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Patent Searching and Data


Title:
BUOYANCY DEVICE AND METHOD FOR USING SAME
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/1998/031916
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A method and a buoyancy device (2) adapted to impart buoyancy to at least one longitudinal element (1) submerged in water. The buoyancy device (2) is hollow and is preferably made of plastics or a similar corrosion resistant material. The device is preferably produced as one single unit, but may include several separate chambers (12, 16, 17) which, via valves (13) may be brought in communicating connection with the surroundings, in a controlled manner. The device (2) will no be exposed to large differential pressures during use, and accordingly may have a relatively thin wall. The buoyancy device (2) has a much smaller weight than existing buoys, is much simpler to assemble than traditional buoys of metal, and involves no corrosion problems.

Inventors:
BULL HENRIK (NO)
INGEBRETSEN HELGE (NO)
Application Number:
PCT/NO1998/000011
Publication Date:
July 23, 1998
Filing Date:
January 13, 1998
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
ABB OFFSHORE TECHNOLOGY AS (NO)
BULL HENRIK (NO)
INGEBRETSEN HELGE (NO)
International Classes:
B63B22/00; B63B22/02; E21B17/01; (IPC1-7): E21B17/01; B63B27/24
Foreign References:
US5639187A1997-06-17
US4793737A1988-12-27
US4400110A1983-08-23
US4423984A1984-01-03
US5505560A1996-04-09
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Neergaard, Harald (Siviling. Rolf Chr. B. Larsen a.s Brynsveien 5, Oslo, NO)
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Claims:
Claims
1. A method for locally supporting of at least one longitudinal element (1) submerged into water, where such local support is obtained by means of at least one submerged saddleshaped buoy (2) being submerged in water and arranged underneath one portion of said element (1), c h a r a c t e r i z e d in that at least a portion of the saddleshaped buoy (2), which is corrosion and water resistant, is (are) provided with at least one internal volume (12) which are put in communicat ing connection with the surroundings before the submerging into water takes place, so that the corresponding volume(s) obtain(s) an internal pressure equal to the pressure in the surroundings when the saddleshaped buoy (2) is submerged, and that at least some of said volume(s) (12) are filled with a gas when the saddleshaped buoy(s) (2) has (have) reached the required depth.
2. A method according to claim 1, c h a r a c t e r i z e d in that the gas is air.
3. A method according to claim 1 or 2, c h a r a c t e r i z e d in that the gas is supplied to the internal portion(s) of said device (2) until an over pressure is obtained within said device (2).
4. A method according to one of the claims 13, c h a r a c t e r i z e d in that some selected volumes (16,17) within the device (2) are filled with water or a liquid of a higher density than water to ballast the buoyancy device (2).
5. A saddleshaped buoy (2) adapted to support at least one longitudinal element (1) submerged into water, and in particular riser cables or umbilicals (1) passing between a sub sea well and a floating device on the surface of the ocean, where the saddleshaped buoy (2) is hollow and comprises at least one internal space (12,16,17) adapted to be put in communicating connection with the surroundings via at least one valve, and anchoring devises (19,20) adapted to fasten the buoy (2) to at least one anchor (7,8), c h a r a c t e r i z e d in that the saddleshaped buoy (2) is designed as one single structure comprising at least one internal chamber (12), that each chamber (12) is provided with at least one valve (13) adapted to be opened/closed to the surroundings, and that the complete structure is manufactured from a corrosion resistant and seawater resistant material, preferably a laminated GRP material.
6. A saddleshaped buoy as claimed in claim 5, c h a r a c t e r i z e d in that the buoy has the shape of a "saddle", substantially arranged underneath the riser(s) (1) and has integrated in it at least one guiding recess (9,10,11) as the radius of the curvature of said saddleshaped buoy (2) along said guiding recesses (9,10,11) is equal to or above the minimum allowable radius of curvature for said riser cable (1).
7. A saddleshaped buoy (2) as claimed in one of the claims 5 or 6, c h a r a c t e r i z e d in that the buoy (12) is provided with at least one additional buoyancy element (21) having a constant buoyancy.
8. A saddleshaped buoy (2) as claimed in claim 7, c h a r a c t e r i z e d in that the buoyancy element(s) (21) of constant buoyancy is (are) integrated in the wall of said saddleshaped buoy (2). AMENDED CLAIMS [received by the International Bureau on 15 June 1998 (15.06.98); original claims 1 and 5 amended; remaining claims unchanged (2 pages)] 1. A method for locally supporting of at least one longitudinal element (1) submerged into water, where such local support is obtained by means of at least one submerged saddleshaped buoy (2) being submerged in water and arranged underneath one portion of said element (1), c h a r a c t e r i z e d in that the saddleshaped buoy is made completely of a light weight material being corrosion and waterresistant, at least a portion of the saddleshaped buoy (2) is (are) provided with at least one internal volume (12) which are put in communicating connection with the surroundings before the submerging into water takes place, so that the corresponding volume(s) obtain(s) an internal pressure equal to the pressure in the surroundings when the saddleshaped buoy (2) is submerged, and that at least some of said volume(s) (12) are filled with a gas when the saddleshaped buoy(s) (2) has (have) reached the required depth.
9. 2 A method according to claim 1, c h a r a c t e r i z e d in that the gas is air.
10. 3 A method according to claim 1 or 2, c h a r a c t e r i z e d in that the gas is supplied to the internal portion(s) of said device (2) until an over pressure is obtained within said device (2).
11. 4 A method according to one of the claims 13, c h a r a c t e r i z e d in that some selected volumes (16,17) within the device (2) are filled with water or a liquid of a higher density than water to ballast the buoyancy device (2).
12. 5 A saddleshaped buoy (2) adapted to support at least one longitudinal element (1) submerged into water, and in particular riser cables or umbilicals (1) passing between a sub sea well and a floating device on the surface of the ocean, where the saddleshaped buoy (2) is hollow and comprises at least one internal space (12,16,17) adapted to be put in communicating connection with the surroundings via at least one valve, and anchoring devises (19,20) adapted to fasten the buoy (2) to at least one anchor (7,8), c h a r a c t e r i z e d in that the complete saddleshaped buoy (2) is manufactured from a lightweight material being corrosion resistant and seawater resistant, preferably a laminated FRP material, the saddleshaped buoy (2) is designed as one single structure comprising at least one internal chamber (12), and that each chamber (12) is provided with at least one valve (13) adapted to be opened/closed to the surroundings.
13. 6 A saddleshaped buoy as claimed in claim 5, c h a r a c t e r i z e d in that the buoy has the shape of a "saddle", substantially arranged underneath the riser(s) (1) and has integrated in it at least one guiding recess (9,10,11) as the radius of the curvature of said saddleshaped buoy (2) along said guiding recesses (9,10,11) is equal to or above the minimum allowable radius of curvature for said riser cable (1).
14. 7 A saddleshaped buoy (2) as claimed in one of the claims 5 or 6, c h a r a c t e r i z e d in that the buoy (12) is provided with at least one additional buoyancy element (21) having a constant buoyancy.
15. 8 A saddleshaped buoy (2) as claimed in claim 7, c h a r a c t e r i z e d in that the buoyancy element(s) (21) of constant buoyancy is (are) integrated in the wall of said saddleshaped buoy (2).
Description:
BUOYANCY DEVICE AND METHOD FOR USING SAME.

