2 Mechanical Engineer
IBP1629_12
PARTIALLYFLOODEDINSTALATIONOF SUBMARINE
PIPELINES
Antônio João F. Ávila
1
, Thiago T. Kunz
2
Copyright 2012, Brazilian Petroleum, Gas and Biofuels Institute  IBP
This Technical Paper was prepared for presentation at the Rio Oil & Gas Expo and Conference 2012, held between September, 17
20, 2012, in Rio de Janeiro. This Technical Paper was selected for presentation by the Technical Committee of the event according to
the information contained in the final paper submitted by the author(s). The organizers are not supposed to translate or correct the
submitted papers. The material as it is presented, does not necessarily represent Brazilian Petroleum, Gas and Biofuels Institute’
opinion, or that of its Members or Representatives. Authors consent to the publication of this Technical Paper in the Rio Oil & Gas
Expo and Conference 2012 Proceedings.
Abstract
Currently the subsea pipelaying are performed with the pipeline totally empty or flooded. Lay empty pipeline brings
benefit of less traction load required for the pipe lay vessel. Pipelaying flooded brings the benefit of smaller wall
thickness needed for the pipe on installation condition, when the predominant design criteria is the local buckling. The
pipeline design in great depths is limited by the pipe thickness needed to withstand the collapse during installation and
traction needed for the pipelaying. The partially flooded pipelaying brings the benefit of reduced thickness for local
buckling design (flooded length) and reducing the catenary weight (empty length). The methodology is to keep the
pipeline flooded up to a certain level of catenary throughout the pipelaying. This paper describes the main
characteristics of the technique, ways to ensure the level of flooding of the pipeline and comparative case study between
this method and the commons, flooded or empty.
1. Introduction
Currently, oil has been explored on deeper and deeper waters. To lay pipeline in deep water requires thicker
pipes to withstand the hydrostatic collapse. This increases the weight and bigger lay vessels are necessary. Vessels limits
are being reached now.
An alternative to reduce the thickness is to lay flooded pipelines. In this condition (100% flooded) the inner
pressure is constantly equal to outside pressure and there is no risk of collapse during installation. The risk of collapse in
this condition may occur during operation condition, adopting the premise that the pipe is permanently filled with a fluid
we have to consider only the difference of density from sea water to the oil for collapse effects. Laying flooded
pipelines, it reduces weight steel catenary due to reduction of thickness, but this solution adds the weight of water
column inside the pipe, usually it is greater than that reduction obtained due to pipe thickness reduction on design.
Another option is to lay the pipeline partially flooded. Now, the catenary is partially flooded until a level where
the thickness is determined solely by operation condition. Flood partially the pipe reduces the needed thickness in TDP
(Touch Down Point) where load are critical and tensions tend to be larger because the simultaneous effects of bending and
hydrostatic collapse.
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Symbols and Abbreviations
a Parameter for ideal catenary construction Pmin Minimum internal pressure
D Nominal outside diameter P
p
Plastic collapse pressure
Di Internal diameter Ppr Propagating pressure
Dmax Greatest measured inside or outside diameter Pth Hydrostatic pressure Test
Dmin Smallest measured inside or outside diameter t Nominal wall thickness of pipe (uncorroded)
E Young’s modulus t 1,t2 Pipe wall thickness, see Table 1
f0 Ovality, see Equation. 7 tcorr Corrosion allowance
fcb Minimum of fy and fu/1.15, see Equation. 3 Td Design temperature
f
u
Tensile Strength to be used in design TDP Touch down point
f
y
Yield Stress to be used in design tfab Fabrication thickness tolerance
Lcat Catenary length Wd Water depth
Pb Pressure containment resistance αfab Fabrication factor
P
c
Characteristic collapse pressure αU Material strength factor
Pd Design pressure on sea level γi nc Incidental factor to design pressure ratio
P
e
External pressure γ
m
Material resistance factor
Pel Elastic collapse pressure γSC Safety class resistance factor
Pi Internal pressure during pipelaying ν Poisson’s ratio
PLET Pipeline End Terminator ρcont Density pipeline content
Pli Local incidental pressure
2. Process Description
To describe the process, at first we will present the situation where a PLET is coupled direct to a control level
device” (figure 1) which regulates the water level inside catenary. Another option is to use a “Level Control by Pressure
Regulator Valve”. Both methods do the same function that is to keep the water level inside the pipe. This first device
has an intermediary buoy. The function of this buoy is to allow the entry of water into the pipeline, while the pipeline is
being laid, it is based on communicating vessels. While the PLET goes down the device accept water from sea and
