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Title:
MAGNETIC CONNECTION SYSTEM FOR CONNECTING SUBSEA COMPONENTS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2021/233577
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Apparatus and methods for connecting a first subsea component (1000, 1220) with a further subsea component (1310) are disclosed. The apparatus for connecting the first component (1000, 1220) with the further component (1310) comprises a tool member (700, 1210) releasably securable to the first component (1000, 1220), at least one first guide member (1010) for guiding the first component (1000, 1220) into alignment with the further component (1310), and at least one magnetic field generating element (720) for selectively urging the first component (1000, 1220) into an interlocked state with the further component (1310).

Inventors:
GUO, Junxiang (GB)
HOWGATE, David (GB)
Application Number:
PCT/EP2021/025175
Publication Date:
November 25, 2021
Filing Date:
May 06, 2021
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
GE OIL & GAS UK LIMITED (GB)
International Classes:
F16L1/26; E21B33/038; B63C11/52; E21B43/013; B25B27/10; B25B27/16
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BRP RENAUD & PARTNER MBB (DE)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS:

1. Apparatus for connecting a first component with a further component, comprising: a tool member releasably securable to a first component; at least one first guide member for guiding the first component into alignment with a further component; and at least one magnetic field generating element for selectively urging the first component into an interlocked state with the further component.

2. The apparatus as claimed in claim 1 , wherein the at least one magnetic field generating element comprises at least one electromagnet element or at least one permanent magnet element or a combination thereof.

3. The apparatus as claimed in claim 1 or claim 2, wherein the tool member and/or further component comprises the at least one magnetic field generating element.

4. The apparatus as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein the tool member further comprises: a shaft element, extendable from a first end region of the tool member, comprising a shaft head at an end region of the shaft element for selectively engaging with the further component when the shaft element is in an extended and/or rotated state with respect to the tool member.

5. The apparatus as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein the first component comprises a flying stab plate or a multi-quick connector.

6. The apparatus as claimed in any preceding, wherein the further component comprises a fixed stab plate or a multi-quick connector.

7. A system for connecting a first component to a further component, comprising: at least one remote transporter; a tool member; a first component that is movable by the at least one remote transporter; a further component; at least one guide member for guiding the first component into alignment with the further component; and at least one magnetic field generating element for urging the first component towards the further component upon generating a magnetic field.

8. The system as claimed in claim 7, wherein the at least one magnetic field generating element comprises at least one electromagnet element or at least one permanent magnet element or a combination thereof.

9. The system as claimed in claim 7 or claim 8, wherein the at least one magnetic field generating element is supported on the remote transporter or the tool member or the further component.

10. The system as claimed in any one of claims 7 to 9, wherein the first component comprises a flying stab plate or a subsea control module or a power and communications module.

11. The system as claimed in any one of claims 7 to 10, wherein the further component comprises a fixed stab plate or a subsea control module or a power and communications module or a mounting base.

12. The system as claimed in any one of claims 7 to 11, wherein the at least one remote transporter is a remotely operated vehicle or a guidance tooling system.

13. A method of connecting a first component with a further component, comprising the steps of: engaging a first component with a tool member; urging, via the tool member, the first component towards a further component; guiding the first component into alignment with the further component via at least one first guide member; and generating a magnetic field via at least one magnetic field generating element, thereby selectively urging, via a magnetic force generated by the magnetic field, the first component into an interlocked state with the further component.

14. The method as claimed in claim 13, further comprising the steps of: inserting a shaft head provided at an end region of a shaft element, extendable from a first end region of the tool member, in a first direction into a through slot in the further component; rotating the shaft element about a longitudinal axis of the shaft element; and urging the shaft element in a reverse direction opposite to the first direction, thereby engaging at least one abutment surface of the shaft head, with at least one internal surface region of the further component proximate to the through hole.

15. The method as claimed in claim 14, further comprising: subsequent to engaging the shaft element with the further component, engaging the shaft element with the magnetic field, thereby urging the first component into an interlocked state with the further component, via linear motion of the tool member provided by the magnetic force generated by the magnetic field.

Description:
MAGNETIC CONNECTION SYSTEM FOR CONNECTING SUBSEA

COMPONENTS

The present invention relates to a method and apparatus for connecting subsea components. In particular, but not exclusively, the present invention relates to a connection system that includes one or more magnetic elements for connecting subsea components, whereby activation of a magnetic element drives a first component toward a further component.

