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Title:
COUPLING SYSTEM FOR TRANSFER OF HYDROCARBONS AT OPEN SEA
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2018/015311
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The invention concerns a coupling system, a transfer system and a method for fluid transfer between a bow area of an elongated vessel and a hydrocarbon delivery installation at open sea. The coupling system comprising a support frame for suspending the coupling system to the vessel and a fluid receiving tube segment fixed to the support frame comprising a coupling device arranged at a first end of the tube segment and configured to establish a leakage free coupling with a hose valve. The coupling system further comprises a remotely controlled drive system configured to simultaneously exert a transverse force generating pendulum movements of the coupling device in the transverse plane, the transverse plane being defined as a plane oriented transverse the vessel and along the vessel's height when the coupling system is assembled to the bow area of the vessel, a longitudinal force generating pendulum movements of the coupling device in a longitudinal plane, the longitudinal plane being defined as the plane oriented longitudinal the vessel and along the vessel's height when the coupling system is assembled to the bow area of the vessel and a rotational force generating rotational movement of at least part of the coupling device iteratively adjusting the rotational position of the at least part of the coupling device by regulating the rotational force.

Inventors:
ALBRIGTSEN, Rolf (Gjert Sørensens vei 68, GRIMSTAD, N-4879, NO)
AANESS, Lars (Slettheia 23, ARENDAL, N-4844, NO)
NYGAARD, Stig André (Nyli Terrasse 7, ARENDAL, N-4844, NO)
HØVIK, Jon (Timberstrand 28, FÆRVIK, N-4818, NO)
Application Number:
EP2017/067914
Publication Date:
January 25, 2018
Filing Date:
July 14, 2017
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
MACGREGOR NORWAY AS (Strandhuset, Andøyfaret 15, Kristiansand, N-4623, NO)
International Classes:
B63B27/25; B63B27/34
Domestic Patent References:
WO2010137990A12010-12-02
WO1992019902A11992-11-12
WO2014106644A12014-07-10
Foreign References:
US5064329A1991-11-12
US4010500A1977-03-08
GB2240534A1991-08-07
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ONSAGERS AS (Munkedamsveien 35, Postboks 1813 Vika, OSLO, N-0123, NO)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLA I M S

1 . A coupling system (10) for fluid transfer between a bow area of an elongated vessel (100) and a hydrocarbon delivery installation (200) at open sea,

the coupling system (10) comprising

- a support frame (2 1 , 24a,b) for suspending the coupling system (10) to the vessel (100) and

- a fluid receiving tube segment (17) fixed to the support frame comprising

a coupling device (19) arranged at a first end of the tube segment (17) and configured to establish a leakage free coupling with a hose valve (13),

characterized in that the coupling system (10) further comprises a remotely controlled drive system comprising at least three separately controlled drive units, of which the first (25), second (26 ) and third (27) driv e units are configured to simultaneously exert

a transverse force generating pendulum movements of the coupling device

(19) in the transverse plane, the transverse plane being defined as a plane oriented transverse the vessel (100) and the vessel's (100) height when the coupling system (10) is assembled to the bow area of the vessel (100),

a longitudinal force generating pendulum movements o f the coupling dev ice ( 1 9 ) in a longitudinal plane, the longitudinal plane being defined as the plane oriented longitudinal the vessel (100) and the vessel's (100) height when the coupling system (10) is assembled to the bow area of the vessel (100), and

a rotational force generating rotational movement o f at least part of the coupling device (19),

respectiv ely.

2. The coupling system (10) in accordance with claim 1 ,

characterized in that the coupling system (10) further comprises

a first swivel (18) enabling the pendulum movements in the transverse plane, a second swivel (23) enabl ing the pendulum movements in the longitudinal plane and

a third swivel (34) enabling rotational movements of the at least part of the coupling dev ice (19).

3. The coupling system (1 0) in accordance with claim 1 or 2,

characterized in that the support frame comprises

two fixing brackets (24a,b) arranged at both transversal sides of the fluid receiv ing tube segment (17) and

a shaft (21 ) arranged between the two fix ing brackets (24a,b) and fixed to the tube segment (17), wherein at least one o f the two longitudinal ends of the shaft (21 ) is pivotally connected to its fix ing brack et (24a,b) by a second swivel (23), wherein the remotely controlled drive system is configured to generate the pendulum movements of the coupl ing device (1 9) in the longitudinal plan by exerting the longitudinal force onto the shaft (21).

4. The coupling system (10) in accordance with any one of the preceding claims,

characterized in that the support frame comprises

two fix ing brackets (24a,b) arranged at both transversal sides of the tube segment (17) and that

the coupli ng system (10) further comprises

a cylinder (29 ) arranged between the two fix ing brackets at a v ertical height abov e the tube segment (17) when the coupl ing system is assembled to the bow area of the vessel (100).

5. The coupl ing system (10) in accordance with claim 4, characterized in that the cylinder ( 29 ) is piv otably coupled to the two fixing brackets (24a,b), the pivot movements being generated by exerting a fourth remotely controlled force onto the cylinder (29 ) by the driv e system.

