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Patent Searching and Data


Title:
GRIPPING DEVICE
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2016/030682
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A gripping device(5), such as a split clamp, sealing device and/or structural support, is configured to grip, engage or fix onto a pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member (45). The gripping device (5) includes one or more gripping mechanisms (25a, 25a', 25b, 25b') configured to grip, engage or fix, such as mechanically grip, engage or fix, onto the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member and first and second parts (10a, 10b), wherein the first and second parts (10a, 0b) are disposed relative to each other or secured or securable together so as to circumferentially surround the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member (45). A corresponding gripping mechanism and methods of operating, assembling the gripping device, sealing and repairing a pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member are also provided herein. In other examples, the gripping device may be a flange, T-piece or 1 valve, the flange, T-piece or valve being configured to retain, grip, engage or secure a portion of a pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member.

Inventors:
TAYLOR, Richard (8 Bramble Close, Kendal Cumbria LA9 6FF, GB)
Application Number:
GB2015/052465
Publication Date:
March 03, 2016
Filing Date:
August 26, 2015
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
FLINTSTONE TECHNOLOGY LIMITED (69 Dalkeith Road, Dundee DD4 7HF, GB)
International Classes:
F16L1/26; F16L37/62; F16L55/175; F16L55/18
Domestic Patent References:
WO2005114036A12005-12-01
WO2015017544A12015-02-05
Foreign References:
US5590913A1997-01-07
US20040094957A12004-05-20
GB2155577A1985-09-25
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MORELAND, David (120 Bothwell Street, Glasgow G2 7JS, GB)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1. A gripping device, such as a split clamp, sealing device and/or structural support, the gripping device being configured to grip, engage or fix onto a pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member, the gripping device comprising

one or more gripping mechanisms configured to grip, engage or fix, such as mechanically grip, engage or fix, onto the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member; and

the gripping device comprises at least first and second parts, wherein the first and second parts are disposed relative to each other or secured or securable together so as to circumferentially surround the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member.

2. The gripping device according to any preceding claim, wherein at least one or more or each gripping mechanism comprises a ball or roller based gripping mechanism, such as a ball and taper or ball and cage gripping or fixing mechanism.

3. The gripping device according to claim 1 or 2, wherein the first and second parts are separated or separable or face each other at a longitudinally extending mating or separation plane, the first part being separable, movable, hinged, rotatable and/or pivotable relative to the second part to allow insertion of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member therebetween and/or removal of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member therefrom. 4. The gripping device according to any preceding claim, wherein at least one or each of the first and/or second parts of the gripping device, comprises at least two separate or separable parts, such as third and fourth parts.

5. The gripping device according to claim 4, wherein at least one or each of the separate or separable parts, such as the third and/or fourth separable part, comprises at least one of the gripping mechanisms.

6. The gripping device according to claim 4 or 5, wherein the at least two separate or separable parts, such as the third and fourth parts, are movable together and/or apart along a direction that is parallel or collinear with a longitudinal direction of the gripping device and/or the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member.

7. The gripping device according to any preceding claim, wherein one or more or each gripping mechanism is configured to resist or oppose relative longitudinal movement of the gripping mechanism(s) and the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member in at least one direction but permit relative movement in at least one other longitudinal direction. 8. The gripping device according to any preceding claim, wherein one or more or each gripping mechanism(s) are configured to resist or oppose relative movement of the gripping mechanism(s) and the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member in an opposite direction to at least one other of the gripping mechanisms.

9. The gripping device according to any preceding claim, wherein the gripping device at least partially defines a cavity or recess, such as an internal cavity or recess, at least part of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member being receivable within the cavity or recess.

10. The gripping device according to any preceding claim, wherein the gripping device is reconfigurable and/or interchangeable between at least a first or closed configuration and a second or open configuration. 1 1. The gripping device according to claim 10, wherein the second or open configuration comprises a configuration in which at least one side surface of the at least one part, such as the first part, is spaced apart from an associated side surface of the at least one other part, such as the second part. 12. The gripping device according to claim 10 or 1 1 , when dependent on claim 9, wherein the first or closed configuration comprises a configuration in which at least two transversely opposite side surfaces of the at least one part, such as the first part, contact at least two associated transversely opposite side surfaces of the at least one other part, such as the second part, such that the recess or cavity is circumferentially continuous or closed by the first and second parts.

13. The gripping device according to any one of claims 10 to 12, wherein one or more or each gripping mechanism are configured to resist or oppose relative movement of the gripping mechanism(s) and the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member in at least a first direction, in use and/or when the gripping device is in the first or closed configuration, and/or are configured to allow relative movement of the gripping mechanism(s) and the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member in a second direction. 14. The gripping device according to claim 13, wherein at least one other gripping mechanism is configured to resist relative movement of the gripping device and the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member in at least the second direction, in use and/or when the gripping device is in the first or closed configuration, and/or is configured to allow relative movement of the gripping mechanism(s) and the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member in the first direction.

15. The gripping device according to any preceding claim, wherein at least one or each of the gripping mechanisms comprises a modular gripping mechanism. 16. The gripping device according to any preceding claim, wherein at least one or each of the gripping mechanisms comprises at least one or a plurality of gripping modules, each module being configured to selectively grip or engage the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member, in use. 17. The gripping device according to any preceding claim, wherein one or more or each gripping mechanism is changeable or switchable or selectively useable between a fixing or engaging configuration, in which the gripping mechanism(s) are adapted to fix or engage with the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member, such as with the an outer wall of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member, and a movable or non-engaging configuration, in which the gripping mechanism(s) is adapted to disengage with the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member and/or be movable with respect to the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member.

18. The gripping device according to any one of claims 9 to 17, when dependent on claim 2, wherein the ball and taper mechanism comprises a plurality of balls, such as ball-bearings, which are provided, e.g. circumferentially provided, in corresponding open slots or grooves, wherein a part of the ball(s) may project from the open part of the respective slot or groove into the cavity or recess. 19. The gripping device according to claim 18, wherein each slot or groove comprises a tapered slot or groove, such that a radial depth of the slot or groove varies along a longitudinal direction of the gripping device, such that the radial depth of the slot reduces in the first or second direction. 20. The gripping device according to claim 18 or 19, wherein the ball and taper mechanism are arranged such that movement of the balls toward an end of the slot or groove having a greater radial depth results in less of the ball or none of the ball protruding from the slot and/or movement of the balls toward an end of the slot or groove having a lesser radial depth results in more of the ball protruding from the slot.

21. The gripping device according to claim 20, wherein the lesser radial depth is such that the balls are caused to be immovably or fixedly gripped or pressed between the tapered slot or groove and outer side walls of the pipe, conduit or elongate member, in use, the greater radial depth being such that the balls are free to rotate within the slot or groove, in use.

22. The gripping device according to any one of claims 18 to 21 , wherein the ball based mechanism comprises an apertured cage or screen, which is configured such that the balls may be partially located in or may partially protrude from the apertures in the cage.

23. The gripping device according to claim 22, wherein the cage or screen is arranged such that movement, sliding or translation of the cage or screen moves at least some of the balls relative to the respective slots or grooves, such as relative to a tapered or ramped surface of the respective slots or grooves, which protrudes more or less of the respective ball out from the respective slot, groove or aperture, depending on the position of the screen or cage.

24. The gripping device according to claim 23, wherein the movement of the screen to move the balls toward the shallower end of the groove brings the balls into contact with the pipe, conduit or elongate member, in use, and/or centralise the gripping device on the pipe, conduit or elongated member, in use, and/or apply a pre-loading.

25. The gripping device according to any one of claims 17 to 24, wherein one or more or each gripping mechanism comprise a spring-loaded or biased gripping mechanism configured such that applying a force or movement opposing or compressing the spring-loaded or biased gripping mechanism of the one or more gripping mechanism changes or switches the one or more gripping mechanism from the fixing or engaging configuration to the movable or non-engaging configuration.

26. The gripping device according to any one of claims 22 to 25, when dependent on claim 17, wherein the cage or screen is fixed or fixable to at least one or each part of the gripping device and/or each part of the one or more or each of the one or more gripping mechanisms, to maintain the gripping mechanism in the movable or non- engaging configuration.

27. The gripping device according to any preceding claim, wherein the gripping device comprises one, two or more moving mechanisms. 28. The gripping device according to claim 27, at least one of the moving mechanisms, such as at least one pressurisable mechanism, is configured to bring at least one or each of the gripping mechanisms into an engaging configuration, such as a configuration in which at least one or each gripping mechanism or engaging portion contacts the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member, in use, and/or centralises the gripping device on the pipe, conduit or elongate member, and/or grips the pipe, conduit and/or other elongate member with a first force, such as a pre-load force, in use.

29. The gripping device according to claim 28, wherein at least one other of the moving mechanisms, such as at least one mechanical moving mechanism, is configured to bring at least one or each of the gripping mechanisms into a fixing or engaging configuration and/or a configuration in which at least one or each gripping mechanism or engaging portion grips the pipe, conduit and/or other elongate member, in use, with a second force, wherein the second force is greater than the first or pre- load force.

30. The gripping device according to any preceding claim, wherein the gripping device comprises sealing apparatus for sealing against an outer wall of the pipe, conduit or elongate member.

31. The gripping device according to claim 30, wherein the sealing apparatus comprises at least one, such as a plurality of sealing members, the at least one or each of the sealing members extending into the recess and/or cavity, such as at least partially or wholly circumferentially around an inner wall or annular space or the recess or cavity of the gripping device.

32. The gripping device according to any preceding claim, wherein the gripping device comprises a gripping device configured for use in subsea or underwater applications.

33. The gripping device according to any preceding claim, wherein the gripping device comprises at least one inlet, which may be or comprise an inlet to the cavity or recess. 34. The gripping device according to claim 33, wherein the inlet is configured to receive a supply of a settable, curable or fixable medium, such as epoxy, grout, cement, settable polymeric material and/or the like, the inlet being configured to supply the settable, curable or fixable medium into the cavity or recess, in use when the gripping device is mounted, attached or located on the pipe, conduit, pipeline or other elongate member.

35. The gripping device according to any preceding claim, wherein the gripping device comprises at least one outlet, which is an outlet from the cavity or recess. 36. A flange, T-piece or valve, the flange, T-piece or valve being configured to retain, grip, engage or secure at least one portion of at least one pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member, the flange, T-piece or valve comprising

at least one gripping mechanism, which is configured to grip, engage, secure or fix the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member, wherein the gripping mechanism comprises a ball based gripping mechanism, such as a ball and taper mechanism and/or ball and cage mechanism.

37. The flange, T-piece or valve according to claim 36, wherein the flange, T-piece or valve is configurable and/or interchangeable between at least a fixing or engaging configuration and at least a movable or non-engaging configuration.

38. The flange, T-piece or valve according to claim 37, wherein the fixing or engaging configuration comprises a configuration in which relative movement, such longitudinal movement, of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member with respect to the flange, T-piece or valve is prohibited and/or the movable or non- engaging configuration comprises a configuration in which relative movement, such as longitudinal movement, of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member with respect to the flange, T-piece or valve is permitted.

39. The flange, T-piece or valve according to any one of claims 36 to 38, wherein the flange, T-piece or valve comprises a body, the body comprising a first portion and a second portion removably coupled to each other. 40. The flange, T-piece or valve according to claim 39, wherein the flange, T-piece or valve comprises a cavity or recess, the cavity or recess being comprised in the body, such as in the first and/or second portion of the body, at least part, such as a portion or end portion, of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member being receivable within the cavity or recess, and wherein the gripping mechanism is arranged in the cavity or recess.

41. The flange, T-piece or valve according to claim 36 and any claim dependent thereon, wherein the gripping mechanism is configured to be changeable or switchable or selectively useable between the fixing or engaging configuration of the flange, T- piece or valve, in which the gripping mechanism is adapted to fix or engage with the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member, such as with the an outer wall of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member, and the movable or non-engaging configuration of the flange, T-piece or valve, in which the gripping mechanism is adapted to disengage with the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member and/or the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member is movable or slidable with respect to the flange, T-piece or valve.

42. The flange, T-piece or valve according any one of claims 40 or 41 , when dependent on claim 40, wherein the ball and taper mechanism comprises a plurality of balls, such as a plurality of ball-bearings, which are provided, such as circumferentially provided, in corresponding open slots or grooves, wherein a part of the ball(s) projects from an open part of the respective slot(s) or groove(s) into the cavity or recess. 43. The flange, T-piece or valve according to claim 42, wherein the slot or groove comprises a tapered or ramped slot or groove such that a radial depth of the/each slot(s) or groove(s) varies along a longitudinal direction of the flange, T-piece or valve, such that the radial depth of the slot reduces in a first or second direction. 44. The flange, T-piece or valve according to claim 42 or 43, wherein the ball and taper mechanism is arranged such that movement of the balls toward an end of the slot or groove having a greater radial depth results in less of the ball or none of the ball protruding from the slot and/or movement of the balls toward an end of the slot or groove having a lesser radial depth results in more of the ball protruding from the slot.

45. The flange, T-piece or valve according to claim 44, wherein the lesser radial depth is such that the balls are caused to be immovably or fixedly gripped or pressed between the tapered slot or groove and outer side walls of the pipe, conduit or other elongate member or a portion thereof, in use and/or the greater radial depth is such that the balls are free to rotate within the slot or groove, in use.

46. The flange, T-piece or valve according to any one of claims 42 to 45, wherein the flange, T-piece or valve comprises an apertured cage or screen configured such that the balls partially protrude from the apertures in the cage.