Conventionally, connection systems in the subsea oil and gas industry are provided to secure components such as umbilical lines and fluid carrying pipes together, and to secure flying components to fixed structures.

Such connection systems are commonly performed by a mechanical screw thread mechanism that is rotationally driven by hydraulic power from a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). Typically, these screw type connections are used between recoverable and non-recoverable components such as Subsea Control Modules (Recoverable) and Subsea Control Module Mounting Bases (Non-recoverable), and Multi Quick Connect (MQC) Plates and Flying Leads.

The rotational effort provided by the remotely operated vehicle results in the recoverable and non-recoverable components either being drawn together or separating depending upon the direction of rotation. However, such screw mechanisms are prone to failure due to a process called galling. Galling is a process that causes parts of the screw mechanism to seize together, resulting in the inability to draw or separate the recoverable and non-recoverable components.

To overcome the effects of galling, ISO 13628-6 and API 17F requests that threaded mechanisms are provided with the features for releasing a recoverable component from a non- recoverable component if the screw thread becomes seized. This is called secondary release.

Conventional methods of achieving secondary release utilise shear pins that are designed to shear and thereby allow the recoverable and non-recoverable components to be disconnected. However, use of shear pins with screw thread mechanisms can cause premature activation of the shear pins when the screw mechanism is not aligned properly. Furthermore, shear pin debris can block or jam the screw mechanism, thus preventing any rotation at all. Use of a screw mechanism in connection systems also leads to long ROV intervention time. This is due to the need to slowly rotate the screw thread to allow for gradual control of rotation in order to prevent galling.

A further problem with conventional connection systems is that ROV tooling for operating such threaded mechanisms requires hydraulic elements which add additional equipment and weight to the ROV.

It is an aim of the present invention to at least partly mitigate one or more of the above- mentioned problems.

It is an aim of certain embodiments of the present invention to provide a method and apparatus for interlocking components together without the need for hydraulic feed lines to be present.

It is an aim of certain embodiments of the present invention to provide a multi-stage securing strategy for securing separate components together and whereby a magnetic element is used during an interlocking stage.

It is an aim of certain embodiments of the present invention to help prevent components seizing together.

It is an aim of certain embodiments of the present invention to help reduce retention time of ROVs connecting subsea components.

It is an aim of certain embodiments of the present invention to help reduce the amount of equipment required on a ROV for connecting subsea components.

It is an aim of certain embodiments of the present invention to provide apparatus for magnetically interlocking a first component with a further component.

It is an aim of certain embodiments of the present invention to provide a method of magnetically interconnecting a first component with a further component, whereby a magnetic element urges the first component into an interlock state with the further component. According to a first aspect of the present invention there is provided apparatus for connecting a first component with a further component, comprising: a tool member releasably securable to a first component; at least one first guide member for guiding the first component into alignment with a further component; and at least one magnetic field generating element for selectively urging the first component into an interlocked state with the further component.

Aptly, the at least one magnetic field generating element comprises at least one electromagnet element or at least one permanent magnet element or a combination thereof.

Aptly, the tool member and/or further component comprises the at least one magnetic field generating element.

Aptly, the tool member further comprises: a shaft element, extendable from a first end region of the tool member, comprising a shaft head at an end region of the shaft element for selectively engaging with the further component when the shaft element is in an extended and/or rotated state with respect to the tool member.

Aptly, the shaft element is selectively rotatable about a primary axis that extends longitudinally through the shaft element.

Aptly, the shaft head comprises at least one abutment surface for engaging with at least one internal surface region of the further component proximate to a through hole of the further component, subsequent to the shaft head being extended through the through hole.

Aptly, the at least one magnetic field generating element engages the shaft element upon generation of a magnetic field, and the first component is disposed to be urged towards the further component via linear motion of the tool member responsive to generation of the magnetic field.

Aptly, the apparatus further comprises at least one fastening element disposed proximate to a first end region of the tool member.

Aptly, the first component comprises a flying stab plate or a multi-quick connector.

Aptly, the further component comprises a fixed stab plate or a multi-quick connector. Aptly, the tool member and/or the first component and/or the further component comprises the at least one first guide member.

