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Deepwater Advances As seen in

the February
2010 issue of

Advanced insulation maintains


thermal integrity of subsea systems
Silicone-based resin combined with temperature to prevent precipitation of from inappropriate application of mate-
glass microspheres is one of the newest wax and formation of gas hydrates, par- rials or a lack of flexibility of the insula-
subsea insulation materials. ticularly during a production shutdown. tion material and can propagate down to
Typically, subsea christmas trees, mani- the corrosion coating, causing spalling
By NINA M. RACH, Senior Editor folds, jumper piping, sleds, and similar and inducing corrosion. When material
components have been insulated with is not strong enough to resist compres-

A
n important part of designing specially formulated syntactic phenolic sion and collapse, its thermal conductiv-
offshore production systems, par- foams or epoxy-based materials. ity increases, and its ability to insulate
ticularly in deep, cold water, is There has been an accelerated need decreases.
providing sufficient thermal insulation. for new elastomers in the last 10 years The industry has made significant
progress in increasing the reliability and
integrity of wet thermal insulation mate-
rials to cope with increasing water depths
and pressures. But materials that may
have been sufficient at 3,000 to 4,000 ft
(914 to 1,219 m) water depths are not
necessarily suitable for deeper water, and
failures could be magnified, said Eric
Heuring, global product manager of
thermal insulation at FMC.
In addition to having excellent ther-
mal insulation properties, materials need
to protect against corrosion, resist seawa-
ter and impacts, be incompressible yet
flexible, and not degrade during the life
of subsea projects, which is often 20 to
25 years or longer.

GoM
Many Gulf of Mexico (GoM) projects
developed in 2,000 to 7,600 ft (610 to
2,316 m) water depth have subsea equip-
ment encased with epoxy-based thermal
insulation (Novotherm). These include
Shell’s Manatee, Oregano, Serrano,
This subsea manifold was insulated in parallel with deepwater subsea proj- Crosby, and Na Kika fields (7,600 ft);
with Novolastic HT and installed on ects. According to Janardhan Davalath, ExxonMobil’s Marshall, Mica, and
Murphy Oil’s Azurite field offshore the product manager of subsea process sys- Madison; Anadarko’s Navajo; and BP’s
Congo in 4,470 ft (1,360 m) water depth tems and flow management at FMC Atlantis (7,000 ft or 2,130 m).
in 2008 (Image courtesy of FMC Technologies in Houston. The industry But deeper projects require a different
Technologies Inc.) is looking for high-performance materi- formulation.
als, and companies are investing heavily When BP was planning its Thunder
Fluids are produced at high tempera- in R&D to meet market demand. Horse project in 1999, FMC had to con-
tures, and equipment must be capable of sider production temperatures greater
handling extremely hot fluid while sub- Common failure modes than 250°F (121ºC) in designing and
mersed in water close to freezing. Subsea The most common failures in wet insu- insulating the subsea equipment (E&P
lines are insulated to maintain produced lation are cracks and collapse caused by November 2003). Materials scientists at
liquid hydrocarbons at a sufficiently high extreme compression. Cracks can result FMC began developing a new class of

E&P | February 2010 www.EPmag.com


Deepwater Advances

Material properties of Novolastic thermal insulation.


Property Value Testing method
thermal insulation to stay ahead of the Thermal conductivity (dry) 0.095 BTU/ft-hr-°F (0.165 W/m-K) ASTM C518
curve and by 2001 had a new product
Thermal conductivity (wet) 0.096 BTU/ft-hr-°F (0.167 W/m-K) ASTM C518
based on room-temperature vulcanizing
silicone resin compounded with hollow Heat capacity 0.346 BTU/(lb-°F) at 212°F
glass microspheres to reduce density and (1.45 J/(gm-K) at 100°C ASTM E1269
lower thermal conductivity. Thermal diffusivity (dry) 0.0042 ft2/hr (0.00039 m2/hr) DSC

