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OTC 17768

The Future for Flexible Pipe Riser Technology in Deep Water: Case Study
T. Hill, Y. Zhang, and T. Kolanski, Wellstream Intl. Ltd.

Copyright 2006, Offshore Technology Conference

Pipe is fully tested before delivery Factory Acceptance
This paper was prepared for presentation at the 2006 Offshore Technology Conference held in
Houston, Texas, U.S.A., 14 May 2006.
Reduced operating costs due to minimal maintenance and
This paper was selected for presentation by an OTC Program Committee following review of
information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper, as inspection needs.
presented, have not been reviewed by the Offshore Technology Conference and are subject to
correction by the author(s). The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect any
Flexibility of installation methods and scenarios:
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Future work to confirm the riser and system to allow field

Abstract operation includes:

Unbonded flexible pipe has been an enabler for deepwater Optimize riser solution for intended operating conditions.
(<3,300ft) and ultra deepwater (>3,300ft) developments for Evaluate qualification testing needs.
over 15 years. The technology has enabled the industry to Optimize buoyancy requirement
initially produce in deepwater in the early 90s and then into Detail method of attaching/intrgating buoyancy in the
ultra deepwater up to 6,500ft in the late 90s. Water depths riser system.
greater than 6,500ft push the envelope where typical free
hanging riser configurations can operate. High tension loads Introduction
from free hanging pipe weight coupled with high pressure Oil and gas production in deepwater and ultra deepwater
loads creates a challenge for any riser system. continues to grow. For 2006 to 2010 deepwater and ultra
deepwater E&P spend is estimated at $65 billion [1]. As the
The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the technical industry goes to water depths greater than 6,500ft, advances in
feasibility of unbonded flexible pipe risers in ultra deepwater unbonded flexible pipe capabilities and riser system solutions
greater than 6,500ft. A case study is presented herein for a are required. This paper confirms the feasibility of unbonded
flexible pipe riser: 6-inch internal diameter x 10,000ft water flexible pipe meeting the ultra deepwater needs of the E&P
depth x 12,500psi design pressure. The key challenges for this industry. The key challenges for flexible risers in ultra
water depth and internal pressure combination are: deepwater are:
Top tension load Top tension load
Collapse load Collapse load
Birdcage load And potentially birdcage load.
The case study presented herein will quantify each of the key The case study presented herein will quantify each of the key
technical challenges and set forth methods for meeting each technical challenges and set forth methods for meeting each
challenge. Methods for meeting the challenges include: unique challenge. Pipe design and riser configuration system
riser configurations. optimizations are summarized and technical feasibility
The results of the case study confirm the ability of unbonded
flexible pipe to operate in ultra deepwater under high Flexible Pipe Riser Design
pressures. In addition to the operability of the risers, The flexible pipe riser is designed using proprietary design
unbonded flexible pipe offers numerous other advantages in tools calibrated with test data. The flexible riser is designed
deepwater including: for the parameters listed in Table 1.
Increased flexibility in field architecture, particularly in
congested developments
Re-use as part of the economic assessment
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Table 1 Design Parameters layeres also contribute support to the hoop layers to support
Internal Diameter (in): 6 the internal pressure. The utilization ratios are given in Table
Internal Design Pressure (psi): 12,500 4. The burst to design ratio is 2.08. The proposed riser
Temperature (F): 150
Water Depth (ft): 10,000
structure meets the API 17J requirements with margin to
Service: Sweet production spare.
Host: FPSO, turret moored
Table 4 FAT Pressure Test Load Results
API 17J Specification for Flexible Pipe Design provides the Pipe ID FAT pressure Hoop utilization Tensile
(inches) (psi) utilization
design load cases and correseponding utilization factors. The 6 19,500 0.77 0.70
key load cases for this design are summarized in Table 2.

Collapse Analysis
Table 2 Key Design Load Cases The basis of the collapse analysis is a well calobrated wet
Design Load Case Description Hoop Tensile
utilization utilization Flexlok, rough bore collapse model [2] which is calibrated
Fatory Acceptance Test: Tension=0; Internal 0.91 0.91 with numerous deepwater flexible pipe designs. As part of the
pressure=1.5 x Design Pressure Petrobras Roncador qualification program [3], 6 to 8-inch ID
Collapse of the internal carcass layer: flooded 0.85 N/A designs were subject to collapse testing with collapse
pipe annulus; internal pressure=atmospheric
Extreme Operation: 100 yr wave, 100yr 0.85 0.67
pressures up to 9,000ft water depth. The pipe structure
current; Design Pressure proposed in this study is the same basic strucutre as those
tested for the Roncador Development but with stronger
The resulting flexible pipe riser cross section design is materials. The design water depth for the Roncador Field is
illustrated in Figure 1. The corresponding flexible pipe riser 6,500ft; here the design water depth is 10,000ft. The collapse
properties are listed in Table 3. prediction for this design is given in Table 5.