Aptly, the tool member or the first component comprises at least one further guide element for guiding the tool member into alignment with the first component.

Aptly, the at least one magnetic field generating element is configured to engage with the further component upon generation of a magnetic field by the magnetic field generating element.

Aptly, generation of a magnetic force by the magnetic field generating element urges the first component toward the further component, providing the interlocked state between the first component and the further component.

Aptly, the apparatus further comprises at least one securing element for securing the first component to the further component, providing a secured state between the first and further component.

According to a second aspect of the present invention there is provided a remote transporter comprising a tool member comprising at least one magnetic field generating element.

Aptly, the remote transporter is a remotely operated vehicle or a guidance tooling system.

According to a third aspect of the present invention there is provided a system for connecting a first component to a further component, comprising: at least one remote transporter; a tool member; a first component that is movable by the at least one remote transporter; a further component; at least one guide member for guiding the first component into alignment with the further component; and at least one magnetic field generating element for urging the first component towards the further component upon generating a magnetic field.

Aptly, the at least one magnetic field generating element comprises at least one electromagnet element or at least one permanent magnet element or a combination thereof. Aptly, the at least one magnetic field generating element is supported on the remote transporter or the tool member or the further component.

Aptly, the further component comprises at least one securing element for securing the first component to the further component.

Aptly, the first component comprises a flying stab plate or a subsea control module or a power and communications module.

Aptly, the first component further comprises a flying lead.

Aptly, the further component comprises a fixed stab plate or a subsea control module or a power and communications module or a mounting base.

Aptly, the at least one guide member is supported on the at least one remote transporter or the first component or the further component.

Aptly, the at least one remote transporter comprises or supports the tool member.

Aptly, the at least one remote transporter is a remotely operated vehicle or a guidance tooling system.

According to a fourth aspect of the present invention there is provided a method of connecting a first component with a further component, comprising the steps of: engaging a first component with a tool member; urging, via the tool member, the first component towards a further component; guiding the first component into alignment with the further component via at least one first guide member; and generating a magnetic field via at least one magnetic field generating element, thereby selectively urging, via a magnetic force generated by the magnetic field, the first component into an interlocked state with the further component.

Aptly, the step of engaging a first component with a tool member further comprises guiding the tool member into alignment with the first component via at least one further guide element provided by the tool member or the first component. Aptly, the step of engaging a first component with a tool member further comprises releasably fastening the tool member to the first component via at least one fastening element.

Aptly, the method further comprises the steps of: inserting a shaft head provided at an end region of a shaft element, extendable from a first end region of the tool member, in a first direction into a through slot in the further component; rotating the shaft element about a longitudinal axis of the shaft element; and urging the shaft element in a reverse direction opposite to the first direction, thereby engaging at least one abutment surface of the shaft head, with at least one internal surface region of the further component proximate to the through hole.

Aptly, linear motion of the shaft element in at least one of the first or reverse directions is provided by the magnetic force generated by the magnetic field.

Aptly, the method further comprises subsequent to engaging the shaft element with the further component, engaging the shaft element with the magnetic field, thereby urging the first component into an interlocked state with the further component, via linear motion of the tool member provided by the magnetic force generated by the magnetic field.

Aptly, the first guide member is configured to guide the tool member and first component into alignment with the further component from an angle of up to about around 15 degrees from a primary axis of the further component.

Aptly, the first guide member is configured to guide the tool member and first component into alignment with the further component from an angle greater than 15 degrees from a primary axis of the further component.

Aptly, the further guide element is configured to guide the tool member into alignment with the first component from an angle of up to about around 15 degrees from a primary axis of the first component.

Aptly, the further guide element is configured to guide the tool member into alignment with the first component from an angle greater than 15 degrees from a primary axis of the first component. Aptly, the method further comprises the step of securing the first component to the further component via at least one securing element.

Aptly, the method further comprises the step of disengaging the tool member from the first component and/or the further component.

Certain embodiments of the present inventions provide a method and apparatus that can be used to secure components together and that uses an interlocking step in which the components are interlocked together for prior to being secured together using magnetic forces to urge the components together. Aptly the components can be subsea components in a subsea environment.

Certain embodiments of the present invention use a magnetic field, that can be a permanent magnetic field or selectively energisable magnetic field, to urge two components together into an interlocked state. The urging can be provided via a permanent biasing element, such as a spring or resilient element or the like, whose effects are overcome by a magnetic field force. Alternatively or additionally, the urging can be provided by an attractive force created between a metal-magnet or metal-electromagnet or twin electro-magnet interface.

