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High performance carbon polymer pipes for deep water transfer of subsea oil and gas

Victrex : 06 April, 2011  (Application Story)
Victrex Polymer Solutions and Magma Global have signed a collaboration and exclusive material supply agreement that will enable the two companies jointly to address the increasingly harsh and aggressive environments that deeper subsea oil and gas extraction is demanding, where existing technologies are starting to break down. The two British companies estimate a potential market of $13.9 billion per year.
High performance carbon polymer pipes for deep water transfer of subsea oil and gas
With oil and gas in scarce supply, the offshore industry has been forced to operate in deeper water and more aggressive, demanding subsea environments. Existing technologies and materials struggle to cope in these new, harsh operating environments, creating a gap in the market for risers and flow-lines that enable the safe and efficient transfer of sub-sea oil and gas. According to estimates by energy business analysts, Douglas-Westwood, subsea pipelines will account for more than 50% of the $139 billion capital expenditures spent on subsea hardware over the next five years, amounting to $13.9 billion per year over the period.

Ten years ago, the distance that offshore operators needed to reach the sea bed was typically around 500m (1,640ft). Now, it is in excess of 2000m (6,562ft) off the coast of West Africa and in the Gulf of Mexico, while off the coast of Brazil it is up to 3000m (9,843ft), and in the future there will be a requirement to address depths of 4000m (13,123ft). In the Arctic, off Greenland, the depth is 2000m (6,562ft), but the extreme cold presents a whole different set of challenges.

Under these conditions, incumbent technologies have limitations. Unlike Magma’s solution that uses Victrex PEEK polymer, existing technologies are often limited due to fatigue failure and corrosion. Furthermore, the length of the pipes required to reach these depths is so great that traditional materials such as steel and titanium cannot support their own weight, meaning that expensive hybrid designs are the only current alternative: such designs are costly and difficult to deploy. Magma's solution is more economic in terms of both deployment and ongoing operation but perhaps most significantly it reduces risk in both deployment and operation. The requirement to extract oil from colder waters poses particular challenges to metallic structures which can become embrittled or have a lower fatigue performance at low temperature. Offering superior temperature performance, Magma’s carbon polymer pipes using VICTREX PEEK polymer can maintain their optimum performance level at temperatures below -50C (-58F)and offer improved insulation characteristics to aid the flow of hydrocarbons.

Magma Global specialises in developing next generation risers, jumpers, spools and flow-lines for the sub-sea oil and gas industry for deployment in demanding, deep water and high pressure, high temperature (HPHT) operating environments. part of this work involves the design, manufacture and deployment of carbon and polymer pipes for high pressure, high temperature (HPHT) and deep water transfer of subsea oil and gas. Magma has an extensive test and qualification facility at Trafalgar Wharf, near Portsmouth, England.

Magma has now developed a manufacturing process that produces high performance carbon polymer pipes, based on Victrex PEEK polymer, that offer improved reliability, increased performance, lighter weight and longer life than conventional unbonded flexible pipe or steel solutions, ensuring that Magma is able to meet new challenges faced in harsh environments where existing technologies are reaching their limits.

Victrex PEEK polymer can deliver greater long-term reliability in demanding environments than any other competitive material. Its unique combination of high performance properties make it suitable for replacing for metals and other plastics, and parts designed deliver improved operating performance and reduce the risk of costly downtime or damage to the environment caused by component failure. The high temperature performance offers the ability to perform within extreme ranges in temperature without failure and even when exposed to harsh chemical and wear conditions.

“We believe with the development of our carbon polymer pipes we can deliver risers and flow-lines that can offer significant performance improvements over incumbent technologies in all key areas, especially weight, fatigue and long term reliability. This enables us to significantly increase safety factors and decrease the risk of deep water subsea extraction of oil and gas,” said Martin Jones, CEO at Magma Global. “Securing agreements and working closely with key suppliers, such as Victrex, are important factors in enabling us to bring our industry-leading products to market. At Magma, we intend to be a significantly safer and lower risk option than existing technologies addressing this highly demanding oil and gas market segment,” said Jones.

Dr. Geoff Small Technical Program Manager at Victrex said, “We are working very closely with the engineers at Magma to develop and produce a Victrex PEEK product exclusively for Magma's application. The material is a perfect fit for the extremely demanding subsea application specifications that Magma required us to meet. As the offshore industry is required to move to more aggressive and demanding operating environments, technology will play a leading role in the drive to improve efficiencies and increase safety surrounding the recovery of oil and gas and Victrex will continue to work with innovative companies, such as Magma, to develop successful material solutions to overcome the challenges that the industry faces. The selection of the correct material will be a key component towards this goal.”
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