The present invention relates to a method for locally imparting additional buoyancy to a longitudinal body emerged in water, and also relates to a buoyancy device adapted to perform said method.

The invention in particular relates to use in con- nection with plants comprising risers and/or umbilicals arranged between a submarine connection and a floating equipment positioned at the surface. The invention in particular relates to a plant comprising dynamic risers of a flexible type or so-called "umbilicals", passing from the seabed to a vessel or to a platform not standing on the seabed, but moving in a flexible mooring. A buoyancy device according to the present invention will reduce the strain in the risers, a strain caused by the weight of the risers themselves and possible loads. The riser cables and/or the pipes will in a conventional manner rest on the buoyancy device having the shape of a buoy, and enclose the same along an angle extending to a maximum of 1800. Conventionally such buoyancy devices are anchored to the seabed by wires, steel ropes or chains, so that the buoyancy devices are positioned and maintained in the water between the seabed and the surface.

In connection with previously known buoyancy devices used in connection with dynamic risers, e.g. a buoy developed for use on the Guillemot oil field, separate pressure tanks made of steel have regularly been used, and these tanks are in turn connected to a steel structure including a frame and recesses with a shape adapted to risers. Such previously known pressure tank systems lead to many disadvantages, of which the most important ones are mentioned below. It is also referred to US patents Nos.

4.793.737 and 5.505.560, giving examples of similar techniques.

Conventional pressure tanks are often made from steel.

Steel is heavily corroded when exposed to sea water, and accordingly the tanks have to be dimensioned to resist the pressure of water at the working depth. As a result the buoy will be very heavy and must be installed by means of speci-

fic vessel having a derrick with a sufficient lifting capacity for the heavy steel buoys. In addition the buoys have to be filled by air already on the surface to avoid internal corrosion problems that have to arise if water would be pumped out of the tank after installation.

Accordingly the buoy has to be pulled down to its desired position due to the large buoyancy, before installation. The buoyancy and therefore also the volume must be exceptionally large, as the buoyancy must compensate the high intrinsic weight of the buoy, again due to the use of steel. Even if internal corrosion is avoided as seawater never comes in contact with the inner side of the buoyancy device, a thorough external corrosion protection must be obtained by means of surface protection and sacrificial anodes. All these precautions result in very high costs during the mounting process and during maintenance. Regular inspections are also required to avoid damages due to corrosion.

