Abstract

Lubricants represent a significant challenge encountered by any moving components in cold climate. They shall demonstrate good viscosity properties over a wide temperature span to be suitable for the service and sustain the temperature extremes in storage. Furthermore, heavy duty greases for subsea connectors exposed to well stream heating shall maintain the required level of lubricity for a prolonged period under water to be able to disconnect equipment at any time.

Raised HSE concerns in the Arctic drive the current equipment and technologies for offshore oil and gas exploration towards environmentally compatible solutions and zero discharge performance. FMC performed a pre-screening test of some environmentally friendly greases and pastes for riser connectors which clearly showed that most of those compounds were not able to meet all requirements. Typically " green" compounds had inferior characteristics and virtually could not pass even preliminary standard tests. Truly a compromise between lubricants properties and their biodegradability / toxicity level needs to be found.

This is a common industry challenge which needs proper attention from operators and major EPC contractors. As a short-term measure for existing fields being developed in near future it is proposed to make a JIP on rigorous testing and qualification of lubricants for Arctic. New promising " green" products recently introduced on the market should be included into the testing program.

Nevertheless, such approach most likely will not address all challenges and requirements in the harshest areas in the High North. One solution for those regions is advanced self-lubricating composite coatings. Recently the concept of coating incorporating capsules of liquid lubricant has been proven. A further development and testing in this field is certainly required, however at the end lubrication-free moving units and components may outperform conventional lubricated counterparts in terms of cold operation cycles, reliability, lifetime and environmental impact.

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