6. The coupl ing system in accordance with claim 4 or 5 , characterized in that the coupl ing system (10) further com prises a spooling gear (30) arranged in prox imity o f the cylinder ( 29 ), the spooling gear (30) being movable in the direction paral lel to the cylinder' s (29 ) longitudinal ax is.

7. The coupling system (10) in accordance with any one o f claims 3 to 6, characterized in that the shaft (2 1 ) is designed such that a recessed portion of the shaft (21) is located further aft relative to its fixing points to the fixing brackets (24a, b ) when the coupling system (1 0) is assembled to the bow area o f the vessel (100).

8. The coupling system (10) in accordance with claim 7,

characterized in that the max imum distance between the shaft's (21 ) fixing poi nts to the fix ing brackets (24a, b ) and the recessed portion constitutes more than 10 % of the transv erse distance between the two fix ing brackets (24a,b). 9. The coupl ing system (10) in accordance with any one o f the precedi ng claims, characterized in that the tube segment (17) is designed w ith at least one elbow or bend (17a).

1 0. The coupling system (10) in accordance with any one o f the preceding claims, characterized in that the coupling dev ice (19) comprises

gripping means (19e) con figured to releasably couple the coupling device

(19) to the hose v alv e (1 3) after abutment therebetween.

11. The coupling system (10) in accordance claim 10, characterized in that the coupling dev ice (19) further comprises

an at least partly surrounding shield ( 1 9d ) comprising a plurality of radially extending protrusions (19c). 12. A transfer system for transferring hydrocarbons from a hydrocarbon delivery installation (200) to a vessel (100) at open sea, the transfer system comprising

an elongated vessel (100),

a coupling system (10) in accordance with any one of the preceding claims, the coupling system (10) being fixed at the lateral extremity of the vessel (100) by the support frame (24a,b, 21 ),

a transfer hose (12) extending between the vessel (100) and the hydrocarbon delivery installation (200) during transfer, the transfer hose (12) comprising at one end a hose v alv e (13) connectable to the coupling dev ice (19) of the coupling system (10), and a hose handling rope (15) fixed at one end to the hose v alve (13) and the other end to a pull-in winch (8) on or inside the vessel.

13. The transfer system in accordance with claim 12, characterized in that the hose handling rope (15) is fixed to the hose valve (13) v ia a bridle (16), wherein the two open ends (16a,b) of the bridle (16) is fixed to diametrically opposite sides of the hose valve (13).

14. The transfer system in accordance with claim. 12 or claim 13, characterized in that the coupling system (10) is arranged at the bow area of the vessel (100).

15. The transfer system in accordance with any one of claims 12 to 14, characterized in that the support frame comprises

two fixing brackets (24a. b) arranged at both transversal sides of the fluid receiving tube (17) seen along the longitudinal direction (L-L) of the vessel (100) and

a shaft (21) arranged between the two fixing brackets (24a,b) and fixed to the tube segment (17),

wherein the shaft (21) is designed such that a recessed portion of the shaft (21) is located further alt of the vessel (100) relativ e to the center position of the shaft's (21) ends to the fixing brackets (24a, b ), the maximum distance between the center position and the recess portion being set in order to allow the transfer hose (12) to be coupled to the coupling system (10) at a lateral angle of more than 100 degrees while av oiding direct impact between the shaft (21) and the hose handling rope (15) at any moment of the coupling procedure that may cause significant wear of the hose handling rope (15), the lateral angle being defined as the angle from the longitudina 1 plane to the position of the approach ing hose valve (13).

1 6. A method of transferring fluid from a fluid source to a vessel (100) at open sea by use of a transfer system in accordance with any one of claims 12- 1 5,

the method comprising the following steps:

connecting an end of the transfer hose (12) in fluid communication with a fluid source (200),

closing the hose valve (13) connected to the other end of the transfer hose (12), connecting an end of the hose handling rope (15) to the hose valve (13), connecting the other end of the hose handling rope ( 1 5 ) to a pull in winch (8) through an upper part of the transfer system arranged above the coupling device (19),

- pulling the hose valve (13) towards the coupling system by the pull in winch (8) at least until the hose v alve (13) is located abov e the water line and at a transverse position equal or near the transv erse position of the coupling device and

- while proceeding pulling the hose valve (13) towards the coupling system, iterativ ely adjusting the position of the coupling device in the transverse plane by a transverse force, in the longitudinal plane by a longitudinal force and the rotational position of the at least part of the coupling dev ice by a rotational force, simultaneously, in order to optimize an alignment of the center ax is of the coupling dev ice w ith the center axis of the hose valve (13),

abutting the coupling dev ice (19) and the hose v alve (13) with their respectiv e axial axes aligned,

activ ing gripping means (19e) releasably connecting the coupling device (19) to the hose valve (13), establishing leakage free coupli ng therebetween and opening the hose v alv e (13) for fluid communication.

1 7. The method in accordance with claim 16, characterized in that the support frame comprises two fix ing brackets (24a, b ) arranged at both transversal sides of the fluid receiving tube segment (17) and that the coupli ng system (10) further comprises a pivotable cylinder (29 ) oriented paral lel to the transv erse plane and arranged between the two fixing brackets (24a,b) at a v ertical height above the fluid receiv ing tube segment (17), wherein the method further comprises iteratively adjusting the longitudinal position o f the cyl i nder ( 29 ) around its piv ot point by regulating a pivot force acting on the cyl inder (29 ) by the remotely controlled drive system .