The object of the present invention is to provide a new buoyancy device adapted to be used in connection with dyna- mic riser systems where the above-mentioned disadvantages are avoided. This is partly obtained by using a new method during deployment, as the buoyancy device is laid out while the substantial part of the internal volume of the buoyancy device communicates freely with the surroundings. This feature ensures that the structure of the buoyancy device is not exposed to large and detrimental external pressures.

Accordingly also the internal volume of a buoyancy device according to the present invention will be exposed to seawater during the laying out operation. Such exposure is accepted as the new construction preferably is manufactured from a material being corrosion resistant against sea water.

A preferred material may be glass reinforced plastics (GRP), however, other composites reinforced by fibres may also be used.

The features mentioned above also give other advantages for buoyancy devices according to the present invention. As composite materials having fibre reinforcement, e.g. built up from KEVLAR or GRP are materials with a low density, the requirements to hoisting capacity are reduced drastically.

The low weight also makes it possible to collect several buoyancy devices on the site by means of one minor vessel, which again reduces the on-site mounting costs further. In addition the buoyancy device may be installed in a completed version, i.e. including the anchoring lines connected to the buoy while the weight of this line may be compensated in advance by means of internal or external buoyancy elements.

However, this does not exclude that the anchoring line instead may be connected first when the buoyancy element has been lowered down to the site. Accordingly the mounting method will be very flexible and may be adapted to local conditions. The buoy may be designed so that it is neutral (neither sinking nor floating) or has limited buoyancy when submerged in water.

The selected material ensures that corrosion problems will not arise, and this again makes it possible to use later filling with air and controlling of the overpressure in the buoyancy chambers. Even ballasting by use of seawater may take place without problems.

The shape of the design also gives the solution accord- ing to this invention a very high flexibility and freedom to select shapes and designs appropriate for the using con- ditions. As an example the saddles by which the risers are supported may be implemented directly on the external sur- face of the buoyancy device. The design of the body of the buoyancy element itself, accordingly may be adapted to the minimum accepted bending radius of the dynamic riser or umbilical used. Integrating the buoyancy tank or the buoyancy tanks in the buoyancy element will also be simple, and the buoyancy device may be moulded as one single unit of GRP material or a similar suitable artificial material, such as a composite material comprising reinforcing fibres.

Finally the buoyancy device may comprise a plurality of internal chambers of suitable shape and arrangement, and each such internal chamber may be provided with valves which again allow filling of selected chambers with seawater when used as ballast chambers, while other chambers may be filled by a gas, preferably air, to adjust the buoyancy. When the buoyancy tank or tanks consisting of GRP material are filled

with air, they may be filled until the air pressure corre- sponds to the prevailing water pressure at this depth, and therefore the walls of the buoyancy device will not be exposed to a large, external pressure, which, in connection with conventional solutions, could bring the buoyancy chambers to implode.

Finally the tank or the tanks may be equipped with excess pressure valves to prevent over-pressure within the tank during filling with air. If an internal excess pressure value is used, a possible leak will result in some air bleeding out before the device reduces its buoyancy.

Therefore, a possible leak may be detected before a detectable reduction of the buoyancy itself has ocurred.

To give a more clear and unambiguous understanding of the present invention, it is referred to the detailed description of an embodiment given below, and to the accompanying drawings in which: Fig. 1 shows a buoyancy device designed to support the complete weight or a part of the weight of one or more riser cables or similar elements, in perspec- tive view, and Fig. 2 shows a cross section through a buoyancy device to give a better understanding of the sub-division in separate compartments and the more detailed design of the buoyancy device.

Already now it may be pointed out that the same refer- ence numbers are used in both figures when found appropri- ate, that the scales used on the different figures or within each single figure not necessarily are identical, and that the drawings mainly are meant to explain the principle of the invention while details of the design not required to understand the invention, may be omitted to avoid crowded drawings.

In Fig. 1 a section comprising five riser cables 1 is shown. These cables may be several hundred metres long, but on the figure only a short length is shown where the cables are passing over a longitudinal buoyancy device 2, supported by the same. The buoyancy device 2 on the figure is anchored by lines 3,4 collected to wires 5,6 which again is connected

to heavy anchoring plates 7,8 on the seabed. All such equipment is of course surrounded by water so that the buoyancy device 2 is floating in a level above the seabed determined by the length of the wires 5,6 and the anchoring lines 3,4.

The buoyancy device is on its upper side provided with guiding recesses 9 to accomodate each single cable 1, and these guiding recesses may preferably be made as wedge- shaped openings between two protruding ribs 10,11 to accommodate cables 1 having different outer diameters.