Certain embodiments of the present invention utilise at least one selectively energisable electromagnet to selectively create a magnetic field whereby an attractive force between two elements or a repulsive force between two elements created is used during a sub step of an interlocking step. This helps avoids the need for hydraulic actuators and associated hydraulic feedlines to be provided.

Certain embodiments of the present invention help to reduce hardware required on an ROV.

Certain embodiments of the present invention provide a connection system without threaded mechanisms.

Certain embodiments of the present invention provide apparatus that do not require hydraulics. Certain embodiments of the present invention provide a method that helps reduce intervention time of an ROV for connecting subsea components.

Certain embodiments of the present invention help to reliably interlock a first component with a further component.

Embodiments of the present invention will now be described hereinafter, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

Figure 1 illustrates a subsea environment in which the present invention may be utilised; Figure 2 illustrates a remotely operated vehicle including a magnetic tool;

Figure 3 illustrates a remotely operated vehicle approaching a structure;

Figure 4 illustrates a remotely operated vehicle in contact with a structure;

Figure 5 illustrates a remotely operated vehicle separating from a structure;

Figure 6 illustrates a connection system including a magnetic tool provided on a structure; Figure 7 illustrates a magnetic tool viewed from a side of the tool;

Figure 8 illustrates the magnetic tool of Figure 7 in a retracted state, viewed from a leading end of the tool;

Figure 9 illustrates the magnetic tool of Figure 7 in an extended state, viewed from a leading end of the tool;

Figure 10 illustrates a connector that is movable by an ROV via a magnetic tool;

Figure 11 illustrates alignment of a magnetic tool with the connector of Figure 10;

Figure 12 illustrates a magnetic tool at least partially engaged with the connector of Figure 10; Figure 13 illustrates a magnetic tool engaging a connector of Figure 10 with a structure;

Figures 14 illustrates a flow chart of method steps involved in connecting a connector to a structure via a magnetic tool;

Figure 15 illustrates a magnetic connection system for connecting a subsea transformer module to a mounting base;

Figure 16 illustrates a magnetic connection system for connecting a power and communications module to a mounting base;

Figure 17 illustrates a magnetic connection system for connecting a subsea control module to a mounting base; and

Figure 18 illustrates a magnetic system for covering a mounting base.

In the drawings like reference numerals refer to like parts.

Figure 1 illustrates a subsea environment 100 in which connection systems described hereafter may be utilised. It will be appreciated that certain embodiments of the present invention are not limited to use in subsea environments. Rather certain embodiments are usable in any environment where two components are to be connected to one another remote from where an operator controlling the connection process is located. For example, subsea environments or hazardous environments or hard to access environments.

In the subsea environment shown in Figure 1 subsea structures 121 may be connected to vessels or rigs 122 or to further subsea structures 125 on the seabed 130. Such connections may be formed by umbilical lines, flying leads or pipes 140. Subsea structures 121 on the seabed 130 may also be connected to at least partially floating structures via further connectors 150.

Subsea structures 121 , 125 may include subsea control modules, subsea transformer modules, power and communications modules, which may be secured to the seabed 130 by a mounting base. Installation and interconnection of subsea structures 121 , 125 may be provided by one or more magnetic connection systems. Figure 2 schematically illustrates a remote transporter in the form of a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) 210 including a magnetic tool 220 engaged with a connector 230. Alternatively, a remote transporter may be a guidance tooling system or the like. The magnetic tool 220 may be detachable from the ROV 210. The connector 230 shown is a stab plate. Alternatively, the connector 230 may be a multi-quick connector (MQC) or the like. The ROV 210 may be able to releasably engage the connector 230 via a magnetic field generated by the magnetic tool 220. The magnetic tool 220 may include one or more magnetic field generating elements 235 such as an electromagnet or a permanent magnet or a combination thereof. The magnetic tool 220 illustrated includes a body with an electromagnet 235 provided at a leading end. Alternatively, a plurality of electromagnets may be provided at a leading end of the tool body. The electromagnet 235 includes a coil of wire around a ferromagnetic core. The coil of wire is an insulated copper wire spirally wound around the ferromagnetic core. Aptly, an alternative electrically conductive material may be used for the wire. The number of windings of wire in the coil depends on the thickness of the wire and the size of the ferromagnetic core. The ferromagnetic core has a cylindrical shape, however it will be appreciated that ferromagnetic cores having other shapes may be utilised. The ferromagnetic core of the electromagnet 235 is made from steel. Aptly, other magnetically susceptible materials may be used as a core material in the electromagnet 235. The magnetic tool 220 is powered by the ROV. Alternatively, power to the magnetic tool 220 may be provided by a separate flying lead directly to the magnetic tool. Providing an electromagnet 235 at a lead end of the magnetic tool 220 helps a magnetic field generated by the electromagnet to interact with a further component (not shown).

