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Title:
A HOSE COUPLING SYSTEM AND A METHOD FOR COUPLING A COUPLING STAB OF A HOSE TO THE SYSTEM
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2021/256935
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The invention relates to a hose coupling system comprising - a receptacle for receiving a coupling stab of a hose and for establishing fluid connection with the coupling stab, the receptacle being connected to a frame; - tilt actuators for tilting the receptacle and for locking the orientation of the receptacle relative to the frame; - a guiding arm for guiding a hoisting line for hoisting the coupling stab into the receptacle, wherein the guiding arm is configured to guide the hoisting line through the receptacle to the frame such that the hoisting line does not contact any other part of the receptacle; and - a guiding arm actuator for retracting the guiding arm from the guiding position so that the coupling stab can couple to the receptacle. The invention further relates to a method for coupling a coupling stab of a hose to the system.

Inventors:
AUNVIK THOMAS (NO)
RISETH ROAR FØRLAND (NO)
Application Number:
PCT/NO2021/050126
Publication Date:
December 23, 2021
Filing Date:
May 20, 2021
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
MORAY GROUP AS (NO)
International Classes:
B63B27/24; B63B27/34; B67D9/02; F16L37/30; F16L37/50
Domestic Patent References:
WO2001034460A12001-05-17
WO2002028765A12002-04-11
Foreign References:
EP2435745A12012-04-04
US20090295150A12009-12-03
FR2902411A12007-12-21
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HÅMSØ PATENTBYRÅ AS (NO)
Download PDF:
Claims:
C l a i m s

1. A hose coupling system (110) comprising

- a receptacle (50) for receiving a coupling stab (10) of a hose (20) and for establishing fluid connection with the coupling stab (10), the receptacle (50) being connected to a frame (57);

- a guiding arm (72) for guiding a hoisting line (73) for hoisting the coupling stab (10) into the receptacle (50); and

- a guiding arm actuator (74) for retracting the guiding arm (72) from the guiding position so that the coupling stab (10) can couple to the receptacle (50), c h a r a c t e r i s e d i n that the system (110) further comprises tilt actuators for tilting the receptacle (50) and for locking the orientation of the recep tacle (50) relative to the frame (57), and that the guiding arm (72) is configured to guide the hoisting line (73) through the receptacle (50) to the frame (57) such that the hoisting line (73) does not contact any other part of the receptacle (50) when the guiding arm (72) is in a guiding position and the orientation of the receptacle (50) is locked so that a centre axis of the receptacle (50) is substantially parallel with a portion of the hoisting line (73) running between the guiding arm (72) and the frame (57) without contacting any other part of the receptacle.

2. The hose coupling system (110) according to claim 1, wherein the tilt actuators are hydraulic cylinders.

3. The hose coupling system (110) according to claim 1 or 2, wherein the receptacle (50) is attached to a gimbal (56), and wherein the tilt actuators comprise at least one roll actuator for tilting the gimbal (56) including the receptacle (50) an angle around the pivot axis of the gimbal (56), and at least one pitch actuator for tilting the receptacle (50) an angle around an axis which is substantially parallel to the plane of the gimbal (56) and substantially perpendicular to the pivot axis of the gimbal (56).

4. The hose coupling system (110) according to any of the preceding claims, where in the guiding arm actuator (74) is a hydraulic cylinder.

5. The hose coupling system (110) according to any of the preceding claims, where in the tilt actuators are automatically controllable based on force measurements to reduce any entrapped forces in a coupling between the receptacle (50) and the coupling stab (10).

6. A method for coupling a coupling stab (10) of a hose (20) to the hose coupling system (110) according to any of the preceding claims, wherein the method com prises the steps of: a. setting the guiding arm (72) in guiding position so that the guiding arm (72) guides the hoisting line (73) through the receptacle (50), and locking the orientation of the receptacle (50) so that the centre axis of the receptacle (50) is substantially parallel with the portion of the hoisting line (73) running between the guiding arm (72) and the frame (57) without contacting any other part of the receptacle (57); b. hoisting the coupling stab (10) towards the receptacle (50) using the hoist ing line (73); c. retracting the guiding arm (72) from the guiding position before the coupling stab (10) reaches the receptacle (50); and d. coupling the coupling stab (10) to receptacle (50).

7. The method according to claim 6, wherein the step of coupling the coupling stab (10) to the receptacle (50) additionally comprises unlocking the orientation of the receptacle (50) to reduce any entrapped force in the receptacle (50).

8. The method according to claim 6, wherein the step of coupling the coupling stab (10) to the receptacle (50) additionally comprises tilting the receptacle (50) to re duce any entrapped force.

Description:
A HOSE COUPLING SYSTEM AND A METHOD FOR COUPLING A COUPLING STAB OF A HOSE TO THE SYSTEM

The invention relates to a hose transfer system and a method for coupling a coupling stab of a hose to the hose coupling system.

