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Title:
AN IMPROVED SUBSEA ELECTRIC ACTUATOR
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2019/158723
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A subsea electric actuator comprising an electric motor, a gearbox, a drive connection from an output of the motor to an input of the gearbox, an output from the gearbox, and a switching mechanism to switch the gearing ratio in the gearbox from a first gearing ratio to a second different gearing ratio such that the output from the gearbox has two different selectable speeds. The gearbox comprises a planetary gearbox comprising an outer ring gear with inwardly extending teeth, a central sun gear with outwardly extending teeth, and at least one planet gear between the ring gear and central sun gear with outwardly extending teeth. The two-speed gearbox of embodiments helps to apply a high load in certain situations, and a high speed in others, such that a smaller and/or less powerful motor can be used.

Inventors:
MORGAN, Guy (Skjellestadhagen 59, 1389 Heggedal, 1389, NO)
HALDORSEN, Henrik (Gjellumstubben 17, 1389 Heggedal, 1389, NO)
MOEN, Stig (Sandbunnveien 7, 1358 Jar, 1358, NO)
WINTHER-LARSSEN, Einar (Munkebekken 261, 1061 Oslo, 1061, NO)
Application Number:
EP2019/053880
Publication Date:
August 22, 2019
Filing Date:
February 15, 2019
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
AKER SOLUTIONS AS (P.O. Box 94, 1325 Lysaker, 1325, NO)
International Classes:
E21B33/06; E21B33/064; F16H3/54; F16K31/00
Domestic Patent References:
WO2014204451A12014-12-24
WO2017138816A12017-08-17
WO2014123425A12014-08-14
Foreign References:
US20140033842A12014-02-06
US20150008000A12015-01-08
US20040031940A12004-02-19
US20140069531A12014-03-13
US20060006355A12006-01-12
Other References:
E. WINTHER-LARSSEN ET AL: "All-Electric as an Enabler for More Cost Effective Developments on Cluster Systems", OTC-27659-MS, 1 May 2017 (2017-05-01), pages 1 - 15, XP055584391, ISBN: 978-1-61399-512-9, DOI: 10.4043/27659-MS
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HGF LIMITED (Document Handling - Aberdeen, 1 City Walk, Leeds West Yorkshire LS11 9DX, LS11 9DX, GB)
Download PDF:
Claims:
Claims

1. A subsea electric actuator comprising:

an electric motor,

a gearbox,

a drive connection from an output of the motor to an input of the gearbox; an output from the gearbox,

a switching mechanism to switch the gearing ratio in the gearbox from a first gearing ratio to a second different gearing ratio, such that the output from the gearbox has two different selectable speeds.

2. A subsea electric actuator as claimed in claim 1 , wherein the gearbox comprises a planetary gearbox thus comprising an outer ring gear, a central sun gear and at least one planet gear between the ring gear and central sun gear.

3. A subsea electric actuator as claimed in claim 2, wherein there is between one and five planet gears.

4. A subsea electric actuator as claimed in claim 2 or claim 3, wherein the switching mechanism comprises a sun gear lock for locking the sun gear.

5. A subsea electric actuator as claimed in claim 4, wherein the sun gear lock

comprises a brake and is applied to a sun gear carrier.

6. A subsea electric actuator as claimed in any one of claims 4 to 5, wherein the

powered down state of the actuator is to lock the sun gear.

7. A subsea electric actuator as claimed in any one of claims 2 to 6, wherein the

switching mechanism comprises a lock for locking the sun gear to the at least one planet gear.

8. A subsea electric actuator as claimed in claim 6, wherein the lock for locking the sun gear to the at least one planet gear comprises a clutch.

9. A subsea electric actuator as claimed in any one of claims 2 to 8, wherein the input to the gearbox drives the outer ring gear, and the output from the gearbox is connected to the at least one planet gear.