47. The flange, T-piece or valve according to claim 46, wherein the cage or screen is arranged such that movement, sliding or translation of the slots or grooves and/or the body, such as the first or second portion of the body, moves at least some of the balls relative to the respective slots or grooves, relative to a tapered or ramped surface of the respective slots or grooves, the balls protruding more or less out from the respective slot, groove or aperture, depending on the position of the screen or cage relative to the slots or grooves and/or body, such as the first and/or second portion, in use. 48. The flange, T-piece or valve according to claim 47, wherein the movement of the slots or grooves and/or body, such as the first or second portion, moves the balls toward the shallower end of the groove, thereby bringing the balls into contact with the pipe, conduit or other elongate member, in use, and/or centralise the flange, T-piece or valve on the pipe, conduit or other elongated member, in use, and/or apply a pre- loading.

49. The flange, T-piece or valve according to claim 48, wherein, in use, when the balls are in contact with the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member, the gripping mechanism opposes or resists movement, motion or force, such longitudinal movement, motion or force, on the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member relative to the flange, T-piece or valve.

50. The flange, T-piece or valve according to any one of claims 46 to 49, wherein the flange, T-piece or valve comprises a moving mechanism, which moves, translates or slides the body, such as the first and/or second portion of the body, and/or the slots and grooves relative to the second portion of the body and/or the cage or screen.

51. The flange, T-piece or valve according to claim 50, wherein the moving mechanisms is configured to bring the gripping mechanisms into a fixing or engaging configuration and/or a configuration in which at least one or each gripping mechanism or engaging portion grips the pipe, conduit and/or other elongate member, in use.

52. The flange, T-piece or valve according to claim 50 or 51 , wherein the moving mechanism is arranged to advance, move or translate the body, such as the first and/or second portion of body, and/or the slots and grooves while maintaining the cage in a generally stationary position.

53. The flange, T-piece or valve according to claim 37 and any claim dependent thereon, wherein the flange, T-piece or valve comprise a locking member configured to lock or secure the flange, T-piece or valve to the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other member in the fixing or engaging configuration of the flange, T-piece or valve.

54. The flange, T-piece or valve according to claim 39 and any claim dependent thereon, the flange, T-piece or valve is configured to receive one or more spacing members, such as one or more removable and/or temporary spacing members provided between the first and second portions of the body to arrange the first portion of the body in a spaced relationship to the second portion of the body, in use. 55. The flange, T-piece or valve according to claim 39 to 54, when dependent on claim 37, wherein, in use, when the flange, T-piece or valve is in the fixing or engaging configuration, the second portion of the body is spaced apart, removable and/or separable from the first portion. 56. The flange, T-piece or valve according to claim 55, wherein when the second portion of the body is separated from the first portion, in use, the flange, T-piece or valve is attachable or attached to a further gripping device, such as a further flange, T- piece or valve, and/or to a further pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member. 57. The flange, T-piece or valve according to any one of claims 36 to 56, wherein the flange, T-piece or valve comprise a connection arrangement for connection of the flange, T-piece or valve to a further pipe, pipeline, conduit, other elongate member and/or a further gripping device, such as such as a further flange, T-piece or valve. 58. The flange, T-piece or valve according to any one of claims 36 to 57, wherein the flange, T-piece or valve comprises at least one inlet, which may be or comprise an inlet to the cavity or recess.

59. The flange, T-piece or valve according to claim 58, wherein the inlet is configured to receive a supply of a settable, curable or fixable medium, such as epoxy, grout, cement, settable polymeric material and/or the like, the inlet being configured to supply the settable, curable or fixable medium into the cavity or recess, in use when the flange, T-piece or valve is mounted, attached or located on the pipe, conduit, pipeline or other elongate member.

60. The flange, T-piece or valve according to any one of claims 36 to 59, wherein the gripping device comprises at least one outlet, which is an outlet from the cavity or recess. 61. A sealing device, flange or clamp comprising at least one gripping device according to any one claims 1 to 35 and/or at least one flange, T-piece or valve according to any one of claims 36 to 60.

62. The sealing device, flange or clamp according to claim 61 , wherein the sealing device, flange or clamp is configured to seal a pipe, pipeline or conduit.

63. The sealing device, flange or clamp according to claim 61 or 62, wherein the sealing device, flange or clamp comprises a sealing apparatus provided between at least two gripping mechanisms or on or adjacent at least one end or both ends of the gripping mechanism.

64. A structural support, for providing support to a pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member, the structural support comprising or being comprised in at least one gripping device according to any one of claims 1 to 35 and/or at least one flange, T- piece or valve according to any one of claims 36 to 60 and/or at least one sealing device according to any one of claims 61 to 63.

65. A connection or connection arrangement, such as a flange or clamp, comprising at least one gripping device according to any one of claims 1 to 35 and/or at least one flange, T-piece or valve according to any one of claims 36 to 60, a sealing device, flange or clamp according to any one of claims 61 to 63 and/or a structural support according to claim 64.

66. A method of mounting or operating a gripping device according to any one of claim 1 to 35, a sealing device, flange or clamp according to any one of claims 60 to 63 and/or a structural support according to claims 64 to a pipe, conduit or elongate member.

67. The method according to claim 66, wherein the method comprises placing at least one or each gripping device in the second or open configuration, by separating at least a portion of at least one part, such as the first part, of the gripping device from at least a portion of at least one other part, such as the second part of the gripping device.

68. The method according to claim 66 or 67, wherein the method comprises placing the gripping device(s), sealing device(s) and/or support member(s) onto the pipe, pipeline, conduit and/or elongate member, such that the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member is received within the recess or cavity of the gripping device(s), sealing device or clamp(s) and/or structural support(s). 69. The method according to any one of claims 66 to 68, wherein the method comprises placing at least one or each gripping device in the first or closed configuration, by bringing at least a portion of at least one part, such as the first part, of the gripping device into contact with at least a portion of at least one other part, such as the second part, of the gripping device.

70. The method any one of claims 66 to 69, wherein the method comprises engaging or contacting the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member with one or more of the gripping mechanisms, such as one or more of the engaging members of one or more of the gripping mechanisms, such as the balls of the ball and taper or ball and cage gripping mechanisms, by operating the at least one moving mechanism.

71. The method any one of claims 66 to 70, wherein the method comprises moving at least the third part(s) of the gripping device(s), sealing device or clamp(s) and/or structural support(s) relative to the fourth part(s), thereby closing the gap between the third and fourth parts.

72. The method according to any one of claims 66 to 71 , wherein the method comprises gripping the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member with one or more of the gripping mechanisms, such as one or more of the engaging members of one or more of the gripping mechanisms, such as the balls of the ball and taper or ball and cage gripping mechanisms, such that the one or more gripping mechanisms are locked against movement relative to the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member and/or indent or otherwise deform the pipe, conduit or elongate member, by operating the at least one other moving mechanism.

73. A method of mounting or operating a flange, T-piece or valve according to any one of claims 36 to 60 to a pipe, conduit or elongate member.

74. The method according to claim 73, wherein the method comprises adjusting or moving the flange, T-piece or valve to the movable or non-engaging configuration.

75. The method according to claim 73 or 74, wherein the method comprises inserting the pipe, pipeline, conduit and/or other elongate member into the flange, T- piece or valve, such that the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member or a portion thereof is received within the recess or cavity of the flange, T-piece or valve.

76. The method according to any one of claims 73 to 75, wherein the method comprises placing or actuating the gripping device in the engaging or fixing configuration, by moving the first portion of the body towards the second portion of the body, by operating the moving mechanism.

77. The method according to any one of claims 73 to 76, wherein the method comprises gripping the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member with one or more of the balls of the ball and taper or ball and cage gripping mechanisms, such that the gripping mechanism locks against relative movement of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member and the flange, T-piece or valve and/or indents or otherwise deforms the pipe, conduit or elongate member.

78. The method according to any one of claims 73 to 77, wherein the method comprises fixing or locking the flange, T-piece or valve in the fixing or engaging configuration.

79. The method according to any one of claims 66 to 78, wherein the method comprises contacting at least one the sealing member with the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member.

80. The method according to any one of claims 66 to 79, wherein the method comprises providing a settable, curable or fixable medium to the cavity or recess, when the gripping device according to any one of claims 1 to 35 or the flange, T-piece or valve according to any one of claims 36 to 60 is mounted on the pipe, conduit, pipeline or other elongate member.

81. The method according to any one of claims 66 to 80, wherein the method comprises expelling contents, such as water, air, drilling fluids and/or hydrocarbons, from the cavity or recess via the one or more outlets from the cavity, which comprises forcing the contents out of the recess or cavity due to the supply of settable, curable or fixable medium into the cavity or recess. 82. A method of sealing a pipe, pipeline conduit or elongate member, the method comprising mounting a sealing device, flange or clamp according to any one of claims 61 to 63 on a pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member using the method of any one of claims 66 to 72 and/or claims 73 to 78, and any claim dependent thereon. 83. A method of reinforcing or supporting a pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member, the method comprising fixing or attaching at least one structural support according to claim 64 to the pipe, conduit or elongate member using the method of any one of claims 66 to 72 and/or claims 73 to 78, and any claim dependent thereon. 84. A gripping mechanism or gripping module for use in or with the gripping device according to any one of claims 1 to 35 and/or the flange, T-piece or valve according to any one of claims 36 to 60, the sealing device according to any one of claims 61 to 63 and/or the structural support member according to claim 64. 85. A method of repairing a pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member, the method comprises fixing, mounting or attaching a gripping device according to any one of claim 1 to 35, a flange, T-piece or valve according to any one of claims 36 to 60, a sealing device according to any one of claims 61 to 63 and/or a structural support according to claim 64 to the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member.

Description:
GRIPPING DEVICE

FIELD OF INVENTION

The present invention relates to a gripping device, such as a clamp or flange, such as a subsea or underwater clamp or flange, for example, for gripping or retaining a pipe, pipeline, conduit or the like. Optionally but not essentially, the gripping device can be used in a system or apparatus for sealing and/or providing support to a pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate structure. The invention also relates to associated devices, apparatus, structures and methods.

BACKGROUND TO INVENTION

Repair clamps are used in the repair of leaking or otherwise damaged or compromised pipes in industries such as oil and gas, chemical processing, water distribution and supply and the like. Such pipes may be used to transport a fluid or fluids between a first location or position and a second location or position.

An example of a repair clamp has elastomeric seals that are fixed into position around a leaking or damaged portion of a pipe in order to seal the pipe.

It is an object of at least one embodiment of at least one aspect of the present invention to obviate or mitigate at least one problem and/or disadvantage in the prior art.

It may be an object of at least one embodiment of at least one aspect of the present invention to provide a gripping device that provides sealing of and/or additional structural integrity, and/or another function, to a pipe, pipeline, conduit, or other elongate structure.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

According to a first aspect of the present invention there is provided a gripping device, such as a clamp, sealing device and/or structural support. The gripping device may be or comprise a split gripping device, such as a clamshell device. The gripping device may be configured to grip, engage or fix onto a pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member. The gripping device may comprise one or more, e.g. two or more gripping mechanisms, which may be configured to grip, engage or fix, e.g. mechanically grip, engage or fix, onto the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member. The gripping device may comprise at least two parts (e.g. at least first and second parts). The first and second parts may be disposed relative to each other or secured or securable together so as to circumferentially surround the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member.

The at least first and/or second parts may each comprise one or more gripping mechanisms.

At least one or more or each gripping mechanism may comprise a ball or roller based gripping mechanism such as a ball and taper or ball and cage gripping or fixing mechanism.

At least two of the parts of the gripping device (e.g. the first and second parts) may be separated or separable or face each other at a longitudinally extending mating or separation plane. At least one of the parts (e.g. the first part) may be separable, movable, hinged, rotatable and/or pivotable relative to at least one other part (such as the second part), e.g. to allow insertion of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member therebetween and/or removal of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member therefrom. At least part or all of the at least one part (e.g. the first part) may be separable, movable, hinged, and/or pivotable towards and/or away from at least part or all of the at least one other part (such as the second part). By configuring at least one of the parts (e.g. the first part) to be separable, movable, hinged, rotatable and/or pivotable to at least one other part (e.g. the second part), installation of the gripping device on the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member and/or removal of the gripping device from the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member may be facilitated. For example, this configuration may allow the gripping device to be utilised on a connection between two or more pipes, pipelines, conduits or other elongate members and/or on a mid-section, e.g. between ends, of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member.The gripping device, e.g. at least one or each of the first and/or second parts of the gripping device, may comprise at least two separate or separable parts, such as third and fourth parts. At least one of the separate or separable parts (such as the third separable part) may comprise at least one of the gripping mechanisms. At least one of the separable parts (such as the fourth separable part) may comprise at least one other of the gripping mechanisms.

The at least two separate or separable parts (e.g. the third and fourth parts) may be movable together and/or apart, for example along a direction that is parallel or collinear with a longitudinal direction of the gripping device and/or the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member. The at least two separate or separable parts (e.g. the third and fourth parts) may be separated, separable or face each other along a contact or separation plane, which may be transversely or radially extending with respect to the gripping device or pipe, conduit or elongated member. In at least one configuration, which may be or comprise a first, initial and/or non-gripping configuration, the at least two separate or separable parts (e.g. the third and/or fourth parts) may be spaced apart or separated, e.g. in the longitudinal direction of the gripping device and/or the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member and/or in a direction parallel thereto. In at least one other configuration, which may be or comprise a second and/or gripping configuration, the at least two separate or separable parts (e.g. the third and/or fourth parts) may be proximate, adjacent, and/or contacting or abutting e.g. at the contact or separation plane. One or more or each of the gripping mechanisms may be or comprise a "one way" gripping mechanism.

One or more or each gripping mechanism may be configured to resist or oppose relative movement, e.g. longitudinal movement, of the gripping mechanism(s) and the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member in at least one direction but may permit relative movement in at least one other direction, e.g. a longitudinal direction, such as an opposite direction.