Table 5 Wet Flexlok Collapse Prediction

Pipe ID Design water Predicted Design water
(inches) depth (ft) collapse water depth/predicted
depth (ft) collapse
6 10,000 11,870 0.85

Riser Configuration Analysis

Two riser configurations are studied: a Vertical Riser, VR, and
a Catenary Riser, CR. The VR configuration may be desirable
for an early production or initial field development while a CR
configuration is more condusive for tie-backs. Both
configurations require distributed buoyancy in the riser system
to alleviate extreme top tension loads. Two bouyancy
distributions are considered in this case study. One is a close
distribution of buoyancy in the top 3,280ft of the water
Figure 1 Flexible Pipe Riser Cross Section
column which is abbreviated CD hereafter. The second is a
more loose distribution of buoyancy in the top 7,217ft of the
water column which is abbreviated LD hereafter. A traditional
Table 3 Flexible Pipe Riser Properties Free Hanging Catenary (FHC) riser is also modelled for
Internal Diameter (in): 6.00 comparison. A total of five configurations/combinations are
External Diameter (in): 10.974 model and depicted in Figure 2,3,4,5 and 6.
Weight Empty in Air (lb/ft): 118.6
Weight seawater filled in seawater (lb/ft): 90.7 Table 6 summarizes the total net buoyancy, corresponding
Nominal Bend Stiffness (lb/ft^2): 45,879
maximum water depth of the buoyancy, and the maximum
Axial Stiffness (kip): 128,892
Minimum Operating Bend Radius (ft): 14.68 effective tension in the mean static loading condition for the
Failure Tension (lb): 1,376,084 CD distribution and the LD distribution.

Factory Acceptance Hydrostatic Pressure Test Table 6 Net Buoyancy Load Summary
The factory acceptance hydrostatic pressure test is performed Buoyancy Total Net Maximum Maximum
Distribution Buoyancy Buoyancy Riser Tension
in the factory for a hold period of 24 hours. This test serves to (tons) Module WD(ft) (tons)
prove the pressure integrity of the product before it leaves the CD 275 3100 300
factory and to condition the flexible pipe. Currently, API 17J LD 425 7200 135
standards specify the FAT pressure for a flexible riser to be
tested to 1.5 times design pressure. The pipe structure
proposed in Figure 1 utilizes two hoop layers to achieve the
high rating of 12,500psi. The helically wound Flextensile
OTC 17768 3

OrcaFlex 8.7b: TOP90-10-dy1.dat (modified 10:31 OrcaFlex 8.7b: TOP90-fh-10-dy1.dat (modified 11:05 AM on 1/2
Statics Complete Statics Complete
200 m

Figure 4 CD Catenary Riser

Figure 2 CD Vertical Riser

OrcaFlex 8.7b: VR90a-fh-10-dy1.dat (modified 11:48 AM on 1/2

Statics Complete
OrcaFlex 8.7b: VR90a-10-dy1.dat (modified 9:47 A
Statics Complete
200 m

Figure 5 LD Catenary Riser

The dynamic analysis method used in this study is a time

domain finite element analysis performed with a commercial
Figure 3 LD Vertical Riser software package.
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The Far Load Case is defined as:

OrcaFlex 8.7b: FH90a-fh-10-dy1.sim (modified 5:03 PM on 2/3/2006 by OrcaFlex 8
Time: 65.0000s
FPSO is 655ft offset in the far direction.
Both the maximum wave and the associated current
come in the far direction.
The Near Load Case is defined as:
FPSO is 655ft offset in the near direction.
Both the maximum wave and the associated current
come in the near direction.

Dynamic Analysis Results

The Extreme Dynamic Results are summarized in Table 7 and
Table 8 for the Vertical Riser and Catenary Riser,

Table 7 Vertical Riser Results Summary

Far Case
Buoyancy Distribution CD LD
Min Top Tension(lb) 181,879 56,655
Max Top Tension(lb) 508,543 124,775
Max Riser Tension (lb) 698,741 309,128
Min Riser Tension (lb) -15,288 5,845
Max Tension at Well Head (lb) 23,606 49,236

Table 8 Catenary Riser Results Summary

Far Case Near Case
Buoyancy Distribution CD LD CD LD
Min Top Tension(lb) 179,631 60,027 178,507 58,228
Max Top Tension(lb) 519,335 104,092 515,962 93,525
Figure 6 FHC Riser Max Riser Tension (lb) 696,718 287,320 686,151 283,498
Min Riser Tension (lb) -5,621 10,342 -9,218 899
The dynamic analysis model is based on the following Max Curvature (1/ft) 0.03316 0.01244
The surface vessel is a FPSO with a turret inside the Figures 8 to 11 show the maximum and minimum tension
bow and the RAO data is for a turret moored FPSO. distribution as a function of riser length for the Vertical Riser
The offset of the FPSO is 7% of the water depth. and Catenary Riser with CD and LD buoyancy arrangements,
The maximum wave height is 42ft and the associated respectively. The maximum tension occurs in the Far Load
wave period is 13.7 s which is equivalent to a 100 Case.
year maximum wave in the deepwaters offshore 400

Effective Tension (ton)

The maximum current speed occurs at the water
surface and is 4.3ft/s.
The density of the production fluid is 56 lb/ft^3.