10. A subsea electric actuator as claimed in any one of claims 2 to 9, wherein the first gearing ratio is in the range of between 200:1 to 400:1.

1 1. A subsea electric actuator as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein the second different gearing ratio is in the range of 1 :1 to 100:1.

12. An apparatus to close a bore comprising the subsea actuator as claimed in any

preceding claim, and a valve, the valve being controlled by the actuator.

13. An apparatus as claimed in claim 12, comprising a mechanism to convert rotational drive from the gearbox to linear drive for moving the valve.

14. An apparatus as claimed in any one of claims 12 or 13, wherein the subsea actuator is a first subsea actuator, the apparatus further comprising a second subsea actuator as claimed in any one of claims 1 to 1 1 , and wherein the valve is a gate valve controllable by the first and second actuators to move into a closed position.

15. An apparatus as claimed in claim 14, wherein the gate valve is moveable into the closed position by moving a pair of rams outwardly with respect to each other.

16. A method of using the actuator as claimed in any one of claims 1 to 1 1 or the

apparatus as claimed in any one of claims 12 to 15 subsea.

17. A method as claimed in claim 16, including using the actuator to control a valve to control production from a well.

Description:
AN IMPROVED SUBSEA ELECTRIC ACTUATOR

The present invention relates to an improved subsea electric actuator and in particular an actuator for use with a subsea gate valve.

Subsea actuators may comprise, for example, electrical motors or hydraulic motors. Subsea actuators with electrical motors traditionally output high speeds and low torques and employ a fixed gearing to increase the torque. The trend in the industry to date has been to increase the motor size and/or power to meet the higher torque and speed requirements of modern applications.

These actuators are generally satisfactory but the present inventors have noticed that improvements can be made. For example, motors with a large operational window tend to consume a lot of power, may be expensive, and may be large.

According to a first aspect of the present invention, there is provided a subsea electric actuator comprising:

an electric motor,

a gearbox,

a drive connection from an output of the motor to an input of the gearbox; an output from the gearbox, and

a switching mechanism to switch the gearing ratio in the gearbox from a first gearing ratio to a second different gearing ratio, such that the output from the gearbox has two different selectable speeds.

The gearbox may comprise a planet and sun“planetary gearbox” thus comprising an outer ring gear normally with inwardly extending teeth, a central“sun gear” normally with outwardly extending teeth, and at least one“planet” gear between the ring gear and central sun gear normally with outwardly extending teeth. Usually, the planet gear’s teeth mesh with both the sun gear’s teeth and the outer ring gear’s teeth. There may be any number of planet gears, such as between one and five, optionally two to four. A planet gear carrier and sun gear carrier are normally provided.

The switching mechanism may be manual or automatic. It may be controlled by suitable electronics. It may comprise a first sun gear lock, for locking the sun gear in a fixed position. The sun gear lock may comprise a brake. For example, the brake may be applied to a sun gear carrier. The switching mechanism and/or gear ratio selection is preferably electrically controlled. The output from the gearbox normally has two different selectable torques.

The switching mechanism may also comprise a second lock for locking the sun gear to the at least one planet gear. The lock for locking the sun gear to the at least one planet gear may comprise a clutch.

The powered down state of the actuator may be to lock the sun gear in position. This can assist in resisting any back-drive.

A number of different ratios can be provided by use of a planetary gearbox. For example, the input to the gearbox may drive the outer ring gear, and the output from the gearbox may be connected to the at least one planet gear. The output may be connected via the planet gear carrier.

The first gearing ratio may be in the range of between 200:1 to 400:1. The second gearing ratio may be in the range of 1 :1 to 100:1.

The invention also provides an apparatus to close a bore comprising a valve and the subsea actuator described herein, the valve being controlled by the actuator.

The apparatus normally comprises a mechanism to convert rotational drive from the gearbox to linear drive for the valve.