Aptly, an ROV 210 includes the connector 230 pre-installed, via the magnetic tool or otherwise, prior to deployment of the ROV 210. Alternatively, the ROV 210 may be deployed and subsequently engaged with the connector 230. One or more fastening elements 250 are also provided to fasten the ROV 210 to the connector 230. The fastening elements 250 illustrated in Figure 2 are latches. Two latches 250 are shown, however any number of latches may be utilised to fasten the connector 230 to the ROV 210. Aptly, the fastening elements 250 may be supported on the magnetic tool 250. Alternatively, the ROV 210 may be configured to releasably engage the connector 230 via an interlocking mechanism (not shown). The connector 230 is also shown provided at an end of a flying lead 240. Aptly, the connector 230 may be provided without a flying lead. Releasably engaging a connector via a magnetic tool can reduce intervention time of an ROV relative to intervention times for conventional systems because the ROV can disengage from the connector by simply overcoming the magnetic field generated by the magnetic tool or by deactivating an electromagnet 235 of the magnetic tool. The connector 230 is made of steel. Aptly, the connector 230 may be made of another magnetically susceptible material. Aptly, the connector 230 may include at least one magnetic element such as a ferromagnet or another permanent magnet.

Figure 3 illustrates an ROV 210 engaged with a connector 230 as illustrated in Figure 2, approaching a structure 300 that includes a portion 310 configured to receive the connector 230. Aptly, the portion 310 includes a fixed connector. The fixed connector includes a stab plate. Alternatively, the fixed connector 310 includes a multi-quick connector plate or a manifold. As the ROV 210 approaches the structure 300, a guide member 320 guides the connector 230, engaged with the ROV 210, into alignment with the fixed connector 310 of the structure 300. The guide system 320 is provided on the structure 300. Alternatively, the guide member 320 may be provided on the ROV 210 or on the fixed connector 310.

The ROV 210 is configured to provide sufficient driving force to at least partially engage the connector 230 with the fixed connector 310, however, due the complexity of the connector, a significant force is required to fully engage the connector 230 with the fixed connector 310. Activation of the electromagnet 235 of the magnetic tool 220 generates a magnetic field that helps to urge the connector 230 into complete engagement with the fixed connector 310. Energising the coil of the electromagnet 235 generates a magnetic field that interacts with the fixed connector 310 or a magnetic element supported on the fixed connector 310 or on the structure 300. Interaction of the fixed component 310 with the electromagnet 235 via the magnetic field causes urging in a first direction or a reverse direction depending on polarity of the generated magnetic field. For example, a first polarity of the magnetic field helps to urge the connector 230 in a first direction and drive the connector 230 and the fixed connector 310 together into an interlocked state held by the magnetic field. On the other hand, a reverse polarity of the magnetic field, opposite to the first polarity, helps to urge the connector 230 in a reverse direction, opposite the first direction, and drive the connector 230 apart from the fixed connector 310. An interlocked state is established when the connector 230 is fully mated with the fixed connector 310. Aptly, the interlocked state may be held by an interference fit between the connector 230 and the fixed connector 310. Figure 4 illustrates the connector 230 in complete engagement with the fixed connector 310. Once the connector is fully engaged in an interlocked state, one or more securing elements 410, such as a latch, secures the connector 230 to the fixed connector 310. The securing element or latch 410 is a latching mechanism operable from the structure 300. Alternatively, the latch 410 may be operable by the ROV 210. Aptly, the latch 410 is automated to only engage once a predetermined condition has been met, such as the connector 230 being fully engaged and in an interlocked state with the fixed connector 310. Aptly, the latching mechanism is releasable. It will be appreciated that other securing systems may be utilised, such as a securing pin or a screw or the like. Aptly, the securing element 410 holds the connector 230 and the fixed connector 310 in a secured state.