One or more or each gripping mechanism may be configured to resist or oppose relative movement of the gripping mechanism(s) and the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member in an opposite direction, e.g. longitudinal direction, to at least one other of the gripping mechanisms.

The gripping device may comprise a body. The body may be or define an elongate body, such as a tubular and/or cylindrical body. The gripping device, e.g. the body, may be at least partially or wholly formed from metal such as steel. The body may be or comprise a rigid body. The body may be provided or providable or extend between two or more of the gripping mechanisms. The/each gripping mechanism may be arranged in or comprise a separate or distinct body or body part.

The gripping device may at least partially define a cavity or recess, such as an internal cavity or recess. At least part of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member may be receivable within the cavity or recess. The gripping device may form at least part or all of a generally annular shape. The cavity or recess may be defined within the gripping device, e.g. the cavity or recess may be or correspond with the annulus or space defined inside the annularly shaped gripping device.

The gripping device may be reconfigurable and/or interchangeable between at least a first or closed configuration and a second or open configuration.

The second or open configuration may be or comprise a configuration in which at least one side surface of the at least one part (e.g. the first part) is spaced apart from an associated side surface of the at least one other part (e.g. the second part). The second or open configuration may be or comprise a configuration in which the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member may be receivable into, and/or removable from, the cavity or recess.

The first or closed configuration may be or comprise a configuration in which at least two of the side surfaces, e.g. transversely opposite side surfaces, of the at least one part (e.g. the first part) contact at least two of the associated side surfaces, e.g. transversely opposite side surfaces, of the at least one other part (e.g. the second part), e.g. such that the recess or cavity is circumferentially continuous or closed by the first and second parts. The first or closed configuration may be or comprise a configuration in which the gripping device surrounds or partially surrounds the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member, in use. The first or closed configuration may be or comprise a configuration in which the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member is enclosed, encircled, located, and/or retained in the recess or cavity and/or a configuration in which the gripping device is mounted onto the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member in use.

The gripping device may be reconfigurable between the first or closed configuration and the second or open configured by pivoting, moving, separating or hinging at least the part (e.g. the first part) and the other part (e.g. the second part) of the gripping device relative to each other.

The body and/or one or more or each of the one or more gripping mechanisms may be in at least two parts, at least two or each of which may be disposed relative to each other or secured or securable together so as to circumferentially surround the pipe. At least one or each part of the body and/or one or more or each of the one or more gripping mechanisms may be separable, movable, hinged, rotatable and/or pivotable relative to at least one other part of the body and/or one or more or each of the one or more gripping mechanisms, e.g. to allow insertion of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member therebetween and/or removal of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member therefrom. At least one part of the body and/or one or more or each of the one or more gripping mechanisms may be comprised in the at least one part (e.g. the first part) of the gripping device. At least one other part of the body and/or one or more or each of the one or more gripping mechanisms may be comprised in the at least one other part (e.g. the second part) of the gripping device.

One or more or each gripping mechanism may be configured to resist or oppose relative movement of the gripping mechanism(s) and the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member in at least a first direction, in use and/or when the gripping device is in the first or closed configuration, and/or may be configured to allow relative movement of the gripping mechanism(s) and the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member in a second direction. At least one other gripping mechanism may be configured to resist relative movement of the gripping device and the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member in at least the second direction, in use and/or when the gripping device is in the first or closed configuration, and/or may be configured to allow relative movement of the gripping mechanism(s) and the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member in the first direction. The second direction may be opposite the first direction. The first and/or second directions may be parallel or coincident with a longitudinal direction of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member. The first and second directions may be collinear or coincident.

At least one or each of the gripping mechanisms may comprise a modular gripping mechanism. At least one or each of the gripping mechanisms may comprise at least one or a plurality of gripping modules. The at least one or each module may be configured to selectively grip or engage the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member, in use. At least one or each gripping module may define at least part or all of an annular shape, e.g. at least one or each gripping module may define a semi-circular shape. At least one or each gripping module may define at least part of the recess or cavity. At least one or each gripping module may be configured to extend circumferentially around at least part of the recess or cavity.

One or more or each of the gripping mechanisms may comprise one or more protruding portions or members, which may protrude transversely or radially of at least one portion of the cavity or recess. The protruding portions may comprise parts of respective balls or rollers, e.g. of a ball and taper or ball and cage arrangement.

One or more or each gripping mechanism may be changeable or switchable or selectively useable between a fixing or engaging configuration, in which the gripping mechanism(s) may be adapted to fix or engage with the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member, e.g. with the an outer wall of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member, and a movable or non-engaging configuration, in which the gripping mechanism(s) may be adapted to disengage with the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member and/or be movable with respect to the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member. The one or more or each gripping mechanism may be changeable or switchable from the movable or non-engaging configuration to the fixing or engaging configuration, e.g. by moving or applying a force to the gripping device. The ball and taper mechanism may comprise at least one and/or preferably a plurality of balls, such as ball-bearings, which may be provided in corresponding open slots or grooves. A part of the ball(s) may project from the open part of the respective slot or groove. The slots or grooves may open into or towards the recess or cavity. Part of the balls may project into the cavity. The balls and/or slots may be distributed circumferentially around a wall, e.g. inner wall, of the recess or cavity. The slot or groove may comprise a tapered slot or groove, for example, such that a radial depth of the slot or groove varies along a longitudinal direction of the gripping device, e.g. such that the radial depth of the slot reduces in the first or second direction. The ball and taper mechanism may be arranged such that movement of the balls toward an end of the slot or groove having a greater radial depth results in less of the ball or none of the ball protruding from the slot and/or movement of the balls toward an end of the slot or groove having a lesser radial depth results in more of the ball protruding from the slot. The lesser radial depth may be such that the balls are caused to be immovably or fixedly gripped or pressed between the tapered slot or groove and outer side walls of the pipe, conduit or elongate member, in use. The greater radial depth may be such that the balls are free to rotate within the slot or groove, in use.

The ball and taper mechanism may comprise an apertured cage or screen, which may be configured such that the balls may be partially located in or may partially protrude from the apertures in the cage. The cage or screen may be movable, slidable or translatable relative to the slots and/or grooves. The cage or screen may be arranged such that movement, sliding or translation of the cage or screen moves at least some of the balls relative to the respective slots or grooves, e.g. relative to a tapered or ramped surface of the respective slots or grooves, which may protrude more or less of the respective ball out from the respective slot, groove or aperture, for example depending on the position of the screen or cage. The movement of the screen to move the balls toward the shallower end of the groove may bring the balls into contact with the pipe, conduit or elongate member, in use, and/or centralise the gripping device on the pipe, conduit or elongated member, in use, and/or apply a pre- loading.

The gripping mechanisms may be configured such that the radial depth of the slot(s) or groove(s) of at least one of the gripping mechanisms reduces in the first direction and the radial depth of the slot(s) or groove(s) of at least one other gripping mechanism reduces in the second direction. The ball and taper mechanism of the at least one gripping mechanism may be arranged such that any contact between the balls of the at least one gripping mechanism and the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member whilst the gripping device is being moved relative to the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member in the first direction pushes the balls of the at least one gripping mechanism toward an end of the associated slot or groove having a lesser radial depth and/or the ball and taper mechanism of the at least one other gripping mechanism may be arranged such that any contact between the balls of the at least one other gripping mechanism and the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member whilst the gripping device is being moved relative to the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member in the second direction pushes the balls of the at least one other gripping mechanism toward an end of the associated slot or groove having a lesser radial depth. In other words, when the balls of the gripping mechanisms are in contact with the pipe, conduit or elongated member in use, then at least one of the gripping mechanisms may oppose a motion or force on the gripping device in the first direction relative to the pipe, conduit or elongate member whilst the at least one other gripping mechanism may oppose a motion or force on the gripping device in the second direction relative to the pipe, conduit or elongate member.

One or more or each gripping mechanism may comprise a spring-loaded or biased gripping mechanism. The spring-loaded or biased gripping mechanism may be configured to bias the engaging portion into the fixing or engaging configuration. The spring-loaded or biased gripping mechanism may be configured such that applying a force or movement opposing or compressing the spring-loaded or biased gripping mechanism of the one or more gripping mechanism changes or switches the one or more gripping mechanism from the fixing or engaging configuration to the movable or non-engaging configuration.

The cage or screen may be coupled to the spring-loaded or biased engaging mechanism, e.g. such that the spring-loaded or biasing mechanism acts to bias the screen, e.g. into the fixed or engaging portion. The cage or screen of the at least one gripping mechanism may be configured such that a movement or force applied to the cage or screen in the first direction may act against or compress the spring-loaded or biased engagement mechanism, e.g. so as to place the at least one gripping mechanism in the movable or non-engaging configuration. The cage or screen of the one or more other gripping mechanism may be configured such that a movement or force applied to the screen in the second direction may act against or compress the spring-loaded or biased engagement mechanism, e.g. so as to place the one or more other gripping mechanism in the movable or non-engaging configuration. Alternatively or additionally, the cage or screen may be coupled to, movable, slidable, translatable and/or operable by at least one moving mechanism, e.g. one or more threaded members such as bolts, threaded rods, and/or cam mechanisms and/or pressurisable or pressure operated mechanisms such as hydraulic or pneumatic cylinders or rams and/or the like. The movement of the screen or cage may bring the balls into contact with the pipe, conduit or elongate member, in use, and/or centralise the gripping device on the pipe, conduit or elongated member, in use, and/or apply a pre-loading.

The cage or screen may be fixed or fixable, e.g. to the body, at least one or each part of the body, at least one or each part of the gripping device and/or each part of the one or more or each of the one or more gripping mechanisms, to maintain the gripping mechanism in the movable or non-engaging configuration. Alternatively or additionally, the cage or screen may be fixed or fixable, e.g. to the body, each part of the body, each part of the gripping device and/or each part of the one or more or each of the one or more gripping mechanisms, to maintain the gripping mechanism in the fixing or engaging configuration. For example, the cage or screen may be fixable or fixed to the body, each part of the body, each part of the gripping device and/or each part of the one or more or each of the one or more gripping mechanisms by a further threaded member, such as a nut and/or bolt arrangement or the like.

The gripping device may comprise sealing apparatus, e.g. for sealing against an outer wall of the pipe, conduit or elongate member. The sealing apparatus may be comprised in or mounted or mountable on the body of the gripping device. At least part of the sealing apparatus may be provided between at least two of the gripping mechanisms, such as the one or more gripping mechanism and the one or more other gripping mechanism. The sealing apparatus may comprise at least one, e.g. a plurality of sealing members. The at least one or plurality of sealing member(s) may comprise elastomeric members. At least one or each of the sealing members may extend into the recess and/or cavity, e.g. at least partially or wholly circumferentially around an inner wall or annular space or the recess or cavity of the gripping device. At least one or each of the sealing members may form at least part or all of an annular shape. At least one or each sealing member may be spaced, e.g. spaced in a longitudinal direction of the gripping device, from at least one or each other sealing member, e.g. by at least 25cm, such as by 50cm or more. The sealing apparatus may be configured to prevent fluid exiting the pipe, conduit or elongate member. The sealing apparatus may be configured to resist pressures of lOObarg or more, e.g. at least 250barg, such as at least 375barg.

At least one of the separate or separable parts (such as the third separable part) may comprise at least one of the parts of at least one or two or more of the gripping mechanisms and/or the body and/or the sealing apparatus. At least one of the separable parts (such as the fourth separable part) may comprise at least one of the parts of at least one or two or more other of the gripping mechanisms.

The gripping device may comprise one, two or more of the moving mechanisms. The at least two separate or separable parts (e.g. the third and/or fourth parts) may be movable towards and/or away from each other under the action of one or more of the moving mechanisms, which may comprise one or more threaded members such as bolts, threaded rods, and/or cam mechanisms and/or pressurisable or pressure operated mechanisms such as hydraulic or pneumatic cylinders or rams and/or the like. The moving mechanisms may extend through one or both of the at least two separate or separable parts (e.g. the third and/or fourth parts). The moving mechanism may be or comprise tensioning or compression mechanisms, e.g. configured to apply a compression, squeezing or tensioning force between the at least two separate or separable parts (e.g. the third and/or fourth parts) such as a force which acts to bring the at least two separate or separable parts (e.g. the third and/or fourth parts) together.

At least one of the moving mechanisms may be of a different type to at least one other of the moving mechanisms. At least one of the moving mechanisms may be or comprise at least one pressurisable mechanism such as a hydraulic or pneumatic cylinder or ram and/or the like. At least one of the other moving mechanisms may be or comprise at least one mechanical moving mechanism, e.g. a threaded member, such as a bolt and nut arrangement, hydraulic tensioners and/or a cam mechanism and/or the like.

Alternatively or additionally, at least one of the moving mechanisms may be of a similar or the same type as at least one other of the moving mechanisms.

At least one of the moving mechanisms, such as the at least one pressurisable mechanism and/or the at least one mechanical moving mechanism, may be configured to bring at least one or each of the gripping mechanisms into an engaging configuration, such as a configuration in which at least one or each gripping mechanism or engaging portion contacts the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member, in use, and/or centralises the gripping device on the pipe, conduit or elongate member, and/or grips the pipe, conduit and/or other elongate member with a first force, such as a pre-load force, in use. For example, at least one the moving mechanisms may be operable to move, slide and/or translate the cage or screen of at least one or each gripping mechanism, which may bring, operate and/or switch at least one or each of the gripping mechanisms into the engaging configuration.

