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OTH 535



Health & Safety Executive

THE ABANDONMENT OF OFFSHORE PIPELINES Methods and Procedures for Abandonment

Prepared by John Brown Engineers and Constructors Ltd for the Health and Safety Executive

Offshore Technology Report

Health and Safety Executive

OTH 535

THE ABANDONMENT OF OFFSHORE PIPELINES Methods and Procedures for Abandonment

Prepared by

John Brown Engineers and Constructors Ltd John Brown House

20 Eastbourne Terrace

London W26LE


Health and Safety Executive - Offshore Technology Report

© Crown copyright 1997

Applications for reproduction should be made in writing to:

Copyright Unit. Her Majesty's Stationery Office.

St Clements House, 2-16 Colegate, Norwich NR3 1 BQ

First published 1997

ISBN 0-7176-1421-2

All rights reserved. No part 0/ this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying. recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission 0/ the copyright owner.

This report is published by the Health and Safety Executive as part of a series of reports of work which has been supported by funds provided by the Executive. Neither the Executive. or the contractors concerned assume any liability for the report nor do they necessarily reflect the views or policy of the Executive.

Results, including detailed evaluation and. where relevant. recommendations stemming from their research projects are published in the 01HlOTl series of reports.


In 1987 the Department of Energy, who at that time were responsible for authorising the construction and operation of pipelines in UK waters, undertook a major study of the problems of pipeline abandonment. The work was carried out by John Brown Engineers and Constructors Ltd and consisted of a comprehensive review of the engi neering, environmental and economic imp! ications of the abandonment of subsea pipelines at the end of their operating life.

At the present time the UK Government's main interest in abandonment is exercised through the Oil and Gas Division of the Department of Trade and Industry. In matters concerning health and safety however, the responsibility is held by the Offshore Safety Division of the Health and Safety Executive.

The main findings of the John Brown study were published in a conference paper in 1990, Abandonment of Submarine Pipelines by J A Bray and M W Cooper, IBC Offshore Pipeline Technology European Seminar, Paris. There have been anum ber of requests for access to the detailed information on which the work was based and in particular that affecting safety. The Offshore Safety Division of HSE have therefore agreed to publish this report which is one of the Seven individual task reports prepared in the course of the study. It deals with methods and procedures for pipel ine abandonment and should provide an informed basis for discussion and resolution of the safety issues involved.




This report was prepared as partofawide-ranging study of subsea pip eline abandonment undertaken by John Brown Engineers and Constructors Ltd on behalf of the Department of Energy .It deals with the methods and procedures which could be adopted when the normal operational use of a pipeline ceases. In particular it provides a basis for discussion of the health and safety aspects which might arise in carrying out the necessary abandonment processes.

The first step in abandonment ofa pipeline is decommissioning, which is to take it from its operating condition and render it clean and safe on the seabed. Pipelines carry a range of flu ids, many of wh ich will leave residues after the I ine has been purged of its last active product. The various tools and materials available for purging and cleaning pipelines are reviewed together with the methods to be applied for removing the different types of residue. A methodology is presented for the development of the detailed procedures to be adopted for dealing with the various features encountered in particular situations.

The rates of decay to be expected in pipelines following abandonment are considered. The various mechanisms by which coatings fail are investigated and the major causes of mechanical and corrosion-related failure are evaluated. In general estimates of residual pipeline life can be made; for example, once the cathodic protection system ceases to be effective, a well maintained pipeline with a 12mm wall thickness may last 60 years if exposed and perhaps 400 years if buried.

After pipelines have been decommissioned they can if necessary be recovered. The equipment and techniques available for recovery are reviewed and analyses performed to demonstrate that certain recovery techniques can be applied. Pipelines that have been left in trenches in the seabed or covered by gravel or backfill may be left in situ subject to seabed restoration work where necessary. The recovery methods applicable are presented and the various features which can be encountered are illustrated.

If a pipeline is recovered, disposal ofthe coatings, linepipe, valves, flanges; fittings etc needs to be determined. In the first instance they will have to be transported from the recovery site to either a dumping site, subject to a licence, and handling capacity may be required before the pipe is transported to an on-shore scrap yard or dump. Some ofthe scrap steel may be re-used in some form or re-processed, Re-use of any salvaged component in another pipeline would require re-certification. All these factors need to be taken into account and the various options are reviewed and analysed.

I f left in place abandoned pipelines will eventually deteriorate to the point where they may break up. The possible effects of decay are discussed and the techniques for inspection described. Methods for trenching and burial in order to prolong pipeline life are reviewed. Some pipelines may be re-used for another purpose, subject to recertification and the potential for this is described; however the likelihood of an abandoned pipeline being able to continue earning revenue is considered to be small.




1. INTRODUCTION 111"."111l1li111 •• :111 ,., " 1 """ " 111111 9

2,. DECOMMISSIONING 11 111 11 111 •• ~'." 11

2.1 Introduction., , .. , , , 11

2.2 Pipeline Purging and Cleaning , 11

2.3 Safety of Personnel and Protection of the Environment 17

2.4 Effects and Consequences of Decommissioning 19

2.5 Pipeline Stability and Spanning , .. 21

2.6 Decommissioning Procedures , 23

2.7 Conclusions , , , 24

3.. RATE OF OeCA Y ,. 33

3.1 Introduction , 33

3.2 Categorisation of Existing Pipelines 33

3.3 Pipeline Materials 36

3.4 Causes of Pipeline Failure , " 37

3.5 Pipeline Installation , , , .. , , .. 38

3.6 Pipe Coatings , " " 39

3.7 Cathodic Protection 41

3.8 Decay Mechanisms , 43

3.9 Flexible Pipelines , 50

3.10 Pipeline Behaviour After Decommissioning 51

3.11 Materials Testing , , .. , , 52

3.12 Conclusions 53

4. PIPELINE RECOVERY ' III I11I •• ~ ••• ,. IIII~1III.011l1li_,,11 •• " 71

4.1 Introduction , 71

4.2 Pipeline Types , 71

4.3 Access for Recovery 75

4.4 Recovery Methods 78

4.5 Recovery Equipment 80

4.6 Seabed Restoration , .. , , .. 81

4.7 Cutting Technologies , 82

4.8 Engineering Analysis , 86

4.9 Conclusions 88


5.1 Introduction 119

5.2 Material Transport , , 119

5.3 Material Storage and Handling 124

5.4 Re-use of Pipeline Fittings and Components +. 126

5.5 Recycling and Dumping of Materials 128

5.6 Conclusions 134



6.1 Introduction 157

6.2 Implications of Non-recovery 157

6.3 Long Term Inspection and Maintenance 161

6.4 Trenching and Burial 166

6.5 Surface Covering without Burial 170

6.6 Pipeline Filling 172

6.7 Alternative Re-uses of Abandoned PipeJines 172

6.8 Conclusions 174

7.. OVERALL CONCLUSIONS 1 ••• ,., 195

7.1 Decommissioning 195

7.2 Rate of Decay 195

7.3 Pipeline Recovery 196

7.4 Pipeline Material Disposal 196

7.5 Alternatives to Recovery 196


REFERENCES ,. ,. ,.. , ,,, , ~ ,. 201

APPENDIX 1 ~ .. 111 ,. ,. ••• ,. ,. " " •• " ,. " 207



When a subsea pipeline reaches the end of its operational life for commercial or engineering reasons arrangements have to be made for its abandonment. In this context the term abandonment is used to describe the whole range of activities and options open to the owner of the line who remains responsible for its future when it is no longer needed for its original purpose. These actions range from doing nothing and leaving the pipeline to decay on the seabed, to fully cleaning it and recovering it for reuse or disposal as scrap.

This report was written as part of a comprehensive study of pipeline abandonment commissioned in 1987 by the Department of Energy . It was carried out by John Brown Engineers and Constructors Ltd with the objective of providing a complete review of the engineering, environmental and economic implications of the abandonment of offshore pipelines at the end of their operating life. It deals with the methods and procedures for abandonment and should provide a useful background and framework for the discussion of the health and safety issues arising from these processes.

The approach taken in this study has been to develop and analyse methods based on existing technologies and equipment. The various alternatives were then examined in relation to a detailed database of 137 UKCS pipelines gathered in an earlier phase of the work. Information regarding equipment, vessels and technology was obtained from the appropriate contractors. Additional specific technical data came from published sources and direct approaches to fabricators, installation contractors, commissioning companies and scrap merchants.

The report is presented in five main chapters dealing with respectively, decommissioning, rate of decay, recovery, disposal and alternatives to recovery.

In addition there is an appendix which presents a detailed treatment showing how predecommissioning 'and decommissioning procedures may be developed for typical examples of pipelines.





Decom missioning a pipeline sched uled for abandonment requires it to be left in a safe condition. This involves purging it of potentially hazardous live product and cleaning it of residue and scale. If it is to be left in place on the seabed for any considerable time, sources of local corrosion and potential causes of'on-bottom stability should be identified and as far as possible removed.

Once the form of abandonment is decided, detai led procedures should be prepared covering the predecommissioning and decommissioning stages. Close attention to the safe and efficient conduct of operations IS required at every stage, whether the pipeline is to be recovered or abandoned in place. If the abandoned pipeline is to be recovered, a duty of care in handling and disposing of potentially hazardous products I ies with the operator.

Following internal and external inspections, the first practical steps are to purge the pipeline of its operational contents and thoroughly clean it internally. The procedures required are similar to established operational practices and in this section they are presented in such a way that they can be applied to specific types of pipeline.


2.2.1 General

Purging the pipeline and cleaning it internally are the first actions to be taken in decommissioning. The usual procedure is to use cleaning and separation pigs, propelled by a suitable liquid, gas, gel or foam. If the propellant is to be left in the abandoned pipeline afterwards, it must be safe, non-corrosive and environmentally acceptable. Detailed decommissioning procedures are given in Appendix 1 and shown in block diagram form in Figs 2.1 A-D. This subsection describes the purging devices and propellants available for use in those procedures.

2.2.2 Purging Pigs

Choice of pig for purging and fluid separation purposes is dependent on the size and condition of pipeline and type of cleaning fluid proposed. Table 2.1 lists the pigs currently available and describes their characteristics and applications. Three pigs are illustrated in Figure 2.2 as examples.

Most of the pigs listed in Table 2.1 are available, with only minor modifications, for all pipeline diameters in general use. The cupped and bi-directional pigs (Cd) and (f)) may be manufactured from synthetic materials and their bodies articulated if necessary to negotiate the smaller diameter pipelines.

2.2.3 Propellants

Propellants used to drive cleaning and purging pigs should be safe enough to be left after purging unti I the pipeline is either recovered or abandoned. Propellants are made up by mixing the appropriate liquid, gas, gel orfoam to suitthe application. Sea water


is the most readily available fluid but it must be treated with an oxygen scavenger, a corrosion inhibitor and possibly a biocide.

Propellant gas may be either air or nitrogen. To avoid the possibility of an explosive mixture forming, the injection of air is normally preceded by a slug. If the propellant is going to be left in the pipeline for longer than a few months, a slug of corrosion inhibitor fluid is also required.

Gels, foams and gases are compressible and this may result in problems in restarting if the pig train drags or sticks in the pipeline, having collected large quantities of solids or residues. Careful planning and preparation is required, especially if the pigging history of the pipeline is not known. Compressible driving fluids should not be used if waxy residues are present in large amounts. New gels and foams are constantly being developed and many are environmentally acceptable.

2.2.4 Disposal of Product

Safe disposal of the remains of the final product in the pipeline is the first step in any decommissioning procedure.

Of all the alternative methods of product disposal, it is preferable to use existing routes. Pipeline systems consist of flowlines, infield pipelines and trunk pipelines. In addition, a complex system may include one or more of the following: water injection, gas lift, chemical injection and hydraulic controls, and the associated equipmentmaybeusedfor pumping and cleaning purposes during decommissioning. Product in the flowlines may be pumped out or reinjected into the reservoir.

For recovery of hydraulic fluid, hydraulic controls can be disconnected at the wellhead Christmas tree and either cross-linked and their contents pumped back to the platform, or the hydraulic fluid can be returned by a diver-operated pump. The infield lines can be pumped through the gathering into the trunk pipeline, and the trunk pipeline in turn may be discharged to the onshore reception facility.

If the platform topsides have been decommissioned or are otherwise unavailable before the pipeline decommissioning operation is ready to start, a suitably equipped vessel will require to be stationed at the locations of the missing facilities. Using flexible hoses, the pipeline contents may then be loaded onto vessels which afterwards discharge at a suitable harbour or terminal,

2.2.5 Removal and Disposal of Product Residues and Cleaning Agents

The removal and disposal of the residues remaining once the bulk 'live' product has been removed are one of the most difficult parts of any pipeline decommissioning project. Careful preparation is required, including the gathering of accurate information and designing a cleaning process tailored for each situation.

All pipelines, whether they carry oil, gas, chemicals or water will, following removal of the bulk contents, still contain residues. These can range from simple liquid or gas products in valves and pipe irregularities to sludges, waxes and hard scale. Sometimes these residues are present in layers: for example a hard scale on the pi pe wall can be overlaid by hard wax which is in turn covered by a soft wax or sludge.


Pipeline residues will almost always be derived from the 'heavy' end of the product. and whatever their chemical nature, the chemicals used for cleaning should always be treated as hazardous.

Questions concerning residues include the following:

What types of residue are there?

Where are the residues located?

What are the quantities of each type?

Should they be removed, or can they be neutralised in-situ?

What chemicals and what tools will be required to deal with the residue?

What method of removal can be adopted which will not risk blocking the line?

How are the residues and chemicals to be disposed of?

The answers to these questions will provide information on the particular pipeline being decommissioned and the usefulness of the available facilities. The following are general answers to the above questions, covering most eventualities.

a) Types of Residue

The type of residue depends on the previous pipeline service. Any number of residues may be present, from liquids and semi-solids to pipe scale, and these may be acidic, passive, toxic or flammable.

b) Location of Residues

Residues will almost certainly remain lying in valve bodies and pipeline irregularities, depending on how the pipeline was operated during its useful life and how frequently it was pigged. Experience has shown that residual scale deposi ts are to be found at the 'hot' end of the system and waxes and sludge at the 'cool' end. In long gas pipelines, line packing results in a combination of low pressure and high velocity at the delivery end which will assist in sweeping the line clean.

c) Quantity of Residue

It is impossible to predict the amount of residue in a pipeline after it has been emptied of product. Indications of excessive residues include reduced line throughputs and lower flow velocities towards the end of the pipeline's operational life, and normal maintenance pigging will also have brought in evidence of residues.

d) Removal or Neutralisation of Residues In-Situ

A decision on whether to remove or neutralise all residues must have regard for the safety of personnel, other users of the sea, future use of the pipeline and the avoidance of pollution. In general, all pipeline product residues should be removed, but the following relaxations may be considered:

the contents of pipeline irregularities and valve bodies, if extremely small in volume in relation to the full pipeline capacity. may be left,


hard scale residues may be left. if removal and disposal involves considerable additional chemical washes and water flushes. provided that any residual contaminants they contain can be effecti vely neutralised and

residual chemical solvents used in the removal of product residues may be left, provided that they are capable of being sufficiently diluted by the final decommissioning fluid fi1l to prevent any hazard arising.

e) Tools and Chemicals

Pipe cleaning tools are selected from the list of pigs in Table 2.2, modifying the standard pig if necessary to suit the application. An appropriate pig is selected to form a 'train' for the purpose of removing residues from the walls of the pipe and propelling them forward to the reception facilities provided, at the same time maintaining separation of the chemicals and washes used to remove the residues.

Chemicals are selected for their abilities to soften or loosen specific residues. so that those residues can be removed by the pig. The type of chemical required will depend on certain factors; for example light, oily films will only need a cleaning wash of methanol or similar solvent, whereas heavy waxes and scales may require a full softening or dissolving treatment. The full treatment may require an acid wash, then a sodium hydroxide or caustic soda solution to neutralise the acid and assist in the cleaning itself, followed by methanol, whose function is to render any remaining hydrocarbons miscible in water, and finally a water wash. It may be necessary for this water to contain inhibitors and a pH enhancer such as soda ash and there should be sufficient water to dilute any residual chemicals to a safe concentration before discharge.

If it is necessary to perform more than one scraping run or acid wash. they should be run in immediate succession prior to any alkaline wash. Acidic batches should be run through as slowly as possible, to allow maximum residence time. Velocities of no more than 1.5m1second are recommended, with each batch size sufficient to provide 3 to 5 minutes reactive contact.

