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Technical Paper Cathodic Protection Strategies for FPSO's

by Jim Britton (2002)

FPSO (Floating Production Storage and Offloading) structures present some interesting cathodic protection challenges. Are they ships or floating production platforms? Is impressed current cathodic protection the way to go? How do we handle protecting the ballast tanks? What about the mooring systems? Can the cathodic protection systems that we install last 25 years without dry dock maintenance? These and a number of other questions are addressed.

FPSO's generally fall into two categories; new build vessels and conversions. There is no doubt however in either case that the end result still looks like a ship (Figures 1 and 2 below). When considering cathodic protection strategy however, design concerns have little to do with classifying the asset by appearance. Rather operability and longevity (for the intended life cycle) are the chief concerns.

Figure 1. Typical FPSO - Turret Moored

It is moored in one offshore location for protracted periods of time. Classing agencies are very familiar with systems. and they have pre-approved many designs. 2. 3. 3. 5. There are a number of appurtenances. Regular dry-docking is not possible. for example. mooring lines and turret structures that may be in close proximity to the hull.Spread Moored The shipping industry is comfortable with ICCP (impressed current cathodic protection) systems for the hull. Impressed current systems offer a number of advantages for these vessels: 1. ICCP hull systems can be controlled according to cathodic protection potential. risers. Typical FPSO . Certain implications of these differences might prove to make the use of sacrificial anode systems more attractive to many cathodic protection designers. 4. Comparison of Different Hull Systems . The operation and function of an FPSO varies significantly from an ocean-going tanker in the following areas: 1. and ship builders are quite familiar with them. This reasoning is well justified when one considers the operation and function of a tanker. particularly when the ship moves from seawater to brackish or river water conditions. The small number of anode sites required for a hull ICCP system makes dry dock maintenance relatively straightforward. The low profile of impressed current hull anodes reduces drag and saves fuel. ultimately reducing operating costs. The systems are fairly standard. This does lower initial installed cost.Figure 2. These differences should be considered when developing a long term cathodic protection strategy. optimizing system performance in various geographical areas. umbilical. This also reduces the amount of welding required on the hull exterior. 2.

An FPSO may be offshore for 15+ years. 4 below) and the risers that pass through it. thus the coating degradation has only to be considered over this time span. Given that regular oceangoing vessels are required to be dry-docked at intervals not exceeding 5 years. The output current supplied from the anode systems is perpetually adjusted to maintain the potential of the hull (within an acceptable range). This "front-line" is backed up by a cathodic protection system that takes care of exposed steel at coating defects. The control reference electrode may then sense protected potentials and will not allow the impressed current system to activate. The dual element electrodes combine accuracy of silver/silver chloride sw (Ag/AgCl) with the long-term reliability of Zinc sw (Zn). particularly turret structures and risers. This site selection is based on the desire to minimize the risk of coating damage at areas where the potential is expected to be more negative.Overview of Corrosion Control Coatings . If this is the proposed strategy the following areas must be carefully considered to avoid problems later on in the life. the primary corrosion control method is the coating applied to the hull. This can lead to early consumption of the small sacrificial anodes.As with many other offshore structures. accompanied by subsequent under protection of critical areas. this is particularly true of impressed current systems that will generate higher negative potential values at the edges of the dielectric shields associated with hull mounted anodes. to protect locally. This signal is monitored by the controller built into the transformer rectifier power supply.The control reference electrode(s) monitor the potential of the hull at the area where they are located. Impressed Current Cathodic Protection . This is usually addressed by locating sacrificial anodes on some areas of the turret structure. The addition of dynamic riser components and the creation of more highly stressed joints associated with their support structures may shift the priority of where high potentials or under protected potentials are unacceptable. The "standard" electrode locations may not lend this degree of flexibility. It is also a good idea to use dual element reference electrodes (Fig. Special attention must be paid to the compatibility of the coating system with cathodic protection. Due to the intricate nature of the turret structure (Fig. there may be problems of shielding that make it difficult for the impressed current system to adequately polarize the annular spaces. electrodes will usually be somewhat close to the anode locations (Fig. two problems can (and frequently do) arise. For this reason most operators want to use the same system to protect the vessel in it's new role. this can cause the sacrificial anodes to also provide protective current to the hull. This will require a re-evaluation of the coating performance at the end of this period. It is recommended that additional reference electrodes are located at these critical areas with a facility to have one of them control the system if required. 3 below). . On a regular ship system. and the cathodic protection system will have to be beefed up by some degree to deal with the increased bare steel area that will exist over the long life of the coating system.20 years. 1. Because the turret and the hull are electrically bonded.Many vessels that are candidates for conversion to FPSO service are fitted with hull mounted impressed current systems. it is necessary to predict how efficient the coating system will be initially. 2. When other subsea structures are introduced. Existing electrodes can be used for monitoring rather than control. and also at the end of its life. 5 below) the standard electrodes provided are normally not expected to last 15 . When designing the cathodic protection system. there is always an opportunity to repair or re-coat the hull during the ships life. Control Electrode Location .