1 8. The method in accordance w ith claim 17, characterized in that the coupling system (10) further comprises a spooling gear (30) arranged near the cylinder (29 ) and movable in the direction parallel to the cylinder's (29 ) longitudinal ax is, wherein the method comprises the steps of guiding the other end o f the hose handling rope (15) and/or bridle (16) through the spooling gear (30) and iteratively adjusting the transverse position of the spooling gear (30) during the iterative position adjustment o f the coupling device (10).

Description:
COUPLING SYSTEM FOR TRANSFER OF HYDROCARBONS AT OPEN SEA Technical Field:

The present invention relates to a coupling system suitable for fluid transfer between a bow area of an elongated vessel and a hydrocarbon delivery installation at open sea defined in the preamble of claim 1 , as well as a transfer system and a method utilizing the coupling system.

Background and prior art:

A bow loading system for a vessel, hereinafter abbreviated BLS, is a system used for transfer of hydrocarbons to a bow area of the vessel from an external loading dock. The loading dock may both be fixed or mobile. Such load transfers takes place usually at open sea since transfer through pipes directly to shore is more convenient at locations closer to the coast. A typical fixed loading dock may be located on a construction arranged with its load bearing structure on the seabed. A typical mobile loading dock is normally situated on a floating construction such as floating facilities of type FSO (Floating, Storage & Offloading), FPSO (Floating Production Storage and Offloading), platforms, etc. It may also be a floating hose- connection that may be picked up from the sea and which is attached to seabed installations such as SAL (Single Anchor Loading solution), UKOLS (Ugland Kongsberg Offshore Loading System), or similar. For floating constructions it is most common to anchor these in a locked specific direction using so-called spread mooring lines or weathervaning systems such as buoy or turret mooring. Often DP (Dynamic Positioning) is used to maintain a fixed position.

Vessels having installed a BLS of the type described above are usually a tanker of type shuttle tanker or shuttle carrier in which the hydrocarbon is stored. However, also smaller vessels without storage space may be used in which the hydrocarbons are transferred further to storage tankers or to conventional tankers.

Common for all such loading systems is the use of a flexible transfer hose, typically made of reinforced rubber materials of one or more layers, for transferring the hydrocarbons. A typical BLS consists of a tube / pipe arranged at the bow area of the vessel having a coupling device which includes a flange or valve onto which the transfer hose is connected. The end of the transfer hose comprises a hose valve. Partly since the loads on the BLS should remain as low as possible, and partly since it should be feasible to connect the transfer hose, the coupling device is made as one piece a distance into the bow area, or suspended in a coupling system directly above the water surface. According to patent publication WO 92/19902 the configuration of the coupling system allows the coupling device to move in a suspended pendulum movement in direction along the vessel, hav ing a transverse rotational axis, and a transverse (athvvartship ) pendulum movement, having a longitudinal (alongside) rotational axis.

The technical jargon for one type o f a coupling system is Cardan Suspension or a

Moment Free Coupler and constitute a central part of the above mentioned BLS .

Figure 1 shows an example of a BLS according to WO 92/19902. A mooring haw ser 1 is pulled from a mooring winch 3 through a fairlead 6 and a chain stopper 5, all of which are placed on a plat form deck. The mooring haw ser 1 is guided via the mooring winch 3 down to a main deck to a storage winch 7. The mooring procedure is completed when the chain stopper 5 is locked to a wear chai n 2 of the mooring hawser 1. A transfer hose 1 2 is pulled towards the vessel 1 00 by means o f a hose handl ing winch 8 and a hose handling rope 15 until being in axial al ignment w ith a coupling system 1 0.

How ever, even w ith the dual pendulum movements disclosed in WO 92 1 9902 the connection of the hose valve to the coupling system is challenging, in particular when the lateral / horizontal angle betw een the hose valve and the tube coupl ing valve becomes large due to weatherv aning of the fluid receiving vessel , for example abov e ±30°, ±60°, ±90°. Consequently, today ' s coupling systems necessitate an alignment o f the vessel prior to coupling by for exam ple use of a dynamic positioning system ( DP ) since large lateral angles represent a too big hazard, thereby increasing both complexity and cost o f the transferring procedure. Furthermore, based on experience, a vessel may be kept w ith a heading opposing the prevail ing weather conditions during a short time only, before been forced to return to initial position.

GB 2240534 discloses a coupl ing system for fl uid transfer betw een a bow area o f a vessel and a hydrocarbon del iv ery station at open sea. The coupl ing system comprises a fluid receiv ing coupling m ani fold, a coupling member and a working cylinder configured to provide a slewing motion of the coupling mani fold towards a loading fork .

It is thus an object o f the invention to provide a fluid receiv ing coupling system for a fluid transfer hose that allow s a reliable coupling between the coupling system and the hose v alve over a larger lateral angle compared to the prior art. Another object of the invention is to prov ide a coupling system that facilitates the abov e mentioned axial alignment between the hose v alv e of the transfer hose and the coupling device of the coupling system.