Care must be taken to ascertain the full implications of residue chemistry before introducing any solvents or washes into the system, so as to avoid aggravating any hazards in the resultant reaction.

f) Avoiding Blockage During Residue Removal

A blockage occurs when the resistance to movement of the residue being transported exceeds the force that can be applied to it by the cleaning pig. The force that the pig can exert is in tum determined by the maximum pressure that can be applied to the propellant, limited to the maximum permissible working pressure of the pipeline. If a pipeline has seen lengthy service without having been subjected to leak or hydrostatic pressure tests. it would be prudent to limit the maximum pressure to minimise the risk of leakage or rupture of the pipeline. The maximumpressure used for pigging should not exceed that used during the final phase of production.

To minimise pipeline blockages. residue samples should be obtained before beginning the cleaning process.


The cleaning method should ascertain:

types of residues involved,

resultant friction factors,

probable bulk volumes, by type.

maximum force that can be exerted on these volumes,

probability of line blockage and

chemistry of the residues in order that safe solvents can be selected.

Where there is any possibility of a blockage, the pigs should be carefully selected; for example, a train of pigs can be despatched, each in turn increasing the loading on the pipe wall deposits and hence removing the residues in manageable stages.

Semi-rigid hard swab pigs should be used at the head of the train; these are designed to reduce in volume at a given over-pressure. Soft rubber cupped pigs which will also readily reduce in diameter can follow. Friction-reducing and suspension fluids or gels should be included in the train to pick up any hard waxes, sediments and/or scale. No appreciable benefit is found from gel in the cases of sludges and light waxes.

A larger number of relatively inefficient pigs each taking out a small amount of residue is preferable to a lesser number of more efficient pigs which may pick up excessive residue and cause blocking. It is important to consider the optimisation of the solvent residence times and the design velocities of the scraper pigs, so as to ensure both are as effective as possible in removing residues.

Gas, being compressible, may cause the pig train to slow down or surge. If this is likely, water may be a preferable driving medium.

g) Disposal of Residues and Chemicals

Disposal of residues, chemicals, flush waters and the cleaning system driving medium can cause serious problems. However efficient the cleaning system may be, there will be an amount of contaminants contained therein which will classify them as 'dirty' .

By far the safest and most economic route of disposal for the pipeline residues, and probably for the more persistent chemicals as well. is into the receiving facilities that may still exist for handling product. These facilities may be used for the cleaning and recovery of the cleaning fluids. The majority of pipelines can be treated in this way. It would be desirable to remove and dispose of the bulk residue while the system is in the latter stages of production; this may mean designing a pigging system which, while requiring a high number of passes, only removes a relatively small amount at a time.


If product is continuously available, this removes the necessity to supply and dispose of alternative driving media, which in turn means that a higher number of purely mechanical cleaning passes can be made. This largely disposes with the requirement for chemical solvents until the final wash out and passivating passes.

It may be feasible to treat flowlines which run from' a subsea completion well to a satellite platform or gathering station by overpressurising and alternately reversing flow and production, thus enabling a cleaning pig to be "shuttled" between platform and wellhead.

For water and/or small bore injection pipelines, residues are not expected to build up. With due regard to the chemical solutions that may have been used, therefore, a short batch of a suitable passivating chemical driven by the appropriate final line fill agent may be passed through these lines from the platform to the wellhead, driving the pipeline contents and passi vating chemicals down hole. By using deformable swab or gel type pigs, these chemicals can be discharged beyond the downhole safety valve.

Should the preceding not be possible, the situation can give rise to one of several scenarios, as follows:

l.a) In the worst case, where no facilities exist at either end of the system, a vessel, suitably equipped to transport the treatment chemicals to the pipeline end station and discharge them into the pipeline, may have to be included.

Equipment would in this case consist of:

bulk tanks for the chemicals,

pumps complete with mixing tanks for chemicals, salt water lift pumps,

a diving spread,

flexible risers to deliver chemicals to the pipe on the seabed,

a 4 point mooring system or dynamic positioning capability and a crew trained in the safe use and handling of special chemicals.

b) For the receiving end of the pipeline a vessel with bulk tanks appropriate to the chemicals and large enough to accept the pipeline's original contents plus a degree of over-run flush water. All the other items listed in La) above will also be required.

2.a) For the situation where ajacket exists but pipeline terminal facilities are not available or not suitable, the following should be provided:

a vessel as in La) above for receiving and transporting the treatment chemicals,

flexible transfer hoses and

a 4 point vessel mooring system, modified to a simple two point mooring with a jacket tie-back system, or dynamic position capability vessel.

A diving spread will not be required.


b) For the receiving end of the pipeline:

a vessel as in 2.a) but wi th bulk tanks to take chemicals, flush water and original line contents.

3.a) For a situation where all ofthe jacket and terminal facilities are available and suitable:

a supply vessel for delivery of chemicals, together with possible minor auxiliary pumps and mixing tanks.

b) For the receiving end of the pipeline:

no requirements.

Thus, any operation which can use all the existing facilities for delivering the cleaning materials into the pipeline is beneficial. This is enhanced if the receiving facilities can also be used.


2.3.1 General

All hydrocarbon products and the chemicals used to clean and purge the pipelines should be regarded as hazardous, and must therefore be considered as containing an element of risk to personnel and the environment.

This subsection considers the operations involving potentially hazardous materials and the nature of risk which they represent.

2.3.2 Materials

Most of the hydrocarbon products handled by pipel ines are flammable and explosi ve under certain conditions. Additional substances which these hydrocarbon fluids may contain Can render them corrosive. toxic and/or erosive, while decompression can cause the product to become unstable.

These problems are by no means over when purging the pipelines to make them safe. The chemicals which are introduced during the cleaning operations can in themselves be flammable. corrosive and/or toxic. Al though the objecti ve in using these chemicals is to achieve passivation and resultant total safety of the pipeline, the chemicals used and the pressures to which they are subjected should be considered potentially hazardous unless known to be otherwise.

The following information on the materials to be handled must be communicated to the relevant personnel, who should be qualified to receive it:

• the chemical composition and physical characteristics of the product, the residues and the cleaning agents,

• the consequences of mixing these materials and

the minimum and maximum mixing ratios permitted and the consequences, planned and unplanned, of changes to the pressure and temperature regimes during the proposed operations.



Basic principles to be applied to all personnel associated with the decommissioning procedures include:

making all personnel familiar with the operation and training them in using the facilities provided,

employing properly qualified contractor services,

providing all personnel with clear and comprehensive written working procedures and other relevant information, and ensuring that these are fully understood by those concerned and

establishing and identifying to everyone the persons in authority, defining their responsibilities in writing and delineating the areas of authori ty and responsibility for every separate work element.


Environmental Safety

Protection of the environment from leakages of the products being removed and the chemicals and solvents being used. is ofmajor importance, ranking second only to the safety of personnel and the public.

During every operation, there is the risk of an accident due to human error and to equipment failure. The procedures set out in Appendix 1 are intended to guard against this. It is well-known that the human factor cannot be entirely legislated for, and as additional safeguards, personnel should be reminded of the following basic rules for ensuring that safety and pollution risks are avoided:

establish and maintain an objective and the steps required to achieve it,

define precisely the product ingredients,

define the chemicals to be used and any possible reactions with the product, establish the most recent working pressure in the system,

always use existing facilities where possible,

• ensure that all equipment is suitable and conforms to an acceptable standard,

• pressure test special and temporary pipework for leaks to 1.5 times maximum working pressure and

• al ways provide full working and contingency procedures for every work phase.

These rules have been borne in mind in drawing up the predecornmissioning and decommissioning procedures referred to in subsection 2.7 and set out in Appendix 1.



2.4.1 General

An abandoned pi peline may be considered for reuse for storage ortransport of a liquid or gaseous fluid other than that for which it was constructed. This subsection poses questions relating to new duties which may result from reuse and considers the possible consequences on decommissioning.

2.4.2 New Product Data

The following questions arise from a consideration of carrying a different product in the pipeline:

a) What are the new product's


specific gravity and density, fluid characteristics, corrosiveness,

maximum operating pressure,

pressure and temperature limitations and throughputs and duration of operations?

b) Will the existing pipeline require

a survey to determine existing structural and dynamic stability, the condition of the coatings and cathodic protection systems and the progress of any remedial works required,

a hydrostatic test to determine that the maximum safe working pressure which can be imposed on the reactivated pipeline is achievable and

an internal and external corrosion survey to assist in determining the remaining design life of the pipeline?

c) What are the requirements of statutory bodies and interested parties concerning approvals, permits, licences, notices and insurances?

2.4.3 Corrosion

At the initial conceptual stage, a pipeline is designed for an economic life span related to the reservoir which it serves, and this span should be re-assessed at every major change in the fluid carried and operating characteristics which could influence design life.

These re-assessments should consider the effect of the new product on the internal pipe wall and of the surrounding environment on the external surface of the pipe. Both surfaces may have to be protected against excessive corrosion and additionally a corrosion allowance may have been added to the calculated wall thickness at the original design stage.

Operational aspects should be considered as follows, whenever there is a significant change of use:


a) Internal protection during the operational life of the pipeline

The amount of protective additive in the product wiU vary from zero to a range of passivators or inhibitors introduced before despatching the product into the pipeline. Monitoring at the receiving end will assist in regulating the additives for optimum control of the corrosive elements.

b) Internal protection of a decommissioned pipeline

Options include provision of a range of inhibitive additives. Additives include simple oxygen scavengers which absorb and suppress the oxygen content of water. biocides for suppressing biological micro-organisms in the water and corrosion inhibitors which form barrier layers on metallic surfaces. Alternatively, inert fluids are used to fill the pipeline after it has been decommissioned.

c) Water content

Caution should be exercised in treating water fills far the following reasons:

oxygen scavengers do not act against biochemical attack,

conversely, biocides do not afford protection against oxygen fed corrosion and

inhibitors are only proven active for up to two years, after which they may tend to degrade and settle. Some become acidic in certain circumstances.

d) Air and gas

Inhibitors remain active for 2-4 years. An appreciably moist environment may cause the inhibitor to cake; adehydrated atmosphere is therefore desirable and the inhibitor should be sprayed as a mist onto the pipe wall,

Dry granular moisture absorbers are sometimes used for providing a suitable environment for inhibitors. They are difficult to distribute and the absorber can adhere to the steel in an over moist environment.

Oxygen scavengers and biocides active in air or gas are not currently available.

e) External protection during the operational life of the pipeline

The external anti-corrosion coating affords a measure of corrosion protection which is then supplemented by cathodic protection (CP). Between them, the coating and CP system are designed to protect the pipeline against corrosion for the length of its active life.

Both coal tar and epoxy anti-corrosion coating compounds eventually absorb water and deteriorate. The sacrificial anode CP system becomes depleted over the years; this depletion is made worse by the progressive deterioration of the anti-corrosion coating, shortening the normal expectation of anode life appreciably.

f) External protection of a decommissioned pipeline

Having regard to the decreasing effectiveness of the average anti-corrosion coating towards the end of its design life and the diminishing output of


the anode systems, it is possible that the exterior of the pipeline may begin to lose its corrosion protection in just a few years.

One possible answer to sacrificial anode depletion is the installation and renewal of anodes coupled to the pipeline. This is an expensive measure and it is not easy to ensure its effectiveness. For a more exhaustive discussion of external corrosion, see Section 4.


2.5.1 General

Subsea pipelines are design to be stable on the seabed allowing for the combined forces of currents near the seabed. wave induced loads and the effects of subsea bottom subsidence and scour.

Lateral movement of the pipeline is opposed by friction between the pipe and the seabed and by plastic deformation of the supporting soil, and a factor of safety can be calculated which will indicate the ability of the pipeline to remain stab Ie under the combined forces assumed to act on it.

If the supporting soil is removed, the pipeline behaves like a beam, and the resulting additional stresses in the pipe wall can cause structural failure. In addition, seabed currents flowing above and below the pipe can set up a regime which can lead to vibration of the supported span under certain conditions.

Analyses were carried out, to calculate the stability of the pipelines in the Study database when carrying air, oil and water while subject to environmental loads. The large numbers of database pipelines were arranged into four groups according to water depth. namely O-SOm, 50-100m, IOO-150m and ISO-200m. Within each group, pipelines with similar outside diameters (OD) were represented by a single pipeline having generalised dimensions and similar trenching data. In the case of the 50-100m group, the majority of pipelines in the database were found to be buried and since buried pipelines could be modelled the stability analysis for this group was limited in extent.

Mean values of the on-bottom currents and significant waves were determined, based on return periods of 1 in 50 or 1 in 100 years. For the purposes of this study, the available data may be considered adequate. The analyses and results are discussed below.

2.5.2 On Bottom Stability

A pipeline is assisted in remaining on the seabed by its negative buoyancy. This is dependent on the combined weights of the pipe itself and its contents. supplemented if necessary by a coating of concrete and any trench back-fill or cover that is provided. If the weight of any portion of a pipeline is sufficiently reduced, that portion will lose its negative buoyancy.

Material losses which would contribute to a reduction in negative buoyancy include:


loss of concrete, loss of field joints,

loss of steel on the exterior of the pipe. loss of steel on the interior of the pipe, depletion of sacrificial anode bracelets and loss of burial or cover.

If there is a possibility of a serious reduction in negative buoyancy, the pipeline should be kept under surveillance and compensation provided for any significant weight loss.

A pipeline will not move beyond its permissible deformation unless the friction between it and the seabed is overcome by the vertical and horizontal forces arising from seabed currents and wave action. A minimum safety factor of 1.1 is considered sufficient to maintain stability.

Stability factors of safety have been determined for each of the depth groups and it can be shown that the safety factor increases with decreasing OD and increasing water depth. Trenched pipelines are considerably more stable-than untrenched pipelines; a fully trenched 457mm OD pipeline is shown to have a safety factor of 12, compared with a safety factor of 3 for a 506mm un trenched pipeline.

Furthermore, the heavier the contents the more stable is the pipeline, water being best and air or gas worst. A fully trenched pipeline will almost certainly be stable, even if filled with natural gas, but the factor of safety of an untrenched pipeline designed for water or oil can drop to the limiting value of 1.1 if fined with gas.

2.5.3 Analysis of Pipeline Spans under Static Loading

Analyses of unsupported spans under static loading conditions were carried out to determine the maximum permissible unsupported spans which would result in pipe being stressed to 72% and 100% of their specified minimum yield strength (SMYS). If the pipeline is to be reused. the 72 % SMYS value is the limiting factor in design, but if the pipeline can be allowed to yield, for example ifi t is being recovered for scrap, 100% SMYS is used.

The analysis was applied to the pipelines in the depth group IOO-150m, using a twodimensional finite element analysis program, which simulates any pipeline configuration and calculates the resultant stresses in the pipeline. The obstacle chosen to change the normal configuration of the pipeline was a depression in the seabed.

The analysis shows that the permissible span lengths for both 72% and 100% SMYS increase with increasing OD. The curves for oil and water contents are similar. and the curve for gas is steeper than for liquids, indicating a proportionally greater increase in span for the same increase in pipe diameter. A comparison of computed results with actual spans contained in the database shows that the computed spans far exceed those experienced in practice, in most cases by a factor of 2.

2.5.4 Evaluation of Maximum Pipe Spans Under Dynamic Loading

The flow of fluid past a free spanning pipeline can under certain conditions cause an unsteady flow regime which results in a fonn of turbulence known as vortices. The


behaviour of these vortices is known as vortex shedding. For certain critical current velocities the vortex shedding pulses at frequencies which may coincide with or be a multiple of the natural frequency of vibration of the pipeline span. resulting in harmonic or sub-harmonic motion of the pipeline.

An analysis was carried out to determine the maximum allowable free span length which would avoid the possibility of vortex induced vibrations occurring. The analysis was based on a comparison between the vortex shedding frequency arising from probable flows and the natural frequency of vibration of the pipeline. The analysis was performed for pipelines with similar outside diameters, in water depths of approximately 150m.

The curves for gas, oil and water pipeline contents follow similar patterns and the maximum spans for all contents increase with pipe OD.

The spans determined in this dynamic analysis are smaller than those established by static analysis. Nevertheless, they still exceed the actual spans held in the database, indicating that the reported spans are within safe limits.


2.6.1 General

The majority of subsea pipelines are designed for uni-directional flow, with fittings and equipment arranged accordingly. Lack of space and restricted access make it difficult to alter a set orientation offshore, and decommissioning procedures should where possible be based on fluid flow being in the same direction as the former operational flow.