The apparatus may comprise a second subsea actuator, especially when the valve is a gate valve. The gate valve is preferably controllable using the first and second subsea actuators to move into a closed position such that any wellbore obstruction is sheared, and also typically such that a wellbore is sealed. The wellbore obstruction may be a tubular, or it may be a line, such as a wireline or a slickline, for example.

The gate valve is normally moved into the closed position by moving a pair of rams outwardly with respect to each other.

The invention also provides a method of using the actuator described herein subsea, especially to control production from a well. Embodiments of the invention will now be described by way of example only and with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

Fig. 1 is a schematic diagram of a geared subsea valve actuator according to the present invention;

Fig. 2 is a representative graph of the torque required for operating a subsea valve against time;

Fig. 3 is a schematic diagram of a planetary gear system used in the gearbox of the Fig. 1 valve actuator; and

Fig. 4 is a schematic diagram of a further embodiment of the invention including a shear and seal gate valve system comprising two of the geared subsea valve actuators.

Fig. 1 shows an all-electric subsea actuator system 20 which is part of a valve operating system 10 for a subsea gate valve 30 with a failsafe function. The actuator system 20 is housed by an actuator housing 21 and comprises a two-speed gearbox 40. The higher torque gear ratio has a relatively high torque and low speed output. The lower torque gear ratio has a relatively high speed and low torque output. The first part of the valve closing sequence can be run at high speed using the lower torque gear ratio, and the gear ratio is shifted for the second part of the stroke, increasing the torque. A motor 50 is controlled by a control and electronics module 80. If any part of the valve operating system 10 was to fail, for example if a battery in the control and electronics module 80 powering the system ran dry, the failsafe function is configured such that the higher torque gear ratio is selected by default to restrict any change in position of the valve 30 without the use of electrical power.

Fig. 2 shows a typical torque signature plotted against time for the subsea gate valve 30 in its various valve positions, i.e. across the full stroke of the valve 30. The direction and torque of the load required from the actuator system 20 is dependent on many factors.

Exemplary values of these influencing factors are given below. The typical

environmental parameters are a water depth of up to 4000 m, a temperature of between -4 °C and 66 °C, and a bore pressure of between 0 psi and at least 15 000 psi. There is a large variance in the friction of moving components in the valve operating system 10, and there is a large span of load required to operate the valve 30. The load required to open the valve 30 is very different from that required to close the valve 30.

To change the position of the valve 30 from an initial closed position to an open position, a high torque is required to be supplied by the actuator system 20. This stage is known as‘cracking open’ and is illustrated in section (a) of the graph in Fig. 2. For this stage, the higher torque gear ratio is selected. This stage requires the highest load from the actuator, and the gearbox 40 is specified from this load. This stage forms around 10% - 15% of the full valve stroke.

The next stage of the valve stroke is known as‘running open’, and is shown in part (b) of the Fig. 2 graph, which is followed by stage (c),‘running closed’. The gearbox 40 is used to select the second, higher speed gear ratio for operating the valve in these stages.

The final stage of the valve stroke is shown in stage (d), of Fig. 2, which is known as ‘pinch closed’. The torque required for stage (d) can be larger or smaller than the torque required for stage (c), depending on the bore pressure and water depth. To fully close the valve in this example, where the torque required for stage (d) is greater than that required in stage (c), the gearbox 40 selects the higher torque gear ratio. The gearbox 40 remains with this higher torque gear ratio until controlled by the control and electronics module 80 to move to the lower torque gear ratio.

A sufficiently high value of torque can be retained in the lower torque gear such that the valve 30 position is moveable in a controlled way. The torque values further depend on the size and pitch of a screw, and the bearing arrangement for the actuator system 20, and may increase due to operational margins.

The electrical power provided for the lower torque gear in this example is 50 W, which assists in producing a high-speed output, although more power is consumed for the process of shifting into this gear.