Figure 5 illustrates the ROV 210 separated from the connector 230, having secured the connector to the fixed connector 310 of the structure 300. The ROV can readily release itself from the connector 230 once the connector is in a secured state with the fixed connector 310 and secured to the structure 300. This is achieved by releasing the latches 250 that fasten the connector 230 to the ROV 210 and de-energising the electromagnet 235. Aptly, the electromagnet 235 of the magnetic tool may already be disengaged prior to releasing the latches 250. This helps the ROV to readily separate from the connection site, thus reducing intervention time for the ROV.

Figure 6 illustrates an alternative arrangement of a magnetic tool 610. The magnetic tool 610 is shown on a structure 620. In Figure 6, the magnetic tool 610 is controlled by a subsea control module 630 or by other control systems (not shown). The magnetic tool 610 includes an electromagnet 635 similar to that described in Figures 2 to 5. Alternatively, the magnetic tool 610 includes a permanent magnet. A connector 640 is shown secured to a ROV 650 by fastening elements 655 such as a latch. As the ROV approaches the structure 620, a guide member 660 helps to guide the ROV 650 and connector 620 into alignment with a fixed connector 670 of the structure 620. Once aligned, the ROV 650 can at least partially engage the connector 640 with the fixed connector 670.

Activation of the electromagnet 635 on the structure 620 then urges the connector 640 into in a first direction to establish an interlocked state with the fixed connector 670, such that the connector 640 is fully engaged with the fixed connector 670. The magnetic tool 670 of the structure in Figure 6 is substantially the same as the magnetic tool shown in Figures 2 to 5. Whilst in the interlocked state, a locking or securing element 680 is used to secure the connector 640 to the fixed connector 670 in a secured state. Once in the secured state, the latches 655 securing the connector 640 to the ROV are released in order to separate the ROV from the structure 620.

Figure 7 illustrates a side view of an alternative magnetic tool 700. The magnetic tool 700 shown in Figure 7 includes a tool body 710 that is configured to be mounted on or in an ROV (not shown). The magnetic tool body discussed in Figure 2 may be similar to the magnetic tool body 710 illustrated in Figure 7. One or more magnetic field generating elements 720, such as an electromagnet or a permanent or a combination thereof, may be provided within the tool body. In the magnetic tool 700 shown in Figure 7, a plurality of electromagnets 720 are utilised. For the magnetic tool shown in Figure 7, a shaft 730 including a shaft head 735 is provided proximate to a leading end of the tool 700. The plurality of electromagnets 720 are disposed around the shaft 730 on an interior surface of the tool body 710. Each electromagnet may be a coil of wire around a ferromagnetic core, as described in Figures 2 to 6. In Figure 7, four electromagnets 720 are shown disposed around the shaft 730. Aptly, more or fewer than four electromagnets may be provided. Alternatively, one or more electromagnets may be disposed within the tool body 710, proximate to a trailing end of the shaft 730 opposite the head end 735.

The tool body 710 includes one or more fastening elements for fastening the magnetic tool 700 to a first component such as a flying connector. Aptly, the tool body 710 may include interlocking elements for interlocking with a first component. The tool body 710 is shown in Figure 7 as having an elongate body. Optionally, the tool body 710 can have any shape that would facilitate a magnetic (field generating) element. The tool body 710 is configured to interface with a remotely operated vehicle via a port in a trailing end of the tool body 710.

The shaft 730 shown in Figure 7 is configured to the slidable within the tool body 710. The shaft 730 shown is substantially cylindrical. The shaft is made from a magnetically susceptible material, such as steel. Optionally, the shaft 730 maybe biased by a biasing element within the tool body 710. The shaft 730 is engaged by energising the plurality of electromagnets 720 such that the shaft 730 extends or retracts responsive to a magnetic field generated by the electromagnets. For example, the shaft may extend or retract depending on polarity of the magnetic field. Alternatively, the shaft may maintain an extended state provided by a biasing element, such that the electromagnet 720 overcomes a biasing force provided by the biasing element to urge the shaft 730 to retract. Figure 8 shows a view from the leading end of the magnetic tool 700 as shown in Figure 7, with the shaft 730 in a retracted state. The shaft head 735 is shown having an arrow-head like profile that is configured to fit into an opening in a further component (not shown) such that rotation and/or translation of the shaft 730 allows the shaft head 735 to interlock with an interior surface of the further component.