To provide a fluid transfer system between a floating vessel and a rig or between two ves sels, a fluid line, such as a flexible hose, for transferring fluid must be interconnected therebetween. Prior to providing the fluid transfer system, the flexible hose is typically stored on a reel arranged on one of the vessel or rig. An end portion of the hose is provid ed with a coupling element configured for connection to a mating coupling element ar ranged on the fluid transfer unit arranged on the other rig or ship.

For simplicity, the vessel that initially carries the hose is hereinafter denoted vessel, while the rig or vessel carrying the fluid transfer unit is denoted rig.

To provide fluid communication between the vessel and rig, the coupling element ar ranged on the end portion of the hose, must be transferred from the vessel to the rig for connection to the mating coupling element provided on the fluid transfer unit on the rig. Hitherto, at least one crane has been used for moving the coupling element of the hose horizontally and vertically into abutment with the coupling element of the fluid transfer unit, whereupon the coupling elements are connected manually to provide the required fluid communication between the vessel and rig. This is a time-consuming method, and experi ences indicate approximately 3 hours for each one of the connection and disconnection operations. However, due to safety regulations such an operation requires in at least some jurisdictions a so-called weather window for carrying out the operation. A weather window depends inter alia on planned time for the operation plus a so-called unforeseen time.

If the weather window is not available, the operation must be postponed. A postponed operation results in adding considerable costs to the operation. Further, in an emergency situation that requires disconnect of the fluid transfer system, a manual and time- consuming operation is required.

There is therefore a need for a method and a system for providing the fluid transfer sys tem independently of a weather window. Thus, there is a need for a method and a system that is independent of utilizing a crane, and a substantially automatic connection of the coupling elements on the hose and the fluid transfer unit. It is further a desire to provide a method and a system for automatically disconnected in an emergency situation.

The inventor has surprisingly found that a so-called hot stab disclosed in EP 2,673457 B1 is suitable for forming a basis for a male coupling stab for connection to a leading end of the hose on the vessel.

EP 2,673457 B1 discloses a stab comprising a fixed part provided with at least one fluid port and a rotatable sleeve provided with at least one bore. By rotating the rotatable sleeve by means of a handle, the bore of the sleeve may be selectively brought into and out of fluid communication with the fluid port to allow and prevent fluid communication, respectively, through the stab.

EP 2435745 B1 and WO 0134460 A1 disclose coupling devices for transferring fluids be tween two vessels.

The invention has for its object to remedy or to reduce at least one of the drawbacks of the prior art, or at least provide a useful alternative to prior art.

The object is achieved through features, which are specified in the description below and in the claims that follow.

The invention is defined by the independent patent claims. The dependent claims define advantageous embodiments of the invention.

There is disclosed a method for providing fluid communicating between a floating vessel and an installation, such as an offshore installation or a ship, the installation comprising a fluid transfer unit, the method comprising:

- connecting a first end portion of a pulling line to a male coupling stab provided with a valve arrangement for controlling fluid flow through the stab, the stab being arranged at a leading end of a fluid hose initially stored on a spool on the floating vessel, the trailing end of the hose connected to a fluid system on the floating vessel,

- transferring a second end portion of the pulling line to the fluid transfer unit comprising a female receptacle operatively connected to a fluid system, the female receptacle provided with a valve arrangement for controlling fluid flow through the receptacle, and connecting said second portion to a guiding line having a first end portion operatively connected a winch forming part of the fluid transfer unit, and a second end portion running through the female receptacle;

- activating the winch to spool the guiding line and the pulling line onto the winch while at the same time unspooling the fluid hose from the spool on the floating vessel; - continue winching of the pulling line until the male stab connects to the female recepta cle; and opening the valves of the stab and the receptacle for fluid flow to allow fluid transfer through the hose between the floating vessel and the installation.

Preferably, the valve of the male coupling stab, hereinafter also denoted male stab, is initially closed to avoid water ingress when transferring the male stab and the hose from the floating vessel to the installation.

By using a winch comprising a guiding line running through the female receptacle, and connecting the pulling line to the guiding line, the hose can be connected to the fluid trans fer unit without using a crane. This has the effect that fluid transfer system can be provid ed by means of the winch instead of a crane. A winch can normally be operated inde pendently of a weather window. The only manual operation required by an operator is to connect the pulling line to the guiding line prior to winching the pulling line through the female receptacle and onto a spool of the winch.

The method may comprise providing the pulling line by means of a leading portion consti tuted by a rope, and a trailing portion, the trailing portion being connected to the male stab, the method comprises, transferring the leading portion from the floating vessel to the fluid transfer unit, and transferring the trailing portion of the pulling line to the installation by pulling the leading portion of the pulling line to the fluid transfer unit.

The transfer of the leading portion of the pulling line may be provided by means of a suit able apparatus, such as for example a so-called line thrower known per se. The leading portion may typically be a rope. By using a rope suitable for being transferred from the floating vessel to the fluid transfer unit arranged on a rig or a ship, i.e. another floating vessel, the trailing portion of the pulling line may for example be a wire having a high ten sile strength.