At least one of the moving mechanisms, such as the at least one mechanical moving mechanism and/or at least one other mechanical moving mechanism, may be configured to bring at least one or each of the gripping mechanisms into a fixing or engaging configuration and/or a configuration in which at least one or each gripping mechanism or engaging portion grips the pipe, conduit and/or other elongate member, in use, e.g. with a second force, wherein the second force may be greater than the first or pre-load force. For example, at least one moving mechanism may be operable to move and/or translate the at least two separate or separable parts (e.g. the third and fourth parts) relative to each other, thereby operating or switching at least one or each of the gripping mechanisms into the fixing or engaging configuration.

The one or more moving mechanisms may be mounted or mountable in the gripping device by one or more attachment members, such as one or more supports, brackets, casings, frames and/or the like. At least one or each gripping module may comprise one or more ball based gripping mechanisms such as a ball and taper or ball and cage mechanism. At least one or each gripping module may comprise one or more balls extending from at least part of a wall of the gripping module that faces toward or at least partially defines the recess or cavity. At least one or each gripping module may comprise one or more lines of balls of a ball based gripping mechanism, wherein at least one or each line of balls may extend circumferentially over at least part of the circumference of the wall of the gripping module that faces or at least partially defines the recess or cavity.

At least one gripping module may be mounted or mountable adjacent, or in contact with at least one other gripping module. At least one or each gripping module may be mounted or mountable on a body of the gripping device and/or on or between at least one moving mechanism, such as a mechanical moving mechanism, e.g. to a bolt of the at least one moving mechanism. The moving mechanism may be operable to press or move together at least one gripping module. At least one or each gripping module may be individually or separately removable. The pipe may have an outer diameter of at least 2" (5cm), such as at least 10" (25cm), e.g. 22" (50cm) or more. The recess or cavity may be at least 2" (5cm), for example more than 25cm, e.g. more than 50cm, such as 51 cm or more, in diameter. However, it will be appreciated that the gripping device may be suitably constructed or be configured so as to be usable with pipes of any size, which may be other than those given above.

The gripping device may be or comprise a gripping device configured for use in subsea or underwater applications. The gripping device may be configured for use in industries such as oil and gas, chemical processing, water distribution and supply and/or the like.

The gripping device may comprise at least one inlet, which may be or comprise an inlet to the cavity or recess. The inlet may be configured to receive a supply of a settable, curable or fixable medium, such as epoxy, grout, cement, settable polymeric material and/or the like. The inlet may be configured to supply the settable, curable or fixable medium into the cavity or recess, e.g. in use when the gripping device is mounted, attached or located on the pipe, conduit, pipeline or other elongate member.

The gripping device may comprise at least one outlet, which may be an outlet from the cavity or recess. The outlet may be arranged to expel or permit expulsion of contents (such as water, air, drill fluids and/or hydrocarbons) from the cavity or recess, which may be forced out due to the supply of settable, curable or fixable medium into the cavity or recess.

According to a second aspect of the present invention there is provided a gripping device, such as a clamp, sealing device and/or structural support. The gripping device may be configured to grip, engage or fix onto a pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member. The gripping device may comprise at least one, such as two or more gripping mechanisms, which may be configured to grip, engage or fix, e.g. mechanically grip, engage or fix, onto the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member. The gripping device may comprise any of the features of the gripping device of the first aspect of the invention.

According to a third aspect there is provided a gripping device, such as a flange, T-piece or valve. The gripping device may be configured to retain, grip, engage or secure, e.g. mechanically retain, grip, engage or secure, at least one portion, e.g. an end portion, of at least one pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member. The gripping device may comprise at least one gripping mechanism, which may be configured to grip, engage, secure or fix to, e.g. mechanically grip, engage, secure or fix to, the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member.

The gripping device may comprise a ball or roller based gripping mechanism, e.g. a ball and taper mechanism and/or ball and cage mechanism.

The gripping device may configurable and/or interchangeable between at least a fixing or engaging configuration and at least a movable or non-engaging configuration.

The fixing or engaging configuration may be or comprise a configuration in which relative movement, e.g. longitudinal movement, of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member with respect to the gripping device is prohibited, prevented or opposed.

The movable or non-engaging configuration may be or comprise a configuration in which relative movement, e.g. longitudinal movement, of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member with respect to the gripping device is permitted.

The gripping device may define or comprise a body. The body may comprise a first portion and a second portion. The gripping mechanism may be comprised or arranged on or within the body, e.g. within the first and/or second portion of the body. The first and second portions may be removably coupled to each other. The first portion may be movably or slidably coupled or arranged relative to the second portion, or vice versa, e.g. in a longitudinal direction of the gripping device.

The gripping device may define or comprise a cavity or recess, such as an internal cavity or recess. The cavity or recess may be part of, or comprised in, the body, e.g. in the first and/or second portion of the body. At least part e.g. a portion or end portion, of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member may be receivable within the cavity or recess. The gripping mechanism may be arranged or arrangeable in the cavity or recess. The cavity or recess may define or be of a substantially tubular shape.

The gripping device may be of or form a generally annular and/or cylindrical shape.

The fixing or engaging configuration may be or comprise a configuration in which the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member or a portion or end portion thereof is enclosed, secured and/or retained in the cavity or recess and/or a configuration in which the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other member is mounted to the gripping device. The movable or non-engaging configuration may be or comprise a configuration in which the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member may be slidable or receivable into, and/or removable from, the cavity or recess.

The gripping mechanism may be or configured to be changeable or switchable or selectively useable between the fixing or engaging configuration of the gripping device, in which the gripping mechanism may be adapted to fix or engage with the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member, e.g. with the an outer wall of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member, and the movable or non-engaging configuration of the gripping device, in which the gripping mechanism may be adapted to disengage with the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member and/or the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member may be movable or slidable with respect to the gripping device

The gripping mechanism may be changeable or switchable from the movable or non-engaging configuration to the fixing or engaging configuration, e.g. by moving or applying a force to the gripping device and/or body (e.g. the first and/or second portion of the body). For example, the gripping mechanism may be changeable or switchable from the movable or non-engaging configuration to the fixing or engaging configuration by moving the first portion of the body relative to the second portion of the body, or vice versa.

The ball and taper mechanism may comprise at least one ball, such as a ballbearing. The ball and taper mechanism may comprise a plurality of balls, such as a plurality of ball-bearings, which may be provided in corresponding open slots or grooves. The plurality of balls may be provided or arranged in the corresponding slots or grooves to be movable or rotatable, e.g. freely movable and/or rotatable, in the corresponding slots or grooves. A part of the ball(s) may project from an open part of the respective slot(s) or groove(s). The slots or grooves may open into or towards the recess or cavity. A part of the/each ball(s) may project into the cavity or recess. The balls and/or slots or grooves may be distributed circumferentially around the wall of the recess or cavity. The slot or groove may comprise a tapered or ramped slot or groove. For example, a radial depth of the/each slot(s) or groove(s) varies along a longitudinal direction of the gripping device, e.g. such that the radial depth of the slot reduces in a first or second direction. The ball and taper mechanism may be arranged such that movement of the balls toward an end of the slot or groove having a greater radial depth results in less of the ball or none of the ball protruding from the slot and/or movement of the balls toward an end of the slot or groove having a lesser radial depth results in more of the ball protruding from the slot. The lesser radial depth may be such that the balls are caused to be immovably or fixedly gripped or pressed between the tapered slot or groove and outer side walls of the pipe, conduit or other elongate member or a portion thereof, in use. The greater radial depth may be such that the balls are free to rotate within the slot or groove, in use.

The gripping device may comprise an apertured cage or screen. The cage or screen may be part of or comprised in the ball and taper mechanism. The cage or screen may be configured such that the balls may partially protrude from the apertures in the cage. The slots and/or grooves and/or body, e.g. the first and/or second portion of the body, of the gripping device may be movable, slidable or translatable relative to the cage or screen. The cage or screen may be arranged such that movement, sliding or translation of the slots or grooves and/or the body, e.g. the first or second portion of the body, moves at least some of the balls relative to the respective slots or grooves, e.g. relative to a tapered or ramped surface of the respective slots or grooves. In other words, the gripping device may be configured to move, advance, and/or translate the slots or grooves relative to the cage or screen, e.g. in use. For example, in use, movement of the slots or grooves may operate or switch the gripping device from the moving or non-engaging configuration into the fixed or engaging configuration, or vice versa.

The screen or cage may be coaxially and/or concentrically arranged within the body (e.g. first and/or second portion of the body).

The balls may protrude more or less out from the respective slot, groove or aperture, for example depending on the position of the screen or cage relative to the slots or grooves and/or body (e.g. first and/or second portion), e.g. in use. The movement of the slots or grooves and/or body (e.g. the first or second portion) may move the balls toward the shallower end of the groove, thereby bringing the balls into contact with the pipe, conduit or other elongate member, in use, and/or centralise the gripping device on the pipe, conduit or other elongated member, in use, and/or apply a pre-loading. In use, when the balls are in contact with the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member, the gripping mechanism may oppose or resist movement, motion or force, e.g. longitudinal movement, motion or force, on the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member relative to the gripping device.

Further movement of the slots or grooves and/or body (e.g. the first or second portion) may further move the balls to the shallower end of the groove, thereby gripping the pipe, conduit or other elongate member. In use, when the balls are gripping the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member, the gripping mechanism may be locked against or lock relative movement of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member and/or indent or otherwise deform the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member.

Alternatively or additionally, the cage or screen may be movable, slidable or translatable relative to the slots and/or grooves and/or body of the gripping device, e.g. to actuate the gripping device into the fixing or engaging configuration. The ball and taper mechanism may comprise any features and/or properties of the ball and taper mechanism of the first and/or second aspects of the invention.

The gripping device may comprise a moving mechanism. The moving mechanism may be configured to bring or change the gripping mechanism into the fixing or engaging configuration and/or a configuration in which at least one or each gripping mechanism or engaging portion grips the pipe, conduit and/or other elongate member, in use. The moving mechanism may be configured to effect or cause movement of the balls in the slots or grooves. For example, the moving mechanism may be configured to effect or cause movement of the balls toward the shallower end of the groove. This may bring the balls into contact with the pipe, conduit or other elongate member, in use, and/or centralise the gripping device on the pipe, conduit or other elongated member, in use, and/or apply a pre-loading. The moving mechanism may be configured to effect or cause movement, e.g. further movement, of the balls to the shallower end of the groove. This may permit gripping of the pipe, conduit or other elongate member.

The moving mechanism may be coupled to the body (e.g. the first and/or second portion of the body) of the gripping device. The moving mechanism may move, translate or slide the body, e.g. the first and/or second portion of the body, and/or the slots and grooves relative to the second portion of the body and/or the cage or screen. The moving mechanism may be arranged to advance, move or translate the body, e.g. first and/or second portion of body, and/or the slots and grooves while maintaining the cage in a generally stationary position. Alternatively or additionally, the moving mechanism may be arranged to advance, move or translate the screen or cage relative to the slots and grooves and/or body, e.g. first and/or second portion of body.

The moving mechanism may be or comprise a mechanical moving mechanism, e.g. a threaded member, such as a bolt and nut arrangement, hydraulic tensioners and/or a cam mechanism and/or the like. Alternatively or additionally, the moving mechanism may be or comprise a pressurisable mechanism, such as a hydraulic or pneumatic cylinder, ram and/or the like.

The gripping device may comprise a locking member. The locking member may be part of, or be comprised in, the body, e.g. the first or second portion of the body. The locking member may be or comprise a yet further threaded member, such as a threaded flange, bolt and nut arrangement and/or the like.

The locking member may be configured to lock or secure the gripping device to the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other member in the fixing or engaging configuration of the gripping device. The locking member may cooperate with the screen or cage so as to be movable or slidable relative to the screen, e.g. in a longitudinal direction of the gripping device. The locking member may be movable or slidable into engagement with the body (e.g. the first and/or second portion), e.g. when the gripping device is in the fixing or engaging configuration and/or in the movable or non-engaging configuration. The locking member may comprise a sealing member. The sealing member may be arranged such that, e.g. in use, when the locking member is in engagement with the body (e.g. the first and/or second portion), for example, in the first and/or second configuration of the gripping device, a seal may be created between the locking member and the body (e.g. the first and/or second portion).

The gripping device may comprise or be configured to receive one or more spacing member(s), such as removable and/or temporary spacing member(s). The spacing members may be provided or providable between the first and second portions of the body, e.g. to arrange the first portion of the body in a spaced relationship to the second portion of the body, e.g. in use. The spacing members may be provided between the first and second portions to maintain the gripping mechanism in the non- engaging configuration and/or in a partially engaging configuration, e.g. by restricting movement of the first portion towards the second portion. The spacing members may be compressible and/or deformable. In use, removal of the spacing members may allow movement of the first portion towards the second portion.

In use, when the gripping device is in the fixing or engaging configuration, the second portion of the body may be spaced apart, removed, removable, separable and/or separated from the first portion. When the second portion of the body is removed or separated from the first portion, e.g. in use, the gripping device may be attachable or attached to a further gripping device, a further flange, T-piece or valve, and/or to a further pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member and/or the like. The further flange, T-piece or valve may comprise or be comprised in a further gripping device.

The gripping device may comprise sealing apparatus, e.g. for sealing against an outer wall of the pipe, conduit or elongate member. The sealing apparatus may be comprised in or mounted or mountable on the body, e.g. the first portion of the body, of the gripping device. At least part of the sealing apparatus may be provided on or adjacent to at least one end or both ends of the body and/or gripping mechanism. For example, at least part of the sealing apparatus may be arranged on the case or screen, such as on an end portion of the case or screen. At least one other part of the sealing apparatus may be arranged on the first portion of the body, e.g. an end portion of the first body.