One of the first decommissioning operations is pipeline purging and cleaning. Cleaning is most effectively carried out by mechanical pigs, and if pig launchers and receivers are not already available it will be necessary to provide them temporarily. Pigging will not apply to lines less than about 4 inches diameter for fear of blockage, and for small bore lines provision should be made for clearing the product with a neutralising agent, followed by the final decommissioning line fill. If possible, the two fluids should be kept separate in the line with the use of 'deformable', soft pigs.

It may be necessary to run more than one train of cleaning pigs, the limitation on length of train being that the pressure required to drive a train plus the residue it displaces must not exceed the maximum allowable working pressure of the pipeline, having regard to the age and probable condition of the line. In the case of flexible tiein connections, the solvents specified for the removal of residue should be compatible with the flexible lining and hose materials.

Thin film linings such as paint and fusion bonded epoxy are also liable to be softened by too vigorous a use of solvents and cleaning pigs. This thin material comes away from the pipe wall in the form of scale which can block the pipe if too much of it is loosened at once. If this is likely to happen, a suspension gel should be included in the slugs ahead of the first two or three passes of the cleaning pig train.


For safety and environmental reasons, it is imperative that the pre-commissioning and decommissioning stages are accompanied by a careful setting down of procedures which define the aims of the operations to follow, the responsibilities of all personnel involved. actions to be taken and materials and equipment to be provided. These procedures are set out in Appendix 1 for the different types of pipeline considered.


The planning and execution of purging and cleaning operations on abandoned offshore pipelines require considerable care. The procedures laid down for these operations must be efficient and safe, having regard to the hazardous nature of many of the materials which will be handled and their potential impact on the environment.

Preplanning information on the pipeline should be as complete as possible, followed by clear and precise definitions of aims, lines of authority and responsibility, actions to be taken during the operations and a programme of work. Any additional facilities known to be required for handling the scheduled equipment and materials should be properly designed and ordered in advance and checked before use.

The condition of the pipeline should be established before any decision is taken to leave it in position. Static and dynamic stabilities should be calculated and remedial action specified if required.



The list below describes the pigs most frequently used in offshore pipelines. With a few exceptions, they are available in the full range of sizes required in the North Sea.

Figure 4 illustrates three types of pig: swab, bidirectional and scraper. The 'intelligent' pig is illustrated in Section 6.

a) Swab

A soft or semi-soft, high or low density cellular foam body, used for separating fluids and swabbing pipework of complex configuration and pronounced changes in diameter. Sometimes fitted with wire brush strips to facilitate mechanical cleaning of the pipe wall.

b) Hardswab

As a) above, but with a non-cellular, semi-rigid outer shell of synthetic material. Used for separation and swabbing in pipelines having only minor complications, large radius bends and slight indentations.

c) Gel

Gel is despatched between foam pigs to pick up debris in the pipeline. It is mixed on site, using the combination of chemicals which will give a desired consistency. A thick gel will pick up heavy items while a thinner gel, although only able to handle the lighter residues and debris, has less risk of blocking the pipeline. In complex sy stems, care must be taken to prevent the gel from entering branch lines through tee or wye connections.

d) Cupped

Fanned on a tubular steel case on which are mounted two pairs of semi-rigid rubber/elastomer cupped disks, one pair at each end. The cupping serves to increase the driving force derived from the transporting fluid. In section, the disks taper down towards the outer edge, the thinning avoiding damage from an uneven pipe wall. While useful for product separation, cupped pigs will not remove debris.

e) Sphere

The sphere pig is an inflatable hollow sphere, filled with a liquid or gas under pressure until the correct hardness is reached. The sphere wall is protected with a steel mesh or made up from layers of synthetic material, the outer wall being designed for wear resistance and drag. Spheres are used for fluid separation.but are not suitable for handling pipeline debris.

f) Bl-Dlrectlonal

Of similar construction to the cupped pig described in d) above, but the risks are of polyurethane and of uniform section throughout, to improve contact with the pipe wall.

They are used for flooding the pipeline and cleaning it during commissioning, and are also reasonably useful for removing debris, if moved at low velocities. Their ability to move in either direction permits the pipeline flow to be reversed.


This design is the preferred type for product separation, when multiple pigs are despatched to form a train whose length depends on the degree of separation required.

g) Scrubber

Wire brushes in the form of disks or pads are mounted on cupped and bi-directional pigs or embedded onto the surface of a hard swab pig. They are intended for removing hard, flakey deposits from the inside walls of the pipe, such as service deposits or even mill scale present during the pipeline commissioning stage. Scrubbers will not move the dislodged debris along to the end of the pipeline; for this, a follow-up operation, using another type of pig, is necessary.

b) Scraper

Scraper pigs are constructed on the same principle as the hi-directional pig described in f) above, but the disks are made oversize for the bore of the pipe, and are supported by steel disks which serve to increase contact pressure on the pipe wall. If it is necessary to increase the driving force, the disks can be cupped. Scraper blades or brushes are fitted to spring arms just behind the front cup, so that they bear tightly on the pipe wan. Scraper pigs are effective for dislodging and carrying away sludges and soft waxes.

i) 'Intelligent' Pig

The 'intelligent' pig is fitted with sensors and a recorder for inspecting and recording the mechanical and metallurgical condition of the pipe. Although articulated, intelligent pigs are limited in the bend radii and other fittings they can negotiate, and thus cannot be used on some of the older pipelines. Further information and illustrations may be found in Section 6 of {his Report.




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The process of decay to which all pipelines are subject begins when the pipeline is subjected to handling damage during Jaying.

Many North Sea pipelines will have been in place for longer than their design lives of 20 to 30 years. Of different types, materials of construction, methods of installation and anti-corrosion systems, they will have been designed, constructed and maintained in accordance with contemporary standards; guidelines for pipeline abandonment will therefore have to consider the pipeline in its historical context.

Almost every pipeline is uniquely specified with respect to materials, waH thickness, anti-corrosion coating, concrete coating and degree of buriaL Corrosion, which is specific to particular materials and environmental conditions, and damage from external sources all combine with the pipeline's own characteristics to affect its life expectancy.

Cathodic protection (CP) quickly reaches an equilibrium which can be maintained formany years. In the long term, however. anti-corrosion coatings deteriorate, anodes become depleted and in some cases the environment can change for the worse.

Subsea pipelines are if anything more vulnerable than those on land. The use of sacrificial anodes instead of an impressed current CP systems means that any areas found to be unprotected will require the installation of retrofit systems, at a cost much in excess of that associated with land pipelines. By their nature, subsea pipelines are most difficult to visually inspect, consequently it can be longer before impact damage is detected and remedied. It would be invidious to compare the proneness of U.K. subsea and land pipelines to inherent mechanical faults since both recei ve very careful quality control and planning during the design and manufacturing stages, but it is probably true that subsea pipelines are more subject to damage than are land pi pelines,

By the time a subsea pipeline reaches the end of its operational life, it is possible that decay is beginning to become evident. This is then the starting point for predicting its remaining life if it is to be left in place after decommissioning. This section is considering the mechanisms of decay and their effects on the remaining life of the pipeline.


3.2.1 General

This subsection describes the different categories of pipeline according to their location, fluids handled and function.


3.2.2 GeographicaJ Location

The following areas within UK territorial water are considered:

• Northern North Sea

.. Central North Sea

.. Southern North Sea

• Morecambe Bay

The North Sea is remarkably uniform in its makeup and. for the purposes of reviewing material decay rates, all pipelines laid in UK waters may be considered subject to the same external influences with regard to the freely moving oxygenated sea water surrounding them. The seabed mud in which they are laid is more varied, but its effect is assumed as uniform for the purposes of this Study. Hence, the external corrosion rate data summarised in this Section are applicable to all UK locations.

3.2.3 Pipeline Contents

Fluids carried by subsea pipelines include the following:

crude oil (liquids),

natural gas (gases), condensates (mostly liquids),

multiphase hydrocarbons (mixed liquids and gases), chemicals (liquids) and

water .



Fluids attack pipelines in varying degrees and the resultant internal corrosion is countered by selecting an appropriate pipeline material, adding a corrosion allowance to the calculated wall thickness, providing an internal coating or injecting an inhibitor into the fluid. Full corrosion control includes a combination of these measures.

The prior contents of an abandoned pipeline will affect the way in which the pipeline is decommissioned (see Section 2). Decommissioning aims at removing all traces of the fluid previously handled, after which the condition of the internal surface may be assessed by "intelligent pigging" (see Section 6) or by external ultrasonic thickness gauging before the pipeline is left in its find state of abandonment. Subsequent treatment is the same whatever the fluid previously carried, and if the residual deposits cannot be effectively removed, their nature must be taken into account when considering future preservation or re-use.

3.2.4 Pipeline Types

The following functions are performed by active pipelines offshore:

• product exported from field to field or from field to shore,

• product passing from platform to platform or from subsea manifold to platform in the same field and

• primary fluid passing from wellhead to manifold or platform.


Each of the above functions is identified with one or more of the following pipeline types:

trunk in-field pipelines, flowlines,

'piggy-back' pipelines and bundled pipelines.

These types are described below, with the addition of risers, whose function as extensions of pipelines requires special consideration in this section of the Report, although they are not strictly subsea.

a) Export and Infield Pipelines

The majority of pipelines found in the North Sea are those which transmit crude oil, product or natural gas over significant distances offshore, and their diameters are among the largest installed. Since they are usually downstream of process facilities the fluids carried are usually reasonably constant in composition and temperature, a condition which assists in corrosion control.

This type of pipeline is often given a concrete outer coat, both for weight control and protection against impact damage (see Figure 3.1). They may also be buried, for additional mechanical protection; if they are not buried artificially, they may become so in time through natural silting up by fine seabed material.

b) Flowlines

Flowlines carry primary fluids from wells to a central gathering facility. They are typically shorter and of smaller diameter than export lines. Since they carry untreated fluids, sometimes athigh well temperatures, they are potentially more subject to internal corrosion and erosion than are export pipelines.

Burial and concrete weight coating are not specified as frequently for flowlines as for main pipelines, and this may result in physical damage to these pipelines and their external anti-corrosion coatings during laying and after.

Flowlines may be constructed from flexible pipe (see Figure 3.1) and as such will contain several layers of synthetic material which act as protective seals against internal corrosion.

c) 'Piggy-Back' Pipelines

'Piggy-back' lines are pipelines which are mechanically attached externally to larger diameter pipelines and laid all together for economy.

Their function is to transport a different fluid than the main line, from and to thesamepoints. Because of their smaller diameters they can cause difficulties in the removal of either.

d) Bundled Pipelines

Pipelines are said to be bundled when they are installed within an outer carrier pipe. They are usually separated from each other and from the carrier pipe by 'spiders' mounted at intervals along the carrier. Some bundled pipelines are thermally insulated.


If a pipe fanning part of a bundle leaks, the contents may corrode other pipes in the bundle. Furthermore, since externally mounted cathodic protection is not effective within the confines of the carrier pipe, electrolytic corrosion of the bundled pipes cannot readily be prevented.

The annular space between the bundle and carrier pipe is normally filled with sea water, inhibited to reduce corrosion. If the carrier pipe ruptures or leaks, corrosive raw sea waterwil1 displace the original contents, leading to corrosion attack on the exterior surfaces of the bundled pipes as well as further breakdown of the carrier pipe.

e) Risers

Riser pipes connect subsea pipelines, flowlines and umbilicals on the seabed to process and gathering facilities on the platform topsides. They are particularly vulnerable to impact damage and corrosion at the splash zone, the region of intermittent wave action at the surface of the sea. Risers are usually given a thick protecti ve anti- corrosion coating, and an anti- fouling coating may also be necessary.

It is usual for risers to be kept in electrical contact with their related submarine pipelines. Electrical isolation of the riser from the platform itself may be specified in order to preserve the integrity of any cathodic protection system on individual items.

Due to the severity of the environment in the vicinity of the splash zone, it is possible that the associated risers would be removed from the platform after abandonment of a pipeline. If required at a later date, they can be replaced, provided the means of supporting them are still in existence.


One of the principal determinants in selecting an appropriate pipeline material is the corrosi ve property of the transported fluid. The requirement to combat this is balanced against the specific strength of the steel, the toughness required in the parent weld and heat affected zone (the region adjacenttothe base weld metal) and, for gas pipelines, its fracture propagation properties. The resultant selection of material is an economic balance taking into account state-of-the-art technology.

Most pipelines in the North Sea are manufactured from low alloy carbon steel (Refs. 6,11,16, 17. 21~24), thernaterial. manufacture and testing almost invariably being in accordance with the American API 5L standard in appropriate grades of tensile strength (Ref. 73), modified if necessary to meet the specific requirements of the owners of individual pipelines. Materials are continually being improved, and while current practice extends up to X65 grade higher strength steels up to X80 are becoming available, although there is no indication of this strength of steel being used offshore in the foreseeable future. For 'sour' service duties, i.e. fluids containing significant amounts of hydrogen sulphide, the US National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE) Recommendations may be referred to (Refs. 57 and 78).


Metallurgical problems associated with higher strength steels set a practical upper limit to the standard steels available, and engineers are turning to special steels for the higher duties.

Recent developments in extracting more aggressive crudes and natural gases have led to the increasing use of high alloy pipeline steels (Refs. 17, 21 and 23). These steels may be alloyed with chromium, nickel. molybdenum and manganese, the micro-structure of the steel being austenitic, martensitic and duplex (austeniticl ferritic),

Alternative protection can be obtained by cladding the inside of a low alloy steel carrier pipe with high alloy metal. The high quality steel is in contact with the transported fluid while the lesser parent steel, protected on the outer surface with an anti-corrosion coating, is exposed to the sea water.

Exterior cladding may be applied to risers in the splash zone. The cladding may be an alloy containing nickel and copper and is applied as a sheath. This provides protection from corrosion and marine fouling. Corrosion protection alone is sometimes achieved by welding on a layer of corrosion resistant alloy such as monel metal.

Flexible pipelines may be steel wire armoured, several layers of the wire being wound onto the plastic pipe. Each layer is interleaved with a non-metallic coating. A similar protective coating is applied overall, reducing in most cases the amount of cathodic protection needed.


3.4.1 General

The major causes of pipeline failure (Refs. 3, 6, 9-17. 23R37) are:

• impact damage,

• mechanical defect and

• corrosion.

The mechanisms of decay likely to act on abandoned pipelines are listed in Table 3.1 and summarised in Figure 6.

An analysis of 240 pipeline failures in the Gulf of Mexico during the period 1967- 1979 showed that 25% of the total number of failures were due to internal factors and of these, 70% occurred on interfield pipelines. Of the failures attributable to external factors, 43% were due to corrosion and 25% to impact. Of failures on US gas transmission pipelines, 80% were attributable to external factors compared with 20% due to internal factors. The pipelines receiving most attention and hence least likely to fad were those of large diameter and thick walL

3.4.2 Impact Damage

A powerful blow, such as one caused by an anchor or other device trailed from a ship or a hard object dropped into the sea, can have a destructive effect on a pipeline.


Exposed and small diameter pipelines and those which have already been weakened by mechanical defects or corrosion in the region of the impact are most at risk.

Impact damage cannot readily be foreseen, but the possibility must be taken into account when predicting long term reliability,

3.4.3 Mechanical Defects

Failure due to a mechanical defect can occur when the normal mechanical properties of the pipe are compromised locally and at the same time an atypical event happens, for example an abnormal pressure surge.

As with impact damage. mechanical defect failure is a random event which arises because of the simultaneous presence of two or more seriously abnormal factors. The situation is difficult to forecast, but should be allowed for in terms oflong term safety.

3.4.4 Corrosion

Intemal corrosion is caused by the transported fluid, while external corrosion arises from sea water. Both may occur from microbiological activity. Pipe failure occurs either when enough metal is lost to cause perforation of the pipe wall, or when the pipe is sufficiently weakened for mechanical failure to occur.

Some corrosion is inevitable and is always irreversible, but the rate of corrosion can be controlled by specific protective measures which will enable the pipe to achieve its design life, notwithstanding the transported fluid or external environment. Long term corrosion failure occurs when anti-corrosion measures are inadequate, or if the pipeline contents change for the worse and the original pipe material is unsuitable for the new conditions.


The principal methods of subsea pipeline laying are:

• lay barge,

• reel barge and

• towing.

Pipelines are corrosion coated before laying and in certain circumstances a concrete weight coat is applied over the corrosion coat. Corrosion coating may be a very thin layer of epoxy> thermally cured to form an extremely tough skin protecting the pipe from sea water, or a coal tar or other enamel used to give a softer coat several millimetres thick. When the pipe has to be made negatively buoyant to ensure its stability on the seabed, a heavy reinforced concrete weight coat is applied over the anti-corrosion coating.

