As the offshore industry continues to develop deeper fields, including the use of long tie-backs, all aspects of flow assurance becomes more critical for the successful development of these fields. A key aspect of the flow assurance issue, is the development of efficient thermal insulation systems, which are qualified for the appropriate design conditions. With these new more onerous applications for thermal insulation systems, there is a requirement in the industry for the development of consistent standards for the specification, design, materials, manufacturing and testing of insulation materials and systems.
Experience, especially in long-term deepwater service, of the performance of insulation and buoyancy materials is limited. At present, tests for assessing their thermal and physical properties are manufacturer-dependent and, for a purchaser of such systems, need to be interpreted across a range of existing and new materials and manufacturer specifications. The immediate and long term effects of hydrostatic pressure, temperature and environmental exposure need to be understood and test methods identified to allow performance to be qualified.
A Joint Industry Project (JIP) commenced in April 2000 to develop a new industry wide standard for insulation and buoyancy materials. Nineteen companies are participating in the JIP, including nine oil companies, eight manufacturers of insulation/buoyancy products, and two contractors. The initial phase of the project included the investigation of performance characteristics of insulation and buoyancy materials, particularly for long-term and deepwater service, a comparative assessment of these materials, and a review of test protocols used for their classification. The latter phase of the project is involved with the development of a standard Specification for Insulation and Buoyancy Materials, as well as a Recommended Practice (RP) for Insulation and Buoyancy Systems both suitable for submission to the American Petroleum Institute (API) for publication as an API standard.
This paper discusses the background to the development of the forthcoming specification as well as an overview of the JIP. The scope addressed by the proposed specification as well as an overview of the key areas covered by the standard is presented in the paper.
Recent field developments have triggered the need for insulation systems to operate in more demanding environments, especially vis-Ã -vis water depth and temperature requirements. For example the maximum design temperature of the Ã?sgard field in the North Sea, for which insulation was required for steel flowlines, was 140°C. As with insulation materials, buoyancy materials are being required to function in deeper waters, for example for use on remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). As insulation and buoyancy materials need to meet more demanding conditions the qualification of these materials becomes a more important issue.
It has also become more important how the purchaser of such systems define their requirements. The more detail that is specified the more optimized the design can become. Optimization of the design becomes more crucial the harsher the operating environment. Currently specifications for insulation and buoyancy materials are manufacturerdependent. There is therefore a need to develop standardized purchaser requirements and qualification requirements for these materials.