The sealing apparatus may comprise at least one, e.g. a plurality of sealing members. The at least one or plurality of sealing member(s) may comprise elastomeric members. At least one or each of the sealing members may extend into the recess and/or cavity, e.g. at least partially or wholly circumferentially around an inner wall or annular space or the recess or cavity of the gripping device. At least one or each of the sealing members may form at least part or all of an annular shape. At least one or each sealing member may be spaced, e.g. spaced in a longitudinal direction of the gripping device, from at least one or each other sealing member, e.g. on opposing end of the gripping mechanism and/or body (e.g. first and/or second portion).

The gripping device may comprise at least one inlet, which may be or comprise an inlet to the cavity or recess. The inlet may be configured to receive a supply of a settable, curable or fixable medium, such as epoxy, grout, cement, settable polymeric material and/or the like. The inlet may be configured to supply the settable, curable or fixable medium into the cavity or recess, e.g. in use when the gripping device is mounted, attached or located on the pipe, conduit, pipeline or other elongate member.

The gripping device may comprise at least one outlet, which may be an outlet from the cavity or recess. The outlet may be arranged to expel or permit expulsion of contents (such as water, air, drill fluids and/or hydrocarbons) from the cavity or recess, which may be forced out due to the supply of settable, curable or fixable medium into the cavity or recess.

The gripping device may define or comprise a connection arrangement. For example, the connection arrangement may be configured for connection of the gripping device to a further pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member. The connection arrangement may be configured for connection of the gripping device to a further gripping device, such as a further flange, T-piece, valve or the like. Alternatively or additionally, the connection arrangement may be configured for connecting together two or more pipes, pipelines, conduits or other elongate members.

The gripping device may comprise any features of the gripping devices of the first and/or second aspects.

According to a fourth aspect of the present invention is a sealing device, flange or clamp comprising at least one gripping device according to the first, second and/or third aspects. The sealing device, flange or clamp may be configured to seal a pipe, pipeline or conduit. The sealing device, flange or clamp may be mounted, mountable, attached or attachable to an outer surface of the pipe, pipeline, or conduit. The sealing device, flange or clamp may be clamped or clampable to the pipe or conduit or a portion, e.g. an end portion, thereof. Alternatively or additionally, the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member may be inserted or insertable into the sealing device, flange or clamp.

The sealing device, flange or clamp may comprise the sealing apparatus provided between at least two gripping mechanisms. Alternatively or additionally, the sealing apparatus may be provided on or adjacent at least one end or both ends of the gripping mechanism. The sealing apparatus may be mounted on the body of the gripping device. The sealing apparatus may comprise one or more sealing members, which may be deformable, e.g. resiliently deformable. One or more or each of the sealing members may be elastomeric and/or define at least part or all of an annular shape. One or more or each of the sealing members may comprise one or more feature or property described above in relation to the sealing members of the gripping device of the first aspect.

The sealing device, flange or clamp may be configured for use in subsea or underwater applications. The sealing device, flange or clamp may be configured for use in industries such as oil and gas, chemical processing, water distribution and supply and/or the like.

According to a fifth aspect of the present invention is a structural support, for providing support to a pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member, the structural support comprising or being comprised in at least one gripping device of the first, second and/or third aspects and/or at least one sealing device according to the fourth aspect. The structural support may be mounted or mountable to a pipe, conduit or elongate member, e.g. in order to provide structural support to the pipe, conduit or elongate member. The structural support may comprise the rigid body, which may in some examples extend between two or more gripping mechanisms. In other examples, the body or at least a portion (e.g. first or second portion) of the body may enclose or surround at least one gripping mechanism.

Structural support as used herein relates to structure for bearing at least part of a load, stress, strain, weight, pressure or force on the supported entity (e.g. the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member), e.g. in use, and/or to provide additional strength, e.g. to allow the supported entity to retain its form, shape, position or the like and/or to prevent the supported entity from giving way.

According to a sixth aspect there is provided a connection or connection arrangement, such as a flange or clamp or split clamp, which may be, comprise or be comprised in at least one gripping device according to the first, second and/or third aspects, a sealing device, flange or clamp according to the fourth aspect and/or a structural support according to the fifth aspect. The connection arrangement may be configured for connection of the gripping device to a further pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member. The connection arrangement may be configured for connection of the gripping device to a further connection or connection arrangement, such as a flange or the like. Alternatively or additionally, the connection arrangement may be configured for connecting together two or more pipes, pipeline, conduits or other elongate members.

According to a seventh aspect of the present invention is a method of mounting or operating a gripping device according to the first, second and/or third aspects, a sealing device, flange or clamp according to the fourth aspect and/or a structural support according to the fifth aspect to a pipe, conduit or elongate member.

The method may comprise placing at least one or each gripping device in the second or open configuration, e.g. by separating at least a portion of at least one part (e.g. the first part) of the gripping device from at least a portion of at least one other part (e.g. the second part) of the gripping device. This may comprise moving, rotating, and/or pivoting at least one of the parts (e.g. the first part) relative to at least one other part (such as the second part).

The method may comprise placing the gripping device(s), sealing device(s) and/or support member(s) onto the pipe, pipeline, conduit and/or elongate member, e.g. such that the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member is received within the recess or cavity of the gripping device(s), sealing device or clamp(s) and/or structural support(s). The method may comprise placing at least one or each gripping device in the first or closed configuration, e.g. by bringing at least a portion of at least one part (e.g. the first part) of the gripping device into contact with at least a portion of at least one other part (e.g. the second part) of the gripping device. This may comprise moving, rotating, and/or pivoting at least one of the parts (e.g. the first part) relative to at least one other part (such as the second part).

The method may comprise fixing or locking the gripping device(s), sealing device or clamp(s) and/or structural support(s) in the first or closed configuration, for example by fixing or locking at least the first and second parts together, e.g. so as to prevent relative movement such as pivoting, rotation or separation therebetween. For example, the method may comprise fixing, bolting or locking the first and second parts together.

The method may comprise operating at least one of the moving mechanisms of the gripping device(s), sealing device or clamp(s) and/or structural support(s), such as one or more of the pressurisable or pressure operated moving mechanisms, e.g. hydraulic or pneumatic cylinders or rams and/or the like. The method may comprise engaging or contacting the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member with one or more of the gripping mechanisms, e.g. one or more of the engaging members of one or more of the gripping mechanisms, such as the balls of the ball and taper or ball and cage gripping mechanisms, e.g. by operating the at least one moving mechnism. The method may comprise centralising the gripping device(s), sealing device(s) and/or support member or clamp(s) on the pipe, conduit and/or other elongate member.

The method may comprise operating at least one other of the moving mechanisms of the gripping device(s), sealing device(s) and/or support member(s), such as one or more of the mechanical moving mechanisms, e.g. a threaded member, such as a bolt and nut arrangement, hydraulic tensioner and/or a cam mechanism and/or the like. The method may comprise moving at least the third part(s) of the gripping device(s), sealing device or clamp(s) and/or structural support(s) relative to the fourth part(s), e.g. closing the gap between the third and fourth parts. This may comprise compressing the gripping device(s), sealing device or clamp(s) and/or structural support(s) in a longitudinal direction. The method may comprise gripping the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member with one or more of the gripping mechanisms, e.g. one or more of the engaging members of one or more of the gripping mechanisms, such as the balls of the ball and taper or ball and cage gripping mechanisms, for example such that the one or more gripping mechanisms are locked against movement relative to the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member and/or indent or otherwise deform the pipe, conduit or elongate member, e.g. by operating the at least one other moving mechanism.

The method may comprise contacting at least one or each sealing member with the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member. The method may comprise compressing and/or deforming at least one or each sealing member against the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member, e.g. by compressing or deforming the sealing members between the body of the gripping device(s), sealing device(s) and/or support member(s) and the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member.

The method may comprise assembling a plurality of gripping modules in order to form at least one of the gripping mechanisms. The method may comprise mounting the gripping modules on the body of the gripping mechanism and/or fixing the gripping modules to each other.

The method may comprise providing a settable, curable or fixable medium to the cavity or recess, e.g. in use when the gripping device is mounted on the pipe, conduit, pipeline or other elongate member. The settable, curable or fixable medium may be provided via the at least one inlet to the cavity. The method may comprise filling one or more or some or substantially all of the space between the gripping device (e.g. an inner surface of the facing device) and the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member with the settable, curable or fixable medium. When set or cured, the settable, curable or fixable medium may be arranged so as to secure at least one of the gripping mechanism, e.g. in the fixing or engaging configuration

The method may comprise expelling contents (such as water, air, drilling fluids and/or hydrocarbons) from the cavity or recess, e.g. via the one or more outlets from the cavity, which may comprise forcing the contents out of the recess or cavity due to the supply of settable, curable or fixable medium into the cavity or recess. The method may comprise setting, curing or fixing the settable, curable or fixable medium in the recess or cavity and/or between the gripping device (e.g. an inner surface of the facing device) and the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member.

By providing the settable, curable or fixable medium in the cavity or recess, e.g. between at least part of the gripping device and the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongated member, it may be possible to fix at least some or all the movable components and may ensure the gripping device remains fixed/secure. It may also add some more support by restricting deformation of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongated member when subjected to a bending load. By setting, fixing or curing the medium in situ, the gripping device may become a permanent fixture on the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongated member.

According to an eighth aspect of the present invention there is provided a method of mounting or operating a gripping device according to the third aspect to a pipe, conduit or elongate member.

The method may comprise adjusting or moving the gripping device to the movable or non-engaging configuration. The method may comprise inserting one or more spacing members between the first and second portions of the body, e.g. to urge the first and second portions of the body apart, i.e. to place or actuate the gripping device into the movable or non-engaging configuration.

The method may comprise inserting the pipe, pipeline, conduit and/or other elongate member into the gripping device, e.g. such that the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member or a portion, e.g. end portion, thereof is received within the recess or cavity of the gripping device. During insertion of the pipe, pipeline or other elongate member into the gripping device, the pipe, pipeline or other elongate member may engage at least one sealing member. The method may comprise engaging, compressing and/or deforming at least one sealing member against the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member, e.g. when the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member is inserted into the gripping device.

The method may comprise placing or actuating the gripping device in the engaging or fixing configuration, e.g. by moving the first portion of the body towards the second portion of the body, e.g. by operating the moving mechanism. The moving mechanism may comprise the threaded member, e.g. bolt and nut arrangement, hydraulic tensioners and/or cam mechanism and/or the like.

The method may comprise engaging or contacting the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member with the gripping mechanisms, e.g. with one or more balls of the ball and taper or ball and cage gripping mechanisms. The method may comprise centralising the gripping device on the pipe, conduit and/or other elongate member and/or applying a pre-loading.

The method may comprise gripping the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member with one or more of the balls of the ball and taper or ball and cage gripping mechanisms, for example such that the gripping mechanisms locks against relative movement of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member and the gripping device and/or indents or otherwise deforms the pipe, conduit or elongate member, e.g. by further operating the moving mechanism. The method may comprise fixing or locking the gripping device in the fixing or engaging configuration. For example by moving, translating or advancing the locking member into contact with the first portion of the body in the first configuration of the gripping device.

The method may comprise creating a seal between the locking member and the body (e.g. the first and/or second portion of the body), e.g. by moving the locking member into engagement with the body (e.g. the first and/or second portion of the body).

The method may comprise contacting the at least one sealing member with the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member.

The method may comprise providing a settable, curable or fixable medium to the cavity or recess, e.g. in use when the gripping device is mounted on the pipe, conduit, pipeline or other elongate member. The settable, curable or fixable medium may be provided via the at least one inlet to the cavity. The method may comprise filling one or more or some or substantially all of the space between the gripping device (e.g. an inner surface of the facing device) and the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member.

The method may comprise expelling contents (such as water, air, drilling fluids and/or hydrocarbons) from the cavity or recess, e.g. via the one or more outlets from the cavity, which may comprise forcing the contents out of the recess or cavity due to the supply of settable, curable or fixable medium into the cavity or recess. The method may comprise setting, curing or fixing the settable, curable or fixable medium in the recess or cavity and/or between the gripping device (e.g. an inner surface of the facing device) and the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member.

By providing the settable, curable or fixable medium in the cavity or recess, e.g. between at least part of the gripping device and the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongated member, it may be possible to fix at least some or all the movable components and may ensure the gripping device remains fixed/secure. It may also add some more support by restricting deformation of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongated member when subjected to a bending load. By setting, fixing or curing the medium in situ, the gripping device may become a permanent fixture on the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongated member.

The method may comprise connecting the gripping device to a further gripping device, a flange, and/or a further pipe, pipeline, conduit or other elongate member. The gripping device may define or comprise a connection arrangement. The method may comprise connecting together two or more pipes, pipelines, conduits or other elongate members, .e.g. by connecting the two or more or each of the two or more pipes, pipeline or other elongate members to the connection arrangement.

According to a ninth aspect of the present invention there is provided a method of sealing a pipe, pipeline conduit or elongate member, the method comprising mounting a sealing device, flange or clamp according to the first, second and/or third aspect on a pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member using the method of the seventh and/or eighth aspect. The method may comprise locating at least one sealing member over and/or on either side of a leak, damage or weak location on the pipe, conduit or elongate member. The method may comprise disposing one or more of the sealing members such that the one or more sealing members extend around a circumference of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member. The method may comprise deforming one or more of the sealing members, e.g. between a body of the sealing device or clamp and the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member.

The method may comprise providing a settable, curable or fixable medium to the cavity or recess, e.g. in use when the gripping device is mounted on the pipe, conduit, pipeline or other elongate member. The settable, curable or fixable medium may be provided via the at least one inlet to the cavity. The method may comprise filling one or more or some or substantially all of the space between the gripping device (e.g. an inner surface of the facing device) and the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member.