The gear system is loaded during gear change such that the input and output of the gearbox 40 are connected to the gear system when the gear ratio is changed. To prevent possible back-driving, a brake is engaged in the form of default selection of the higher torque gear. The default selection of higher torque gear automatically secures the position of the valve 30 preventing it from undesired movement into a different position. When the lower torque gear is selected, the brake effectively disengages. Additional friction present in the gearbox 40 and motor 50 further hinders back-driving. Therefore, back-drive may be substantially reduced and/or prevented.

The force of the brake is variable depending on where in the gear system the physical brake mechanism is placed.

Fig. 3 shows a single-stage planetary gear system 41 which is disposed within the gearbox 40 of Fig. 1 , and which comprises a ring gear 42, a sun gear 43 carried by a sun gear carrier 46, and three planet gears 44 and 49 (two of which are shown in Fig. 3) which are carried by a planet gear carrier 45. The sun gear carrier 46 is directly attached to a sun gear brake 47, the default position of which is the braking position such that movement of the sun gear is prevented by default. The sun gear brake 47 can be released when electrical power is supplied, allowing the sun gear 43 to rotate around its central axis.

The failsafe position of the actuator system 20 is produced because if electrical power to the gearbox 40 is lost at any time, the sun gear brake 47 is automatically applied which effectively selects the higher torque gear ratio. The higher torque gear ratio prevents the valve 30 from changing position until it is controlled to be moved into a different position by the control and electronics module 80.

The input from the motor 50 to the gearbox 40 is applied to the ring gear 42 such that the input shaft 51 is coupled to the ring gear 42. The output from the gearbox 40 is supplied from the planet gear carrier 45, such that the output shaft 52 is coupled to the planet gear carrier 45. Different components of the planetary gear system 41 are engaged/disengaged with one another to result in different gear ratios.

In the higher torque gear ratio, the input shaft 51 is configured to drive the ring gear 42, which is configured to interact with the planet gears 44, 49. Rotation of the ring gear 42 is configured to drive the planet gears 44, 49 to rotate around their own axes, and also to rotate around the sun gear 43 which is held stationary by the brake 47.

Rotation of the planet gears 44, 49 around the sun gear 43 is configured to cause the planet carrier 46 to rotate, but at a reduced speed and with an increased torque in comparison to the input load on the ring gear 42. Thus, in the higher torque gear ratio, the gear ratio between the input shaft 51 and the output shaft 52 results in a reduced speed and an increased torque.

To alter the gear ratio a clutch 48 is engageable to lock the sun gear 43 to the planet gears 44, 49, to force the sun gear carrier 46 and the planet gear carrier 45 to turn together, and at the same speed. At the same time, the brake 47 for the sun gear 43 is configured to be released.

This results in the lower torque gear ratio, in which the sun gear 43 is locked to the planet carrier 45 using the clutch 48, and wherein the sun gear 43, the planet carrier 45 and the ring gear 42 are configured to rotate with the same speed. The ring gear 42 and the input shaft 51 will rotate at the same speed as the output shaft 52 giving a gear ratio of 1 :1. In comparison with the higher torque gear ratio, the output speed is greater, and the output torque is reduced.

With reference to Fig. 1 , the actuator system 20 transfers the torque from the motor 50 and the gearbox 40 to the screw. The system includes a means of transforming the rotational output movement from the gearbox 40 to linear movement of the screw, which in this example comprises a set of spur gears 60, although helical gears may also be used. The movement of the screw is in turn applied to a valve stem and bonnet 70 to move the valve 30 between open and closed positions. Only a single stage planetary gear set is used in this example i.e. one set of planetary gears comprising a ring gear, a sun gear, and a planet carrier.

A spur gear system 60 is provided to translate the rotational output movement from the planetary gear system 41 to the linear movement needed to drive the screw and control the position of the valve 30. The total gear ratio in the gear system is the combination of all the internal gear stages.

