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Technology to transform offshore industry after deployment in North Sea

A pioneering system of protecting floating offshore installations from corrosion without using divers has been successfully deployed for the first time in the UK North Sea.

EM&I collaborated with Forth Engineering to design the solution which was used on a floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel 75 miles offshore.

The innovation means companies operating offshore around the world will be able to save lives and money by deploying this proven HullGuard® system instead of needing divers to carry out maintenance, or losing valuable production time while installations are brought to shore for work to be carried out.

It also means transporting less workers in helicopters, and using less dive support vessels with a resulting reduction in carbon emissions.
Designed for lifetime protection of the underwater hull from corrosion below the water line, HullGuard® is an EM&I innovation that involves locating a tubular anode with an integral dielectric shield, through an ODIN® type port fitted to the ship’s hull.

Once the anode is installed the launch tube is removed leaving only the completion plug in place with the electrical supply cable ready for connection to a standard transformer rectifier.

HullGuard® can be installed and maintained at any stage in the asset’s life, either from new or retrofitted.

Danny Constantinis, EM&I’s executive chairman, said: “EM&I has proven that many of the integrity related functions that used to be carried out by divers can be carried out more safely and at lower cost by robotic systems such as HullGuard®. I am confident that this solution will be welcomed in a market which seeks safer, lower cost and lower carbon footprint solutions.”

David Mortlock, EM&I’s chief technical officer, said: “With the life expectancy of oil and gas infrastructure being stretched 20 to 25 years and further it makes sense to be able to retrofit in this way.

“We have provided proof positive with HullGuard® that it can be done which opens up a world of possibilities.

“Anywhere around the world where there are floating offshore installations this technology will save money, make it safer, and ultimately save lives with a solution which takes away the need to put divers’ lives at risk.

“You also need 12 to 16 people supporting a dive team. That’s a lot of bed space offshore as well as transport which will be saved by using this technology.”

The HullGuard® concept has been several years in the making, and the last 18 months of building and testing, leading up to the successful recent deployment in the North Sea.

EM&I, which has UK bases in Aberdeen and Wilmslow, and offices all around the world including USA, Canada, Brazil, Singapore, South Africa, Australia and China, turned to Cumbria-based Forth Engineering for its expertise to help deliver the project.

David said: “Forth are a great company to work with and have a proven track record of developing innovative solutions. We came up with the concept drawings and Forth worked with us to finesse the design and produce the solution.

“We also use Forth’s facilities for our technical development, including their excellent undercover deep water pond.”

Mark Telford, managing director of Forth which has bases in Maryport, Cleator Moor and Barrow, said: “EM&I found us because of our nuclear pedigree and our reputation in such a regulated industry.

“We needed to come up with a solution based on hot tapping, but on a massive scale in a completely different environment to install or change anodes on a vessel while it is at sea.

“Keeping the containment on one side of the hull and the integrity under that pressure is a technical challenge. We also needed to satisfy what is a heavily-regulated and audited industry that the solution we delivered would work.

“We did a lot of trials and tests, mock-ups and prototypes to come up with the solution. We are delighted that the system we have worked on with EM&I has now been proved that it does the job it was created to do, in the environment it was designed for.

“We really like working with EM&I because they come to us with a challenge and ask us to come up with a solution. That’s a breath of fresh air in terms of ways of working. It allows us to try different things until we come up with the method that works best, and through that partnership, and that way of working, a world-first solution is created.

“We now look forward to this technology being applied across industries all over the world.”

 

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