transfer this water to inside pipeline on lay vessel direction, only when the external pressure is greater than a pre set
level pressure, it opens allowing a new balance level.
Figure 1. Pipeline communication method to water level control
Figure 1 shows one of those possible methods of water level control. Observe that the catenary partially flooded
remains during all laying time. Below the water level, the difference between external and internal pressure remainf
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fairly constant. The "x" length is empty, this gives a good reduction in weight due buoyancy when compared to the
totally flooded method.
2.1 Level Control by communication vessel
Level control by buoyancy can be used as a description of this method. Figure 1 shows a chamber installed at
the level which it is needed to keep the catenary flooded. This chamber should be suspended on the surface of the sea
through a down line and opened to the atmosphere. It can be sustained on the surface by a buoy. The domestic equipment
controls the entry of seawater by a buoy.
2.2 Level Control by Pressure Regulator Valve
Level Control by Pressure Regulator Valve can be used. A valve is connected at the end of the PLET, and this
system eliminates the necessity of to keep the previous system in atmospheric pressure. This valve must be calibrated to
be opened when the differential pressure between both sides will be equal or greater than the weight of water column
"x". Figure 2 below shows a schematic drawing of this type of valve.
Figure 2. Pressure Regulator Valve Control
2.3 A third method
Level control can be achieved by injecting measured amounts of water at one side of the pipe. The water can be
injected from the lay vessel or from the end PLET (Figure 1). To control from PLET end, it will be necessary a stationary
Supply Vessel. This type of control needs a precise method to measure the water volume injected. If this injection is
done from lay vessel it might be avoided interference on welding process.
The level control can be done by buoys or by a pressure regulator valve, both must operate without interference
during the pipelaying. To ensure the proper functioning of the control device, traction that the catenary is being
subject combined with TDP (Touch Down Point) position must be checked, since traction can remain constant for the
removal of the TDP and not by the correct maintenance of the level. The level control by buoys or by pressure regulator
needs to capture sea water in the pressure corresponding to the level that you want to keep the overhead pipeline, so
these two methods start from the premise that the pipelaying should start at one end with depth greater than "x" (Figure
1).
A method of indirect level control is measure the traction by monitoring of the vessel position combined with
TDP position. In the case of injecting of water from the PLET, it will require the use of a supply vessel on this end.
The advantages of water injection in catenary or from PLET are the possibility of inject corrosion inhibitors and
chemicals needed to avoid corrosion inside pipe. In addition to the above benefits, the injection of water through a supply
vessel or pipelay vessel allows to start pipelaying at any end, regardless of depth.
2.4 Abandonment and recovery
During the pipelaying of submarine pipelines it should provide for the possibility of abandonment of
catenary, due to a possible problem in the vessel, weather condition, or logistics. For this situation it should use the
same procedure normally used, however the abandonment and recovery winch shall be able of sustaining the catenary
totally flooded. In installation of empty pipelines submarines is desirable that the winch of abandonment and recovery
has the ability to handle the catenary totally flooded, in the case of a possible leak or collapse of the pipe. The recovery of
the catenary should be empty until to the level of flooding before recovering
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3. Calculation of Thickness
The pipelaying of partially flooded submarine pipeline has the main advantage of a reduction of the thickness on
design to collapse during installation, resulting in a reduction in weight of the catenary during installation. Basically
thickness design of submarines pipelines can be simplified into three categories: internal local pressure, collapse and
propagation collapse.
3.1 Internal pressure
Pipeline project depends on the pressure to the pressure pumping and load loss of tubing to obtain the desired flow
rate for the pipeline. As DNV (2007), the resistance to internal pressure is expressed by Equation 1 below
SC m
b
e x
t P
P P
¸ ¸ ·
s ÷
) (
1
1
(1)
3
2 2
) ( · ·
÷
·
=
cb b
f
t D
t
t P (2)
(
¸
(
¸
=
15 . 1
;
u
y cb
f
f Min f (3)
3.2Local Buckling
Collapse function is mainly due to the difference between internal and external pressure. Design for local
buckling, DNV (2007), is presented by Equations 4, 5, 6 and 7 below:
t
D
f t p t p t p t p t p t p t p
p el c p c el c
· · · · = ÷ · ÷
0
2 2
) ( ) ( ) ( ) ) ( ) ( ( )) ( ) ( ( (4)
2
3
1
2
) (
v ÷