The method may comprise disconnecting the leading portion of the pulling line from the trailing portion of the pulling line, and connecting the trailing portion of the pulling line to the guiding line. Winching in the leading portion of the pulling line, which may typically be a rope, is thus avoided. This has the effect of a reduced wearing of the leading portion of the pulling line.

The connection between the male stab arranged on the leading end of the hose, and the female receptacle operatively connected to the fluid transfer unit may be provided by means of a quick coupling known per se.

The method may further comprise disconnection of the fluid transfer system by means of the following steps:

- closing at least the valve of the male stab for fluid flow to prevent fluid flowing through the stab;

- releasing the male stab from the female receptacle;

- start unwinding the pulling line from the winch and releasing the pulling line from the guiding line; and

- winding the hose onto the reel on the floating vessel.

Closing at least the valve of the male stab may further comprise closing also the valve of the female receptacle.

Preferably, the method further comprises providing the female receptacle with an emer gency disconnect system for disconnecting the male stab from the female receptacle.

Such an emergency system may comprise providing a sensor apparatus configured for measuring a tension between the female receptacle and the male stab to measure tension form the hose, and configuring the sensor apparatus to issue a signal to a control system operatively connected to actuators for closing the valves of the female receptacle and the male stab, and activating disconnect means of the female receptacle and the male stab, when a tension measured by the sensor apparatus exceeds a predetermined level, whereby the stab with the hose releases from the female receptacle.

The sensor apparatus may typically be a load cell.

There is also disclosed a system for providing fluid communication between a floating vessel and an installation, such as an offshore installation comprising a fluid transfer unit, the system comprising:

- a male stab for communicating a fluid, the male stab connected to a leading end of a spoolable hose configured for fluid communication with a fluid system on the floating ves sel, the male stab provided with a valve for opening and closing for fluid communication, wherein the system further comprising:

- a female receptacle operatively connected to the fluid transfer unit provided with a winch configured for bringing the male stab means of a pulling line connected to the male stab, into mating contact with the female receptacle, the fluid transfer unit operatively connected to a fluid system, wherein the female receptacle comprises:

- a valve for opening and closing for fluid communication; and - a locking device for locking the stab with respect to the receptacle.

The trailing end of the hose is typically connected to a fluid system being in fluid commu nication with a fluid receptacle on the floating vessel.

An end portion of the male stab may be provided with a quick release configured for dis connect from the end portion of the male stab in a controlled disconnect, the quick release further comprising a quick release connector for attaching to an end portion of the pulling line, the quick release connector being configured for disconnect from the quick release in an emergency situation so that the pulling line is disconnected from the quick release and the male stab when the quick release connector is activated to disconnect. This has the effect that the pulling line remains on the winch of the fluid transfer unit, and no unwinding of the pulling line is required, and no manual disconnecting of the pulling line from the guiding line is required.

The quick release may be activated to disconnect from the male stab by means of a re lease actuator being responsive to an activation signal from a control system arranged in connection with the fluid transfer unit. The control signal may typically be initiated by an operator. Further, the quick release connector may be activated to disconnect from the quick release by means of a release actuator being responsive to an activation signal from a senor, as will be discussed below. The quick release and the quick release connector may be of a type known per se, for example as disclosed in EP 2,673, 457 B1.

The activation signal may be initiated by an operator. Alternatively, or additionally to an operator initiated activating signal, the activation signal may be provided by a sensor ap paratus configured for measuring a tension between the female receptacle and the male stab to measure tension from the hose, the sensor configured to issue a signal to the con trol system operatively connected to a valve actuator for closing at least the valve of the stab, and the release actuator for activating disconnect of the quick release connector when a tension measured by the sensor apparatus exceeds a predetermined level, whereby the quick release and male stab with the hose, releases from the quick release connector still being connected to the female receptacle. The sensor may typically be a load cell.

Providing a valve actuator for closing the valve of the stab by means of a signal from a control system has the effect that any fluid in the hose is prevented from discharging when the stab releases from the quick connector. Any spill of fluid within the hose may thereby be prevented. Preferably, the valve of the stab is closed before the stab is released. Preferably, the valve of the female receptacle is also provided with an actuator for control ling opening and closing of the valve of the female receptacle.

An advantage of closing also the valve of the female receptacle, is that spill of fluid flowing in the fluid transfer system is at least substantially prevented. When also the valve of the female receptacle is activated by means of an actuator being response to a control signal from the control system, the valve is preferably closed substantially simultaneously with the valve of the male stab.

To facilitate correct axial orientation of the male stab with respect to the female recepta cle, the female receptacle and the stab may be provided with orientating means.