The water density is 64 lb/ft^3 at the water surface


and 65 lb/ft^3 at the seabed.

0 2000 4000 6000 8000 10000
Arclength along Riser (ft)

Figure 8 CD Vertical Riser Tension Load Distribution

Figure 6 shows the net buoyancy distribution as a function of
riser length for the CD and LD distributions, respectively. The 400

total net buoyancies are as shown in Table 6.

Effective Tension (ton)

Net buoyancy (lb/ft)

600 Maximum
CD Distribution
200 100

0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000 9000 10000 0
0 2000 4000 6000 8000 10000
arc length (ft)
Arclength along Riser (ft)
Net buoyancy (lb/ft)

600 Figure 9 LD Vertical Riser Tension Load Distribution

LD Distribution

0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000 9000 10000
arc length (ft)

Figure 7 Additional Net Buoyancy Distribution

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400 0.12
0.1 Minimum
Effective Tension (ton)

Minimum Maximum

Curvature (1/m)
200 0.06

100 0.04
-100 -0.02
0 2000 4000 6000 8000 10000 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000 9000 10000 11000
Arclength along Riser (ft) Arclength along Riser (ft)

Figure 10 CD Catenary Riser Tension Load Distribution Figure 13 CD Catenary Riser Curvature Distribution

Effective Tension (ton)

300 0.04
Minimum Minimum

Curvature (1/m)
Maximum 0.03 Maximum
100 0.015
0 2000 4000 6000 8000 10000
Arclength along Riser (ft)
0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000 9000 10000 11000
Figure 11 LD Catenary Riser Tension Load Distribution Arclength along Riser (ft)

Figure 14 LD Catenary Riser Curvature Distribution

For comparison, the Free Hanging Catenary riser (FHC)
results are plotted with the LD Catenary Riser results in Figure The curvature in the Loose Distribution Catenary Riser (LD
12. CR) is illustrated in Figure 15, a snap shot from the analysis
OrcaFlex 8.6d: VR90a-fh-10-dy1-near1.sim (modified 4:23 PM on 2/1/2
FHC min
Effective Tension (ton)

FHC max
400 CR LD min
300 CR LD max


0 2000 4000 6000 8000 10000
Arclength along Riser (ft)

FHC min
Effective Tension (ton)

100 FHC max

CR LD min
CR LD max

7500 8000 8500 9000 9500 10000 10500
Arclength along Riser (ft)

Figure 12 Buoyed Catenary Riser vs. Free Hanging Catenary

Riser Tension Load Distribution

Based on the comparison of tension load distribution plotted in

Figure 12, one can conclude the top tension load is naturally
reduced in the buoyed riser versus the free hanging riser. And
perhaps more significantly, the tension range is reduced more
than 400% in the buoyed riser versus the free hanging riser.
The tension range reduces as the length approaches the Figure 15 LD Catenary Riser in the Near Case
Touchdown Point (TDP). In the case of the buoyed riser, the
tension range becomes negligible at the TDP simulating a While the curvature areas are clearly observed in the LD
static riser system in the touch down region. Catenary Riser configuration, the magnitude of curvature and
curvature range is observed to be very small in Figure 14.
The maximum curvature loads are naturally in the Near Load With such small curvature and curvature range, a bend
Case. Figures 13 and 14 quantify the maximum and minimum stiffener may not be necessary once the riser is installed and in
curvature distribution as a function of riser length for the configuration. But if buoyancy is distributed in the riser via a
Catenary Riser with CD and LD buoyancy arrangements, steel spool piece as suggested in Figure 15, bend stiffeners are
respectively. recommended on the topside connection of each buoyancy
section to provide a smooth transition of bending stiffness in
the system. Because these are not highly dynamic areas, small
bend stiffeners may be used.
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Dynamic Analysis Discussion Buoyancy Design