Yet another object of the invention is to provide a fluid receiving coupl ing system that which significantly reduces, or completely removes, the risk of wear out failure of a hose handling rope or a bridle due to rubbing towards parts of the coupling system during coupl ing.

Summary of the invention :

The present invention is set forth and characterized in the main claims, while the dependent claims describe other characteristics of the inv ention.

In particular, the invention concerns a coupling system suitable for fluid transfer between a bow area of an elongated vessel and a hydrocarbon del ivery installation at open sea.

The coupling system comprises a support frame suitable for suspending the coupling system to the vessel, a fluid receiving tube segment fixed to the support frame comprising a coupl ing device arranged at a first end of the tube segment and configured to establish a leakage free coupling with a hose valve. The coupling device may comprise a coupling flange and/or a coupling valve.

The coupling system further com prises a remotely controlled driv e system comprising at least three separately controlled drive units, of which the first, second and third driv e un its are con figured to simultaneously exert a transverse force generating pendulum movements of the coupl ing device in the transverse plane, a longitudinal force generating pendulum mov ements o f the coupling device in a longitudinal plane and a rotational force generating rotational mov ement of at least part of the coupling device, respectively. This or these part(s) may be the coupling flange, the coupl ing v alv e and/or a shield cov ering at least part o f the circumference of the coupling device.

AH forces may be activated and maintained by use of dedicated hydraulic cylinders, either directly or indirectly. The rotational force may alternativ ely be activ ated and maintained by for example a DC motor or a rotor-stator based motor.

The transverse plane is defined as a plane oriented transv erse the vessel and along the vessel's height when the hose valve coupling system is assembled to the bow area of the vessel. The longitudinal plane is defined as the plane oriented longitudinal the vessel and along the vessel's height when the hose val ve coupl ing system is assembled to the bow area of the vessel . In an advantageous embodiment the coupling system further comprises a first swivel enabling the pendulum mov ements in the transverse plane, a second swivel enabling the pendulum movements in the longitudinal plane and a third swivel enabl i ng rotational movements of the at least part of the coupling device. In yet an advantageous embodiment the support frame comprises two fixing brackets arranged at both transversal sides of the flu id receiv ing lube segment, i.e. at both sides along the vessel's transversal ax is, and a shaft arranged between the two fix ing brackets and fixed to the tube segment. In this particular embodiment at least one of the two longitudinal ends of the shaft is pivo tally connected to its fixing bracket by a second swivel, and the remotely controlled drive system is configured to generate the pendulum mov ements of the coupling device in the longitudinal plan by exerting the longitudinal force onto the shaft. The arrangement of the fixing brackets is preferably symmetrical around the ax ial ax is of the tube segment.

In yet an advantageous embodiment the coupling system further comprises a cylinder or drum arranged between the two fix ing brackets at a vertical he ight above the fluid receiving tube segment when the coupling system is assembled to the bow- are a of the vessel . The cylinder may preferably be pivot ably coupled to the two fix ing brackets via for example discs rotating by use of the same swivel as for the abov e mentioned shaft. The piv ot mov ements may be generated by exerting a fourth remotely controlled force directly or indirectly onto the cylinder by the drive system, for example by use of a dedicated hydraulic cylinder.

In yet an advantageous embodiment the coupling system further comprises a spooling gear arranged near, above, or fixed on top of, the cylinder, and which is movable in the direction parallel to the cylinder's longitudinal ax is. In yet an adv antageous embodiment the shaft is designed such that a recessed portion of the shaft is located further aft relativ e to its fix ing points to the fix ing brackets when the coupl ing system is assembled to the bow area o f the vessel . The distance may for example be 50 % of the total length of the shaft. The maximum distance betw een the shaft' s fix ing points to the fix ing brackets and the recessed portion constitutes more than 10 % of the transverse distance between the tw o fixing brackets.

In yet an adv antageous embodiment the coupli ng system further compri ses a cylinder arranged betw een the two fix ing brackets at a vertical height above the shaft when the hose v alv e coupl ing system is assembled to the bow area of the vessel.

In yet an adv antageous embodiment the fluid receiv ing tube segment is designed with at least one elbow or bend. In yet an adv antageous embodiment the coupling device comprises gripping means configured to releasably couple the coupling device to the hose v a lve after abutment therebetween.

In yet an advantageous embodiment the coupling device further comprises the at least partly surrounding shield comprising a plurality of radially extending protrusions. If the shield is absent, the plurality of radially extending protrusions may be directly on the coupl ing flange and or coupling valv e.

The invention also concerns a transfer system suitable for transferring hydrocarbons from a hydrocarbon delivery installation to a vessel at open sea. The transfer system comprises an elongated vessel, a coupling system in accordance with any one of above mentioned features, a transfer hose extending between the vessel and the hydrocarbon delivery installation during transfer and a hose handling rope fixed at one end to the hose valv e and the other end to a pull-in w inch on or inside the vessel. The coupling system is fixed at the lateral extremity of the vessel by the support frame. Furthermore, the transfer hose comprises at one end a hose valve connectable to the coupling device of the coupling system. The hose handling rope is preferably fixed to the hose valve via a bridle, where the two ends of the bridle is fixed to diametrically opposite sides of the hose valve.