The female receptacle may comprise a gimbal for facilitating connection between the fe male receptacle and the male stab when one or both of these are inclined with respect to an imaginary vertical axis. This has the effect that the gimbal may allow vertical orientation of the female receptacle even if the fluid transfer unit is inclined due to for example an ocean swell heeling the installation. Further, the gimbal may also facilitate connection be tween the male stab and the female receptacle in a situation where the male stab is sub ject to a sideway drag caused for example by a drift of the vessel. Such a sideways drag may result in a longitudinal axis of the male stab being inclined with respect to a vertical direction.

In a first aspect, the invention relates more particularly to a hose coupling system compris ing

- a receptacle for receiving a coupling stab of a hose and for establishing fluid con nection with the coupling stab, the receptacle being connected to a frame;

- tilt actuators for tilting the receptacle and for locking the orientation of the recepta cle relative to the frame;

- a guiding arm for guiding a hoisting line for hoisting the coupling stab into the re ceptacle, wherein the guiding arm is configured to guide the hoisting line through the receptacle to the frame such that the hoisting line does not contact any other part of the receptacle when the guiding arm is in a guiding position and the orienta tion of the receptacle is locked so that a centre axis of the receptacle is substan tially parallel with a portion of the hoisting line running between the guiding arm and the frame without contacting any other part of the receptacle; and a guiding arm actuator for retracting the guiding arm from the guiding position so that the coupling stab can couple to the receptacle.

Such a hose coupling system may for example be used in the method and the system disclosed above for providing fluid connection between a floating vessel and an installa tion, such as an offshore rig or vessel, for example as a fluid transfer unit. The hose cou pling system may have the advantages that the hoisting line will run from the guiding arm to the frame without sliding against any other part of the receptacle, at least when the ori entation of the receptacle is locked so that the centre axis of the receptacle is substantially parallel with the portion of the hoisting line running between the guiding arm and the frame without contacting any other part of the receptacle. For example, the hoisting line may run from a sheave on the guiding arm to a pulley on the frame, and the receptacle may then be locked in an orientation so that the centre axis is substantially parallel with a line run ning between the sheave on the guiding arm and the pulley on the frame. Typically, this direction will be substantially vertical. In this way the hoisting line will not be worn down, and the risk of breaking is reduced. In addition, the hoisting line will also not wear on or otherwise interfere with any parts of the receptacle, for example seals for sealing the fluid connection or any part which is involved in the coupling mechanism between the coupling stab and the receptacle. The hosting line may be any line which is involved in hosting the coupling stab to the receptacle, so both the guiding line and the pulling line described above may fall be referred to as a hoisting line. The guiding arm guides the hoisting line towards the centre of the receptacle, while the tilt actuators may ensure that the orienta tion of the receptacle is locked during hoisting of the coupling stab, but allowed to move during and/or after coupling to reduce any entrapped forces in the receptacle. This hose coupling system is therefore a reliable and durable system, which may be particularly ad vantageous at offshore situations where it is difficult or time-consuming to repair equip ment, and where the vessel and rig are required to have a certain distance due to safety concerns or operate within a short weather window. The maximum tilt angles in different directions may be determined by the specific embodiment. The tilt actuators may for ex ample be hydraulic, electric, or pneumatic cylinders, which may be particularly reliable, and/or motors, or a combination of these. Similarly, the guiding arm actuator may for ex ample be a hydraulic, electric, or pneumatic cylinder, or a motor. When the guiding arm actuator is retracted, the guiding arm is moved away from the opening of the receptacle for receiving the coupling stab, whereby the coupling stab can couple to the receptacle.

The receptacle may be attached to a gimbal, and the tilt actuators may comprise at least one roll actuator for tilting the gimbal including the receptacle an angle around the pivot axis of the gimbal, and at least one pitch actuator for tilting the receptacle an angle around an axis which is substantially parallel to the plane of the gimbal and substantially perpen dicular to the pivot axis of the gimbal. In this way most of the tension in the system can be carried by swivels and the gimbal, as opposed to if the receptacle is carried entirely by for example three or four tilt actuators. Typically, two pitch actuators and two roll actuators may be used, where each roll actuator connects the frame to an opposite side of the pivot axis of the gimbal. In this way the gimbal and receptacle will perform a roll tilt if one roll actuator is extended while the other is retracted.

The hose coupling system may comprise a control system for controlling the tilt actuators and may typically also be configured to measure the force acting on the tilt actuators. In this way any entrapped forces in the coupling may be measured or deduced.

The tilt actuators may be automatically controllable based on force measurements to re duce any entrapped forces in a coupling between the receptacle and the coupling stab. This will constantly optimize the orientation of the receptacle according to the forces with out need of human intervention, which may be beneficial.

In a second aspect, the invention relates more particularly to a method for coupling a cou pling stab of a hose to the hose coupling system according to the first aspect of the inven tion, wherein the method comprises the steps of:

- setting the guiding arm in guiding position so that the guiding arm guides the hoist ing line through the receptacle, and locking the orientation of the receptacle so that the centre axis of the receptacle is substantially parallel with the portion of the hoisting line running between the guiding arm and the frame without contacting any other part of the receptacle;

- hoisting the coupling stab towards the receptacle using the hoisting line;

- retracting the guiding arm from the guiding position before the coupling stab reaches the receptacle; and

- coupling the coupling stab to receptacle.