Typical Ship ICCP Layout (courtesy of Cathelco UK) Figure 4. Permanent Dual Element Reference Electrode (newer model info available here) Anode Design .Hull mounted impressed current anodes have three major critical components: . Typical FPSO Turret Detail (Courtesy Statoil) Figure 5.Figure 3.

the writer is not aware of a successful offshore in-situ anode replacement having ever been completed. In some documented instances. 3. 2. This is applied to the area of the hull immediately behind and adjacent to the active anode element.60 cm) from the anode element in all directions. so the protracted design life required for an FPSO may not be a problem. The secondary shield is usually an area of high build epoxy or mastic coating that extends an additional distance of three to four feet (90 . The anode to supply cable connection.1. Typical Hull Mounted ICCP Anode . However problems can arise. The integrity of this shield is critical if the cathodic protection system is to distribute protective current to all areas of the hull. provided that the dielectric shield holds up. only a coating was used for both primary and secondary shield areas. which causes progressive disbondment failure of the shield to the point where the anode can no longer be operated. Anode elements can usually be designed to last as long as required. In most systems the shielding system comprises a primary and secondary shield. The active anode element. The most important area here is the dielectric shielding system (Fig. It is often mechanically fastened to the hull with a sealing/bonding compound introduced between the shield and the coated hull surface.Primary Dielectric Shield .120 cm) beyond the primary shield. The dielectric shielding system. Any damage to the shield will result in unacceptably high potentials on the exposed hull (if the anode is operated anywhere close to its rated current). varying only in applied thickness between the two sites. This normally results in hydrogen evolution at the steel hull surface. including mounting. Figure 6. While most manufacturers claim to have this facility. 6 below). thus it is advisable to design the anode elements in such a way as to allow divers to replace them easily. including hull penetration. This area is virtually always in need of maintenance during 5 yearly dry docking (and thus causes concerns as a potential methodology for long-standing FPSO's). these systems should not be used. The primary shield is usually a fiberglass or thermoplastic sheet that goes under the anode and extends about one to two feet (30 .