.

\

· ·
=
D
t
E
t p
el
(5)
D
t
f t p
fab y p
·
· · =
2
) ( o (6)
D
D D
f
min max
0
÷
= (7)
For the design by local buckling pressure criteria based on P
c
, must meet Equation 8.
SC m
c
e
t p
p p
¸ ¸ ·
s ÷
) (
1
min
(8)
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3.3 Propagation of collapse
This type of thickness design not only resists to local buckling, but also the propagation of collapse. It results in
a thickness greater than design by local buckling, but it does not need buckle arrestor. According to DNV (2007), the
design of the thickness for the propagation of collapse is given by Equation 9, valid for D/t < 45:
SC m
fab y
e
D
t
f
p
¸ ¸
o
·

.

\

· · ·
<
5 . 2
2
35
(9)
Figure 3 presents a chart containing the main sizing curves of the thickness of a pipeline on function of Wd. For
small scale water depth, thickness depends mainly on the internal pressure criteria. From a certain water thickness
scaling is not resist the spread of collapse (point 1 in Figure 3). In this situation, it is needed the use of buckle arrestor or
increasing the pipe thickness. From point 2 of Figure 3, internal pressure does not influence the scaling of the pipe
thickness. The application of this work is intended to pipelines that fall into water depth above the point where the thick
scaling is done by local buckling criteria.
The Table 1. shows the difference between wall thickness t1 and t2:
Figure 3. Thickness x Water Depth.
Table 1. Characteristic wall thickness
Condition t1 t2
Prior tooperation ttfab t
Operation ttfabtcorr ttcorr
3.4 Ideal Catenary
It was used as an approximation of recurrent curvature to estimate the catenary lay pipe. The catenary curve
ideal is expressed by Equation 10:

.

\

· =
a
x
a y cosh (10)
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The length of the catenary can be expressed by Equation 11

.