Using this method will prevent any significant wear on the hoisting line or any parts of the receptacle.

The step of coupling the coupling stab to the receptacle may additionally comprise unlock ing the orientation of the receptacle to reduce any entrapped force in the receptacle. By unlocking the orientation, for example setting hydraulic cylinders in floating mode, the sys tem will in a passive way reduce any entrapped forces in the receptacle and/or the cou- pling. Alternatively, the step of coupling the coupling stab to the receptacle may additional ly comprise tilting the receptacle to reduce any entrapped force. Such an active tilting of the receptacle may reduce any entrapped forces even further.

In the following is described an example of a preferred embodiment illustrated in the ac- companying drawings, wherein:

Fig. 1a shows of portion of a floating vessel provided with a hose comprising a male stab, the floating vessel being adjacent an offshore installation com prising a fluid transfer unit;

Fig. 1b shows an initial step of transferring a rope from the floating vessel to the offshore installation;

Fig. 1c-1f show in a larger scale further steps of a method for providing the fluid con trol system;

Figs. 1g-1j show principle steps of a method for controlled disconnect of the fluid trans fer system. Fig. 1k- 11 show a principle method wherein a quick lease has been activated;

Fig. 1m shows an ROV prior to connecting a male stab to a pulling line lowered to a sea floor;

Fig. 1n shows in larger scale a detail wherein an operator connects a pulling line to a guiding line operatively connected to the fluid transfer unit; Figs. 2a-2c show in larger scale a male stab connected to a leading end of a hose, be ing hoisted towards a female receptacle operatively connected to a fluid transfer unit;

Figs. 3a-3e show a hose coupling system according to the invention wherein a recepta cle comprises a guiding arm configured to guide a hoisting line through the receptacle.

Any positional indications refer to the position shown in the figures. In the figures, same or corresponding elements are indicated by same reference numer als. For clarity reasons some elements may in some of the figures be without reference numerals.

A person skilled in the art will understand that the figures are just principle drawings. The relative proportions of individual elements may also be strongly distorted.

In the figures reference numeral 1 denotes a system for transferring fluid. The system 1 comprises a male fluid stab 10 connectable to a female receptacle 50 forming part of a fluid transfer unit 100.

The male stab 10 is provided with a valve for opening and closing for fluid communication. In a prototype of the system 1, the male stab 10 is substantially as disclosed in EP

2,673,457 B1 to the company Blue Logic AS, Sandnes, Norway. The male stab 10 is con nected to a leading end of a hose 20 connected to a spool 22 arranged on the floating vessel 25. A trailing end of the hose 20 is typically connected to a fluid line or a fluid res ervoir (neither shown) in the floating vessel 25, so that a fluid can be communicated to or from the floating vessel 25 via the stab 10 and hose 20, and said fluid line or fluid reser voir.

The female receptacle 50 is operatively connected to and forms part of the fluid transfer unit 100. The fluid transfer unit 100 is arranged on an installation 250, such as for exam ple an offshore installation, a drilling rig, a ship. A ship may typically be an FPSO-vessel (FPSO -Floating Production, Storage and Offloading). The female receptacle 50 is provid ed with a valve 51 (see figs. 2a-2c) for opening and closing for fluid communication through the receptacle 50. The female receptacle 50 is operatively connected to a winch 60 forming part of the fluid transfer unit 100. The winch 60 is capable of hoisting the male stab 10 arranged on the leading end of the hose 20 out of the water and into mating con- tact with the female receptacle 50.

An embodiment of a method for providing a fluid transfer system between a floating vessel 25 and a fluid transfer unit 100 arranged on an installation 250, is shown in great principle in figures 1a to 1f.

In fig. 1a the floating vessel 25 is positioned at a safe distance from an installation, here shown as a ship 250, for example an FPSO. A safe distance may typically be minimum 80m. The floating vessel 25 holds a hose 20 wound on a spool 22. A male stab 10 is con nected to a leading end portion of the hose 20. A pulling line 24 is connected to an end portion of the stab 10. In the embodiment shown, the pulling line 24 extends from the male stab 10 to a deck 26 of the floating vessel 25 wherein the pulling line 24 is stored prior to being transferred to the ship 250 as shown in fig. 1b.

In fig. 1b, an operator 28 on the deck 26 of the floating vessel 25 transfers an end portion of the pulling line 24 to an operator 128 being on a deck 126 on the ship 250, close to the fluid transfer unit 100. The pulling line 24 is typically transferred by means of a pneumati cally operated line thrower commercially available in the marked.