Herein the term lateral / horizontal is defined as a direction in a plane oriented parallel to the vessel ' s main and or parallel to the water surface during calm weather conditions.

In an advantageous embodiment the coupling system is arranged at the bow area of the vessel.

In another adv antageous embodiment the support frame comprises two fix ing brackets arranged at both transv ersal sides of the fluid recei ving tube seen along the longitudinal direction of the vessel and a shaft arranged between the two fix ing brackets and fixed to the tube segment. The shaft is designed such that a recessed portion of the shaft is located further a ft of the vessel relative to the center position of the shaft's ends to the fixing brackets . The maximum distance between the center position and the recess portion is set to allow the transfer hose to be coupled to the coupling system at a lateral angle of more tha n 1 00 degrees while av oiding direct impact between the shaft and the hose handling rope at any moment of the coupling procedure that may cause significant wear of the hose handling rope . The lateral angle is defined as the angle from the longitudinal plane to the position of the approaching hose valv e. The recessed portion may for example constitute 1 0, 20, 30, 40 or 50 % of the total length of the shaft. The term " signi ficant wear ' signify wear that may jeopardize the operation of the alignment and transfe r procedure. The invention also concerns a method of transferring fluid from a fluid source to a vessel at open sea by use of a transfer system in accordance with any one of the abov e mentioned features.

The method comprising the following steps:

- connecting an end of the transfer hose in fluid communication with a fluid source, closing the hose valve connected to the other end of the transfer hose,

optionally closing any coupling valve of the coupling device,

connecting an end of the hose handling rope to the hose valve, preferably via a bridle,

- connecting the other end of the hose handling rope to a pull in winch through an upper part of the transfer system arranged above the coupling device,

pulling the hose valve towards the coupling system by use of the pull in winch at least until the hose valve is located above the water line and at a transverse position equal or near the transverse position of the coupling dev ice and

- while proceeding pulling the hose valve towards the coupling system, iteratively adjusting the position of the coupling device in the transverse plane by regulating the transverse force, the longitudinal plane by regulating the longitudinal force and the rotational position of at least part of the coupling device by a rotational force, simultaneously, in order to optimize an alignment of the center axis of the coupling dev ice with the center axis of the hose valve,

abutting the coupling dev ice and the hose valve with their ax ial axes aligned, activ ing gripping means releasably connecting the coupling device to the hose valve, establ ishing leakage free coupling therebetween ,

opening the coupling v alv e and the hose v alv e for fluid communication and - optionally opening the coupling valve of the coupling device.

The remotely controlled driv e system is inter alia configured to exert a rotational force generating rotational movement of at least part of the coupling device. By iteratively adjusting the rotational position of the at least part of the coupling device by regulating the rotational force the degree of rotation is regulated. In another advantageous embodi ment the support frame comprises two fixing brackets arranged at both transversal sides of the fluid receiving tube segment and that the coupling system further comprises a piv otable cylinder oriented parallel to the transv erse plane and arranged betw een the two fixing brackets at a v ertical height abov e the fluid receiv ing tube segment, wherein the method further comprises iteratively adjusting the longitudinal position of the cylinder a round its pivot point by regulating a piv ot force acting on the cylinder by the remotely controlled drive system.

In yet an advantageous embodiment coupling system further comprises a spooling gear arranged abov e or on top of the cylinder and movable in the direction parallel to the cylinder's longitudinal axis, wherein the method comprises the steps of guiding the other end of the hose handl ing rope through the spooling gear and iterativeiy adjusting the transverse position of the spooling gear during the iterative position adjustment of the coupling dev ice. In the following description, numerous specific details are introduced to provide a thorough understanding of embodiments of the claimed coupling system, transfer system and method. One skilled in the relev ant art, howev er, will recognize that these embodiments can be practiced without one or more of the specific details, or with other components, systems, etc. In other instances, well-known structures or operations are not shown, or are not described in detail, to avoid obscuring aspects of the disclosed embodiments.

Brief description of the drawings:

Fig. 1 is a cross sectional view of a bow loading system in accordance with prior art,

Fig. 2 is a perspective view of a vessel in accordance with the invention, facing its port side towards a FPSO,

Fig. 3 is a perspective view of the vessel in fig. 2 seen from in front, where the fluid transfer hose is suspended a distance below the fluid receiving coupling system, Figs. 4 A. B and C are perspective views of a fluid receiving coupl ing system in accordance with the inv ention , where figs. 4 A and 4B show the coupl ing system seen from two different angles and fig. 4C shows an upper part of the coupling system in more detail,

Figs. 5 A and B are perspective views of part of a fluid receiving coupl ing system in accordance with the invention, where fig. 5 A and 5B show tw o different drive units for the rotational movement of the coupling dev ice.

Fig. 6 is a perspective view of the principal degrees of freedom of a fluid receiving coupling system in accordance with the inv ention.

Fig. 7 is a perspective side view of a roller and a spooling gear constituting part of the fluid receiv ing coupl ing system in accordance with the invention,

Fig. 8 is a perspective v iew of the bow area of the vessel in fig. 2 having its bow hatch partly open.

