Wood Group-led JIP to investigate subsea reliability enters its next phase
February saw global energy services company Wood Group announce the beginning of a new phase in its Subsea Equipment Australian Reliability Joint Industry Project (SEAR JIP). The goal of the collaborative project is to develop a better understanding of the reliability of subsea equipment for use in offshore Australia.
Led by Wood Group, the project is supported by a group of high-profile operators that include Royal Dutch Shell, Woodside, Inpex and PTTEP. Now entering into Phase IV, the project is focused on knowledge-sharing between the firms to improve subsea equipment design and reduce the requirement for costly and time-consuming interventions in Australia’s challenging warm-water offshore environment.
Speaking with InnovOil by phone, Wood Group project manager for the SEAR JIP, Adriana Botto, explained how the JIP came about. “The intention was to have a better understanding with regards to equipment reliability. Some operators were experiencing premature failure of equipment and there was an opportunity for operators to collaborate through knowledge-sharing with the goal of better understanding the causes of those failures.” As a result the lessons learned would be fed back to equipment manufacturers so that they could be designed out by vendors in the future.
Years later in 2017, the scope and direction of SEAR has evolved. “We identified that failures were taking place but there was a need to improve the process by which we understood the causes of failure, and to put a process in place to track those failures,” she continued. “So the concept of creating a reliability database for this region was developed.” Similar resources do already exist; however, Botto said that the differentiator is the SEAR JIP’s focus is to “come up with a database specific for Australian waters with equipment performance and vendor performance.”
Findings forum One of the main undertakings of Phase IV will be the creation of this cloud-based reliability database. So far, this covers mostly subsea control equipment, but will be expanded as the project progresses. At present, it features “subsea control modules, electrical flying leads and umbilicals, but this year we will be adding three more types of equipment,” she said.
From a user’s perspective, the aim is that designers and engineers can simply type in a particular piece of equipment or an issue, and see a list of lessons learned over the years. This will also feed into what Wood Group has called a ‘lessons learned’ forum, where operators can share their experience about equipment performance. The JIP will also embark on a two-stream testing programme. This will see the companies investigate and benchmark the ability of different subsea electrical cable designs to block gas permeation and migration, and test new technologies to identify their effectiveness at preventing marine fouling. Both issues are “exacerbated in Australian waters,” she said, where temperatures in the shallow environment may reach up to 28°C, compared with the 4°C or so average for an area like the North Sea.
“Marine fouling is an interesting issue because there are two components: marine growth, which is bio-organism based; and calcareous deposits, which form through precipitation of calcium carbonate from the seawater,” Botto explained. “These are leading to premature failure and costs millions of dollars to recover, repair or replace equipment.”
The work group will look to understand the phenomena better, and to understand new technologies, materials or new designs which might mitigate the risks posed. Existing practices too, such as cleaning or inspection regimes, will also be considered.
The second testing programme concerns the many issues relating to unwanted gas permeating from electrical cables. “The gas could be related to poor cable performance,” Botto added, “so the idea here is to do full-scale test to establish a link between loss of insulation resistance in the cables and the presence of gas.”
Deeper analysis In a statement accompanying the Phase IV announcement, Wood Group’s Specialist Technical Solutions CEO, Bob MacDonald, said: “We are proud to be driving this project, which is delivering a tangible step-change through strong industry collaboration, bringing together the broad expertise and experience of subsea operators, vendors and Australian research institutions to stimulate new solutions for the sector’s reliability challenges.” Collection and use of data is also of importance. “Our subsea business is using our data analytics capabilities to help improve reliability, and we hope to be able to combine these learnings with the SEAR programme,” he added. So far, the support from industry throughout the SEAR has been excellent, Botto told InnovOil. “We put out a call in 2016 for expressions of interest [EoIs], seeking equipment vendors willing to collaborate to improve equipment reliability in Australian waters, and over 70 responded and were keen to contribute.” The SEAR JIP is also discussing opportunities to collaborate with Umbilical Manufacture Federation vendors.
With a steering committee having selected and shortlisted a number of promising innovations, the idea now is to build a series of subsea structures, deploy them offshore Australia and test them in situ. “It would be like a living laboratory offshore,” she said “And over three years we would have the ability to assess their performance.” Funding is still being assessed, but the aim is to have these in the water by the end of 2017 or early 2018. For innovators with good ideas, there may just be time to take part. “If there are any technologies or vendors out there which would like to be considered for the testing programme, we are still open and they could be included in the selection process,” Botto said. Those interested in becoming involved in the study should get in touch via the details below.