The method may comprise expelling contents (such as water, air, drilling fluids and/or hydrocarbons) from the cavity or recess, e.g. via the one or more outlets from the cavity, which may comprise forcing the contents out of the recess or cavity due to the supply of settable, curable or fixable medium into the cavity or recess. The method may comprise setting, curing or fixing the settable, curable or fixable medium in the recess or cavity and/or between the gripping device (e.g. an inner surface of the facing device) and the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member.

According to a tenth aspect of the present invention there is provided a method of reinforcing or supporting a pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member, the method comprising fixing or attaching at least one structural support according to the fifth aspect to the pipe, conduit or elongate member, for example, using the method of the fourth aspect.

According to an eleventh aspect is a gripping mechanism or gripping module for use in or with the gripping device of the first, second and/or third aspects, the sealing device of the fourth aspect and/or the structural support of the fifth aspect. According to a twelfth aspect of the present invention there is provided a method of assembling a gripping mechanism, the method comprising assembling a plurality of gripping modules in order to form at least one gripping mechanism. The method may comprise mounting the gripping modules on the body of the gripping mechanism and/or fixing the gripping modules to each other.

According to a thirteenth aspect of the present invention there is provided a method of repairing a pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member. The method may comprise fixing, mounting or attaching a gripping device according to the first, second and/or third aspect, a sealing device according to the fourth aspect and/or a structural support of the fifth aspect to the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member. The method may comprise gripping the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member with a gripping device according to the first, second, and/or third aspect, a sealing device according to the fourth aspect and/or a support member of the fifth aspect. The method may comprise sealing the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member using the method of the ninth aspect and/or reinforcing or supporting the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongate member using the method of the tenth aspect.

Rollers, rollable or rotatable members may be used interchangeably with balls or ball bearings in any of the above aspects.

It will be appreciated that features analogous to those described above in relation to any of the above aspects may be individually and separably or in combination applicable to any of the other aspects.

Apparatus features analogous to, or configured to implement, those described above in relation to a method and method features analogous to the use and fabrication of those described above in relation to an apparatus are also intended to fall within the scope of the present invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

An embodiment of the present invention will now be described by way of example only, and with reference to the accompanying drawings, which are:

Figure 1 a perspective view of a gripping device in an open configuration;

Figure 2 a detail view of the gripping device of Figure 1 ; Figure 3 a perspective view of the gripping device of Figure 1 in a closed and non-gripping configuration;

Figure 4 a detail view of a modular gripping mechanism of the gripping device of Figures 1 to 3;

Figure 5 a cross sectional detail view of a gripping mechanism of

Figure 3 in a closed and engaging configuration;

Figure 6 a cross sectional detail view of another gripping mechanism of Figure 3 in a closed and engaging configuration;

Figure 7 a cross sectional view of the gripping device of Figure 3 in the closed and non-gripping configuration;

Figure 8 a cross sectional view of the gripping device of Figure 3 in a closed and gripping configuration;

Figure 9 a cross-sectional detail view of the gripping mechanism of Figure 6 in the closed and gripping configuration;

Figure 10 a perspective view of a pivotable part of the gripping device of Figure 1 ;

Figure 11 a flowchart illustrating a method of fixing the gripping device of Figures 1 to 10;

Figure 12 a schematic representation of a gripping device according to one embodiment of the present invention in a closed configuration and in engagement with a pipe; Figure 13 (a) an isometric view of a first part of the gripping device of

Figure 12;

Figure 13 (b) isometric view of the first part of Figure 13 (a) connected to a respective second part;

Figure 14 an isometric view of a part of the griping device of Figure

12 in the closed configuration without a pipe;

Figure 15 a flowchart illustrating a method of fixing the gripping device of Figures 12 to 14;

Figure 16 a cross-sectional view of a gripping device in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 17 (a) a cross-sectional view of a gripping device in a movable or non-engaging configuration and mounted to a pipe; Figure 17 (b) a cross-sectional view of the gripping device shown in

Figure 17 (a) but with the gripping device partially engaging the pipe;

Figure 17 (c) a cross-sectional view of the gripping device shown in

Figure 17 (a) but with the gripping device in the fixing or engaging configuration and engaging the pipe;

Figure 17 (d) a cross-sectional view of the gripping device shown in

Figure 17 (c) but with the gripping device locked in the fixing or engaging configuration by a locking member and a second portion of the body removed;

Figure 18 (a) an isometric view of the gripping device of Figure 17 (a);

Figure 18 (b) an isometric view of the gripping device of Figure 17 (d);

and

Figure 19 a flowchart illustrating a method of fixing the gripping device of Figures 16 to 18;

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

Referring to Figures 1 to 9, there is shown a gripping device, in this case in the form of a ball and taper split clamp sealing device 5. The clamp 5 comprises a first semi-cylindrical part 10a that is pivotably connected to a second semi-cylindrical part 10b by hinges 15 provided on respective outer peripheral surfaces thereof. The first and second parts 10a, 10b both comprise a semi-cylindrical steel body 20a, 20b disposed between a pair of semi-cylindrical gripping mechanisms 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b'. A plurality of elastomeric sealing members (see e.g. Figure 10) are disposed on an inner surface of the body 20a, 20b of each part. Each body 20a, 20b comprises a series of bolt holes 30 for receiving bolts 32 for fixing the two parts 10a, 10b together. It will be appreciated that each of the first and second semi-circular parts 10a, 10b define recesses 35 that, when closed together, define a longitudinally extending channel 40 through the clamp 5.

In this way, the first and second parts 10a, 10b can be pivoted at the hinges 15 into an open configuration, as shown in Figure 1 , in order to allow the clamp 5 to be positioned on a pipe 45, conduit or other elongate member, which is received within the recesses 35 of the first and second parts 10a, 10b. The first and second parts 10a, 10b can then be pivoted together into a closed configuration, as shown in Figure 3, in order to close the clamp 5 around a portion of the pipe 45, i.e. so as to encircle the pipe 45.

As can be seen from Figure 2, the edges 50a, 50a', 50b, 50b' of each of the first and second parts 10a, 10b are mitred so as to form cooperating contact surfaces that inter-engage or interlock when the when the clamp 5 is closed around the pipe 45 (see Figure 3). In this way, the first and second parts 10a, 10b contact each other on a transversely or radially extending contact plane when in the closed configuration.

When in the closed configuration (Figure 3), the first and second parts 10a, 10b can be bolted together using the bolts 32 through the bolt holes 30 at respective edges 50a, 50b transversely opposite the edges 50a', 50b' upon which the hinges 15 are provided in order to lock the first and second parts 10a, 10b together and to prevent relative motion thereof.

As shown in more detail in Figure 4, each gripping mechanism 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b' comprises a ball and taper arrangement. The ball and taper arrangements comprise a plurality of ball bearings 55, each ball bearing being provided in an associated slot 60 that extends in a direction parallel to the longitudinal direction of the clamp 5.

An inner surface 62 of each gripping mechanism 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b' (i.e. a surface of the recess 35 or through channel 40) is provided with a corresponding semi- cylindrical apertured screen 65, wherein the apertures 70 are sized with a diameter smaller than that of the ball bearings 55. In this way, a part of each ball bearing 55 can protrude out of the corresponding aperture 70 in the screen 65 but each ball bearing 55 is trapped in the corresponding slot 60 by the screen 65.

Each slot 60 is tapered such that the radial or transverse depth of the slot 60 varies along the length of the slot 60, i.e. in the longitudinal direction of the clamp 5. Each screen 65 is slidably movable in a longitudinal direction of the clamp 5 with respect to the slots 60 under the action of hydraulic actuating cylinders 75, which thereby moves the balls 55 along the length of the corresponding slot 60.

The tapering of each slot 60 is such that the depth of the slot 60 reduces gradually towards the closest end 80, 85 of the clamp 5. When the balls 55 are moved to the deeper end of the corresponding slot 60, then the radial or transverse force on the ball 55 is reduced and the ball 55 is able to move away from the screen 65 back into the slot 60, such that less of the ball 55 or none of the ball 55 protrudes from the corresponding aperture 70. In this state, the gripping mechanism 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b' is in a released configuration. When the balls 55 are moved to the shallower end of the slot, then a greater radial or transverse force is applied to the balls 55, thereby forcing more of the respective ball 55 through the associated aperture 65 so as to effect a gripping configuration of the gripping mechanism 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b'.

As discussed above, a gripping mechanism 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b' is provided at each end 80, 85 of both the first and second parts 10a, 10b of the clamp 5. Advantageously, the slots 60 of the gripping mechanism 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b' at one end of each part 10a, 10b of the clamp 5 taper in an opposite direction to the slots 60 of the gripping mechanism 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b' at the other end of the part 10a, 10b of the clamp 5. Specifically, the slots 60 at each end of the clamp 5 taper so as to be shallower towards the respective end 80, 85 of the clamp 5 / clamp part 10a, 10b. In this way, when the gripping mechanisms 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b' are in the gripping configuration then the gripping mechanism 25a, 25b at one end 80 of the clamp 5 opposes movement of the clamp 5 relative to the pipe 45 in an opposite direction to that of the gripping mechanism 25a', 25b' at the other end 85 of the clamp 5. Particularly, the gripping mechanism 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b' at each end 80, 85 of the clamp 5 opposes movement of the clamp 5 relative to the pipe 45 in a direction towards the other / opposite end of the clamp 85, 80. In this way, when both gripping mechanisms 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b' are in the gripping configuration, then the clamp 5 is prevented from moving longitudinally along the pipe 45 in either direction.

As shown particularly in Figure 4, each gripping mechanism 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b' is modular and is formed from a plurality of modules 90. Each of the modules 90 is formed from a semi-circular module body 95 wherein circumferentially extending rows 100 of slots 60 and bearings 55 (in this case two rows 100) are provided in an inner facing surface 105 thereof. The modules 90 are disposed side by side in a contacting arrangement. The inner surfaces 105 of the modules 90 are closed off with the apertured screen 65 so as to secure the balls 55 within the associated slots 60.

By providing a modular gripping mechanism 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b', the gripping force and/or pressure rating provided by the gripping mechanism 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b' can be quickly and simply varied to suit the application by adding or removing modules 90. Each module 90 optionally comprises at least two rows 100 of ball bearings 55. In this way, the modules 90 may be made robust enough to accept sufficiently large bolts and tensioners to suitably secure each part of the clamp 5 together.

End caps 1 10 are provided at each end 80, 85 of each of the first and second parts 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b' of the clamp 5. Each of the modules 90 of each gripping mechanism 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b', the end caps 1 10 and the clamp body 20a, 20b are provided with longitudinally extending bolt holes 115, that can be brought into register and tensioning bolts 120 inserted therethrough. A suitable nut 125 can be affixed to an end of each tensioning bolt 120 or the tensioning bolt 120 can screw into a corresponding threaded portion in the clamp body 20a, 20b. In this way, tightening of the tensioning bolts 120 and/or nuts 125 can be used to compress the end caps 110, gripping mechanisms 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b' and the clamp body 20a, 20b together in a longitudinal direction of the clamp 5.

As discussed above and as shown in more detail in Figures 5 and 6, the hydraulic cylinders 75 are operable to move the screen 65 of each gripping mechanism 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b', which moves the ball bearings 55 toward a shallower end of the respective slots 60 in each gripping mechanism 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b'. This has the effect of moving the ball bearings 55 into contact with the pipe 45, centralising the clamp 5 on the pipe 45 and applying a pre-load on the pipe 45 in order to locate the clamp 5 in the desired position.

In an initial configuration, the gripping mechanisms 25a', 25b' on one end 85 of the clamp 5 are spaced apart from the respective clamp bodies 20a, 20b. As such, when the tensioning bolts 120 are tightened, a gap 130 between the gripping mechanisms 25a', 25b' and the clamp body 20a, 20b reduces. In this way, tightening of the tensioning bolts 120 results in relative motion of the gripping mechanisms 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b' towards each other, as shown by comparing Figures 7 and 8. It will be appreciated that the gripping mechanisms 25a, 25b on one end 80 of the clamp 5 act as fixed griping mechanisms, in that they are fixed relative to the clamp body 20a, 20b, whereas the gripping mechanisms 25a', 25b' at the other end 85 of the clamp 5, which are initially separated from the body 20a, 20b by the gap 130 are effectively dynamic gripping mechanisms that move relative to the clamp body 20a, 20b under tensioning of the tension bolts 120, 125 by closing the gap 130.

The relative motion of the gripping mechanisms 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b' acts to force the ball bearings 55 further towards the shallower end of the associated slots 60, since the ball bearings 55 have already been brought into contact with the pipe 45 by sliding the screen 65 using the hydraulic cylinders 75. This forces the ball bearings 55 to protrude further out from the associated apertures 70 in the screen 65, resulting in an increased gripping force being applied to the pipe 45 by the ball bearings 55 and optionally may partially indent the ball bearings 55 into a wall 135 of the pipe 45, as shown in Figure 9. The location of the ball bearings 55 in these indentations may effectively carry axial loads on the clamp 5, which may give a secure gripping effect. Furthermore, the generally tear-drop shaped indentations formed by using a ball based gripping mechanism 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b' reduces or minimises resulting stress on the pipe 45, e.g. relative to other devices that use sharper or other shaped gripping mechanisms.

Although only the gripping mechanism 25a', 25b' that is initially spaced from the clamp body 20a, 20b need be tensioned, it will be appreciated that indentations are simultaneously made by the ball bearings 55 of both gripping mechanisms 25a', 25b'. Although only tensioning bolts 120 on one side 85 are tensioned, the stroke required to tension the bolts 120 is effectively doubled.

When the clamp 5 is centralised on the pipe 45 and the gripping mechanisms 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b' at both ends 80, 85 placed in the gripping configuration, with the ball bearings 55 indented into the pipe wall 135, the sealing members 140 (see e.g. Figure 10), which circumferentially extend around the inner surface of the recess 35 in each body part 20a, 20b, can be engaged with the pipe 45 in order to seal the pipe 45 at a part of the pipe 45 corresponding with the clamp body 20a, 20b, i.e. between the gripping mechanisms 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b'.