In use, the higher torque gear ratio is used to‘crack open’ the valve 30. To shift into the lower torque gear ratio, an electrical signal is applied which energises the sun gear brake 47 and releases sun gear 43. The actuator system 20 is then shifted into the lower torque gear ratio by changing the gear ratio of the planetary gear system 41 , resulting in a higher-speed, lower-torque output. It is later desired to close the valve 30 quickly whilst expending minimal energy. The first part of the closing stroke is performed when the actuator system 20 is still in the lower torque gear ratio. Then, it is shifted into the higher torque gear ratio for the last part of the closing stroke by reapplying the sun gear brake 47, providing a higher torque output for effectively closing the valve 30.

Motors with a large operational window typically consume a lot of power, are expensive, and may be large in size. For all-electric subsea systems where access to a power supply is restricted it can be advantageous to provide a low power electrical actuator. The two-speed gearbox of embodiments of the invention helps the actuator system 20 to apply a high load in certain situations, and a high speed in others, and so a smaller, less powerful motor can be used.

An advantage of certain embodiments is that ROVs are not required to close the valve, which can increase the reaction time in an emergency.

An alternative embodiment is shown in Fig. 4. Fig. 4 includes like parts with the earlier embodiment and these are not described again in detail. The reference numerals of the like parts share the same latter two digits in all embodiments, but differ in that they are prefixed with a in the Fig. 4 embodiment.

In this embodiment, a valve operating system 110 is provided comprising two all- electric subsea actuator systems 120a, 120b within respective housings 121 a, 121 b, for actuating a subsea shear and seal gate valve 130. The shear and seal gate valve

130 can close a wellbore 190 in an emergency situation. It comprises a valve body

131 and two (upper and lower) shear rams 135a, 135b. The actuators 120a, 120b actuate the respective shear rams 135a, 135b to move between an open position and a closed position.

Each shear ram 135a, 135b has a cutting blade (not shown), a sealing gate 134a,

134b, and a rod portion 170a, 170b. The upper rod portion 170a is coupled to the first actuator 120a, and the lower rod portion 170b is coupled to the second actuator 120b. The apparatus in Fig. 4 is shown in the open position, with rams 135a, 135b positioned in an open well bore 190 with a tubular 192 therein. To close the valve 130, the shear rams 135a, 135b are pulled outwardly with respect to each other by the actuators 120a, 120b so that the cutting blades shear the tubular 192. The rams 135a, 135b continue to travel until the lower gates 134a, 134b abut upper and lower seals 132, 133. This abutment provides metal-to-metal sealing between the gates 134a, 134b and the seals 132, 133, thus providing a metal-to-metal seal in two positions within the gate valve apparatus 130.

As in the earlier embodiment, each actuator 120a, 120b has a higher torque gear ratio, and a lower torque gear ratio. The first part of the gate valve 130 closing sequence involves shearing the tubular 192, and this is run at low speed using the higher torque gear ratio of each actuator 120a, 120b. The gear ratios are shifted for the second part of the closing stroke, increasing the gate valve 130 closing speed.

An advantage of such embodiments is that the two-speed gearbox in each actuator system 120a, 120b helps to apply a higher load for the shearing operation, and a higher speed when the higher load is not required. Smaller and lighter cutting blades can therefore be used.

In embodiments, the gear system consists of a greater number of gear stages. For example, the transmission system contains more than one stage of planetary gearbox i.e. more than one set of ring gear, sun gear, and planet gear carrier components. Alternatively, or in addition to several stages of planet gears, helical and/or spur gears and/or chain gears may also be provided in any combination.

In embodiments, the overall gear ratio of the system may be changed by bypassing and/or changing any one or several local ratios within the gear system. Any combination of gears in the planetary system may be connected to the input or the output shaft, and/or held stationary and/or locked to each other. For one embodiment, the higher torque gear ratio has a reduction of 270:1 , and the lower torque position a reduction of 50:1.

Modifications and improvements can be incorporated herein without departing from the scope of the present invention.