Silicone and glass Specific gravity 0.05 ASTM D792


The glass microspheres, provided by Compressive strength 640 psi (4.4 MPa) @ 50% compression ASTM D575
Minnesota’s 3M, have a mean diameter Tensile strength 435 psi (3 MPa) ASTM D412
less than 60 microns, are relatively
thick-walled, and provide good crush Tensile elongation 285% ASTM D412
strength. The silicone resin contains Poisson’s ratio 0.49 ASTM E132
titanium and is easily mixed without the
exothermic reaction seen in epoxy- gallon drums and 5-gallon buckets), shore Congo; and Total’s Pazflor project
based formulations. mixed, and cast in place. According to offshore Angola.
Marketed as Novolastic HT, this flexi- Heuring, insulation for a 15,000-psi sub- In several of the projects, the field-
ble, self-bonding insulation is an integral sea tree requires about 500 gallons of measured cool-down times were better
part of FMC’s high-pressure, high-tem- fluid, poured into a half-shell mold, and than design.
perature subsea completion systems. takes only about six hours to cure. Since FMC is looking at product develop-
Inventor Dwight D. Janoff and FMC were the curing process is not significantly ments for projects with production tem-
granted two US patents (issued in June exothermic, the product can be cast in peratures above 400°F (204ºC).
2004 and May 2005) on its formulation. thick sections.
The silicone rubber-based insulation is The thickness of the insulation Qualification process
pliable and has superior tensile elonga- depends on the cool-down require- An ISO working group (TC67/SC2/
tion (250 to 300%) compared with syntac- ments, Davalath said. An operator typi- WG19, www.iso.org/iso/iso_technical_
tic foam (0.5%). This allows for thermal cally wants insulation designed for an committee?commid=49532) composed of
or mechanical expansion or movement of eight- to 16-hour shutdown or perhaps as industry experts was formed in mid-
piping such as flowline jumpers without long as 21 hours. The purpose is to man- 2008 to work on a standard for qualify-
cracking or breaking the insulating layer. age hydrate formation in trees and mani- ing wet thermal insulation coatings for
It is thermally stable to 350°F (177ºC) and folds, which is dependent on water pipelines, flowlines, equipment, and
is not subject to hydrogen stress cracking. temperature and produced fluid proper- subsea structures.
It can be cast in place using molds ties. The purpose of insulating jumpers is By December 2009, ISO 12736 was
around the components (most common to manage wax deposition. through preliminary, proposal, and
method), pre-cast, or bonded to itself FMC uses about 75% of the Novolastic preparatory stages and was in committee
onto metallic components. it produces to insulate its own equip- stage, with a Committee Draft registered
Novolastic HT is available in non-glare ment, and the remaining 25% is sold for and study initiated.
white and yellow. insulation systems on other equipment, The working group will convene again
according to Heuring. in March 2010 to review all of the com-
Lead time ments, said FMC materials engineer
Currently, about eight to 10 weeks’ lead Worldwide use Elizabeth Whitsitt.
time is required to order materials, fabri- Novolastic was first used in 2002 In the US, API is the technical advisory
cate mold, and cast the insulation for spe- for ExxonMobil’s Zafiro Southern group (TAG) for TC67/SC2. API will
cific pieces of equipment. Molds are built Expansion Area project offshore review the proposed standard, formulate
of galvanized steel, wood, or injection- Equitorial Guinea and BP’s Thunder a position, and then recommend a vote
molded plastic (for complex geometries). Horse in the GoM, followed by dozens of to ANSI, which votes on behalf of the
Although tolerances for insulation are projects in the GoM, Africa, Brazil, and US. As a wet insulation expert, Whitsitt
not extremely tight, engineers nonethe- Asia. The most recent include Shell’s sends her recommendations to the API
less use Autocad, Solid Modeling, Pro-EE, Perdido project in the GoM, Gumusuit TAG to help them formulate their opin-
and Uni-graphics to design the molds. offshore Malaysia, and BC-10 offshore ions. And thus a new standard may
Novolastic is shipped as a liquid (55- Brazil; Murphy Oil’s Azurite project off- emerge.

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