From the tension load distribution curves, Figures 8-11, one The engineering effort in the buoyancy modules will be in the
can conclude the behavior of the Vertical Riser is similar to clamping system. In previous applications, the distributed
the behavior of the Catenary Riser. The compression in the buoyancy modules were clamped directly to the outside
touchdown region is very low and perhaps avoidable in the diameter of the flexible pipe as the pipe overboards the
Vertical Riser configuration. If the riser maintains a positive installation vessel. The clamping load is transferred through
tension, the risk of birdcage due to compression loads is the outer polymer shield to the underlying metal layers, and
completely avoided. once in configuration, the net buoyancy force is generally
perpendicular to the pipe. In the ultra deepwater
Additionally, from the tension load distribution curves, one configurations discussed in this paper however, the net
can conclude the top tension load in the LD and CD buoyancy buoyancy force is generally parallel to the pipe creating a
distribution is significantly less than the top tension load in the large shear load.
traditional non-buoyed Free Hanging Catenary Riser
configuration. It is also noted that the delta between the Because the function of the buoyancy in these ultra deepwater
minimum and maxium tension load is significantly smaller in configurations is to support top tension load rather than to
the LD buoyed configurations than the non-buoyed FHC riser maintain a particular riser shape, there is increased flexibility
configuration. These two facts demonstrate that the distributed in how the buoyancy may be fastened to the riser system.
buoyancy in the flexible riser system serves to decouple the
dynamic top motion of the surface vessel from the weight of Included in this section are a couple of non-traditional
the riser system. The decoupling effect reduces the dynamic methods of securing the buoyancy in the riser system. The
response in the riser system which lends itself to significant methods included here utilize a steel pipe spool piece fitted in-
benefits over a traditional Free Hanging Catenary Riser line with the flexible pipe. The steel spool piece may be
system. These benefits include: designed for fluid transport and flange or weld to the flexible
Longer riser fatigue life pipe end connectors as depicted in Figure 16. Or the steel
Lower payload requirement for the surface vessel spool piece(s) may be external to the flexible riser serving as a
Advantages in the touchdown region are: buoyancy clamp only. In which case, the steel piece clamp
No compression, no birdcaging support is an external sleeve whereby fluid transport is
Static riser at the TDP uninterrupted through the flexible riser pipeline as depicted in
The buoyancy mitigates compression loading at TDP offering Figure 17.
further advantages in the overall field layout. These
advantages include: Conclusion
Relaxed constraint on vessel offset and mooring Unbonded flexible pipe has been an enabler for deepwater
requirements (<3,300ft) and ultra deepwater (>3,300ft) developments for
Allows optimal positioning of the surface vessel over 15 years. The technology enabled the industry to initially
without constraints due to the riser touch down loads produce in deepwater in the early 90s and then to ultra
deepwater up to 6,500ft in the late 90s. Water depths greater
Expanding the Concept to an 8-inch ID Flexible Riser than 6,500ft push the envelope where typical riser system
For a production riser, the governing load case for collapse solutions can operate.
would be dry bore installation. For a traditional free hanging
catenary riser, dry bore installation is preferred to reduce top Through this case study, it is concluded that collapse rating is
tension loads required on the installation vessel. In the case of not the limiting factor in ultra deepwater. Rather the challenge
an 8-inch ID flexible riser, however, partial flooding allows of a traditional free hanging catenary riser configuration is the
the design to take advantage of the incompressibility of water top tension load and the birdcage load (compression load) at
to actively cancel out the collapse force generated by the touchdown point. These challenges are overcome when
hydrostatic pressure. Partial flooding to the 6,500ft wd level distributed buoyancy is added to the riser system. The results
would bring the collapse design within the current of this case study confirm the technical feasibility of unbonded
qualification envelop. And because the buoyancy is fastened flexible pipe risers in 10,000ft.
to the riser system as the riser is installed, the installer also
benefits from an overall reduction in maximum tension loads Future work to confirm the flexible pipe riser and riser system
compared to a traditional free hanging riser. In a loose to allow field operation includes:
distribution of buoyancy, reference Figure 3 and 5, the Optimize riser solution for intended operating conditions.
maximum installation tension can easily be maintained at less Evaluate qualification testing needs.
than 250 tons. Optimize buoyancy requirement
Detail method of attaching/intrgating buoyancy in the
The same strategy of leveraging the buoyancy to maintain riser system.
tension in the pipe applies for the 8-inch ID riser; reference the
Dynamic Analysis Discussion section.
OTC 17768 7

Figure 16 Steel Spool Piece Buoyancy Clamp Arrangement Figure 17 Steel Sleeve Buoyancy Clamp Arrangement

3 Qualification Testing of Non-bonded Flexible Pipe
1 The World Offshore Drilling Spend Forecast 2006-
for Petrobras Roncador Project, Brazilian Conference, March
2010, Douglas-Westfield, January 2006
1999, A. Littleton, T.Hill, C. Durr

2 State of the Art Analytical Tools Improve

Optimization of Unbonded Flexible Pipes for Deepwater
Environments, Offshore Technology Conference, May 2003,
T. Hill , Y. Zhang, B. Chen, L. Qui, M. Case