The first Tension Leg Platform (TLP) was installed in 1984 to develop the Hutton field in the Central North Sea in about 500 ft of water. It successfully demonstrated the ability of a floating platform tethered to the seabed to drill and produce with surface trees. In the ensuing years, twenty three additional TLPs have been installed and five more sanctioned, in most major deepwater producing regions around the world, in water depths down to 5,200 ft.

The TLP today is a mature and proven deepwater production platform and is routinely included as a platform concept building block for many deepwater prospects during field development planning for dry or wet tree scenarios. This paper will present a retrospective of TLP development that includes:

  • An overview and description of TLP hull configurations

  • Basic hull and tendon design considerations

  • A chronology of TLP designs, applications and contracting strategies

  • The evolution of top tension riser (TTR) designs

  • The evolution of TLP tendon and foundation systems

  • Important updates in codes and standards used for TLP design and construction

This paper highlights the progression of TLP technology and contracting strategies of the installed and sanctioned TLPs. The paper provides a snapshot in time to capture the evolution and current state of TLP technology. The impact on TLP design in Gulf of Mexico (GoM) from the new API RP 2T is demonstrated via an example of a pre and post Katrina sanctioned TLP.

TLP System and Hull Configuration Overview

The TLP is one of several mature floating production platforms in the Offshore Industry's arsenal to enable development of deepwater fields in any openwater offshore producing region in the world. It was conceived in the 1970s as a means of enabling direct vertical access to wells in water depths beyond the commercial reach of fixed and compliant platform capabilities. Fundamentally, it consists of a buoyant hull, which supports the topsides and well systems, anchored by rigid tendons to a seabed foundation to restrain vertical motions in waves. Excess buoyancy pretension the tendons that limit the horizontal offset to a prescribed watch circle. The heave restraint enables production wells to be tied back to the TLP deck by tensioned vertical risers to " dry" trees. The dry tree facilitates easy downhole access for well intervention and reservoir management to maximize hydrocarbon recovery from a reservoir. This is particularly applicable for highly compartmentalized and stacked reservoirs. It also simplifies running and retrieval of downhole electric submersible pumps (ESP's) to further boost well production rates and ultimate recovery. Major TLP components are illustrated in Fig. 1.

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