There is no risk of interference. the location of impressed current anodes protecting the structure must be such that the isolated pipelines do not lie within the close field of the anodes. 5. this risk may exist on mooring components close to the hull. 2. no maintenance is required. 7. The designer's ability to confidently craft the sacrificial system for 20 year + life. For example.230 kg). 7 below). No modifications are required on the hull interior. On an FPSO. Modeling of anticipated voltage gradients at maximum rated anode output will facilitate the prediction of potential problems. Aluminum alloys are preferred. One such FSU vessel operating offshore in West Africa is being studied for application of a new type of impressed current retrofit system. 3. (160 . modified for flush-mounting. The main reasons for this are: 1. At the point of discharge localized corrosion can result. on pipelines associated with fixed platforms.The life-cycle cost of sacrificial anodes is considerably less than the ICCP option (includes maintenance). The original sacrificial anodes are virtually depleted. or connected through a high-resistance path to the main cathodically protected structure. and offshore replacement of the depleted system . at they are more efficient and lighter weight. Sacrificial Anodes . In certain instances. then a life-cycle economic comparison will almost certainly favor the use of galvanic anodes over impressed current cathodic protection (Fig. The sacrificial anodes selected are normally platform-sized anodes. Sacrificial Anodes on the Hull Retrofit Systems . Sacrificial anodes are highly reliable.Stray Current Interference .500 lb. otherwise there is a risk of current jumping from the pipeline riser to clamps attached to the structure. and no hull penetrations must be made installing the system. A sacrificial system is compatible with the other cathodic protection systems on the subsea equipment. It must also be electrically isolated. The fact that on a sacrificial system. weighing 350 . 6. Figure 7. In order for this to occur the affected structure must be within the field gradient of the anode.With approximately 70 FPSO's currently in operation or under construction worldwide.Whenever an impressed current CP systems is used offshore it is important to be aware of potential interference sites. or on mechanical couplings associated with the risers within the turret structure. there are inevitably some vessels that require cathodic protection retrofits.If the vessel is a newly built FPSO. 4. cathodic protection currents can be picked up inductively on steel surfaces and subsequently discharged back through the seawater to another part of the structure.

void. tanks can be employed in a variety of different services including. Installation is planned for 2003. If full 360-degree rotation is limited. Buoyant Anode Sled (400 Ampere) Shown With Cable Dispensing Hopper (Deepwater's RetroBuoy System shown) Recommended Strategy . The replacement anode sleds sit on the seabed and feed cables are deployed in a "Lazy S" configuration to the surface.would be cost prohibitive due to the extended amount of diving activity required. 8 (below). then the seabed-deployed system will usually be the best option. There is no risk of stray current interference with remote anodes and no local high voltage gradients. 4. We can see little if any justification for keeping a close fitted impressed current system on what is essentially a floating production system. seawater ballast. using only ROV support.For any vessel whether new-build or conversion. The FSU in question is spread moored and is thus particularly suited to this strategy. This recommendation will be supported by both economic and reliability studies. Economic studies of various types of retrofit system have shown the remote buoyant anode system to be the most favorable. a deep suspended system would almost certainly be the most cost effective. 3. or the vessel has a spread mooring. Figure 8. the recommendation would have to be for a sacrificial anode system if the expected on station life is greater than 10 years. A typical buoyant sled of the type to be used is shown Fig. Anodes (2) are at a remote location. Only two such sleds (400 Amperes output each) are required. and thus current distribution can be expected to be very uniform over all the protected areas of the vessel and its appurtenances. The advantages of this system are: 1. Tanks On an FPSO. if the system is allowed to "weather vane" 360 degrees around a turret. produced water storage and wet and . 2. Installation can be accomplished in one or two days. For depleted systems requiring offshore retrofit the recommendation will usually be to deploy impressed current.

The anodes were deployed on rack type structures (Fig. This was not a problem on the aforementioned tanks. and tanks with limited or restricted venting. Indeed the aluminum anodes had to be carefully alloyed (Table. The tank coating system was badly degraded and the anodes in the tank were heavily depleted. As with other parts of the CP system. But in this particular case the only choice was aluminum. zinc anodes were preferred. calculate the volume of hydrogen that will be discharged during the worst case scenario (i. tanks that are often filled and emptied. temperatures were around 160ºF (70ºC). The use of dehumidification systems is becoming more popular for protecting void tanks.e. Zinc or Aluminum Anodes? . coatings and cathodic protection are the norm. because the zinc anodes would have probably passivated in these tank fluids.Whenever a retrofit is planned inside a tank with a degraded coating. Retrofit Anode Racks Inside a FPSO Produced Water Tank Caution . the main issue facing a designer is the longer life requirement. and also the difficulty of entering the tanks for inspection and maintenance while the vessel is in operation. This is particularly risky for tanks that have a small ratio of void space to filled space. There was some concern about using aluminum anodes in certain areas of tank due to the risk of sparking if the anodes were to fall off. then the use of soft coatings should reconsidered. which never exceeded 75% of fill. when tank is being quickly refilled after having been empty). If the potential hydrogen concentration approaches the lower explosive limit. as they tend to fall off rapidly with increased service temperature above about 140ºF (60ºC). . This will reduce current demand and hence the volume of hydrogen produced.dry oil storage. 1 below) to optimize their galvanic capacity. 9 below) that were assembled inside the tank and attached with mechanical connections. this was necessary because of the limited access and the inability to perform hot work with the vessel in service. Before embarking on such a project. Table 1.Our company was recently engaged in the offshore retrofit of an FPSO tank that was in produced water service. Albanian Chemical Composition Modification for Produced Water Service Figure 9. In addition two permanent reference electrodes were installed to aid in monitoring the system. it is important to consider the rate of hydrogen build-up in the tank from the corroding anodes. but for the remainder.