The largest pipelines are laid by lay barge, which are able to handle any coating, including concrete weight coating. Reel barges on the other hand cannot cope with large diameter or concrete coated pipe because of the pipe's tight winding radius onto the reel.


Towing ou t methods can resul t in damage to some coatings if the pipe is scraped over rocks or other obstructions on the sea bed.

In spite ofthe care gi ven to the pi peline while being laid. some damage can be imparted to both the pipe and the coating due to inadvertent over-stressing, twisting and poor handling. Concrete coating will undergo deformation, and some cracking or spalling of the concrete is inevitable. Care is required to avoid disbanding between the concrete and corrosion coating, and the coating and the pipe surface.

Despite the above strictures, construction in the North Sea can usually be well controlled. and most pipelines remain sufficiently protected during their normal design life.

After installation, pipelines are surveyed for evidence of damage (Refs. 9, 12,15,26 and 33·35). A successful hydrostatic test is required before a consent to start-up the pipelines is given. Some pipeline operators perform pre-commissioning survey and all are required to perform regular surveys of their pipelines.

Details obtained during these surveys of concrete weight coat damage, soil conditions, free pipe movement, loss of burial and presence of unsupported spans, debris and scour, will be useful when planning the decommissioning stage.


3.6.1 General

Line pipe is rarely coated internal1y but is nearly always coated on the outside. During the laying process, the fieldjoints made up on the lay barge are given coatings on the barge compatible with those applied to the line pipe in the coating yard onshore.

The occasions when pipe is coated internally are made necessary by the type of fluid handled, or to improve pipe flow characteristics.

Anti-corrosion coatings serve as a barrier, isolating the steel from its aggressive environment. The coating should have long term stability and maintain a high dielectric strength during prolonged immersion. External coatings generally have low water absorption properties and be tolerant of the cathodic protection applied to the pipe. Especially, coatings should not be allowed to disband from the pipe surface under any conditions.

Pipe coatings are applied in onshore yards under controlled conditions and are tested before despatch. Coatings applied on the barge are exposed to a less well controlled environment and are applied to pipe surfaces which cannot be so carefully prepared.

Typical pipeline components are illustrated diagrammatically in Figure 3.1.


3.6.2 External Coatings

The types of coating applied to the external surfaces of subsea pipelines are listed in Table 3.2. (Refs. 6-8,10,14,35-43,47 and 48) and their properties compared in Table 3.3. Selection takes into account the coating's inherent anti-corrosion properties, its impact resistance, ease of application, temperature limitations, pipe size. cost and whatever experience exists resulting from past use.

The first successful external coatings for submarine pipelines were derived from coal tar and bitumen. The lower aliphatic hydrocarbon content of the former is said to render it more resistant to water absorption and to bacteria attack. Earlier systems in the 1960s used tape-wrapped coatings. but this method of application has since waned in popularity. Coal tar enamels (C'Tfi) and bitumen coatings are usually applied hot, with several layers of glass fibre fabric for reinforcement. They have given good performance in service and remain in widespread use. Care should be exercised when product temperatures become high since progressive coating deterioration can occur.

Developments in technology have resulted in other coating types. Polyethylene (PE) coatings, are extruded onto an adhesive primer and have proved successful in service although extensive disbanding readily occurs if the PE is penetrated. Adhesivebacked PE tapes have been used onshore for several decades. Nylon and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) coatings have met with little success. Fusion bonded epoxy (FEE) coatings were introduced in the late 1970s. They are said to offer toughness, adherence and durability but are not highly resistant to the impact of sharp objects. An advantage over PE is that any damage is localised due to good FBE- to-steel adhesion.

Long term data on the behaviour of external coating in seawater, particularly under the influence of cathodic protection and bacteria, are not available due to both the limited elapsed time involved and commercial constraints. Performance is a function of the standard of surface preparation of the pipe at the time of coating application, care taken during transportation and installation, damage during life. marine growth and extent of buriaL Although its is difficult to predict with precision the effective lifetime of agiven coating on a subsea pipeline, it is unavoidable that some progressive deterioration will occur. Guidelines laid down by Det Norsk Veritas (DnV) for expected percentage breakdown of coatings are shown in Table 3.4.

3.6.3 Field Joints

Field joints are provided to protect welded joints from corrosion. They are given a profile which is uniform with the coated line pipe. Field joints may be of bitumen or synthetic rubber, over-filled with hot poured mastic, or protected by heat-shrunk sleeves or cold applied adhesive tape. Fusion bonded epoxy (FBE) field joints have been used for FBE coated pipelines.

3.6.4 Concrete Weight Coating

The primary purpose of concrete weight coating is to confer negative buoyancy, ensuring pipeline stability on the seabed. This outer coat will also mechanically protect the anti-corrosion coating over which it is applied, to the benefit of the latter's long tenn durability (Refs. 6-10, 13, 14,29 and 44·46).


A tough, impact resistance high quality concrete coat is required, and a strong reinforcing steel cage is built in during application of the concrete. Both ordinary and rapid hardening Portland cements are used. The tricalcium aluminate (C3A) must be sufficient to afford protection to the steel reinforcing cage. The mineral aggregates.such as magnetite, are used for extra weight. The reinforced concrete will be of the order of 30mm to l20mm th ick; theconcrete is usually impinged onto the pipe as a relatively dry mixture but recent application innovations include a compression coat system where concrete is extruded or wrapped onto the pipe.

It should be noted that several pipelines installed before the mid 70' s used a less robust re-inforcement of wire mesh known as 'chicken wire' in place of the steel cage.

The concrete should be durable, possess low permeability to and not react with sea water. These qualities are achieved by ensuring a high cement content, a low water! cement ratio during mixing, placing and curing. and by good quality control in the yard. Some cracking of the concrete is inevitable, particularly during the lay barge operation, when the pipeline is in tension and subjected to bending moments. Some porosity is likely in the cured concrete, due to entrapped air.

Concrete is applied directly to most anti-corrosion coats, but smooth FBE coats are covered with an intermediate non-slip barrier coating, usually fibre cement, before the concrete impingement process begins (Table 3.1).

3.S.5 Internal Coating

Most pipelines are not coated internally. Where internal coating is specified, it is for corrosion control or to improve flow properties. Baked urethane, phenolics and FBE can be used for internal coating.

During the girth welding of the pipeline, any internal coating or paint will be destroyed in the weld area. Unless the coating is replaced, the resultant bare pipe is exposed to corrosion attack. Most barges are equipped to recoat large diameter pipe manually at the weld.

During decommissioning of the pipeline, the condition of any internal coating should be ascertained and the results taken into account in a programme for pipeline preservation.


3.7.1 General

Standard design codes for subsea pipelines stipulate that pipeline corrosion shall be preventedby the use of coatings and cathodic protection (CP) (Refs. 9 and 32-35). Where the external coating is damaged or has deteriorated with time, cathodic protection currents control corrosion on the pipeline surface. For steel in seawater, a polarised potential more negative than -800mV silver/silver chloride/seawater reference electrode (AgI Age 1), gives protection. In anaerobic environments such as mud, where sulphate reducing bacteria may be active, the required potential is more negative than .. 900mV, Ag/Ag Cl.


Cathodic protection may not be effective beneath disbonded coatings (Refs. 8, 24 and 48), and external surveys may not always reveal whether the steel in such areas is under-protected,

3.7.2 CathodiC Protection Design

CP currents are applied using impressed current or sacrificial anode techniques. For subsea pipelines the latter method is used, since this system is relatively low in maintenance. Exceptions may occur at onshore approaches or platform risers. where reliable electrical power supplies are available and the impressed current technique becomes viable for use on well-coated pipelines (Refs. 6-9, 20, 25, 37 and 59).

Early sacrificial anode systems were based on zinc anodes in the form of segmented or half-shell bracelets shaped to the profile of the pipeline. Recent improvements in aluminium alloys have led to a trend towards using aluminium-zinc-indium alJoys for half-sheU and segmented bracelet anodes.

The design of pipeline cathodic protection systems has developed with time, and Codes of Practice are continually being updated. Designs also vary according to operator requirements.

For pipelines with extended design lifetimes, the difficulty and cost of retrofitting CP systems, particularly to submarine pipelines in deep water, should be considered at the design stage. Each system should be regarded indi vidually when predicting sacrificial anode residual lifetimes. Annual survey data will be useful in this respect.

3.7.3 Interaction with Coatings

Although CP currents control the rate of corrosion of steel in seawater, coatings minimise the total current requirement of the system and, hence, the weight of anode material installed. However, CP can have a progressively adverse effect on the coating itself (Refs. 8, 19,39,43 and 47-48 (see subsection 3.9.4.)

In time, all coatings will suffer loss of adhesion to steel as a consequence of cathodic polarisation, though rates will differ. The mechanism of disbandment is not fully understood, but may be related to the formation of an alkaline environment where cathodic currents are discharged at the steel's surface. Disbondment usually starts at defects in the coating and tends to be more pronounced on those coatings which have a lower adhesive bond strength. The relative performances of coal tar enamel. polyethylene and FEE coatings are compare in Table 3.3.

The progressive deterioration of coating effectiveness will lead to an increase of current demand, while polarisation and progressive build-up of calcareous deposits on the steel will tend to decrease the current demand. As a result, the rate of consumption of sacrificial anodes is not necessarily linear, although likely to increase with time, and short term consumption rates cannot be extrapolated to predict total system life. Again, annual survey data would be useful to highlight those areas where severe coating damage has occurred and may also indicate the effect of progressive breakdown of the coating.


3.7.4 Detrimental Effects of Cathodic Protection

Extreme cathodic 'over' protection can cause hydrogen gas to evolve on the steel surface which may physically 'lift-off' coatings. Such a condition is more likely with impressed current systems close to current drain points. In addition, cathodic protection can influence the fatigue life of pipeline steel (Ref. 3, 22, 24, 28 and 48).

Instances of cathodic protection adversely affecting the properties of stainless steels have also been reported. Although the level of cathodic protection was sufficient to stop crevice corrosion of ferritic and martensitic stainless steel, severe hydrogen blistering and internal fissuring were evident. Austenitic stainless steels appear to be unaffected mechanically by cathodic protection whereas hydrogen embrittlement has been caused in martensitic stainless steel. Clearly, the design of cathodic protection must take account of all the materials in a pipeline system. (See subsection 4.3.6 for a description of crevice corrosion in stainless steels).


3.8.1 General

The principal decay mechanisms, corrosion and loss of concrete weight coating, are described in this section (see Figure 3.1). The objective is to predict the behaviour of an abandoned pipeline, but the observations would be relevant in many cases where an extension to the lifetime of an existing pipe} ine is under consideration.

There is at present very little experience of long term corrosion in sea water. One example only is to hand, a submarine recovered in 1982,69 years after sinking. Although the main material of construction was mild steel with a chemical composition not used in modern pipeline, a short account of the investigation into the extent of corrosion is included in this report for information,

3.8.2 Available Data

Performance data covering the operating life of the pipeline would be useful; these data are the 'property of the pipeline operator and are not publically available. The Institution of Corrosion has attempted to pool such information as is available, information which will result from the periodic internal and external surveys carried out during the life of the pipeline.

Special features of pipeline configuration are listed in Subsection 3.4. Some of these affect corrosion and corrosion protection measures, to which should be added:

• marine growth,

• defects,

• stabilising mats,

• corrosion product deposits,

• extraneous debris,

• depleted CP anodes and

• pipeline crossings and tie-ins.


Every attempt should be made to inspect and gauge the effect of the above features, although burial and marine growth will prevent a full visual inspection; similarly, magnetic particle and ultrasonic inspection require free access to a dean, un-coated surface.


Corrosion Mechanisms

Corrosion acts in the following ways, according to the material under attack and its environment.

Corrosion Environments

The corrosive environment of a subsea pipeline consists of seawater and seabed mud saturated with seawater. The effects of the resultant anaerobic environments and microbiological activity are considered below.

For the sea areas under consideration the seawater, which in the North Sea is well mixed, contains pollutants from the Scandinavian, European, British and Irish land masses. In deep water, water and mud temperatures of less than 10°C are evident throughout the year. In shallower waters, such as the Southern Basin and at shore approaches, higher temperatures may occur. Corrosion rates can increase by 20*30% per lOoC temperature rise; Figure 3.2 shows the effect of temperature on corrosion rates, and Figure 3.3 indicates the effect of temperature on another corrosion indicator, the solubility of oxygen, in the North Sea.

Unlike most other waters, the North Sea has a fairly uniform profile of oxygen concentration with depth, in the range 6*8 mgll. Seawater has a high salt content, of the order of 3.4%, and includes anions (chloride, sulphate, bicarbonate and bromide) and cations (sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium). Resistivity is low, about 30 ohm em for water and 75*250 ohm em for mud, and this encourages rapid corrosion rates. Seawater pH is fairly constant, of the order of pH 8. Figure 3.4 shows the effect of oxygen and salt concentrations on corrosion rates.

Marine organisms which influence corrosion patterns are widespread (Refs. 1, 2, 13*21, 29, 49 and 50). Fouling is increased when a secure foothold is available, as on the surfaces of steel, concrete and to some extent anti-corrosion coatings. Underwater currents above 2*2.5 metres/second can prevent organism attachment and fouling. Species and growth are determined by water depth, temperature and the penetration of sunlight. Once marine growth is established it is difficult to remove and acts as a barrier to water flow and oxygen transport. In general, pipelines nearer to the water surface are at most risk from severe marine fouling.

Corrosion Reactions

Corrosion can proceed by general thinning of the metal or by a more localised effect. The latter is more of a problem during the operational life of the pipe, since perforation occurs.

Corrosion is the breakdown of a material due to electrolysis. Examples are the consumption of sacrificial anodes or dissolution of steel when the cathodic protection system is exhausted. For metals in water. corrosion proceeds electrochemically by the conjoint action of an anodic (oxidation) reaction, by which the metal is dissolved, and a cathodic (reduction) reaction. The presence of an aqueous medium such as seawater or seabed mud is essential for corrosive action to take place.


Electrons are produced by anodic reaction and pass through the metal, on demand, to the cathodic site, where they are consumed by cathodic reaction. Charge balance in the 'circuit' is maintained by the passage of ions in solution.

The primary corrosive agent in seawater is oxygen, which diffuses to the metal surface and is therefore reduced to form hydroxyl ions. Any factor such as fluid motion which speeds the transport of oxygen to the metal surface will increase the net corrosion rate. Conversely, if the transport of oxygen is impeded, for example by coatings, marine growth or burial. the net corrosion rate due to oxygen will decrease.

Microbiological Activity

The limited data a vailable for North Sea sediments indicates that there can be a hazard of microbiological corrosion. Redox potential (oxydation reduction) data arc difficult to obtain; nevertheless, values of redox potential are necessary to determine the perceived risk of corrosion due to bacterial action. One set of guidelines is given in Table 3.5 (Ref. 51).

Sulphate reducing bacteria (SRB) require an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment such as seabed mud (Refs. 2-4, 6, 42 and 50-53). Bacterial growth is restricted to an environment with a range of pH 6.5 to 9 .5, pH 7 to 8 being optimum. They can tolerate temperatures between -SoC and 75°C, 10 to 40°C being optimum. There are several distinct species of SRB, each of which affects the corrosion of iron differently. To grow, SRBs require a source of sulphate ions, phosphates, carbon, nitrogen and inorganic iron (steel). SRB activity reduces sulphate to sulphide and depolarises the cathodic reaction both by consuming cathodic hydrogen and depositing a layer of ferrous sulphide, which is an effective cathode. In addition, SRB activity enhances the anodic dissolution reaction and interferes with the formation of a protective film on the iron. The net effect is a local increase in the corrosion rate of the item attacked. Some observed rates are given in Table 3.6.

Pits in the internal walls of pipelines may harbour bacteria, and cleaning procedures need to consider the use of biocides to ensure that all bacteria are eliminated.

General Corrosion Rates

General (uniform) corrosion occurs when the cathodic reactant (oxygen) has equal access to all parts of a metal surface. This uniformity of corrosion rate permits reasonable predictions of system life. The rates reported (Refs. 1-5,38 and 54-56) in Table 3.6 will apply to non-cathodically protected structures and to those where cathodic protection has become exhausted and the structure depolarised. The rates are mainly for open seawater where corrosion rates are primarily controlled by oxygen availability. Coatings, calcareous deposits and full burial will decrease these values significantly. Rates vary locally at the mudline due to differential concentration cells, scouring, marine growth and SRB activity.

