual functionality as both a tracking and pressure monitoring system. Accurate positioning allowed the pipeline repair contractor to manage the northern pump site for better control as the pig train approached. The unique identifier system of each pig ensured that there was no confusion when placing one pig on either side of the damaged section. Finally, pressure was read through the pipe wall, ensuring pressure equilibrium and providing a safe environment to cut. After the cuts, the PRTs were inserted, and air/nitrogen was pumped from either end to push the pigs to the PRT pig catcher, simultaneously removing the water through the PRT dewatering ports. Preliminary planning, custom engineering of the pigs, and trials conducted in Stavanger on the specially designed test rig resulted in a successful pipeline pressure isolation operation. More Offshore Issue Articles Offshore Articles Archives View Oil and Gas Articles on PennEnergy.com

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