The risk of objects being dropped on or around offshore installations is not as rare as is commonly perceived. Such events may occur during offshore construction activities or due to detachment of cargo (such as containers) in busy maritime lanes. In the worst case, the consequences could be catastrophic, leading to functionality and containment loss. To mitigate the risks, T.D. Williamson Inc. offers its proprietary SmartPlug® pipeline pressure isolation technology that allows an operating facility to be isolated from its surrounding impact zone. Using this non-intrusive pressure isolation tool, any given pipeline section can be isolated at or close to operating pressure.
This paper begins examining published data on the frequency and risks of impact-related incidents offshore, followed by a discussion on measures to mitigate such risks. The paper concludes with four case studies where the SmartPlug technology was used to successfully protect pipeline assets by delimiting the impact zone during heavy lift operations offshore:
- For an operation in offshore Myanmar, the SmartPlug tool was installed 500 m from the platform to protect a 36-inch pipeline during the installation of two pipe spools.
- A 30-inch SmartPlug tool was used to isolate and protect a live gas infield flowline during ongoing installation and piling works, 400 m from an offshore platform in Australia. The line was successfully isolated for 6 months while construction activities were underway.
- A 14-inch export line was safely isolated during the heavy lift of a 600-ton accommodation module to an offshore platform, above the pipeline.
- A SmartPlug tool was deployed 700 m from a North Sea platform protecting the 36-inch dry gas pipeline during heavy lift from a vessel to platform.
These applications assume great significance in light of stricter governmental and operator regulations around risk control during offshore construction activities.