To a large extent, corrosion rate data for bare carbon steel are applicable to the whole family of related ferrous materials. such as low alloy (high strength) steels, alloy steels, weathering steels (with copper). malleable irons, and nickel alloy cast irons. The summarised data relate to shallow seawater conditions. Since the pipeline locations under consideration are in mixed. well aerated seawater, this data should be applicable top resent subsea pipelines to a good approximation.


Galvanic Corrosion

The electrode potentials of different alloys in seawater are not identical, (Table 3.7) (Refs. 2, 57, 67 and 69), the difference in potential being the driving force. For galvanic corrosion to occur, the two metals must be in electrical contact and cathodic reactants must be available at the less corrosive (more noble) metal.

Gal vanic corrosion is used to beneficial effect for the cathodic protection of steels by sacrificial anodes. In its tum, carbon steel may protect stainless steel and prevent pitting, the rate of dissolution of the carbon steel increasing, rising for example from 0.79 to 0.91 mm/yearon coupling to an equal area of304 stainless steel (Ref. 3). Galvanic corrosion can also be detrimental where it causes preferential corrosion at welds.

Crevice Corrosion

Crevice corrosion is autocatalytic (self propagating) and is the result of a series of connected events (Ref. 56). The crevices need to be wide enough to permit fluid entry, but narrow enough to cause stagnation; a few thousandths of an inch wide is sufficient. Fibrous matter, deposits, or marine organisms contacting the surface of a metal or exposed wire armouring may also produce crevice corrosion sites.

Upon initial immersion, oxy gen reduction and metal dissolution occur over the entire surface of the metal, both within and outside the crevice. The oxygen in the crevice is rapidly depleted, but outside, oxygen arrival is unimpeded and oxygen reduction continues. Metal dissolution, meanwhile, continues both in and out of the crevice. Inside the crevice, the continued production of metal ions (positive charge) causes an imbalance of charge, which is corrected by the migration of chloride ions (negative charge) into the crevice. The increasing concentration of metal and chloride ions causes hydrolysis and results in a build-up of hydrogen ions (acidity) in the crevice. Variations in electrode potential between the metal in the crevice and that exposed to the bulk solution can be severe, approximately 100m V for carbon steel and 500m V for stainless steels. Overall, metal dissolution within the crevice alone is stimulated, supported by the continuing reduction of oxygen on the metal adjacent to the crevice. Many metals are susceptible to crevice corrosion, as shown in Table 3.8.

Metals such as stainless steels, which rely on a thin surface oxide film for corrosion resistance (passivity), are particularly vulnerable to crevice corrosion, although the likelihood is decreased by an increase in chromium, nickel and molybdenum content. They rely on the availability of oxidising species to repair defects in the passive film and where such conditions pertain, corrosion rates are virtually zero (Refs. 1,2,4.22 and 56-58). However. where these films are destroyed and cannot be repaired, for example by concentrations of chloride or hydrogen ions in an active crevice, the local dissolution rate increases markedly and progressively with time. If crevice corrosion is caused by the attachment of marine growth to a surface, or by the settlement of deposits, then fluid flow rates in excess of 1 to 1.5 mls may prevent attachment or deposition and prevent the occurrence of crevices.

Pitting Corrosion

Like crevice corrosion, pitting corrosion is also autocatalytic, the result of a series of connected events (Ref. 67). Pitting attack is very localised and it is not uncommon for 90 to 99% of the surface to remain unattacked, with only a few pits evident. Whereas the rate of general corrosion may be low. the rate of metal dissolution in active pits


will be high and rapid penetration of the metal item can occur. It is often difficult to detect pits because of their small sites, and failures due to pitting often occur with unexpected suddenness.

An extended initiation period is usually required before pits become visible. This period can be up to several years, depending on both the metal and the corrosive environment. The initiation process is thought to be due to a local imbalance at the surface of a metal where it is exposed to the environment. In seawater, the imbalance leads to a local build up of ions from solution, with the net result that the rate of metal dissolution is stimulated at that point. If conditions permit, for example under stagnant conditions, metal dissolution remains concentrated at their localised points (pits), the corrosion process becomes self-stimulating and pitting corrosion proceeds at an increasing rate.

Typical rates of pitting corrosion are given in Table 3.9. Again. metals which rely on a passive film for corrosion resistance are particularly vulnerable.

Corrosion behaviour data for Type 304 stainless steels are typical for the lower alloyed stainless steels (Ref. 2), except the nickel-free alloys. which are usually much less resistant to pitting corrosion. Data for Type 316 stainless steels are typical of the higher alloyed stainless steels. Increases in chromium, nickel and molybdenum content will usually decrease the likelihood of pitting corrosion; for example alloys containing 6% molybdenum are superior to those with only 2.3% Mo'

Rules ofthumb for estimating pitting resistance equivalent (PRE) are given below. Values should be greater than 36.

PRE = Cr+3.3Moor PRE = Cr+3.3Mo+ 16N

One example for 316 stainless steel under full immersion in low velocity seawater showed O.94mm by pitting attack in five years. A different example in quiet seawater exhibited pitting attack under barnacles in 42 months. At a velocity greater than 1.2 m/s no barnacles were able to attach and no pitting occurred.

Corrosion Fatigue

All metals, when subject to cyclic, variable or alternating loads, are liable to fail by fatigue (Refs. 3, 14, 24, 27, 28 and 56). Fatigue involves crack initiation, propagation and subsequent mechanical failure. Higher stresses lead to shorter fatigue lives. The fatigue properties of low and intermediate strength offshore pipeline steels in aerated seawater are adversely affected by the aqueous environment and chloride ions, the steel becoming more susceptible to crack initiation and enhanced crack growth rates; that is, they suffer corrosion fatigue, the synergistic effect of fatigue plus corrosion. The possibility of corrosion fatigue is a major constraint on the design of offshore pipelines and platforms, particularly at welds and nodes.

Resistance to corrosion fatigue depends more on corrosion resistance than mechanical strength. The action of low cycle fatigue stresses is also important. since more corrosion can occur during the low cycle. This factor is particularly significant when considering pipelines that are to be preserved after having been in use for several decades.


Cathodic protection can restore the fatigue life of low strength steels (less than 550 MN/m2) in seawater to equal that in air. The effect is ambiguous, but is thought to control the condition of sites where cracks may initiate, thereby inhibiting crack initiation; it can however cause an acceleration in the growth rate of larger cracks. Overprotection is detrimental, particularly to high strength steels (greater than 900 MN/m2).andmay cause decreased ductility and cracking due to hydrogen embrittlement. Overprotection of carbon steels should not occur with zinc or aluminium sacrificial anodes. The fatigue parameters used in design indicate that extended fatigue and long service lives are attainable.

Stress-Corrosion Cracking

Stress-corrosion cracking (SeC) requires an alloy which is affected by composition and microstructure. a specific aggressive environment and a sustained tensile stress (Refs. 3, 8,23 and 24). Carbon and low alloy steels are not susceptible to sec in seawater. but high strength steels may be at risk, particularly in the weld and heat affected zones. Sulphide stress corrosion or hydrogen induced cracking. caused by hydrogen sulphide produced by SRB activity, is a particular form of sec which should be considered during the design and life of a pipeline.

Onshore examples of sec have occurred on buried carbon steel pipelines at moderate temperatures above ambient, as a result of in teraction between disbonded coating and cathodic protection. The steel becomes susceptible to sec as a result of a build up of carbonate and bicarbonate in the crevice formed under the coating. It is considered that pipelines offshore will not be subject to the set of conditions necessary to cause this form of sec.

Long Term Experience

An example of the long-term corrosion behaviour subsea of an iron-based material has been reported for the "Holland 1" submarine (Refs. 76 and 77). This sank in 1913 and was recovered in 1982 for inspection. There were indications that during this period the submarine had been exposed to a variety of environments, including burial and exposure to seawater. and to both aerobic and anaerobic conditions. The submarine was covered both internally and externally by an adherent layer of calcium carbonate scale with a thickness of 2-Srnm. The outside surface was also colonised by a layer of marine growth. Corrosion was evident by visual examination and was subsequently attributed to both aerated and de aerated mechanisms. The possible role of sulphate reducing bacteria was highlighted.

The submarine hull was made from a very mild ductile steel of good quality. Typical rates of corrosion for this material in seawater were given as O.02mm - O.05mml year. However the original thickness of the hull plate was of the order 14.3mm. In places this had thinned by only 1.5mm; generally the thickness remaining was 6mm; elsewhere total perforation had occurred. Based on a 69 year corrosion period, ignoring any corrosion that may have happened during service and before sinking, these equate to corrosion rates of 0.02, 0.l2 and 0.21 mm/year. Clearly. the latter is a minimum value and may indeed have been exceeded.


3.8.4 Failure of Concrete Weight Coating

Concrete weight coating on a subsea pipeline can fail by:

spalling during laying. impact from external sources,

shedding due to lateral movement of the pipe and an abrasive obstacle, corrosion and loss of integrity of the steel reinforcing cage or

degradation of the concrete material itself.

In addition, concrete weight coating on unsupported spans will be subject to the vibrational forces induced in the span by seawater currents flowing around the pipe. If the forces are severe enough, the concrete win break away. Spans will also be at risk from anchor and trawl board impact damage. The occurrence of an unsupported span is usuaIJy the result of scouring of the seabed by underwater currents, or more rarely collapse of the seabed.

Concrete Structure

Hardened concrete is rigid and contains a network of inter-connected pores which are filled with water saturated with calcium. sodium and potassium hydroxides. Reserve alkalinity is available as solid calcium hydroxide which forms during the hardening process. The concrete structure will be permeable by reason not only of the pores, but also cracks, voids and entrapped air pockets.

The durability of undisturbed concrete in the marine environment depends to a large degree upon its low permeability. Initial surface absorption, chloride ion diffusion and electrical resistivity test results show that the permeability of un cracked concrete exposed to sea water reduces significantly with time. This reduction is due to the formation of a discrete layer on the surface of the cement paste, together with a more widespread bulk effect associated with a modification of the pore structure. The surface layer generally consists of a brucite (magnesium hydroxide) layer which is in evidence after only one day, overlain by a more slowly developing skin of aragonite (calcium carbonate). After four months of sea-water exposure the layers are typically 30m and 150m thick respectively.

Chloride ions do not attack concrete per se, although some ions will react chemically with the cement and become immobilized. Diffusion of chloride ions from seawater into the concrete is inevitable, but the rate can be arrested if the tricalcium aluminate (C3A) content is sufficiently high. The rate is also affected by the quality and soundn ess of the concrete and by the hydrostatic head. Forexamp le, chloride ions will penetrate lm into a well compacted concrete in 140m water depth in 50 years, whereas a poor quality concrete could be penetrated after only one day. The presence of cracks will facilitate significantly the entry of chloride ions into concrete.

Deterforation of Concrete Material

Concrete made from ordinary Portland cement (Refs. 29, 44,46,59 and 63) contains insufficient C3A to prevent a deleterious reaction in the presence of sulphate ions. For example, in a 3.5% magnesium sulphate solution, 90% loss of strength occurred over five years. Greater than 8% C3A is required for immunity. The sulphate reaction with C;A causes a gradual softening of the cement matrix with long-term progressive loss of strength and swelling of the concrete. The effect is partly offset by the presence of chloride ions; however, it is considered more likely that any loss of structural integrity of a concrete weight coat is caused by failure of the steel reinforcing cage.


Corrosion of Steel Reinforcement Cage

The steel reinforcement cage in the concrete weight coat will initially be exposed to a highly alkaline environment, pH 12.5 to 13.5, and will be protected from corrosion by the immediate formation of a passive film (Refs. 6, 10, 44-46, 60-62 and 64- 66). This film can be maintained for many years, even during seawater immersion. by 50 to 75mm of sound, good quality concrete, but such a depth of cover is not always available to reinforcing steel in concrete weight coating.

Although total corrosion of steel in reinforced concrete under immersed conditions usually depends on a limited cathodic current, it has been found that the distribution of corrosion can be determined by factors such as cracking of the concrete, which can influence passivity.

Steel in concrete on subsea pipelines may be depassivated by the arrival of chloride ions from seawater. The high conductivity of seawater to concrete makes possiblethe development of long-range corrosion cells where local rate and extent of corrosion could depend critically on the geometry of cracks in the concrete over the reinforcement.

Oxygen availability is necessary if corrosion of the steel is to proceed, although corrosion is not always inevitable. Oxygen does not react with concrete and will have unimpeded, if slow, passage into concrete via pores and cracks. Therefore, oxygen in seawater can allow local corrosion of the steel to proceed in concrete where viable, that is at cracks and areas of poor qual ity or at the site of impact damage. The rate of corrosion will be decreased by full burial of the pipeline.

The corrosion products of iron and steel are two to five times more voluminous than the parent metal; corrosi on of steel in concrete will therefore produce tensile stresses in the concrete. Because concrete has a low resistance to tensile stress, it will crack in order to relieve these stresses. Thus, the concrete weight-coat can become detached from the pipeline by the progressive loss of spalled material, or can come away in 'chunks' following dissolution and or severance of the reinforcing cage.

Effect of Failure of Concrete Weight Coating

Separation of the weight coat from the pipeline will make the latter more buoyant, concrete fragments may ensnare fishing gear and the underlying anti-corrosion coating will be exposed and become more vulnerable to damage, increasing the likelihood of early pipeline steel corrosion. However, the field-joint coating (which has no concrete cover) will always pose more of a problem in maintaining anticorrosion properties, and exposure of the anti-corrosion coating per se may not be a critical-issue.


A typical multi-layer flexible pipeline is shown in Figure 3.1. For the mechanical strength of the flexible pipeline to be affected, the metal layers will need to corrode; significant corrosion of the outer reinforcement layers will depend on degradation of the outermost coatings, shown in the Figure 3.1 as an elastomer.


Elastomeric coatings have been in use in seawater for several decades and they have been shown to maintain good durability, water resistance and adhesion to steel (Ref. 75)) although some loss of tensile strength and elongation is to be expected. On this basis, elastomer coated flexible pipelines will probably be preserved mechanically for many decades.


3.10.1 General

The internal and external condition of a pipeline should be determined at the time of de-commissioning. for example by intelligent pig and cathodic protection (field gradient) surveys. Where possible, visual inspection and non-destructive testing may also be used where pipelines are exposed.

In the examination of behaviour after decommissioning, pipelines generally fall into one of three categories:

Category 1

Carbon steel pipelines, coated, provided with cathodic protection and fully or partially buried.

Category 2

High alloy steel pipelines with coatings where relevant, fully or partially buried. These lines are at risk from local corrosion where pitting or crevice conditions can occur. Perforation would render the line inoperable, although much of the pipeline would remain intact mechanically for decades.

Category 3

Flexible pipelines made up of several metallic and non-metallic coats. They are durable and it is not likely that their mechanical properties will deteriorate rapidly.

During the operational life of any pipeline, the majority of metal loss will probably be by internal corrosion. The extent of metal loss will then govern whether the pipeline can be considered for preservation and re-use. Where external attack is a concern, replacement sacrificial anodes can be retrofitted if required when the original anodes become depleted. Repairs to areas of gross damage to the anticorrosion coating may be contemplated in extreme cases. On this basis, external corrosion can be controlled provided CP is maintained; if the cathodic protection system is allowed to run down then corrosion ofthe steel will become inevitable once coating defects appear.

If the pipe is to be abandoned in situ and filled with water or some other liquid, inhibition may not be necessary, since all corrosion reactants will be consumed and not replaced, leading to an eventual reduction in corrosion.

Pipeline crossings left in place after abandonment will need to be monitored to ensure that the abandoned pipeline does not deleteriously influence the crossing line. Spur lines may drain an existing cathodic protection system if they are designed for shorter lifetimes.


High alloy fittings in carbon steel lines may promote galvanic corrosion. Rock dumping (see Section 6) may cause extra coating breakdown. Protective covers, particularly those made from sheet steel, may interfere with the cathodic protection systems acting within them unless they are correctly and securely bonded electrically.

3.10.2 Sequence of Pipeline Decay

A typical sequence of subsea pipeline decay is as follows:

Breakdown of corrosion coating and increased consumption of sacrificial anodes over the 'normal' life of the line. At the end of its 'normal' life, there should be in at least 20% of anode material remaining, equivalent to an anode design utilisation factor of 80%. This may assist in maintaining the level of protection on parts of the pipeline.

Sometime after the pipeline has ceased to operate, its temperature will approach seabed temperature, which will alleviate corrosion to some extent.