The pulling line 24 may advantageously have a leading portion 24’ in the form of a rope suitable for being thrown by the line thrower, and a trailing portion 24” providing a connec tion between the leading portion 24’ and the male stab 10. By using a rope suitable for being thrown by a line thrower from the floating vessel 25 to the ship 250, the trailing por tion 24” may for example be a wire having a high tensile strength. A leading end portion of the rope 24’ is provided with a mass 23, made for example of plastic or another suitable material, to receive kinetic energy from the line thrower for “dragging” the rope 24’ from the vessel 25 to the ship 250.

In fig. 1c, the operator 128 on the ship 250 pulls the leading portion 24’ (shown by dotted line) by hand until the trailing portion 24” reaches the operator 128. Then, the leading por tion 24’ is disconnected from the trailing portion 24”. Thereafter, the trailing portion 24” is connected to a guiding line 62 operatively connected to the winch 60 of the fluid transfer unit 100, as shown in fig. 1d. Spooling of the guiding line 62 and the trailing portion 24” of the pulling line 24 onto a drum of the winch 60 is then commenced.

In figures 1e and 1f, the feeding out of the hose 20 from the spool 22 on the floating ves sel 25 has commenced. Feeding the hose 20 from the spool 22 continues until the male stab 10 has been brought into contact with the female receptacle 50 of the fluid transfer unit 100, as shown in fig. 1f.

By opening valves in the male stab 10 and in the female receptacle 50, a fluid can be communicated in a desired direction between the floating vessel 25 and the fluid transfer unit 100. A great advantage of the method disclosed herein is that the fluid communication between the floating vessel 25 and the fluid transfer unit 100 is provided without using a crane and a time-consuming manual connection carried out by an operator, as has hither to been a common method for providing a fluid transfer system. The connection operation disclosed herein is therefore substantially independent of a weather window. The only manual operations consist substantially in transferring the pulling line 24 and connecting the pulling line 24 to the guiding line 62 operatively connected to the winch 60.

Figures 1 g — 1j show a controlled disconnect operation.

In figures 1g, the male stab 10 has been released from the female receptacle 50 and low ered into the sea by feeding the pulling line 24 (here the trailing 24” portion) out from the winch 60. This operation continues in fig. 1h until a connection between the trailing portion 24” of the pulling line 24 and the guiding line 62 is below the receptacle 50. Then the con nection is disconnected. In fig. 1 h, the pulling line 24 has been disconnected from the guideline 62 of the winch 60, and spooling of the hose 20 onto the spool 22 on the floating vessel 25 has commenced. It should be noted that the pulling line 24 is illustrated as a floating rope.

In fig. 1i, an operator 28 collects a portion of the floating pulling line 24, and in fig. 1j the system is prepared for commencing a new operation or the floating vessel 25 is ready for departure.

Figures 1k and 11 show an embodiment wherein the system 1 comprises a quick release as will be discussed in more details below. In fig. 1k, the male stab 10 has been discon nected from a quick release connector 10” connected to the trailing portion 24” of the pull ing line 24 instead of feeding out the pulling line 24” from the winch 60 and disconnecting the pulling line 24 from the guiding line 62 as indicated in figures 1i-1j. A quick release operation without any unwinding of the pulling line 24” may be important in an emergency disconnect situation. Subsequent an emergency disconnect operation as indicated in fig. 1k, the male stab 10 is no longer connected to the quick release connector 10” and the pulling line 24” which remains operatively connected to the fluid transfer unit 100.

In one embodiment, the fluid transfer unit 100, further comprises a cutting device (not shown) configured for cutting the pulling line 24 between the female receptacle 50 and the winch 60 so that the male stab 10 and any quick release 10' and quick release connector 10” are released from the female receptacle 50. The cutting device may for example be a guillotine-arrangement known per se. A primary purpose of such a cutting device is to provide back-up safety system should the activation of the quick release connector 10” fail. The cutting device may for example be a guillotine apparatus known per se.

Fig. 11 shows one way of re-connecting the pulling line 24” to the male stab 10 by using an ROV R (ROV- Remotely Operated Vehicle). The pulling line 24” with the quick release connector 10” has been lowered to the sea floor. The quick release connector 10” is then coupled to the quick release 10’ which is connected to the male stab 10, by means of the ROV R, whereupon the pulling line 24” with its quick release coupling 10”, quick re leased’ and the male stab 10 are hoisted to the fluid transfer unit 100, until the male stab 10 is reconnected to the female receptacle 50.

Fig. 1n shows in larger scale a detail of the fluid transfer system 100 when the operator 128 is in the process of connecting the trailing portion 24’ of the pulling line 24 to the guid ing line 62 of the winch 60. This operation is carried out between the steps illustrated in figures 1c and 1d.

Turning now to figures 2a-2c, showing parts of the system 1 in more details, and with fea tures not shown in the very principle drawings 1a-1n.

Figures 2a- 2c show in a larger scale a perspective view and side views, respectively, details of the male stab 10 being hoisted towards the female receptacle 50 forming part of the fluid transfer unit 100. It should be noted that the fluid transfer unit 100 shown in fig ures 2a-2c has a different configuration than that indicated in figures 1a-1n, but the oper ating principle is the same.