Although only one part 10a, 10b of the clamp 5 is shown in Figure 10, it will be appreciated that each part 10a, 10b comprises corresponding sealing members 140 such that the sealing members 140 of each part 10a, 10b cooperate together to form a plurality of spaced apart seals that extend around the circumference of the through channel 40. Further sealing members 142 also extend along the edges 50a, 50b, 50a', 50b' of each of the first and second parts 10a, 10b so as to seal the interfaces between the first and second parts 10a, 10b.

The damaged portion of the pipe 45 may not only leak the contents of the pipe

45, but the damaged portion may also have reduced structural integrity. This arrangement provides a clamp 5 that can not only seal a damaged portion of a pipe 45, but provision of the rigid clamp body 20a, 20b tensioned between the securely located, opposing gripping mechanisms 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b' provides structural support and rigidity to the damaged section of the pipe 45, which may help to prevent a more catastrophic failure of the pipe 45.

The method of attaching the clamp 5 to the pipe 45 is summarised in Figure 11. The clamp 5 is placed in the open configuration (1005). In step 1010, the clamp 5 is then placed onto the pipe 45 such that the pipe 45 passes through the gap between the spaced apart open edges 50a, 50b of the clamp 5 to be located in the recessed space 35 between the clamp parts 10a, 10b. In step 1015, the clamp 5 is then placed into the closed configuration by pivoting the parts 10a, 10b together to close the clamp 5 around the pipe 45. The parts 10a, and 10b of the clamp 5 can be bolted into the closed configuration.

Thereafter, in step 1020, the hydraulic cylinders 75 are activated in order to move the respective screens 65 relative to the slots 60 in a direction from the deep end to the shallow end of the slots 60. This in turn moves the ball bearings 55 partially towards the shallow end of the associated slots 60 such that a portion of each ball bearing 55 protrudes from the associated aperture 70 in order to contact the pipe. Since the ball bearings 55, slots 60 and apertures 70 are distributed circumferentially around the inner surface 62 of the gripping mechanisms 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b' and through channel 40, contacting the pipe 45 with the ball bearings 55 acts to centralise the clamp 5 on the pipe 45.

In step 1025, the tensioning bolts 120, 125 are tightened. The tensioning force applied by the tensioning bolts 120, 125 acts to draw the gripping mechanisms 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b' at opposing ends 80, 85 of the clamp together, closing the gap 130 in the process. Since the ball bearings 55 have previously been forced into contact with the wall 135 of the pipe 45 by moving the screen 65, this relative motion of the gripping mechanisms 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b' at opposing ends causes the ball bearings 55 to move even further towards the shallow end of the associated slots 60, thereby increasing the force applied by the ball bearings 55 on the pipe 45. Beneficially, this tensioning action can force a part of the ball bearings 55 into the pipe wall 135 forming corresponding teardrop shaped indentations in the pipe wall 135. Since the ball bearings are located in these indentations, the axial loads on the clamp 5 may be effectively accommodated. The stress placed on the pipe by the ball based gripping mechanisms 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b' may be lower than that applied by at least some alternative gripping mechanisms.

After the clamp has been fixed in place, the sealing members 140 in the clamp body 20a, 20b may be activated in order to seal a damaged area of the pipe 45 in step 1030.

In step 1035, a curable or settable material such as epoxy, cement, concrete, grout and/or the like is injected into the through channel 40 via injection ports 145 (see e.g. Figures 7 and 8) in the wall of the body 20a, 20b so as to substantially fill any space between the clamp 5 and the pipe 45. Any of the previous contents, such as air, water, drilling fluid or hydrocarbons (gaseous or liquid), that are displaced by the curable or settable material are expelled via suitably positioned and oriented outlets 150 that extend through the clamp body 20a, 20b. Thereafter, the curable or settable material is cured or set.

This step 1035 may fix all the movable components and ensure the clamp 5 remains fixed/secure. It may also add more support by restricting any deformation of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongated member when subjected to a bending load. It will be appreciated that this step 1035 may result in the clamp 5 becoming a permanent fixture on the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongated member.

Since the rigid clamp body is fixed between the securely fixed gripping mechanisms 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b' at either end of the damaged area of the pipe, the clamp provides not only sealing of a damaged portion but also structural support, which may minimise the potential of future failure of the pipe at the damaged area.

Figure 12 shows a generally axial pipe restraint. Figures 13 and 14 show parts for use in a gripping device operable as an axial restraint, in this case in the form of a ball and taper split clamp device 205. The gripping device shown in Figures 12 to 14 is similar to that shown Figures 1 to 10, and as such like features share like reference numerals, incremented by 200.

In this embodiment, the clamp 205 includes a pair of separate or distinct semi- cylindrical first parts 210a, 210a' that can be connected to a respective pair of separate or distinct semi-cylindrical second parts 210b, 210b' by nut and bolt arrangements 232, forming a pair of gripping modules 290a, 290b, as shown in Figure 12. It will be appreciated that in further embodiments the clamp 205 may include more or less than two first and second parts, forming more or less than two gripping modules 290. The first and second parts 210a, 210a', 210b, 210b' each include a gripping mechanism 225a, 225a', 225b, 225b'. Each first and second part 210a, 210a', 210b, 210b' has a series of bolt holes 230 for receiving respective bolts of the nut and bolt arrangements 232 for fixing together the first and second parts 210a, 210a', 210b, 210b'. It will be appreciated that in further embodiments, a hinged or pivoting arrangement may be used for fixing the first and second parts 210a, 210a', 210b, 210b' together, e.g. as described above. Each of the first and second parts 210a, 210a', 210b, 210b' define a recess 235. In an open configuration (not shown), the first and second parts 210a, 210a', 210b, 210b' can be placed around a pipe 245, which is received in the recesses 235. To close the clamp 205 around a portion of the pipe 245 the first and second parts 210a, 210a', 210b, 210b' are bolted together using nut and bolt arrangements 232, through the bolt holes 230, which are provided in this embodiment on opposing side edges 250a, 250a', 250b, 250b' of the first and second parts 210a, 210a', 210b, 210b'. This locks the first and second parts together and prevents relative motion thereof.

Each of the first and second parts 210a, 210a', 210b, 210b' includes a respective gripping mechanism 225a, 225a', 225b, 225b' in the form of a ball and taper arrangement, similar to that described above in relation to Figures 1 to 10.

Figure 13 (a) shows a first part 210a of a gripping module 290, including gripping mechanism 225a. As described above, each gripping mechanism 225a, 225a', 225b, 225b' is provided with a semi-cylindrical screen 265a, 265a', 265b, 265b' which has apertures 270 of a smaller diameter than that of the ball-bearings 255. The screen 265a, 265a', 265b, 265b' traps the ball bearings 255 in their corresponding tapered slots 260 (not shown), while a part of each ball bearing 255 can protrude out of the corresponding aperture 270.

The screen 265a, 265a', 265b, 265b' of each gripping mechanism 225a, 225a', 225b, 225b' can be selectively or releasably fixed to the respective first and second parts 210a, 210a', 210b, 210b' to prohibit relative movement of the screen 265a, 265a', 265b, 265b' relative to the slots 260. By fixing the screen 265a, 265a', 265b, 265b' to the first and second parts, the ball bearings 255 can be trapped in the deeper end of the respective slots 260, which maintains the gripping mechanisms 225a, 225b in the movable or non-engaging configuration. It will be appreciated that in other embodiments, the screen 265a, 265a', 265b, 265b' may be selectively or releasably fixed to the respective first and second parts 210a, 210a', 210b, 210b' so as to maintain the gripping mechanisms 225a, 225a', 225b, 225b' in the fixed or engaged configuration.

Figures 13 (b) and 14 show the first and second parts 210a, 210b of the clamp

205 in the closed configuration (pipe 245 is not shown for clarity) with respective screens 265a, 265b, fixed to the first and second parts 210a, 210b. Here, the screens 265a, 265a', 265b, 265b' are fixed or secured to the first and second parts 210a, 210b using further bolts 232a. Subsequently to installation of the clamp 205 on the pipe, the further bolts 232a can be removed, thereby allowing the screens 265a, 265a', 265b, 265b' to be movable or slidable relative to the slots 260. This may allow the gripping mechanisms 225a, 225b to be moved from the non-engaging configuration to the engaging configuration, or vice versa. In this embodiment, each screen 265a, 265a', 265b, 265b' is slidably movable in a longitudinal direction of the clamp 205 and/or pipe 245 with respect to the slots under the actions of bolts or jacking bolts 155, which can be attached to the first and second parts 210a, 210a', 210b, 210b' by brackets 160 (see e.g. Figure 14). The brackets 160 can be attached to the clamp 205 in the closed configuration, i.e. when the first and second parts 210a, 210a', 210b, 210b' are connected together, so that the jacking bolts 155 engage with the first and second parts 210a, 210a', 210b, 210b' to move the screens 265a, 265a', 265b, 265b' relative to slots 260 of the first and second parts 210a, 210a', 210b, 210b'. It will be appreciated that in further examples, other mechanisms for moving of the screens 265a, 265a', 265b, 265b', such as one or more hydraulic or pneumatic actuating pistons or rams, hydraulic tensioners, bolts and nut arrangements and/or the like, may be used.

Referring back to Figure 12, the pair of modules 290a, 290b are shown as being provided on either side of a pipe connection arrangement 165. It will be appreciated that in further examples, the modules may be provided on a pipe 245 spaced apart from each other. As described above, each module 290a, 290b (e.g. the first and second parts 210a, 210a', 210b, 210b') is provided with longitudinally extending bolt holes 315. Tensioning bolts 320 can be inserted through the bolt holes 315 to couple the gripping modules 290a, 290b together. Tightening of the bolts 320, e.g. by providing a suitable nut 325 or screwing the bolts 320 into the body of the gripping modules 290a, 290b can force the modules 290a, 290b towards each other, thereby reducing a gap 330 between the modules 290a, 290b.

As discussed above, each of the gripping mechanisms is configured to be switchable into the gripping or engaging configuration by motion in the opposite direction to the other gripping mechanism. In particular, the relative motion of the gripping modules 290a, 290b towards each other, acts to force the ball bearings 255 further towards the shallower end of the associated slots 260. In the closed configuration the ball bearings 255 have already been brought into contact with the pipe 245 by sliding the screen 265a, 265a', 265b, 265b' using the jacking bolts 155. Tightening of the tensioning bolts 320 forces the ball bearings 255 to move further towards the shallower end of the tapered slot, thereby causing the ball bearings 255 to protrude further out from the associated apertures 270 in the screen 265a, 265a', 265b, 265b', resulting in an increased gripping force being applied to the pipe 245 by the ball bearings 255, as discussed above.

The method of attaching the clamp 205 to the pipe 245 is summarised in Figure 15. The method of attaching clamp 205 to the pipe 245 is similar to that shown in Figure 11 and as such shares like method steps, incremented by 1000. The clamp 205, including a pair of gripping modules 290a, 290b, is placed in the open configuration (2005). In step 2010, the clamp 205 is then placed onto the pipe 245 such that the pipe 245 passes through the recessed space 235 between the clamp parts 210a, 210b. In step 2015, the clamp 205 is then placed into the closed configuration by connecting together parts 210a, 210b to close the clamp 205 around the pipe 245.

Thereafter, in step 2020, brackets 160, including jacking bolts 155, are attached to the clamp 205. Operation of the jacking bolts 155 moves the respective screens 265a, 265a', 265b, 265b' relative to the slots 260 in a direction from the deep end to the shallow end of the slots 260. This in turn moves the ball bearings 255 partially towards the shallow end of the associated slots 260 such that a portion of each ball bearing 255 protrudes from the associated aperture 270 in order to contact the pipe 245. As discussed above, the ball bearings 255, slots 260 and apertures 270 are distributed circumferentially around the inner surface of the gripping mechanisms 225a, 225a', 225b, 225b', wherein contacting the pipe 245 with the ball bearings 255 acts to centralise the clamp 205 on the pipe 245. In step 2025, the tensioning bolts 320 are tightened. The tensioning force applied by the tensioning bolts 320 acts to draw the gripping modules 290a, 290b of the clamp together, reducing and/or closing the gap 330 in the process. Since the ball bearings 255 have previously been forced into contact with the wall 235 of the pipe 245 by moving the screen 265, this relative motion of the gripping mechanisms 225a, 225a', 225b, 225b' of the opposing gripping modules causes the ball bearings 255 to move even further towards the shallow end of the associated slots 260, thereby increasing the force applied by the ball bearings 255 on the pipe 245, as discussed above. Beneficially, this tensioning action can force a part of the ball bearings 255 into the pipe wall 335 forming corresponding teardrop shaped indentations in the pipe wall 335.

Referring to Figures 16 to 18, there is shown an alternative embodiment of a gripping device, in this case in the form of a ball and taper flange 405. The gripping device shown in Figures 15 to 17 is similar to those shown Figures 1 to 10 and Figures 12 to 14, and as such like features share like reference numerals, incremented by 400 and 200, respectively.

The flange 405 includes a cylindrical body 170 having a first portion 170a and a second portion 170b. The first and second portions 170a, 170b of the body 170 can be removably coupled to each other, for example, by inserting tensioning bolts 520 into a series of longitudinally extending bolt holes 530 provided in the first and second body portions 170a, 170b. A suitable nut 525 can be affixed to an end of each tensioning bolt 520. It will be appreciated that in further embodiments the tensioning bolt 520 may be screwed into a corresponding threaded portion in the first and/or second portions 170a, 170b of the body 170. In this way, tightening of the tensioning bolts 520 and/or nuts 525 can be used to move the first portion 170a of the body relative to the second portion of the body 170b in a longitudinal direction of the flange 405. It will be appreciated that in further embodiments another moving mechanism, such as hydraulic or pneumatic cylinders or a ram or the like, may be used for moving the first portion 170a of the body 170 towards the second portion 170b.