The amount of remaining anode material, degree of burial , extent of coating breakdown, and build-up of calcareous deposits will then determine at what rate the pipeline depolarises from a protected potential to a potential at which free corrosion can occur. This may take several years.

As the anodes become totally depleted, the bare areas of pipeline steel will become increasingly subject to corrosion, the upper-boundary corrosion rate being approximately O.2mm/year in seawater. Thus. for a typical wall thickness of 12mm. the time to arrive at complete perforation by uniform corrosion will be 60 years. For a fully buried line, the time period may be 400 years. Localized pitting corrosion in seawater will occur at a higher rate, such that holes appear in the line after only 15 years.

The above time periods are approximate, and under certain circumstances corrosion rates may be some ten times less than those given above, leading to pipeline lifetimes of several centuries. Generally, it is concluded that a pipeline will remain on the seabed for many decades before it begins to break-up into sections.


3.11.1 Testing

All pipeline components are subjected to various tests before being used, to con finn their fitness for purpose. With respect to abandoned pipelines, some of these tests are more applicable than others and some are only relevant if the pipeline is to be recovered. For example, the shear strength of the coatings is relevant if the pipeline is to be recovered by the "reverse lay" method (see Section 4 for a description of recovery methods).


3.11.2 Applicable Tests

In Table3.1 0 the various decay mechanisms are identified foreach pipeline component. The table indicates which properties should be considered if the abandoned pipeline is to be recovered at some future date.

For each component property the associated test code is identified in Table 3.1 L

Most methods for evaluating pipeline components are based on tests lasting up to 1 year, or on 28 day accelerated high temperature ageing tests which have been developed to predict the performance during the pipeline's operating life. Short term tests may not be relevant to longer lifetimes of, say, more than 30 years.

Test methods are based on measuring the physical and mechanical properties of a pipeline component during various stages of long tenn immersion in seawater. This would need to be carried out for pipeline sections which are cathodically protected as well as on those which are not. Meaningful "long term" immersion tests would be for periods longer than 5 years, although to establish trends- the results should be logged on an annual basis.

3.11.3 Performance Testing

Most long term performance information is held by the operating companies and consists of the results of visual inspection determining damaged areas, loss of coating and external corrosion. Cathodic protection surveys give an indication of coating breakdown, provided the field density method is used to establish current density.

To obtain quantitative data, it will be necessary either to remove pipe sections for testing onshore or to adapt those onshore test methods which are appropriate for in-situ testing of pipelines offshore. Some methods of in-situ testing on operational pipelines may not be relevant in establishing the performance of abandoned lines; for example, the performance of coatings not under cathodic protection differ from those that are.

Wherever possible, samples of lines that have been in the sea for a considerable length of time should be obtained for examination and testing.

Recommended test codes are listed in Table 3.11., The tests identified there should when possible be conducted on pipeline components that have been immersed in seawater for extended periods.


The uniformity of water and seabeds throughout UK waters means that the location of pipelines does not effect external corrosion rates. Internal corrosion attack will depend on the fluid carried during the operational life of the pipeline and can be countered by provisions made during design and operation.


By reason of their size and applied protection, export and infield trunk pipelines are considered less liable than flowlines to accident and decay. Risers receive extra protection in recognition of their greater vulnerability to impact damage and environmental attack in the splash zone.

An analysis of failures in the Gulf of Mexico indicates that a minority of failures were due to internal factors, most of them on infield lines. Forty-three per cent of external failures were due to corrosion and twenty-five per cent to impact. In general terms; corrosion rates are to a large extent controllable, impact damage and the consequences of mechanical faults less so. Damage during pipe transportation and construction is possible but most can be detected in time for remedial work to be carried out. Anticorrosion measures and concrete weight and anti-impact coatings require high-level quality assurance during application and laying. Good maintenance of riser coatings during their lifetime is needed. The considerable attention already given to these factors in the UK ensures that they assist in meeting the predicted design life of the 1ine.

After considering the corrosion mechanisms and failure probabilities present throughout the life cycle of a pipeline, it is concluded that a subsea line that is well maintained and has kept fairly free from mechanical damage has a good chance of lasting for 60 years if exposed or 400 years is fully buried after the cathodic protection system becomes depleted.


Table 3.1




Pipe material

- General and localised corrosion following depletion of CP systems and action of biological activity

Pipeline structure

- Displacement due to environmental forces, anchors, fishing gear and loss of support. Denting and severance by external impact.

Anti-corrosion coatings

- Mechanical damage, hardening permeation and disbandment

Concrete weight coating:


- Loss of strength due to reaction with seawater, micro-structural failure and spalling.

Steel rebar

- Corrosion.

Sacrificial anodes

- Depletion due to preferential wastage.

Flexible pipe

- Hardening of seals. Corrosion of armouring.


Table 3.2


Coal Tar Enamel (GTE) - Long history of successful 5.0
Petroleum Bitumen - Less effective than coat tar. 5.0
Polyethylene (PE) - Early problems. Extruded PE 2.0
now successful.
Fusion Bonded Epoxy - Successful applications. 0.5
Polyamide ~ Limited data.
Polyurethane (PU) - Field joint material. 12.0-50.0
Limited data.
Polychloroprene (PCP) - Durable; splash zone coat. 12.0-25.0
Ethylene Propylene - Durable; splash zone coat. 12.0-25.0
Diamine Monomer - Limited Data.
Hypalon - Splash zone coating for 10.0-50.0
higher temperature ranges.
PCP/PVC - Thermal insulation 50.0
PE Tape/Mastic - Field Joint Coatings 2.0+50.0
PVC Tape/Mastic - Heat Shrink Sleeve. 2.0+50.0
Polymer Glass - Limited data.
Fibre Cement - Barrier or bond coat between 2.5
FBE and concrete weight coat.
Reinforced concrete - \/Veight and impact coating. 30.0-120.0 56

Table 3.3


(eTE) (FBE)
Extensibility 1 3 3
Cathodic disbondment resistance 2 1 2
Impat resistance 1 3 2
Adhesion 1 2 3
Resistance to Creep or Flow 1 3 3
Resistance to Penetration 2 3 3
Ageing effects 2 1 2
Kev: 1= Poor' 2 = fair' 3 = aood The coatings above are used for their general anti-corrosion properties, but other coatings may be specified for special situations: thick polychloroprene (PCP) and EPDM coatings are particular! y durable and are used to protect risers in splash zones, They have also been used forthemal insulation, often in conjunction with aPVC foam.


Table 3.4


Initial Mean Final
Thin Film (Ref. 35)
10 .2 7 10
20 :2 15 30
30 :2 25 60
40 :2 40 90
Rubber (Ref. 9)
25 1 5 10 58

Table 3.5


up to 100 Severe
100 - 200 Moderate
200 M 400 Slight
over 400 Negligible 59

Table 3.6


5 Flowing, 40m/s turbulent (a) 1
0.75 Flowing 3m/s
0.75 Millscaled sample, 8 years 4
0.7 Piling, millscale free, up to 2 years
0.2 Piling, millscale free, over 2 years
0.15 After 1 year
0.07 After 16 years
0.23 Flowing, O.8m/s (a) 3
0.10 Quiescent
0.125 Quiescent, rate decreases with time 56
0.07 - 0.21 Piling (mudline), less than a.6m/s 2
0.02 - 0.21 Seabed - 69 year exposure 76
0.1 - 0.2 Quiescent, world values (a) 1
0.03 - 0.08 Low velocity, low oxygen 5
0.03 Embedded (with or without CP) 38
0.03 Immersed (with CP)
0.07 - 0.11 Mean rates (b) 55
0.15 - 0.50 Just below mean low tide level
0.64 - 1.02 SRB mean values (c)
1.52 - 2.03 SRB maximum values {c) Notes:

a) Chromium (2-3.5%) will increase the likelihood of pitting and gives no advantage in the long term, (Refs. 1 and 3).

b) Pitting 2.5 to 3.5 times worse than uniform rate. (Ref. 55}.

c) Values for SRB. Pitting may be 4 to 5 times worse than uniform rate.


TabJe 3.7


Anoy Potential (Ag/Ag/C1)
Zinc -1000
Carbon Steel -650
Active 304 Stainless Steel -520
Active 316 Stainless Steel -410
90/10 Copper - Nickel -250
70/30 Copper - Nickel -200
Passive 304 Stainless Steel -80
Passive 316 Stainless Steel -50
Alloy 8~~5 +20

Table 3.8


90/10 CufNi Cast Iron Ni-Fe-Cr Types 304, 316, 400
(1.5% Fe) stainless steels
70/30 Cu/Ni Carbon Steel Ni-Cu Alloy Ni-Cralloy
(0.5% Fe) 400 62

Table 3.9


Alloy Pitting Alloy Pitting Alloy Pitting
(mmlyear) (mm/year) (m01ryeoar)
90110 Cu/Ni/Fe 0.03-0.13 Carbon Steel 0.38-0.76 304L Stainless 1.78~
Ni-Cu Alloy Steel
400 0.13-0.38'"
70/30 Cu/NjJFe 0.03-0.13 316 Stainless 1.53-1.78* Ni·Cr-Fe 1.53"
Steel Notes:

a) * At flowrates greater than 1.5m1s corrosion rates are less than O.003mmlyear.

b) All pitting rates vary considerably from the above.


Tabla 3.10




Pipeline Steel

General corrosion Pitting corrosion

Concrete Coating

Corrosion of reinforcement Compressive strength of concrete Shear strength of concrete Impact resistance

Oxygen diffusion

Corrosion Coating

Water absorption Oxygen diffusion Cathodic disbandment Resistivity

Interface shear strength Impact resistance

Resistance to marine organisms

Flexibles Pipe

Water resistance Oxygen diffusion Resistivity

Resistance to marine organisms Tensile strength

Corrosion of wire reinforcement


Table 3.11



rssr CODE

Corrosion in Seawater Compresslve Strength

ASTM G31/NACE TM-01-69 ASTM C 39


ASTM D-1000 ASTM 0-1002

Shear Strength

Push-off Test

Tensile Strength

ASTM C496 ASTM 02370 ASTM D 638

Cathodic Disbondment



DIN 53516 ASTM 01044


ASTM G 14/ASTM G17 BS 4147/B8 4164 Swing Hammer Test

Bond Strength

BS 4164

Water Absorption

ASTM D 570 ASTM C 642 ASTM G 9

Water Vapour Transmission



ASTM 01000 ASTM 0 257

Salt Spray

ASTM B 117





Figure 3.1















a: c:[




~ W



z o Ci5











Figure 3.2


_r.'\ _o.-- 0 -.~



_- 0








. 1

~ P 0


:1 __

:,1 "... _--


/ :

I :

, ,




50 55 60




1 1
Q. 10
~ 9
> 8
a 7
6 Figure 3.3


~ \
" ~
~ -,
<, ~
......... <,


4 20















z o m


a:: o o

~ ~ irl



Figure 3.4

!i 10
0 5
0 1 2 3 4 5 6



Vl ~ <,
I ~
I ~
I ~
I <;
I -...... ~
J 1


3 5



10 15 20




If it is decided to recover an abandoned pipeline rather than leave it in situ, careful preparations for carrying out the recovery operation are necessary, to minimise cost and disturbance. The few occasions when the pipeline is to be moved for reuse will involve lining it from the seabed in manageable sections which may be several kilometres long, after first uncovering it on the seabed without damage.

In considering the different stages of recovery, only those technologies that are reasonably certain of being applied successfully at the present time are described and no attempt has been made at economic comparisons since so much depends on the circumstances of each case.

Avoidance of overstressing the pipeline during reverse lay recovery is central to recovery operations if the material may be re-used or the risk of a major buckle is to be minimised.

Selection criteria for access, cover removal and recovery methods are described and illustrated in detail.


4.2.1 General

Before the engineering approach and costings concerning abandonment can be determined and the options reviewed, data are required which will indicate the probable condition of the pipeline.

Whenever possible, this information should be obtained from records and by survey. Before this stage, certain facts can be inferred from a knowledge of the type of pipeline, its parameters having been conditioned at the design stage by its intended operational function. These attributes include protection such as burial, depth of water, proximity to other pipelines and structures and any special situations such as a shore approach.

One general note that applies to all types is that normally pipelines less than 16" diameter are trenched, and all pipet ines to shore are trenched and buried in the surf zone and shore approach section, regardless of size.

4.2.2 Description of Pipeline Types

For the purpose of defining their physical situation, pipelines in the UKCS can be differentiated in terms of the following functions:

• trunk lines, inc luding shore approaches,

• interfield product pipelines,

• flowlines and

• service lines and umbilicals.


These functions may be described as follows:

a) Trunklines

Trunk pipelines are main carriers which transmit oil and gas exported from offshore fields to shore terminals, At the input end, a trunk pipeline is usually connected to the base of a platform riser.

The UKeS trunk lines considered here are those listed in Table 4.1, taken from the table 'major offshore pipelines' in Appendix II of the Department of Energy's Report "Development of the Oil and Gas Resources of the United Kingdom 1987" (the 'Brown Book').

Referring to Figures 4.1 and 4.2, the diameters of the 'Brown Book' trunk pipelines are plotted against numbers of pipelines to shore (upper histogram in Figure 4.1), against numbers of pipelines laid between fields only (Figure 4.1, lower histogram) and in Figure 4.2 year by year between 1967 and 1987. A boundary at the 100 metres depth of water has been used to - separate the Southern area of the North Sea and the Central and Northern areas.

From these histograms, the following features emerge:

32 pipelines are in more than 100m of water depth, compared with 25 pipelines in less than 100m; i.e. there are more trunk pipelines in the Central and Northern areas than in the shallower Southern area.

Those pipelines to shore starting in water deeper than 100m are more than 180km long.

Few pipelines to shore are under 16" diameter.

Seven pipelines under 161' diameter lie in less than 1 aOm, compared with fifteen in deeper waters.

Of those pipelines 16" and over, half are pipelines to shore.

The majority of pipelines over 30" are trunk lines to shore.

There are thirteen 30" diameter pipelines, more than any other one size. All but three are in the Southern area and lie in less than 100m of water. Some are 10-15 years old, which is approaching the end of an average pipeline design life.

One other feature of pipelines which must be taken into account during recovery operations is their proximity to one another. There is insufficient practical experience of recovery operations to define the optimum distance below which there is a risk of one being damaged while the other is being recovered; that distance will depend on the technique being used for recovery and the possibility of pipelines drifting to one side during the recovery operation.


Some examples of UKCS pipelines laid adjacent to one another are:

Frigg 1 and 2: dual 32" gas lines, 220 miles long, Frigg Field to St. Fergus Terminal,

Two 36" crude oil interfield lines, Shell/Esse Cormorant to BP Ninian,

36" and 16" pipelines, both British Gas, Rough Storage Field to Easington Terminal and

16" and 24" BP gas pipelines, West Sole Field to Easington Terminal.

The largest single concentration of trunk pipelines are the nine entering B acton Terminal from the Southern area fields. These pipelines were laid singly at different times and with separate trenching and cover provisions, but they are nevertheless in sufficient proximity to one another to require mutual protection during recovery.

An upper limit of 16" diameter for handling pipelines by reel barge means that only three pipelines to shore would be eligible for recovery by this means:

Beatrice-Nigg, West Sole-Easington and Rough-Easington. Concrete-coated pipelines are eligible provided there is no objection to the coating becoming damaged during the recovery operation. If the upper size limit were to be increased to 20", this would make the 20" diameter Fulmar-St, Fergus pipeline eligible for reel barge recovery.

A breakdown of the listed trunk pipelines by content gives the following size ranges:

crude oil: all sizes up to 36" associated gas: all sizes up to 28" na.tural gas: 16" to 36"

The majority ofnatural gas pipelines do not come within the confirmed capability of reel barges.

Special consideration haste begiven to the shore approach section (Figure 4.3). At the shore approach, the pipeline is buried under a minimum of two metres of cover. If steep cliffs intervene between the sea and the terminal. as at Easington and Baeton gas terminals. the pipeline is brought ashore through a tunnel driven horizontally through the surf zone, a shaft being sunk from the cliff top to meet it. At the offshore end of the tunnel, which can be up to 500 metres out from low water mark, a 'water block' is constructed to form a seal around the end of the pipe which will withstand the pore water pressure of the sub seabed soil.