\
 A
· =
a
x
a L sinh (11)
The case studies presented in this work will consider the premise that the horizontal distance between the TDP
(Touch Down Point) to the pipelay vessel will be equivalent to 80% of water depth. With this consideration it can be
determined the parameter "a" of Equations 10 and 11 as function of the water depth: "a = 0.4231 x Wd".
4. Case Study
During the partially flooded pipelaying there is an apparent reduction of Wd due to the internal pressure of the
water column in the catenary, as illustrated on Figure 4.
Figure 4. Apparently reduction on Wd
To optimize the value of "X" in Figure 4, it should check first the thickness required for the internal pressure
during operation, collapse during operation and hydrostatic test. Follows a calculation to a pipeline of 24in diameter
with the parameters described in Table 2 as a fictitious pipeline:
Table 2. Parameters for wall thickness design
Parameter Value
Wd (m) 2,000
Pd (bar) 200
Pth (bar) 250
αu 0.96
γm 1.15
αfab 0.85
γinc 1.10
αsc 1 1.138
αsc 2 1.040
tfab (mm) +1.5/1.0
tcorr (mm) 3
f0 (%) 3
Td (ºC) 50
ρ ( kg/ m
3
) 800 to 950
E (GPa) 207
ν 0.3
Catenary depth
P
e
P
i
X
Empty
Partially flooded
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For the data above, the following weights to the pipeline 24in:
Internal operation pressure t = 0.765 in
local buckling  empty installation t = 1.259 in
local buckling  flooded operation t = 0.802 in
local buckling  empty operation t = 1.441 in
Whereas during the operation the pipeline will always be filled with a fluid density higher than 800 kg/m
3
,
there are 2 options for installation:
1) To lay empty with 1.259in thickness and traction needed of 426 ton on the pipelay vessel
2) To Lay flooded with 0.802in thickness and traction needed of 700 ton on the pipelay vessel
Note that option 2 brings the advantage to save steel, approximately 159ton/km and the lowest pressure loss
due to fluid flow during its life, resulting in energy savings. On the other hand, the option 1 has the advantage during
installation by allow the use of smaller vessel capacity.
For this same pipeline it is possible to combine the reduced thickness with a reduction in weight of the catenary
with partially flooded pipeline installation. The thickness of 0.802in withstand to buckling criteria during empty
installation until water depths of 670m. To pipelay partially flooded the value of "x" in Figure 1 would be 670m.
Considering the ideal catenary of Equation 10. and 11. the traction on pipelay vessel would be 515 ton.
Table 3. Comparison of methods for case study
Lay method Thickness(in)
Tension on
pipelay vessel
(ton)
ton/km pipe
Empty 1.259 426 455.5
Flooded 0.802 700 348.7
Partially
flooded
0.802 515 348.7
Another comparison between methods of installation can be verification of maximum water depths that the same
pipeline can be installed by the traction in the pipelay vessel fixed at 1000tonf.
Table 4. Methods for the case study limiting traction of pipelay vessel at 1000tonf
Lay method thickness (in) Wd (m)
Flooded 0.875 2,620
Empty 1.553
2
2,860
Partially flooded 0.933
1
3,170
1
Design by local buckling during operation.
2
Design by local buckling during installation.
In Table 4 it is possible to realize that the partially flooded method allows the installation in deeper water depths
without increasing on thickness as occur in empty installation. Using the same assumptions for the case study,
assessments of maximum water depth were calculated for other diameters of pipelines: 28, 30, 34 and 40 inches,
whereas the same limitation of pipelay vessel. These results are presented in Table 5.
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Table  5 – Comparison of methods for the case study limiting traction of pipelay vessel at 1.000 tonf
Method 24 in 28 in 30 in 34 in 40 in
Flooded
Empty
Partially
flooded
2,620 m*
0.875 in
2,860 m
**
1.553 in
3,170 m*
0.933 in
2,110 m*
0.925 in
2,510 m
**
1.665 in
2,610 m*
0.993 in
1,920 m*
0.950 in
2,370 m
**
1.721 in
2,400m*
1.023in
1,560 m***
1.032 in
2,000m
****
1.771 in
2,040m*
1.077 in
1,140 m***
1.201 in
1,470 m****
1.771 in
1,660 m***
1.182 in
* Design by local buckling during operation
** Design by local buckling during installation
*** Design by internal pressure during operation
**** Thickness limitation for SAWpipe, Heerema and Allseas (2005)
The thickness used in Table 5 to pipelay partially flooded is the same as the completely flooded installation
for water depths. The water depth where a pipeline can be installed by the partially flooded method can increase when
there is an increase in thickness, since the empty length can be extended. The graphic of Figure 5 illustrates this behavior
to the 24 inch pipeline. This figure does not consider the limit thickness by internal pressure.
Figure 5. Limit of Water Depth for 24” pipe
For the 24 pipeline case study, the Figure 6 presents the partial flooding level required for each pipe thickness,
whereas the traction limit of the vessel is 1000 tonf.
M
a
x
i
m
u
m
W
a
t
e
r
D
e
p
t
h
(
m
)
3400
3200
3000
2800
2600
2400
2200
2000
1800
1600
1400
1200
1000
800
600
400
200
0
0
200
400
600
800
1000
1200
1400
1600
1800
2000
2200
2400
2600
2800
3000
3200
3400
0,50 0,60 0,70 0,80 0,90 1,00 1,10 1,20 1,30 1,40 1,50 1,60 1,70 1,80 1,90 2,00 2,10 2,20
Thickness (in)
M
a
x
i
m
u
m
W
a
t
e
r
D
e
p
t
h
(
m
)
Empty
Flooded
Partially Flooded
limit by local
buckling during
operation
limit by traction of 1000 ton.f
limit by traction
of 1000 ton.f
(100% Empty)
limit by traction
of 1000 ton.f
limit by local
buckling during
installation
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Figure 6. Level of partially flooding in the catenary (24 in) for traction of 1,000 ton
It is noted in the charts of the figures 5 and 6 that there is a range of thickness of the pipeline where the
partially flooded installation allows a same vessel to install the pipeline at depths greater than the installation totally
flooded or empty. It is noted also that with increasing depth leads to thickness scaling out of commercial standards
of plates for pipe fabrication.
4.1 Vantages and disadvantages
Partially flooded installation brings characteristics of flooded pipelaying, (reduction of thickness) with the
benefit of empty pipelaying (traction reduction required for lay vessel).
4.2 Vantages:
 Reduction of the traction limit of the vessel in relation to the flooded pipelaying.
 Reduction of thickness in relation to empty pipelaying. Possibility of pipelaying in greater depths with the same
pipelay vessel.
4.3 Disadvantages;
Necessity of a reliable level control.
More time spent in the operations of abandonment and recovery until the resumption of the pipelaying
Need of device for the withdrawal of water fromthe catenary during recovery
5. Conclusion
The partially flooded technique to lay oil pipelines is able to permit a pipe lay vessel work in deeper water than
empty or flooded pipe laying for a range of thickness and limit of traction on the vessel.
The technique needs to be studied and tested in order to confirm the technique viability. The next topics to be
studied shall be the economy viability considering the costs of this technique against their benefits, such as the reduction
thickness, reduction of pipe lay vessel capacity and energy economy for oil transportation.
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6. References
DET NORSKE VERITAS; Offshore Standard OSF101 Submarine Pipeline Systems ; Det Norske Veritas; Norway;
2007.
E. P. HEEREMA, ALLSEAS GROUP S.A.; ‘Recent Achievements and Present Trends in Deepwater Pipelay Systems’;
OTC 17627. Houston U.S.A.; 2005.