Figure 16 shows a cross-sectional view of the flange 405. It can be seen that the flange defines a cavity 435 in the first portion 170a of the body 170. Here, the cavity 435 is in the form of a through bore arranged to receive a pipe 445 (not shown in Figure 16). The flange 405 includes a gripping mechanism 425 that is shown in Figure 16 as being arranged on an inner surface of the cavity 435. The gripping mechanism 425 is similar to those described above in relation to Figures 1 to 14. The gripping mechanism includes a ball and taper mechanism having a plurality of balls or ballbearings 455 provided in corresponding plurality of open slots 460 and distributed circumferentially around the inner surface of the cavity 435. The ball and taper mechanism includes a screen or cage 465, which is coaxially and concentrically arranged within the first portion 170a of the body 170.

Referring to Figures 17 (a) to 17 (c), there is shown an end portion of a pipe 445 inserted into the flange 405. The flange 405 has a non-engaging configuration, as shown in Figure 16 (a) and an engaging configuration, as shown in Figures 16 (c) and 16 (d). In the non-engaging configuration, the ball bearings 455 are located in the deeper end of each slot 460 of the gripping mechanism 425, thereby allowing insertion and removal of the pipe 445. In the non-engaging configuration of the flange 405 a gap or space 180 is formed between the first and second portions 170a, 170b of the body 170, as shown in Figure 17 (a).

Referring to Figures 17 (c), in the engaging configuration, the ball bearings 455 are located in the shallower end of each slot 460, thereby protruding out from respective apertures 470 in the screen 465 and gripping the pipe 445, whereby the gap 180 between the first and second portions 170a, 170b is closed.

As can be seen in Figures 17 (a) to 17 (c), by tensioning or tightening the tension bolts 420, the first portion 170a of the body 170 moves towards the second portion 170b, thereby reducing the gap 180 and actuating the flange 405 from the non- engaging configuration (Figure 17 (a)) into the engaging configuration (Figures 17 (c) and (d)) to retain the pipe 445 in the flange 405. By moving the first portion 170a of the body 170, the slots 460 containing the ball bearings 455 are moved relative to screen 465 in a longitudinal direction of the flange 405. During the movement of the first portion 170a of the body 170, e.g. by tightening tension bolts 420, the screen 465 remains generally stationary and the ball bearings 455 are moved towards the shallower end of each slot 460 by the first portion 170a of the body 170. The movement of the first portion 170a of the body 170 forces the ball-bearings 455 into engaging contact with the pipe 445, as shown in Figures 17 (b) and described above. This may centralise the flange 405 on the pipe 445 and apply a pre-loading.

In use, when the ball-bearings 455 are in contact with the pipe 445, the gripping mechanism 425 can oppose or resist movement, such as longitudinal movement on the pipe 445 relative to the flange 405.

Further tightening of the tensioning bolts 420 forces the ball bearings 455 to move further towards the shallower end of the tapered slot, as shown in Figure 17(c), thereby causing the ball bearings 455 to protrude further out from the associated apertures 470 in the screen 465, resulting in an increased gripping force being applied to the pipe 445 by the ball bearings 455, as discussed above. This forces the ball bearings 455 to protrude further out from the associated apertures 470 in the screen 465, resulting in an increased gripping force being applied to the pipe 445 by the ball bearings 455. This may partially indent the ball bearings 455 into a wall 535 of the pipe 445. The location of the ball bearings 455 in these indentations may effectively carry axial loads on the flange 405, which may give a secure gripping effect.

It will be appreciated that in further embodiments, the flange (and/or gripping mechanism) may be actuated from the non-engaging configuration to the engaging configuration by moving the screen 465 relative to the slots 460 and/or first portion 170a of the body 170.

In particular, the gripping mechanism 425 is configured such that insertion of the pipe 445 into the cavity 435 or installation of the flange 405 onto the pipe 445 forces the ball bearings 455 towards the deeper end of the slots 460, thereby facilitating easy attachment of the flange 405 to the pipe 445. Conversely, relative motion of the pipe 445 and flange 405 so as to disconnect the flange 405 from the pipe 445 acts to force the ball bearings 455 further towards the shallower end of the slots 460, thereby resisting disconnection. In this embodiment, the flange 405 includes a locking flange 175 with a screw thread (not shown) that cooperates with a screw thread (not shown) provided on an outer surface of the screen 465 for moving the locking flange relative to the screen 465 in a longitudinal direction of the flange 405. In the engaging configuration of the flange 405, the locking flange 175 can be moved into engagement with the first portion 170a, as shown in Figure 17 (d), to lock the first portion of the body 170a relative to screen 465. The locking flange secures the first portion 170a of the body 170 in the engaging configuration relative to the screen 465. By locking the first portion 170a into the engaging configuration, inadvertent return into the non-engaging configuration of the gripping mechanism 425 and/or flange 405 may be prevented.

As can be seen in Figures 17 (a) to 17 (d), the locking flange 175 includes a sealing member 185 that is provided in a recess 190 of the locking flange 175. The sealing member 185 is an annular-shaped sealing member that is arranged on the locking flange 175 so as to oppose a surface 195 of the first portion 170a of the body 170. When the locking flange 175 is in contact with the first portion 170a of the body 170, the sealing member 185 creates a seal, e.g. a fluid tight seal, between the locking flange 175 and the first portion 170a of the body 170.

The flange 405 includes one or more spacing members (not shown), which can be arranged in the gap 180 between the first and second portions 170a, 170b of the body 170 to maintain flange 405 in the non-engaging configuration of the flange 405. By inserting one or more spacing members between the first and second portions of the body 170 in the non-engaging configuration of the flange 405, the ball-bearings 455 may be maintained in the deeper end of the slots 460, thereby allowing for easier removal or insertion of pipe 445 into flange 405. The spacing members can be deformable and/or compressible so that upon tightening of the tension bolts 420, the spacing members are compressed between the first and second portions 170a, 170b of the body 170. When the first portion 170a has been sufficiently moved towards the second portion 170b of the body 170, the spacing members may be removed.

As shown in Figures 17 (a) to 17 (d), the flange 405 includes one or more further annular-shaped sealing members 540, two of which are shown in this embodiment, for sealing against an outer wall of the pipe 445, e.g. to prevent a leakage from pipe 445 retained in the flange 405. The sealing members 540 are mounted in the first portion 170a of the body 170 of the flange 405 so as to be spaced apart in a longitudinal direction of the flange 405. Here, the sealing members 540 are arranged adjacent to the opposing ends of the gripping mechanism 425. One of the sealing members 540 is arranged on an end portion of the screen 465 while the other one of the sealing members is arranged on an end portion of the first portion 170a of the body 170. The sealing members 540 extend circumferentially around the cavity 435 of the flange 405.

Referring to Figures 17 (d) and 18 (b), when the flange 405 is in the engaging configuration, the second portion 170b may be disconnected from the first portion 170a of the body 170, e.g. by removing nuts 425 and tensioning bolts 420. The first portion 170a of the body 170 can be used, e.g. for connecting the pipe 445 to a further flange (not shown) and/or for connection to a further pipe or the like.

Referring to Figures 18 (a) and 18 (b), the flange 405 includes an inlet in the form of injection port 545 to the cavity 435 of the flange 405. As discussed above, a curable or settable material, such as epoxy, grout, cement, and/or the like can be injected into the first portion 170a via the injection port 545 so as to substantially fill any space between the flange and the pipe 445. Any of the previous contents, such as air, water, drilling fluid or hydrocarbons are displaced by the curable or settable material and can be expelled via an outlet (not shown) of the flange 405. Once the curable material has set, all movable components of the flange 405 may be fixed, which ensures that the flange 405 remains fixed or secured.

The method of attaching the flange 405 to the pipe 445 is summarised in Figure 19. The method of attaching flange 405 to the pipe 445 is similar to that shown in Figures 1 1 and 15, and as such share like method steps, incremented by 2000 and 1000, respectively.

The flange 405 includes a gripping mechanism 425 that is placed in the movable or non-engaging configuration (3005). In step 3010, the pipe 445 is inserted into the cavity 435 of the flange 405. During insertion of the pipe 445 into the flange 405, the pipe 445 engages with the further sealing members 540. In step 3015, the tensioning bolts 520 are tightened, which moves the first portion 170a of the body 170 towards the second portion of the body 170. The movement of the first portion 170a of the body 170 moves the slots 460 relative to the screen 465 in a direction from the deep end to the shallow end of the slots 260. This in turn moves the ball bearings 455 partially towards the shallow end of the associated slots 460 such that a portion of each ball bearing 255 protrudes from the associated aperture 470 in order to contact and grip the pipe. As discussed above, the ball bearings 455, slots 460 and apertures 470 are distributed circumferentially around the inner surface of the gripping mechanisms 225a, 225a', 225b, 225b'. When the ball-bearings are in contact with pipe 445 they act to centralise the flange 405 on the pipe 445.

Further movement of the first portion 170a of the body 170, moves the ball bearings 455 even further towards the shallower end of the slots 460, such that the protruding ball bearings 455 grip the pipe 445 and exert a gripping force thereon.

In step 3025, a curable or settable material such as epoxy, cement, concrete, grout and/or the like is injected into the flange 405 via injection ports 545 (see e.g. Figures 18 (a) and 18 (b)) so as to substantially fill any space between the flange 405 and the pipe 445. Any of the previous contents, such as air, water, drilling fluid or hydrocarbons (gaseous or liquid), that are displaced by the curable or settable material are expelled via suitably positioned and oriented outlets (not shown) that extend through the first portion of the flange body 170. Thereafter, the curable or settable material is cured or set.

This step 3025 may fix all the movable components and ensure the flange 405 remains fixed/secure. It may also add more support by restricting any deformation of the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongated member when subjected to a bending load. It will be appreciated that this step 3025 may result in the flange 405 becoming a permanent fixture on the pipe, pipeline, conduit or elongated member.

It should be understood that the embodiments described herein are merely exemplary and that various modifications may be made thereto without departing from the scope of the invention.

For example, it will be appreciated that the tensioning bolts 120 functionally provide tension in the clamp 5 and provide secure engagement of the gripping mechanisms 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b'. However, it will be appreciated that separate tensioning bolts 120 could be provided for each gripping mechanism 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b' or common tensioning bolts 120 could be provided for the gripping mechanisms 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b' at both ends 80, 85 of the clamp 5. Similarly, other tensioning mechanisms such as cam mechanisms, ratchet arrangements or other threaded members could be used to provide the required tension.

Furthermore, in the example above, hydraulic cylinders 75 are used to actuate a screen 65 to thereby bring the balls 55 into contact with the pipe 45 and to centralise the clamp 5 on the pipe 45 and tensioning bolts 120, 125 are used to force the balls 55 to securely grip the pipe 45 so as to prevent relative movement of the pipe 45 and clamp 5. However, it will be appreciated that other mechanisms or moving arrangements could be used to bring the balls 55 into contact with the pipe 45 and/or grip the pipe 45.

Moreover, whilst ball and taper or ball and cage mechanisms are advantageously used as gripping mechanisms 25a, 25a', 25b, 25b', it will be appreciated that other gripping mechanisms, particularly one-way gripping mechanisms, that each individually oppose relative movement in only one direction, may be used.

Additionally, whilst elastomeric sealing members are described above, it will be appreciated that other sealing members, such as mineral, vermiculite, or other sealing arrangements that would be apparent to a skilled person may be used.

Furthermore, whilst the clamp 5 are pipe 45 described above are cylindrical, it will be appreciated that other shapes of pipe 45 and/or clamp 5 could be used, as long as the clamp 5 and/or recess 35, cavity or through channel 40 correspond with the pipe 45 shape and size.

Furthermore, it will be appreciate that clamp 205 may be provided with one or more sealing members for sealing a portion, such as a damaged portion of the pipe

245, as described in relation to clamp 5.

Additionally, clamp 205 may be provided with at least one inlet or inlet port to the recess 235 for the injection of a curable or settable medium, such as epoxy, grout, cement, settable polymeric material and/or the like, as described above in relation to clamp 5 and/or flange 405. For example, each gripping module 290a, 290b may include an inlet or inlet port for the injection of the settable or curable medium. The clamp 205 may include an outlet from the recess 235. Each gripping module 290a,

290b may be provided with the outlet. The outlet may be arranged on the clamp 205 and/or gripping modules 290a, 290b to permit expulsion of contents, such as water , air, drilling fluids and/or hydrocarbons) from the recess 235, which may be forced out by the settable or curable medium.

Although gripping members in the form of ball bearings are described above, it will be appreciated that any suitable roller, rolling or rotating member and/or the like may be used instead of the ball bearings. This may require the slots and/or apertures to be correspondingly shaped.

Although the gripping device 405 in the form of a flange is described above, it will be appreciated that the gripping device may be in the form of a T-piece or valve and/or the like. The Applicant hereby discloses in isolation each individual feature described herein and any combination of two or more such features, to the extent that such features or combinations are capable of being carried out based on the present specification as a whole in the light of the common general knowledge of a person skilled in the art, irrespective of whether such features or combinations of features solve any problems disclosed herein, and without limitation to the scope of any claims. The applicant indicates that aspects of the invention may consist of any such individual feature or combination of features. In view of the foregoing description it will be evident to a person skilled in the art that various modifications may be made within the scope of the invention, and that the description provides only one example embodiment of how the invention may be implemented.