Figs. 9 A and B are perspectiv e views o f the bow area of the vessel in fig. 2, where the coupling device is arranged in a parking position and a coupl ing position, respectively,

Figs. 1 0 A and B are perspectiv e view s o f the bow area of the vessel in fig. 2 showing positions of the coupling device before and after a simultaneous transfer pendulum mov ement and a clockwise rotation , respectiv ely. Figs. 1 1 A and B are perspectiv e views of the bow area of the vessel in fig. 2 showing positions o f the roller in a forw ard and a backward tilted position, respectively,

Figs. 12 A and B are perspective views of the coupling device of the coupling system and the hose valve of the transfer hose at two final stages of their approach and

Figs. 13 A and B are perspective views of the coupling device of the coupling system and the hose valve of the transfer hose close to contact and at contact, respectively. Detailed description of the inv en tion

Figure 1 shows an example of a prior art BLS as described abov e, where a coupling system 1 0 is suspended from a deck structure 1 1 at the bow area of a vessel 1 00.

A complete hydrocarbon transfer system is illustrated in figure 2, including a vessel 1 00 with a BLS , a transfer hose 1 2 and a hydrocarbon del iv ery installation 200 of type FPSO. During hydrocarbon transfer, the transfer hose 12 extends between a mani fold on the FPSO 200 and the coupling system 1 0 on the vessel 1 00.

As further illustrated in figure 3, a hose valv e 1 3 is connected to the vessel directed end of the transfer hose 1 2 . The pull-in operation is achiev ed by connecting one end of a hose handling rope 15 to a pull-in winch 8 and the outer end to the hose valve 1 3 v ia a bridle 16. The two bridle ends 1 6a, b are attached to respective hose v alve ears 13a,b protruding radial ly from the hose valve 1 3 . Figure 3 shows an intermediate stage of a transfer hose coupling where the hose valve 1 3 has been raised from the water and suspended di rectly below the coupling system 1 0 o f the vessel 1 00. The orientation of the transfer hose 1 2 is shown to be more than 90 degrees from the longitudinal plane of the vessel 1 00, thus creating a horizontal component of the hose v alv e 1 3 against the vessels direction of trav e l (i.e. from how- to a ft ).

Further details of the final stage of the coupling process between the coupling system 1 0 and the hose v alve 1 3 are illustrated in figures 4 A . B and C. In th is particular embodiment the coupling system 1 0 is of a type known as a cardan suspension 1 0.

The cardan suspension 1 0 comprises a bent tube segment 1 7 fixed at one end to a coupl ing device 1 9. The coupling device 1 9 further comprises a coupling flange 1 9a and/ or a coupling valve 1 9b in order to enable closure of fluid / leakage when the hose valv e 1 3 is disconnected. The coupling flange 1 9a may be welded to the end of the tube segment 1 7. Further, the tube segment 17 is suspended in two tube brackets

20 to an above positioned beam structure or cardan 21. The tube brackets 20 are welded to the tube segment 1 7 at the bend 1 7a. In the upper ends, the brackets 20 have bores for a cylindrical load cell 17b, the middle portion of which is journaied in a cardan beam or cardan suspension beam 1 7c. The load cell 1 7b may measure forces perpendicular to its longitudinal axis.

The other end of the tube segment 1 7 is fixed to a tube swivel 1 8. The two tube brackets 20 are bored coaxially with this tube swivel 18 such that the bend 17a of the tube segment 1 7 may pivot around a rotational ax is A- A shown in figures 4 and 5 by use of a dedicated drive unit such as a hydraulic cylinder 25.

The cardan suspension beam 17c is fixed to a cardan protrusion 21 a protruding in the aft-bow direction from a mid-section of the cardan 21 . The ends of the cardan

2 1 is connected to a cardan swivel 23, either directly or v ia a second tube segment

22 continuing dow nstream from the tube swivel 18 , enabling pivoting moments of the cardan 2 1 around a rotational ax is B-B being perpendicular to and horizontally co planar with the rotational axis A-A, and thereby pivoting mov ements o f the coupling device 1 9 within the longitudinal plane. Note that 'downstream' is referred to the situation where hydrocarbons flow into the coupling system 10. Activation and mai ntenance o f the pivoting mov ements may be achieved by a dedicated driv e unit such as a hydraul ic cylinder 26. Hence, coupling system 1 0 as shown i n figure 4 forms a cardan suspension for hydrocarbon carrying transfer hoses 12 that enable transfers that do not transm it bending moments to the supporting structure fixed to the vessel 1 00. The supporting structure in figure 4 includes two fix ing brackets 24a,b arranged on both sides o f the cardan 2 1 . The cardan swivel 23 is seen at one of the fix ing brackets 24b at the side opposite of the side of the cardan 21 .

The entire hose force or the major part of the hose force will be taken up by the load cell 1 7b.