The female receptacle 50 is operatively connected to a frame 57 cantilevered from a cabi net 52 comprising the winch 60, a control system and an operator panel 54 for controlling the fluid transfer unit 100 and valve actuators for operating the valve 51 of the female re ceptacle 50 and also the valves of the male stab 10.

The female receptacle 50 comprises a funnel 53 provided with a recess 53’ configured for receiving a guide bar 11 of the male stab 10 so that the male stab 10 is correctly oriented with respect to the female receptacle 50 to allow fluid communication between an aperture 13 in the male stab 10 and a fluid pipe 55 of the female receptacle 50. The fluid pipe 55 is in fluid communication with a fluid system of the installation 250 shown for example in fig. 1 a.

The female receptacle 50 is provided with a gimbal 56 to allow some skewing of the fe male receptacle 50 with respect to the frame 57 extending from the cabinet 52. The gim bal 56 may allow vertical orientation of the female receptacle 50 even if the cabinet 52 and the frame 57 are inclined due to for example an ocean swell heeling the installation 250 shown for example in fig. 1a. Further, the gimbal 56 may also facilitate connection be tween the male stab 10 and the female receptacle 50 in a situation where the male stab 10 is subject to a sideway drag caused for example by a drift of the vessel 25 (shown in figures 1a-1m). Such a sideways drag may result in a longitudinal axis of the male stab 10 being inclined with respect to a vertical direction.

To monitor a load from the male stab 10 and the hose 20 connected thereto, the gimbal 56 is provided with a sensor in the form of a load cell. The load cell communicates with the control system of the fluid transfer unit 100. If a tension measured by the sensor ex ceeds a predetermined level, the control system is configured to issue a signal to the ac tuators for controlling the valves of the male stab and the female receptacle 50 to a closed position, and activating disconnect of a quick release 10’ operatively connected to the male stab 10. The purpose of the quick release connector 10” is to disconnect from the quick release 10’, and thus the male stab 10 with the hose 20, while the quick release connector 10” and guiding line 24” connected to a quick release connector 10” still being connected to the female receptacle 50. By closing the valves of the female receptacle 50 and the male stab 10 automatically when the load cell measures a tension above a prede termined level, and before the quick release connector 10” is activated to disconnect, there will be substantially no spill of fluid even if fluid is flowing in any direction between the vessel 25 and the installation or ship 250.

Preferably, the system comprises two types of quick release systems, hereinafter denoted emergency quick disconnect, EQD, namely an electronic EQD and a mechanical EQD.

The electronic EQD function are triggered by signals from the load cell. The load cell con stantly sends weight / tension information to the control system within the fluid transfer unit 100.

An integrated program will activate signals to the EQD if a pre-programmed tension value is exceeded, and activate disconnect of the quick release connector 10”.

In one embodiment, the EQD further comprises audible and/or visual alarms which will be activated by the control system to notice the operator that tension measured by the load cell is close to reaching the pre-set value. An operator can then decide whether or not to activate the EQD manually via the control panel 54.

The mechanical EQD is fully mechanical and will function as a redundant or back-up sys tem in case of power failure or similar occurs on the control system. The mechanical EQD shall be adjusted to release if the load cell measures a tension exceeding the pre-set val ue.

The mechanical EQD is configured to close the valves on both male stab 10 and the fe- male receptacle 50 before the quick release connector 10” is activated to disconnect.

The quick release 10’ and the quick release connector 10” themselves and the operation thereof is of a type known per se.

From the above, it should be understood that the method and a system for providing the fluid transfer system works independently of a weather window. In one embodiment, the method and system further comprises an emergency quick disconnect, EQD, configured to close valves of the male stab 10 and the female receptacle prior to activating a discon nect so that any spill of fluid flowing through the system is substantially avoided.

