ABSTRACT

The gas to pipeline option can be proven as competitive for large volumes of natural gas over long offshore distances. The viability of (and sometimes preference for) an offshore pipeline, whether in deep or shallow waters, across mild or rough sea-bottom environments, is often linked to specific conditions of the region, often merely political (transit fees and security of supply). Offshore pipelines in service or under construction hardly exceed 1000 km in length, and the North Sea is the most "populated" offshore district for long distance high pressure transportation of large volumes of gas. Nord Stream will be the longest and highest capacity gas pipeline system, soon in operation at full capacity of 55 billion std cu.m. per year. The two pipelines, OD 48" X70, are routed across the Baltic Sea over 1200 km between Russia-Vyborg and Germany-Greifswald. In different offshore districts, a few 300 to 2000 km offshore pipelines are at design stage or under construction, in some circumstances across very deep waters and/or harsh environments (Mediterranean, Barents and Black Seas, as well as offshore of the coasts of Brasil and North West Australia). The aim of this paper is to provide a snapshot of the relevant technologies that are backing current pipeline development projects, as the Nord Stream Pipeline (NSP), in the light of upcoming challenges that offshore gas industry is going to tackle, sometimes in remote regions. In particular:

  • Recent advances on material technology and relevant implications in present and near to come projects are presented;

  • The capability of pipe lay vessels and equipment currently in force or under development are discussed;

  • The increasingly narrower relationship between the pipe design for operation and construction in difficult environments, is commented;

  • The topical issues of offshore pipeline projects, in relation to the long distance and the very deep waters, are introduced.

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