Due to the cardan protrusion 21 a a large part of the cardan 21 may be located an arbitrary distance aft of the rotational axis B-B. This non-zero distance is advantageous since the risk of potentially damaging impact between the hose valve connected bridle 1 6 and the cardan 2 1 may be av oided or at least significantly reduces. This is of particular importance when the incoming angle of the transfer hose 1 2 relative to the longitudinal plane of the vessel 1 00 is large, for example exceeding 90°. This situation is shown in figure 4 by projecting a small model of a vessel and three different orientations of the transfer hose on to a horizontal plane. The illustrated transfer hose 12 is seen to exceed the line oriented transverse to the vessel 1 00. resulting in a component of the transfer hose 1 2 and the bridle 16 directed aft of the vessel 100. Due to the recess created by the non-zero distance from the rotational axis B-B this aft-directed component does not cause any harm ful impact on the cardan 2 1 . Safe handl ing of transfer hoses with large incom ing angles is advantageous since it inter alia permits hydrocarbon transfer during heavy weathervaning of the vessel 100 without the need for spending an excess amount of power consum ption .

In order to further improve the alignment and coupling procedure, the coupling system 1 0 shown i n figure 4 is al so equipped with a drum or roller 29 fixed between the fixing brackets 24a, b, and oriented parallel with, and above, the rotational axis B-B. The roller 29 is made piv otable within the longitudinal plane of the vessel 1 00 by use of one or more pivotable sheaves 29a arranged between the roller ends and the fix ing brackets 24a. b and a dedicated drive unit such as a hydraulic cyl inder 28, thereby serving as additional adjustment means for the alignments between the ax ial position o f the hose valve 1 3 and the axial position of the coupling dev ice 1 9. The piv otable sheaves 29a may preferably use the cardan swivel 23 as rotation means. However, one or more dedicated swivels are possible.

The embodiment of figure 4 further shows a transverse mov ing spooling gear 30 connected to the pivotable rol ler 29, enabl ing remotely controlled transverse mov ement of the hose v alv e 1 3 over at least part of the full ax ial length of the roller 29. The spooling gear 30 may be a spooling gear as described in the patent publication WO 20 1 4 1 06644 A 1 . which is hereby incorporated as reference. However, any k ind of spooling gear capable of moving a rope / cable along an ax ial orientation of an attached or nearby positioned drum may be appl ied. Even further improvement o f the alignment and coupl ing may be obtained by configuring the coupling device 19 such that at least part of the coupling device may rotate ax ially by remote control of a drive unit. The possibility of rotation is particularly useful when the coupling device 19 also comprises radially protruding ears 19c onto which the bridle 16 may be supported. In figure 4 two of such protruding ears 1 9c are arranged diagonally onto a co-rotating shield 1 9d.

Note that figure 4 shows two imaginary bridle arrangements when the bridles 1 6 hav e junction positions arranged at two different vertical positions and without being affected by the roller 29. In both cases, the bridle 1 6 has a horizontal component in the a ft di rection, necessitating a recess in the cardan 2 1 . The coupling system 1 0 may also include means for rotating part of, or the entire, coupling dev ice 1 9. Figures 5 A and 5B show two different embodiments for remotely initiating and maintaining such rotational movements. In figure 5 A the driv e unit is a hydraulic cylinder 27 mounted with its two ends to an upper and a lower bar 35,36 extending radially from a location above and below a coupling dev ice swivel 34, respectiv ely. The orientations of the bars 35,36 set up a mov ement of the hydraulic cylinder 27 in a direction approximately tangential to the coupling dev ice swivel 34, thereby inducing the desired rotation of the coupling dev ice 1 9. In figure 5B the hydraul ic cyl inder is replaced by a motor 27a with motor gear wheel 37 arranged next to the coupling device swivel 34. In this particular embodiment the motor 27a is non-rotationally coupled to the tube segment 17 and rotational ly coupled to the coupling dev ice 1 9 by meshing the motor gear wheel 37 with corresponding coupl ing device gear wheel 38 on the coupling dev ice 1 9.

Figure 6 summaries the principal degrees o f freedom of the inv entiv e coupling system 1 as described above, that is

pendulum mov ements of the coupler dev ice 1 9 in the transv erse plane by aid of one or more tube swivels 18 having a rotational axis along A-A and arranged at the end o f the bent tube segment 1 7 opposite to the coupling dev ice end,

- pendulum movements o f the coupler device 1 9 in the longitudinal plane by aid of one or more cardan swivels 23 hav ing a rotational ax is along B-B being perpendicular to, and coplanar w ith, ax is A-A, and arranged at the end( s) of the second tube segment 22 and/or the cardan 23 ,

rotational mov ement of at least part of the coupler device 1 9 by aid of a coupling device swivel 34 having a rotational ax is along C-C being perpendicular to both ax is A-A and B-B and arranged at any point from the fluid receiving end of the coupling dev ice 1 9 to the start of the bend 1 7a of the tube segment 17, for example w ithin the coupler device itsel f.

In figure 6 the longitudinal vessel axis is indicated as parallel to axi s A -A. W ith reference to the longitudinal vessel axis L-L, the pendulum movements are shown, both in perspectiv e and projected onto the horizontal plane. Since there are more degrees of freedom av ailable for the coupl ing dev ice 1 9 in the inv entiv e coupling system 1 0 compared to prior art systems, the length of the part of the tube segment 1 7 extending from the bend 1 7a and to the coupl ing device opening may be longer without jeopardizing the safety and/or accuracy o f the al ignment and coupling procedure at open sea. This increase i n length results in an increase in sweeping sector from the old sector / with diameter d to a new sector II with larger diameter D.