If properly grounded with a flexible cable jumper. while maintaining protection for the fairlead components.Like the fairleads. it is wise to think of FPSO's as floating production structures rather than ships. A good rule of thumb is to allow for current drain to approximately 100 feet (30 m) of chain in each direction. Chains . The biggest problem is that they drain some current from the cathodic protection systems on other components to which they are attached. It is preferable to use sheathed rope (instead of non-sheathed) and to use Zn / Al alloyed coatings on the strands rather than just galvanize.The following section identifies some areas where we have been asked to investigate corrosion problems. and they have a number of mixed materials in the bearings and swivels. Mooring Systems General . This is usually connected to a wire rope taut catenary section that covers the majority of the water column. Unless there are very good reasons why an impressed current system must be used. It also contains recommendations to ensure that the moorings are not compromised by corrosion damage. Wire Ropes . The main caution for a CP designer is to ensure that the fairleads are electrically continuous with the structure to which they are attached. Routing through a deck penetration allows the tanks to be monitored with no hatch removal or tank entry required. due to current losses to the chain. A low-cost field installed electrode system has been developed for this purpose (read more about TankGardŒ).Permanent reference electrodes are always almost recommended in a cathodic protection system of this type. In ballast tanks. anodes provided on the cheek plates of the fairleads maybe prematurely consumed. sacrificial anode strands or galvanic coatings on the strands. the connectors between chains and rope sections have various mixed metals that can result in a localized galvanic attack (often on chain links adjacent to the connector plates). With this firmly in mind.Chains are notoriously difficult to cathodically protect and are therefore normally provided with a corrosion allowance.Monitors . the cathodic protection system can be designed in much the same way as one would approach a Tension Leg Platform (TLP) or a SPAR type structure. Fairleads or bending shoes are usually attached to the turret structures to control the attitude of the mooring lines. These structures are somewhat more complex than the average FPSO. sheaths. Electrodes can be easily routed in the tanks and may be built to length offshore.The large diameter spiral strand rope commonly used on FPSO's will normally have its own corrosion protection scheme that may include blocking compounds. It is therefore important to ensure that an adequate weight of anode material is attached directly to the connector assembly and that there are no electrically isolated components. and that all systems are compatibly designed. Chain Connectors . Anode Retrofit .Most mooring systems for FPSO's include an upper chain section that may include some jewelry to control the catenary angle. Always ensure that there is adequate anode material and a good quality coating on the wire rope connectors.The fairleads are designed to allow movement. Fairleads . If this is not checked. A further section of chain is often used to connect the taut catenary to the anchoring device. Summary Day One Deployment . electrode. but have many of the same attributes on a larger scale. the turret or hull cathodic protection system can accommodate current losses to the chains. we recommend sacrificial anodes as the most reliable and cost-effective long term option. Jumper wires should be used across all mechanical joints.From a cathodic protection standpoint. Note: It is important to ensure that there is electrical continuity through various mechanically connected components. localized corrosion may result in the bearing areas. Afterward. the most reliable electrode is a zinc sw. . It is important to allow for this drain by providing additional anode weight.In the event that a cathodic protection system needs to be replaced offshore. we would recommend consideration of impressed current deployed remotely from the hull. Pitfalls .