The buoyancy device 2 may be constructed from a thin material which not necessarily has high mechanical strength, however, a very corrosion resistant material compatible to sea water, and the material may preferably have surfaces protected against fouling.

When the buoyancy device shall be positioned, valves (not shown in Fig. 1), which represent a communication between the interior of the buoyancy device and its exterior, are kept in their open positions so that portions of the internal volume more or less will be filled with water. Accordingly the internal and external pressure of the buoyancy device 2 will be equal during the submerging procedure. It should already now be pointed out that the internal volume of the buoyancy device 2 may be subdivided in a plurality of chambers, each having one or more valves communicating with the surroundings. Thus, each single chamber may be filled with water or even with a liquid having a higher density than water, for ballasting, while other portions of the internal volume may be filled by gas or, as mentioned above, may communicate directly with the surrounding sea water to be filled by same. Normally the buoyancy device 2 will, before being submerged in water, have its buoyancy adjusted in such a manner that it will sink in water and at the same time being ballasted in such a manner that it will be oriented with the saddle and its guiding recesses 9 facing upwards and with its anchoring eyes or devises 19,20 facing downwards as shown on the figure. All the chambers ought to be or may be filled with liquid during the submerging process. Necessary buoyancy may

be obtained by separate buoyancy members which possibly may be integrated within the tank.

When the buoyancy device 2 has reached correct depth and has been anchored to the anchoring plates 7,8, the buoyancy of the complete buoyancy device may be adjusted by filling some of the chambers with additional gas, e.g. by means of divers or by means of an ROV (remote operated vehicle). Once the buoyancy has been adjusted as wanted, the valves are closed.

In this manner a stable support of one or a plurality of cables 1 may be obtained between the seabed, on the cables' path towards the surface. Several such buoyancy devices may of course be used, possibly mounted at different levels above the seabed, and adjusted to relieve a certain percentage of the total strain of the cable.

When details of the construction are considered, it is referred to Fig. 2 which shows a cross section through a buoyancy device 2 according to Fig. 1.

Within the shown cross section the main chamber of the buoyancy device consists of one separate chamber or space 12. However, the buoyancy device 2 may be separated in several chambers or compartments, e.g. by means of cross- wise or longitudinal partitions in the shown chamber 12.

Each of the chambers obtained has to be equipped with a communication channel to the surroundings, e.g. via the valve panel 13 as shown on the figure.

In Fig. 2 it is also assumed that additional ballasting chambers 16,17 may be arranged, e.g. as in the shown embodi- ment within beads 14,15 arranged at diametrical opposite side edges of the buoyancy device 2. These further ballast- ing chambers 16,17 may be provided with separate valves, e.g. adapted for filling with water or similar fluid. On the figure it is also assumed that the surface 18 pointing upwards, has such a shape that the cables 1 supported by the surface 18 of the buoyancy device, have to be configured according to the shape of this surface. Accordingly it is an advantage that the design is accomplished so that the cable cannot obtain a curve having a radius with a detrimental small radius, as shown at R. The beads 14,15 have not to be

hollow and enclose ballasting chambers. Alternatively the beads 14,15 may possibly only be a structure designed as a "skirt" to support the riser where it leaves the buoyancy device.

As understood from Fig. 2, the saddle 9,10 may at the upper surface 18 of the buoyancy device 1 be integrated in the wall of the device and either may be moulded together with same or made separately and later fastened to the device in a conventional way. Similarly a partition (shown with dashed lines on the figures) may be arranged to separate one upper portion 21 of the device. This upper portion may comprise a separate buoyancy element, e.g.

integrated in the wall structure.

It should be mentioned that the invention may be modified in different ways without leaving the scope of the invention. Thus, different materials may be used if only corrosion resistant and compatible to seawater, GRP is only mentioned as one preferred material. The wall thickness may be rather small as the differential pressure does not have to be large, however, the wall thickness may be increased at desire, to give a stable and compact design enduring the prevailing pressure. Portions of the material may also have a pore structure and such pores/spaces may possibly be filled with a different gas than air. The internal pressure in the spaces 12 and/or in the pores included in a porous material, may preferably be substantially equal to the pressure in the surrounding water at the working level.

However, the pressure may be increased to exceed the mentioned surrounding pressure, so that a certain over- pressure exists within the buoyancy element 12. Thus, it will be ensured that if a leak arises, the total buoyancy will be maintained until the leak is detected and the required precautions are taken. By separating the internal volume of the buoyancy device with several cross-wise partitions, the buoyancy along the buoyancy device 2 may be adjusted according to the weight of the cables 1 supported by each single chamber. If wanted, the buoyancy device may be provided with fastening or clamping members adapted to fasten the longitudinal element 2 to the element(s) 1.