In addi tion, since the shape o f the second tube segment 22 and the cardan 2 1 allows horizontal components of the bridle 1 6 and/or hose handling rope 15 in direction bow -a ft. the angle of the new sector II at both sides of the longitudinal vessel axis L-L may be increased compared to the old sector I significantly, for example from ±30° being typical for prior art coupli ng systems to ± 1 10° for the inventive coupling system 1 0. Even larger sectors may be envisaged.

Figure 7 illustrates in further detail the roller 29 and the spooling gear 30. The hose handling rope 15 and the bridle 16 are guided in between to guiding sticks 30a interconnected by a guiding stick beam 30b. The spooling gear 30 further comprises a spooling gear drive shaft 30c arranged between the fixing brackets 24a, b to enable remote controlled movement along the length of the roller 29. As illustrated, the two ropes of the bridle 16 opens up in a specific angle set by the distance between the attached hose valve ears 13a,b.

Figures 8- 13 show in perspective different stages of the alignment and coupling procedure.

In the stage illustrated in figure 8 the hose v al ve 1 3 and the transfer hose 1 2 has been pulled in by the hose handling rope 1 5 and/or bridle 1 6 to a position abov e the water surface H while the bow hatch 3 1 cov ering a compartment 33 of the coupling system 10 is opening up. A transfer hose connected FPSO 200 is seen in the background.

In figure 9 A the bow hatch 3 1 has been opened up completely. The stage of the pull-in operation of the hose valve 13 and the position of the coupling device 19 is how ev er identical to the stage seen in figure 7. In figure 9B the position of the hose v alv e 1 3 remai ns the same, but the cardan 2 1 has been piv oted around the B-B axis by operator controlled operation of the hydraulic cylinder 26 , thereby causing the coupling device 19 to protrude from the coupler system compartment 33 to a position directly above the water. Figures 10A and 10B illustrate the coupler system 10 in more detail, and with two di fferent positions of the coupler dev ice 1 9 during pivoting of the tube segment around the ax is A- A using the hydraulic cylinder 25 and the tube swivel 1 8, and a simultaneous rotation of at least the shield 1 9d of the coupling device 19 using the coupl ing device swivel 34 ( see figure 6). As is clear from figure 1 OB the simultaneous pendulum mov ements in the transverse direction and the rotation of the shield 19d results in a desired insertion of the coupling device 19 into the opening of the bridle 1 6.

Such an insertion is illustrated also in figures 1 1 A and 1 1 B. However, instead of performing pendulum movements and rotation of the coupl ing dev ice 16, the final insertion of the coupling dev ice 16 into the bridle opening such that the bridle ropes are supported on the shield ears 19c is achieved by pivoting the roller 29 and the spooling gear 30 in the bow -a ft direction using the pivotable sheaves 29a. Figures 1 2 A and 1 2 B show a similar stage of the alignment and coupling procedure as figure 1 1 A and 1 1 B, but now from within the coupler dev ice compartment 33. The coupling claws 1 9c enabling remotely operated coupling of the coupling flange 19a / coupling v alv e 1 9b to the hose valv e 1 3 is clearly seen in figure 1 2. In both figures 1 1 and 1 2 guides 1 9 f for aiding the final alignment stage between the coupling dev ice 1 9 and hose valv e 1 3 are shown.

Lastly, figures 13A and 13B show the final coupling stage just before and after a successful axial alignment of the coupling de v ice 1 6 with the hose v alve 13, respectiv ely. In figure 1 3 B the coupling claws 1 9c have been activ ated remotely in order to clamp the coupling valve 19b and the hose valve 13 in a leak free coupling prior to opening for fluid.

The alignment and coupling procedure is normally a highly iterativ e process , where the operator remotely adjusts and re-adjusts the position of the coupling dev ice duri ng continuous monitoring.

Some or ail of the above mentioned adjustment and coupling operations may as well be operated manually. Furthermore, some or all of the abov e mentioned adjustment and coupling operations may be performed fully automatic by i nstalling appropriate sensors w ithin the coupling system 1 0. As an example, one or more proximity sensors may be installed on the coupl ing device 16 and/ or the hose v alv e 1 3 to monitor the distance and/or angle of approach. These and other sensors may communicate their measured values to a control system for determining further adjustment or coupling operations, either completely autonomous or under control of the operator. The sensors and/or activation units may also be configured with means to inter-communicate between themselves and to make process and data based on the inter-communicated values.

In the preceding description, various aspects of the coupling system 10 and transfer system according to the invention have been described with reference to the illustrative embodiment. For purposes of explanation, specific numbers, systems and configurations were set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the systems and their workings. However, this description is not intended to be construed in a limiting sense. Various modifications and variations of the illustrative embodiment, as well as other embodiments of the systems, which are apparent to persons skilled in the art to which the disclosed subject matter pertains, are deemed to lie within the scope of the present invention.




 
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