This paper describes the current state of the art in subsea pipeline repair technology, and discusses current technical challenges and technology gaps that the market needs to address in response to advances in pipeline design in increasingly challenging subsea environments. Specific issues faced by Australian pipeline operators are discussed, and the implications for the global industry are considered. The difficulties and rewards surrounding developing multi-operator shared repair capabilities are described and the approaches taken by various operators around the world to establish an EPRS are discussed.
With expanding subsea infrastructure, extended service lives and the high asset value of pipelines, pipeline repair is an increasing focus in the oil and gas industry. Until these gaps are addressed, the ability to react to certain damage scenarios is limited, and some pipelines are not repairable. The obstacle to addressing repair capability gaps is often economic; individual operators may not be able to justify the time and expense to develop bespoke repair capabilities that may only suit one or a small number of pipelines. A solution is to develop shared repair resources, spreading costs and increasing the number of target pipelines, but establishing a joint operator Emergency Pipeline Repair System (EPRS) presents a significant number of technical and organizational challenges to be overcome. When damage to a subsea pipeline occurs, rapid response and repair is critical to minimise the impact on the environment and production losses. Response times are often dictated by the availability of repair resources. Establishing an EPRS, and so a common pool of repair equipment is critical to ensuring that a rapid subsea pipeline repair can be executed. However, increasing the repair asset pool also leads to an increase in redundancy requirement and operating costs (via storage and maintenance) that presents further challenges.