The tunnel lies at a considerable depth, to avoid presenting a hazard to the environment and to any beach and inshore users. The seaward end of the tunnel can have as much as three metres of cover. often necessitating the pipeline.being lowered to meet it. Depending on the slope of the shelving seabed. it can be some distance before pipeline cover beyond the tunnel decreases to its normal one


metre. If the offshore portion of the pipeline is being recovered, it is possible that the shore approach portion can be left in place providing it has cover sufficient to ensure the pipeline is not subsequently exposed.

b) Infield Product Pipelines

Infield pipelines (Figure 4.4) are defined as those product lines lying within any one field complex, laid either from one platform to another or connecting remote wellheads to platforms. Most are less than 20" diameter and shorter than 20km. Unless they are in special need of protection, for example close to a platform where they can be damaged by supply ships or dropped objects, they may be left un trenched.

Some infield pipelines less than 16,j diameter are constructed offlexible pipe laid by reel barge. Connection to the platform may then be by J-tube or similar direct vertical attachment. terminating above the water surface or splash zone and dispensing with the conventional riser system connection at the seabed.

c) Flowlines

Flowlines (Figure 4.4) transfer crude oil or gas from a subsea manifold chamber or subsea completion to a manned or unmanned platform in the same field complex. Most flowlines are small diameter and cover short distances; some are flexible pipe and some are laid in bundles within a common carrier pipe (see Section 3).

Although trenching techniques for flowlines exist, many are laid untrenched on the seabed and may be recovered and reused in the course of field development. The use of anchors by construction and repair vessels is restricted in the vicinity of a flowline. J-tubes are often used rather than risers for flowline connections to platforms.

Proprietary connections are used as attachments for pulling and laying the pipe and for connecting flowline bundles.

Field installations, 2>1 - 8" diameter, which have been developed with the assistance of flexible pipe on the UKCS include:

Argyll and Duncan, Buchan.

Balmoral, Claymore,


Cormorant UMC. and Magnus

d) Service Lines and Umbilicals

Umbilicals (Figure 4.4) contain cables and hydraulics for subsea valves, electronic controls, instruments and through flow line (TFL) tooling. while service lines carry methanol-ethanol-glycol (MEG) and water for well injection purposes.

These lines are small diameter and may be laid separately in bundles or 'piggyback' on a larger pipeline (see Section 3). Since they are not strictly oil or gas pipelines, they have not been included on the data base.



4.3.1 General

The initial stages in a recovery procedure are to gain access to the pipeline and expose it ready for the recovery spread (Figure 4.5).

Flowsheets following through the access, recovery and seabed restoration stages described in this chapter are presented in Figure 4.6.

4.3.2 ACCI!sS to Pipelines

Access to a pipeline for recovery purposes entails consideration of its protective covering and any fixed anchors which serve to retain it on the seabed. Some systems of protection currently used are considered below.

Protection is applied for purposes of stability or to avoid interaction with other users of the sea, and include one or more of the following:

trenching, buria1,

covering by rocks or grout bags or mechanical anchoring.

Trenching during pipeline construction is usually carried out by water-jetting, if the seabed material is soft, or ploughing if harder: both methods have their place in recovery. The depth of trench to receive a newly laid pipeline is kept to the minimum necessary, and pipelines may thus be partially trenched, on ly sufficiently to cover the pipe or deep trenched to provide one or two metres of cover, according to need.

A newly trenched line may be left exposed but is frequently buried for additional protection. The simplest and cheapest burial is achieved where seabed material is able to drift naturally into the trench and over the pipeline. Manual burial is effected by back-filling using the trench spoil, or cover material is dumped from a surface vessel.

If there is no danger to fishing gear and the pipeline still has need of stability or protection from light anchors and dropped objects. the line may have been left untrenched and instead buried under dumped rock or gravel, grout bags or a manmade 'mat'. In rock dumping, a layer of soft fill is sometimes used to protect the pipeline from the graded rock dropped from a surface vessel. Grout bags are permeable sacks which are pumped full of wet concrete, or they may be filled with dry cement after being heaped over the pipeline and left to harden by the action of seawater. 'Mats' are fabricated flexible mattresses lowered by crane from a surface vessel and guided so as to cover the pipeline and overlap it by several metres each side. A refinement in mat design is the attachment of dense plastic franding which forms a receptacle for drifting sand and other seabed material and eventually becomes a dense protective cover.

Pipe anchors restrain pipelines from moving. They are held fast to the seabed with spikes, piles or concrete blocks.


4.3.3 Pipeline Exposure

The method used for exposing a pipeline prior to removal will depend on its accessibility, which depends on the method used to protect it when in service as described above, and on local environmental conditions. The various methods used for exposure are illustrated in Figure 4.7.

Pipeline cover could be removed by reverse trenching; the same jet, plough or mechanical excavator machines that are used for initial trenching can be used, but ploughing could induce unacceptable stresses in the pipeline and where the pipeline is to be recovered intact, jetting is to be preferred.

Supplementary methods may have to be used for removal of cover, as follows:

surface dredger grab,

trailing hopper suction dredger, cutter suction dredger, off-bottom high volume,

low pressure pump or


These secondary methods are labour intensive and slow and would only be considered when the necessity for removal is paramount and no other technique is possible. Furthermore, with the exception of diving. they can only be used in shallow waters up to 20 metres, although some contractors claim to be able to operate in 50m.

The primary and secondary methods of exposure are described as follows:

a) Jetting Sled

The sled straddles the pipeline and high pressure pumps direct jets of water onto the cover material from both sides. The vehicle is pulled by a mother-ship and remote TV cameras monitor its progress. After the cover material has been loosened, it may have to be removed by other methods.

Jetting is not suitable for removal of cohesive or firmly consolidated soil.

b) Plough

The plough-share runs beneath the pipeline while the plough carrier rides on the pipe or straddles it.

Ploughing is used on hard, consolidated soils.

c) Surface Grab

The grab is suspended from a barge-mounted jib and removes rock or cohesive soil from the pipeline, depositing the load to one side or into the barge.

Grabs are limited to maximum depths of 5Om. They are cumbersome to use and can only handle one load at a time. They are also in danger of damaging the pipeline during handling of the grab on the seabed.


d) Trailing Hopper Suction Dredger

A long pipe suspended from a hopper barge terminates in a suction head trailing on the seabed as the barge moves forward along the line of the pipe. Hopper suction dredgers will handle large quantities of overburden but lack of control carries a risk of damage to the pipeline. They handle non-cohesive soils and work in shallow water,

e) Cutter Suction

A pipe angled forward from the barge extends to the seabed and carries a combined cutter and suction head at its lower extremity. The cutter makes It possible to remove cohesive material, but it too risks damaging the pipeline, and depth of water is limited.

f) HVILP Suction Pump

A high volume. low pressure pump is fitted to the lower end of a pipe suspended from a hopper barge and reaching down to the seabed. The pump suction takes up loose, uncompacted material and discharges it to the hopper.

g) Diving

Divers working from a crane barge remove overburden using suction dredging equipment or grabbing equipment operated from the barge. While on station. the diver will sometimes cut and remove sections of pipe during the same stint.

Divers can operate at most depths on the UKCS. Diving spreads are expensive, however, and the operation can be hazardous.

b) Shore Excavations

If a land excavator can be stationed on firm supporting ground. it will work in the surf zone close inshore, in shallow water at low tide. An excavator can only be used when the pipeline is buried to a shallow depth: it is not suitable where the shore approach is deeply trenched or in tunnels.

i) Special-Purpose Equipment

Most of the access operations described above use existing equipment. and Table 4.2 lists a selection of trenching machines available for this purpose. If a requirement is established for the exposure of buried pipelines for which there is no existing equipment available, market forces will determine whether contractors and manufacturers undertake to develop appropriate specialpurpose equipment. If the application is pressing and industry does not react. research and development would need to be funded. It is likely that new equipment will not depart radically from established designs leaving future development to concentrate on improving the speed and reliability of existing equipment.



4.4.1 General

The principal methods of recovery are by:

• laybarge,
• reel barge,
• davit lift barge,
• tow,
• cut and I ift and
• Jvlift, The recovery methods are shown diagrammatically in Figures 4 .8 for different pipeline configurations and 4.9 for different types of installation. A more detailed com parison of recovery methods is illustrated in Figure 4.10. These methods are deseri bed below. Each method is illustrated in the Figures quoted.

a) Reverse Laybarge Recovery

The pipelines laid in the North Sea so far have been within the capability of conventional laybarges (Fil~ure 4.11 ).

Laybarges construct pipelines by assembling them on board from standard lengths of line pipe welded end to end, a length or 'joint' being approximately 10 metres. The barge is propel1ed along the exaetroute of the pipeline by pulling on anchors or by using thrusters. As the barge moves forward, the welded pipeline is paid out aft over a hinged ramp or' stinger' fixed to the side or stern of the vessel.

The weight of suspended pipeline is held by tensioners fixed to the assembly line ahead of the stinger. The suspended portion of the pipeline takes up an'S' bend configuration between the stinger and the seabed. This shape must be carefully controlled to avoid buckling distortion, and if the sea state exceeds certain I imits, the pipeline may be abandoned tern porarily over the end of the stinger to protect it from buckling.If a buckle does occur, the pipeline will have to be hauled back on board for repair. which may include dewatering ifthe buckle is 'wet'. that is if the pipe wall has ruptured, letting in seawater.

Recovery of an abandoned pipeline may follow the same procedure as is used for recovering a buckle, with some additional steps. The course of action is as follows:

Detach the pipeline from the riser or other fixed subsea connection (NB it is important at this stage, to take into account the possible presence of locked-in forces of unknown magnitude and direction which may be released on separation and present a hazard to divers and others) and attach a pulling head to the exposed end.

Attach a winched recovery cable to the pulling head.

Carefully position the laybarge and take up slack on the cable. Wind the cable back, at the same time putting the barge in reverse, until the pipe


positions itself on the stinger. During this operation, the pipeline must not be allowed to exceed its calculated extreme'S' bend configuration.

As the barge backs up, the cable continues to pull the pipeline onto the stinger, past scrapers which clean seabed material and encrustation from the pipe surface.

When a sufficient length of pipeline has been hauled aboard, the tensioners are activated to hold the line fast and the pipe severed behind the last tensioner,

The pulling head is removed and the cut length of pipe removed and stored.

The pulling head is inserted into the newly cut end ofthe pipeline upstream of the tensioner, the weight is taken - up by the recovery cable, the tensioners are released and the 'pull and cut' procedure is repeated.

b) Reverse Reel Barge Recovery

A reel barge (Figure 4.12) can carry several kilometres of pipeline, depending on diameter, the largest size diameter of pipe handled so far being 1411. This enables appreciable lengths of small diameter pipe to be recovered rapidly in deep water and re-used. The reel barge cannot lay concrete coated pipe, since the concrete would be damaged during reeling and unreeling.

For the pipe lay operation, standard 'joints' are welded into a continuous length on shore and wound onto a large diameter wheel mounted on the barge. The barge then takes up its position to start laying and the line is paid out through straighteners and tensioners to land on a steeply sloping stinger before entering the sea. The angle of the stinger is such that the pipeline takes up a near 'J' configuration rather than the'S' bend ofa conventional lay barge.

Pipeline recovery is the reverse of'laying, the recovered pipe being wound back onto the reel for reuse or disposal onshore intact instead of having to be cut into short lengths. The length that can be recovered in one operation is limited by the reel capacity. Approximately the same size limitations would apply as for laying.

c) Long Section Barge Recovery

The pipe is slung from davits mounted at intervals along one side of a vessel converted for recovery duties (Figure 4.13). While the vessel moves slowly along the route of the pipeline, the sling lengths are adjusted so that the pipe is lifted in a controlled'S' bend configuration to avoid buckling. The end ofthe pipe is fed through a cutting station near the bow of the recovery vessel and the pipe cut into convenient lengths for shipping ashore in a supply boat.

Davit lift recovery is slow and suitable mainly for shallow waters.

d) Tow Recovery

Dav its are fitted to a recovery vessel (Figure 4.13) in a similar way to (c) above, except that the vessel carries tensioners and a stinger at both ends, the cutting station being positioned amidships.


The pipeline is lifted onto the forward stinger and passed through to the aft stinger. Flotation buoys are attached, the pipe moved aft and the towing head picked up by a tug which pulls the buoyant pipeline away from the recovery vessel until the desired towing length, usually a few kilometres, is reached. The pipe is then severed on board the recovery vessel and the freed length of pipeline towed away for re-use or disposal.

The buoys are calculated to provide sufficient buoyancy for the pipeline to be towed on or close to the seabed, close to the surface or at a level midway between, the choice partly depending on the sea state and condition of the seabed at the time of the operation.

e) Short Section Recovery

The pipeline is cut into short lengths on the sea bed, using a remote operated submersible vehicle (ROV), robots or divers, and the cut lengths lifted onto the recovery vessel by crane (Figures 4.14 and 4.15). Alternatively, the pipeline is lifted by davits and cut into single or double 'joints' on the barge (Figure 4.16). The method is suitable for any size of pipeline but is slow and requires high cost divers and special equipment for the subsea cutting methods.

Cutting techniques suitable for underwater applications are described in Subsection 4.7 below.

1) J-lift Recovery

The J -lay Barge (Figure 4.17) is a proposed development designed primarily to lay the larger pipelines in extra deep water. The tensioners and stinger would be mounted on a nearly-vertical derrick and the stinger extended down into the sea through a central 'moon-pool'. This method avoids the excessive'S' bend stresses in pipelines that result from the pipeline's extra weight in very deep water. In other respects, J-lift recovery follows the same procedures as the other lay barge methods described above.


4.5.1 General

The critical items of equipment affecting a barge's recovery capability are:

the pulling power of the winch,

the length of the recovery cable and the holding capability of the tensioners.

The maximum duty this equipment will be called upon to sustain arises from the depth of water and the suspended weight of the empty pipe, concrete coated and configured to avoid buckling. Subsection 4.7 considers the capabilities of existing barge equipment to sustain those weights.


4.5.2 Existing Sarge Equipment

Some typicalbarges operating in the North Sea in 1988 have been identified as follows:

a} Laybarges

BAR420 Castoro Sei 1601 Lorelay

LB 200

b} Reelbarges


Characteristics ofthe above relevant to pipeline recovery operations are given in Table 4.3. The winch capabilities and pipe storage capacities of the same barges are listed in Table 4.4. and a check list of the pipeline diameter and water depth recovery capabilities of each vessel is given in Table 4.5.


After an abandoned pipeline has been exposed and lifted, the seabed may need to be restored to a condition which matches its surroundings. This will entail making good the effect of reverse trenching machines, the backfilling of trenches and the clearing away of concrete, bracelets and other debris which may have fallen away from the recovered pipe. It may also be necessary to level spoil mounds resulting from previous trenching operations.

The initial step is to survey the old pipeline route and surrounding seabed. using an ROV fitted with video and still cameras.

Restoration involving the levelling of spoil mounds of appreciable size may require the use of special purpose seabed crawlers; otherwise grabs or scraper boards operated from surface vessels can be used, supported by ROVs. Blocks of concrete, short lengths of pipe and other pieces of debris will require heavier lifting facilities and diver support.

Disturbances to the seabed are assessed in terms of their effect on other users of the sea, such as the fishing industry, defence activities and cable laying. There are as yet no standard criteria for measuring the acceptability offinished restoration work. If the criterion of matching the condition of the surrounding seabed is followed, mound and depression heights and depths and the area and distribution of debris will need to be measured.



4.7.1 General

The recovery of an abandoned pipeline entails cutting it radially at some stage, to free two ends 80 that a long section can be recovered, or to cut the pipeline into short lengths for recovery piece-meal. Either of these two approaches may involve cutting the pipe into manageable lengths on board the barge or on the seabed.

Not all the cutting techniques available are appropriate to the subsea environment. This subsection describes the more practical of these techniques, using one of the following three methods of applying cutting energy:

strain energy, thermal energy and chemical energy.


Strain Energy Methods

Strain energy is applied to the pipeline, using mechanical force to fracture the metal. Severance may be in the form of brittle fracture or plastic deformation, The available methods are:

explosive cutting by contact charge. explosive cutting by shaped charge. explosive cutting by shock wave generation. mechanical sawing.

abrasive/water jet application.

These methods are described below.

a) Explosive Cutting by Contact Charge

An explosive charge is attached to the pipeline and detonated by an electrical ignition device. Above sealevel, the ignitor can be triggered by a remote coded radio signal or light signal to avoid the risk of a premature explosion.

After the pipe is perforated by the explosion. radial cracks form in the vicinity of the perforations, to be joined by secondary cracks which form soon after. The fragmented zone is in disequilibrium. leading to collapse occasioned by the remaining weight of metal and the residual strain energy.

Variables that determine the effectiveness of this method include the size and nature of the charge, pipe wall thickness, the nature of the steel, residual stresses existing in the pipe, the amount of separation between the pipeline and the charge and the medium between them.