Fig. 3a shows a hose coupling system 110 according to the invention comprising a recep tacle 50 connected to a frame 57. The receptacle 50 comprises hydraulic cylinders 70, 71 as tilt actuators for tilting the receptacle 50 relative to the frame. In the embodiment shown, two hydraulic cylinders 70 are configured for tilting the receptacle 50 an angle with respect to a first pivot axis, and two cylinders 71 are configured for tilting the receptacle 50 an angle with respect to a second pivot axis being perpendicular to the first pivot axis. Typically, the centre axis of the receptacle 50 is substantially vertical as in the shown em bodiment, and the tilt actuators 70, 71 are thereby configured for tilting the receptacle 50 relative to this vertical direction as reference direction. Tilting with respect to the first and second pivot axes are denoted pitching and rolling, respectively. Pitching is a tilt of the receptacle 50 relative to a gimbal 56, and rolling is a tilt of the gimbal 56 including recep tacle 50 relative to the frame 57. This combination makes the receptacle 50 able to tilt in all directions, relative to a reference direction, up to certain angles determined by the spe cific embodiment. Pitching is performed by extending or retracting both hydraulic cylinders 70, which ends are connected to the gimbal 56 and the receptacle 50, whereby the recep tacle 50 will tilt relative to the gimbal 56. Rolling is performed by extending one of two hy draulic cylinders 71 while retracting the other, as the two hydraulic cylinders 71 are con nected to the gimbal 56 on each side of the pivot axis of the gimbal 56. The receptacle 50 comprises a guiding arm 72 having a sheave 76 configured to guide a hoisting line 73 (not shown in fig. 3a) through the receptacle 50 as illustrated in fig. 3b. The hoisting line 73 may be or include the guiding line 62 and/or pulling line 24 shown in the previous figures. The guiding arm 72 may be retracted from the guiding position using a guiding arm actua tor 74, here in the form of a hydraulic cylinder. When a coupling stab 10 (not shown in any of the figures 3a-e) is connected to the receptacle 50, fluid may flow through a radial aper ture (such as aperture 13 in the coupling stab 10 shown in fig. 2c) and a fluid pipe 55 on each side of the gimbal 56 to and from a main fluid outlet 75 for connection to an installa- tion such as rig or vessel. By establishing fluid connection radially between the coupling stab 10 and receptacle 50, the receptacle 50 can be constructed with an open rear 79 (see fig. 3b) end at the top for the hoisting line 73 to run through.

Fig. 3b shows a cross-sectioned view of the hose coupling system 110 of fig. 3a, which is cut through the centre of the receptacle 50 to illustrate the hoisting line 73 running through the receptacle 50. The guiding arm 72 is in guiding position. In the figure, the hoisting line 73 is connected to a distant coupling stab (not shown) being offset with respect to a center axis of the receptacle 50, which causes the bend of the hoisting line 73 at the sheave 76 of the guiding arm 72. The guiding arm 72 has an extended portion 80 on each side of the sheave 76 to assure that the hoisting line 73 does not slip off the sheave 76. The extend ed portions 80 protrude in the direction towards the vessel/rig whereon the frame 57 is installed. Such configuration of guiding arm 72, sheave 76, and extended portions 80 may typically be preferred since the hoisting line 73 in general will be connected to a coupling stab 10 from a distant second vessel, whereby the hoisting line 73 will be pulled away from the vessel/rig towards the second vessel. The hoisting line 73 thereby extends from the sheave 76 of the guiding arm 72 through the receptacle 50 to a pulley 77 on the frame 57, without the hoisting line 73 touching any other part of the receptacle 50 than the sheave 76. In this way there will be no or little wear on the hoisting line 73 or any part of the receptacle 50, for example seals or part of a locking mechanism or coupling mecha nism. Without the guiding arm 76, the hoisting line 73 would slide on the front end 78 of the receptacle 50. Additionally, at this stage of the hoisting of the coupling stab 10 and hose 20 (not shown) by the hoisting line 73, the cylinders 70 and 71 will be locked to pre vent any pitching or rolling of the receptacle 50. This will assure that the hoisting line 73 will also not contact the rear end 79 of the receptacle 50, as a pitching or rolling of the receptacle 50 may cause the rear end 79 of the receptacle 50 to be displaced slightly.

Fig. 3c shows the hose coupling system 110 of figures 3a-3b, wherein the guiding arm 72 has been retracted from the receptacle 50 by the hydraulic cylinder 74 to allow the cou pling stab 10 (not shown in fig. 3c) to couple to the receptacle 50. Typically, at this stage the receptacle 50 will be allowed to pitch and roll by setting the hydraulic cylinders 70, 71 in a float mode, or, if the hose is pulling on the coupling stab 10, the hydraulic cylinders 70, 71 may be controlled actively, either manually or automatically, for the receptacle 50 to be tilted towards the direction in which the hose is pulling the coupling stab 10. This may reduce any entrapped forces in the connection.

Figures 3d-3e show the hose coupling system 110 of the figures 3a-3c, wherein the re- ceptacle 50 is in pitch and roll configuration, respectively. In fig. 3d, the hydraulic cylinders 70 are extended and the receptacle 50 therefore is in pitch configuration in the direction away from the vessel/ship whereon the frame 57 is installed. In fig. 3e, the gimbal 56 is rotated and thereby the receptacle 50 tilted relative to the frame 57, i.e. the receptacle 50 is in roll configuration. The roll configuration is obtained by extending one of the hydraulic cylinders 71 (not visible in fig. 3e) and retracting the other as described above. The com bination of pitching and rolling enables the receptacle 50 to be tilted an angle in every direction relative to a predetermined axis, typically vertical, up to a predetermined maxi mum angle depending on the specific embodiment of the hose coupling system 110. It should be noted that the above-mentioned embodiments illustrate rather than limit the invention, and that those skilled in the art will be able to design many alternative embodi ments without departing from the scope of the appended claims. Use of the verb "com prise" and its conjugations does not exclude the presence of elements or steps other than those stated in a claim. The article "a" or "an" preceding an element does not exclude the presence of a plurality of such elements.