Cutting rate is fast, and there is almost no limit to pipe wall thickness.

Costs of consumables, labour and initial capital are low. The simplicity of this method makes it suitable for use both subsea and above sea level. but a major difficulty is a lack of control in the cutting action. The method should not therefore be used if the pipe is to be re-used.


b. Explosive Cutting by Contact Charge

Explosi ve is packed into a soft metal sheath (copper or lead) which has a tubular arrowhead cross-section. The sheath is fitted around the pipeline internally or externally, with the apex furthest away from the pipe surface. Air at atmosphere or vacuum pressure is essential inside the V-groove for the formation of a cutting jet. The sheath collapses on deterioration of the explosive and its inverted V geometry projects the metal into the pipe wall at high velocity.

High cutting rates are produced but the thickness of steel is limited to l Smm underwater, slightly more in air.

Labour and capital costs are low but the cost of consumables is high, since every sheath has to be made to fit the target pipe contour.

A furthercostly difficulty is the need to maintain a uniform air gap. Encapsulation of the charge is one solution but requires a stronger explosive charge. On the other hand, the greater accuracy of this method results in less charge being needed, allowing costs to be optimised.

c) Explosive Cutting By Shock Wave Generation

Detonation of an explosive charge in direct contact with a solid will generate a shock wave in the solid. Surface, shear and longitudinal waves are produced with a velocity equal to:

c= (~)Yz


c:::: shock wave velocity

E::: Young's Modulus for longitudinal shock waves. The appropriate constant replaces Y.M. for other wave forms. p:::: density of the solid.

In its passage through the metal, the shock wave rapidly develops a vertical leading edge which acts as a step discontinuity. A longitudinal compression wave travels through the solid and is reflected back from a remote free sutface as a tensile wave. If the reflected wave is of sufficient amplitude the tension so generated will fracture the solid near the reflective surface. Several focused waves will cut the steel where required.

The method is applied to pipelines by wrapping ribbon explosive around the pipe, overlapping a flexible waveguide which directs the shock waves into the pipe, ensuring an accurate positioning of the fracture.

High cutting rates are produced for wall thicknesses of 10mm in mild steel. Costs are higher than for contact charges but lower than for shaped charges, since an air gap is not necessary. Further development is required to make the application commercial and to enable metals tougher than mild steel to be cut.

d) Mechanical Sawing

A diamond tipped circular saw is applied to the pipe and cutting results from deformation and fragmentation of a narrow zone around the contact point.



The saw blade is rotated by a hydraulic molar which receives its power from an electric motor-driven hydraulic power pack through hoses not more than 10 metres away to keep pressure losses down to acceptable limits. The power pack can incorporate a remote control console to regulate speed, blade position and feed rate from a position away from the cutting station.

Labour and consumable costs are low but the capital cost of equipment is high.

Pipe can usually be cut in a single pass. The equipment is, however, bulky and heavy and requires to be anchored while the saw is in action. Remote blade changing is a problem and the method is unlikely to be usable in more than 50 metres of water.

e) Abrasive!Water Jet AppHcation

A high pressure jet of water containing particles of abrasive material has a cutting action by virtue of local fractures and deformations induced in intensive and highly localized stress fields.

Two systems are used: one in which the abrasive is introduced downstream of the water jet nozzle which operates at 700-2,000 bar pressures, and the BHRA system that pre-mixes the water and abrasive and directs the mixture onto the workpiece at pressures of 100-200 bar. The second system can attain the higher cutting rates, cutting rates for both systems depending on the abrasive used, the abrasive/water ratio, the material being cut, jet pressures and the separation distance of the nozzle and the workpiece. In principle, any thickness can be cut, provided the jet can reach 1:0 the bottom of the narrow slot left by the cutting action.

N azzles require frequent replacement, resulting in high costs for cansumables. Capital costs are also high, while labour costs are low.

No distortion is created and a clean cut can be produced. The method can readily be automated. A major disadvantage is that considerable mechanical force is required to hold the nozzle steady.

4.7.3 Thermal Energy Methods

Theoretically, the amount of thermal energy to melt a given amount of steel can be calculated if its melting point, specific heat and latent heat of melting are known. In practice. the energy required to supply the heat losses by conduction and radiation increase the theoretical total energy and those losses cannot be readily calculated.

Thermal cutting acts in two different ways:

• simple melting by the input of heat and

• using heat produced exothermally by the IRON/OXYGENIIRON OXIDE reaction (not applicable to non-ferrous metals and stainless steels).


The applications of these two actions are:


oxy-arc with water jet, plasma-arc,

thermic lance and

the 'Kerie Cable' modified thermic lance.

These are described below.

a) Oxy-Arc

An arc is stuck at a circumferential weld between a tubular electrode and the workpiece and oxygen is fed into the hollow electrode to react with the steel in an Fe + 02 reaction. A jet of air or water disperses the molten metal.

Electrical energy is supplied to the torch by a DC generator through waterproof leads. Oxygen is drawn from cylinders by flexible hoses. Either ceramic or steel electrodes are used. Although ceramic electrodes are consumed at a lower rate than steel electrodes, they are brittle and frequently break. Steel electrodes are coated with flux for stability and assistance in maintaining a constant arc length.

Cutting rate IS dependent on thickness, which is limited to about 40mm. Capital costs are moderate but the diving support which is necessary increases the operational cost considerably.

The method is used extensively for cutting out welds, being fast, efficient, reliable and cheap. Working from inside the pipe with rotating electrodes can be made automatic.

b) Oxy-Arc With Water Jet

The oxy-arc is combined with ahigh speed water jet to flush away molten metal before it has time to re-solidify. There are operating problems in using this method under water.

c) Plasma-Arc

An arc is struck between a non-consumable tungsten electrode and the workpiece. The electrode is contained in a chamber which has a small annulus at one end. A plasma gas is fed into the chamber, passing through the annulus to form a plasma jet at the outlet when an arc is struck by the electrode. An electric current passing through the ionized plasma produces an extremely high temperature jet; capable of melting the steel.

The plasma gas may be argon, hydrogen, nitrogen or a mixture of all three. Oxygen is excluded and the Fe + 02 reaction does not apply.

The high temperature plasma jet cuts faster than oxy-arc but plasma arc cutting rates decrease with increasing thickness until the rate equals that of an oxy-arc, Plasma arc capital costs are higher and labour and consumables are comparable.

The method has the advantage that the electrode is non-consumable, thus saving operational time. It is readily automated but the operator must guard against electric shocks.


d) Thermic Lance

A three metre long steel tube is packed with steel rods and oxygen pumped through the tube. The free end is ignited and the exothermic Fe + 02 reaction produces heat which when focussed is capable of melting steel. The molten metal is dispersed by the jet.

Cutting rates are high, depending on the skill of the operator and the thickness of the cut metal. Overall costs are low.

(e) Modified. Thermic Lance

In the 'Kerie Cable' system, the steel rods are contained in aflexible plastic tube in lengths up to 30 metres, resulting in less frequent charging and re-ignition of the lance.

4.7.4 Chemical Energy

Chemical or pyrotechnic cutting depends on the heat generated by a highly exothermix chemical reaction between two or more reactants. The reactants, usually in solid form, are transferred to the workpiece either by conduction or through a high temperature jet. Aluminium is commonly used on cost grounds. Oxygen is produced by readily reducible metal oxides.

If the combustion products are used for cutting. a propellant compound capable of decomposing is included in the fuel-oxidant mixtures and the resultant pressure rise accelerates the jet.

Cutting rates are high and there is no limitation to thickness of steel. Costs are moderate.

The method is flexible in its application. while its freedom from external energy sources other than for ignition makes it suitable for automatic and remote control. The efficiency of the process is sensitive to the homogeneity, formulation and particle size of the fuel/oxidant mixture.


4.8.1 General

This subsection gives the results of analyses used to calculate the recovery of pipelines from the bed ofthe North Sea at the end of their design life by the most commonly used techniques of reverse lay using a laybarge and reelship. It was assumed that the recovered pipes may be re-used, requiring the stress limits within the pipe to be kept to the design limit of 72% of specified minimum yield strength (SMYS) in the sag bend. If the pipe were not to be re-used, the sag bend stress level could have been increased to 100% of SMYS.

The aim of the analyses was to check whether existing equipment can be used to recover pre-installed pipelines in the North Sea. or whether new or modified equipment will be required.


Pipeline recovery needs to be analysed on a case by case basis, the criteria in each case being dependant on the condition of the pipeline and its proposed future use. Allowances should be made for deterioration during operating life and possible damage caused by. exposure for access prior to recovery.

4.8.2 Recovery Analysis

The recovery analyses carried out illustrate the following cases:

(ins) (mm) (API (KnIm)
36 1.5.875 X52 -3.2 -1.67 Lay barge
18 22.22 X52 0.68 1.45 Laybarge
14 19.00 X52 0.55 1.15 Reelship
6 9.52 X52 0.14 0.45 Laybarge, Reelship All cases are considered for 30m and 100m water depths.

The pipe sizes for lay barge recovery were selected as representative of the maximum, medium and minimum pipe sizes in the database. The 14 inch size was selected in the reelbarge analyses as representing the maximum pipe diameter handled by a reelship so far.

For the purpose of analysing the maximum and minimum cases the data was manipulated to create a 'typical' pipeline for each size with submerged weights consistent with current practice.

The following vessel capabilities are used in the analysis.




3rd gen. laybarge 3rd gen. laybarge 3rd gen. laybarge Lay Vessel Reelship

(tonne) (tonne)
180 180
180 180
180 180
90 90
120 120 TYPE


4.8.3 Buckle Analysis

Pipeline collapse and propagation buckle analyses determined the minimum call thicknesses which will permit recovery, The results are summarised below:

30 metres 100 metres
36 10.8 17.4 16.8 28.1
18 5.4 8.7 8.4 14.1
14 3.7 5.9 6.3 10.2
6 1.8 2.9 2.8 4.7 4.8.4 Recovery Methods

Reverse Lay by Lay Barge

The Jay barge analyses indicate that it is feasible to recover a116" - 36" pipelines in the North Sea using the third generation lay vessels Jistedinsubsection 4.19 above in water depths of 3D-100m. For the larger diameters these vessels may require extra tension capability.

The results of the analyses are SU mmarised in Figure 4.18 and the stinger configuration used is shown in Figure 4 .l9. This is not an optimum stinger configuration, but one that allows the sagbend stresses to stay within allowable limits.

Reverse Lay by Reelship

The reelship analyses confirm that pipe sizes up to 14" without concrete coating can be adequately recovered by the reel method without any modifications to the existing barge.

The results are shown in Figure 4.20 and the ramp configuration in Figure 4.21.


After considering the three stages of recovery - access, recovery itself and seabed restoration - it is concluded that the principal operations can be carried out using existing technology and equipment. Some ofthe underwater pipe cutting methods are new and will require careful review before the expense of mounting an underwater cutting operation is undertaken.


Cost considerations and technical difficulties increase with depth of water and pipe diameter. Statistically, the majority oflarge pipelines in the North Sea are in shallower waters and their recovery is therefore more favourable.

Some aspects of recovery are difficult to quantify; they include unforseeable access difficulties, obligations attendant on seabed restoration and the reusable condition ofthe pipeline.

These factors represent significant elements in the recovery decision process. Even if the pipe is to be scrapped, gaining access if the pipeline has been trenched, buried or covered on the seabed is neither cheap or easy.



Table 4.1

MAJOR OFFSHORE PIPELINES (From Appendix 11, DEn Brown Book 1987)

Pipelines from to Length Diameter Material Operator Year
(miles) (inches) Conveyed Commissioned
West Sole-Easington 42 16 Natural Gas BP 1967
Leman Bank-Bacton 35 30 Natural Gas ShelJ/Esso 1968
Hewett- Bacton 20 ?() Natural Gas Phillips/Arpet 1969
Leman Bank-Bacton 38 :.0 Natural Gas Amoco 1969
Leman Bank-Bacton 40 :.0 Natural Gas AmocolShelllEsso IWO
Indefatigable-Leman Bank 25 :.0 Natural Gas AmocolShelllEsso 1971
Viking- Theddlethorpe 86 28 Natural Gas Conoco 1972
Hewett - B acton 20 9l) Natural Gas Phillips/Arpet 1973
Leman Bank- Baeten 36 :ll Natural Gas Amoco/ShelllEsso 1973
Rough-Easington 18 16 Natural Gas British Gas 1975
Ekofisk- Teeside 220 34 Crude Oil Phillips 1975
Forties-Cruden Bay III 32 Crude Oil BP 1975
Piper-Flotta 124 2Q Crude Oil Occidental 1976
Frigg/St. Fergus No. I 220 32 Natural Gas Total vm
Claymore- Piper 8 :ll Crude Oil Occidental 1977
SouthConnorant-Sullam Voe 93 36 Crude Oil Shell/Esse 1978
Piper-Claymore 22 16 Assoc. Gas Occidental 1978
Thistle-Dunlin 7 16 Crude Oil Britoil 1978
Heather- Ninian 22 16 Crude Oil Union Oil 1978
Pip~r-Frigg(MCP-Ol) 33 18 Assoc Gas Occidental 1978
Frigg-St. Fergus No.2 220 32 Natural Gas Total 1978
Ninian-Sullam Voe 105 36 Crude Oil BP 1978
Dunl in-South Cormorant 17 24 Crude Oil Shell 1978
Brent-South Cormorant 22 3) Crude Oil Shell 1979
Murchison- Dunlin 12 16 Crude Oil Conoeo 1980
Tartan-Claymore 17 24 Crude Oil Texaco 1980
North Cormorant- Western Leg 14 11 Assoc. Gas Shell 1980
Ninian- Western Leg 11 11 Assoc. Gas Chevron 1980
Beatrice-NiggBay 49 16 Crude Oil Britoil 1981
West Sole-Easington 44 24 Natural Gas BP 1982
Brent-St. Fergus 281 36 Assoc. Gas Shell 1982
South Cormorant-Brent 25 16 Assoc. Gas Shell 1982
Thistle-Northern Leg 6 6 Assoc. Gas Britoil 1982
Tartan-Piper 11 18 Assoc. Gas Texaco 1983
North Cormorant-South
Cormorant 11 Xl Crude on Shell 1983
Brae-Forties 73 30 Crude Oil Marathon 1983
Magnus-Brent(NGLP) 49 20 Assoc. Gas BP 1983
Magnus-Ninian SF 24 Crude Oil BP 1983 91

Pipelines from to Length Diameter Material Operator Year
(miles) (inches) Conveyed Commissioned
North West Hutton-South
Cormorant 8 20 Crude Oil Amoco 1983
Hutton (TLP)-North West
Hutton 3 12 Crude Oil Conoco 1984
Montrose- Forties 29 14 Crude Oil Amoco 1984
Victor - Viki ng 8 16 Natural Gas Conoco 1984
South Morecambe- Westfield
Point 23 36 Natural Gas British Gas 1985
Rough-Easington 18 36 Natural Gas British Gas 1985
Esmond-Baeten 126 24 Natural Gas Hamilton Bros 1985
Heimdal-Brae 24 8 Condensate EIF 1985
Statfjord-NGLP 14 12 Assoc. Gas BP 1985
Heather-Western Leg 4 12 Assoc. Gas Unionoil 1986
Balmoral- Brae/Forties 9 14 Crude Oil North Sea Sun 1986
Fulmar-St. Fergus 180* 20* Assoc. Gas Shell 1986
Thames-Baeten 56 24 Natural Gas Arco 1986
Buchan Forties 34 12 Crude Oil BP 1986
Sean-Bacton (i) 30 Natural Gas Shell 1986
Awaiting commissioning/under construction
Clyde-Fulmar 8 16 Crude Oil Brito]!
Clyde-Fulmar 8 16 Assoc. Gas Britoil
North Alwyn-Frigg 10 24 Natural Gas Total
North Alwyn-Ninian 9 12 Crude Oil Total * Corrected from Brown Book values.


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BAR 420 1 X 225 tonne winch with 909m x 3" wire 700010nne
ETPM 1601 1 x Western Gear ARW 300, Max tension 9216tonne.
180 tonne, line length 121 m 4680m3area
CASTORO 180 tonne with 2500m 76mm wire 5000tonne
ALLSEAS 1 x 336 tonne winch with 1500m of 3" wire 11.2 km of 20"
pipe or 38.4km of
6" pipe
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LB200 with 1220m x 1 O.2cm 00 cable
APACHE Recovery winch 260 tonne, ----_ .. _
1800m of 2.5" 00 cable 95

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