Figure 9 shows a view from the leading end of the magnetic tool 700 as shown in figure 7, with the shaft 730 in an extended state. Extension of the shaft 730 allows the shaft head 735 to pass through a port in the further component subsequent to which the shaft head 735 interlocks with the further component via rotation of the shaft. Rotation of the shaft is mechanical. Alternatively, rotation of the shaft may be magnetically induced. A surface on a rear portion of the shaft head 735 interlocks with an interior surface of the further component, such that the shaft head is unable to return through the port in the further component. Extension of the shaft 730 also allows urging of the tool member to urge the first component into an interlocked state with the further component via a magnetic element. Generation of a magnetic field by the electromagnets 720 urges the shaft 730 to retract which, via the shaft head 735 as an anchor interlocked with an interior surface of the further component, helps to urge the first component towards the further component. Urging the first component towards the further component via the magnetic tool brings the first component into an interlocked state with the further component. The interlocked state, held by the magnetic field, is established when the connector and fixed connector are fully mated. An alternative interlocking arrangement to the head and slot interlocking mechanism described above may be provided.

Figure 10 shows a connector that is movable by a magnetic tool illustrated in Figure 7 to 9. The connector 1000 is a first component as described in Figures 2 to 9. The connector 1000 includes a connector head and a connecting pipe (not shown). The connector 1000 is shown with a substantially cylindrical profile and includes a central bore for receiving at least a portion of the magnetic tool shown in Figures 7, 8 and 9. A number of connector ports may be provided in a leading end of the connector 1000. A guide member 1010 is provided at a trailing end of the connector 1000 for guiding a magnetic tool into alignment with the connector 1000. The guide member 1010 is shown having a funnel or conical shape for angling the magnetic tool into alignment with the connector 1000. The connector 1000 includes one or more fastening elements or latching points for fastening the connector 1000 to a magnetic tool. The connector 1000 also includes one or more securing elements or latching points for securing the connector 1000 to a further component. The connector 1000 may be configured to form an interference fit with a further component.

Figure 11 illustrates how a guide member 1010 of a connector 1000 can guide a magnetic tool into alignment with the connector such that a primary access of the magnetic tool aligns with the primary axis of the connector 1000. Alignment of the magnetic tool provided by the guide element 1010 is lateral and angular. Alignment of the magnetic tool provided by the guide element may also be rotational. The guide member 1010 of the connector 1000 may be configured to align the magnetic tool from up to 15 degrees off a primary axis of the connector 1000. Aptly, the guide member may be configured to align the magnetic tool from an angle greater than 15 degrees off a primary axis of the connector 1000.

Figure 12 illustrates a magnetic tool 1210 of Figures 7, 8 and 9, at least partially engaged with a first component such as a connector 1220 also illustrated in Figures 9, 10 and 11. The magnetic tool 1210 may be configured to interlock with the connector 1220. In Figure 12, fastening elements such as latches are provided to secure the tool 1210 to the connector 1220. Alternatively, fastening elements such a securing pin, screw or the like may be provided. The connector 1220 is fastened to the tool 1210 prior to deployment of the ROV. Optionally, the connector 1220 may secured to the tool 1210 after deployment of the ROV. Once the tool 1210 is fastened to the connector 1220, a ROV (to which the tool 1210 is mounted) can drive the tool 1210 and the connector 1220 together towards a further component.

Figure 13 illustrates the tool 1210, secured to the connector 1220, at least partially engaged with a further component 1310 such that the tool and connector are aligned with the further component. A further component 1310 is fixed connector supported on a structure. It is at this stage that a significant force is required to urge the connector 1220 into an interference fit with the further connector 1310. In order to provide the sufficient force required the magnetic tool energises one or more electromagnets, thereby urging the tool, via a shaft of the tool, toward the further component and urging the connector 1220 into an interlocked state with the further component 1310. In an alternative arrangement, magnetic elements may be provided in the magnetic tool or in the further component or both.

Once the connector 1220 is in an interlocked state with the further component 1310, one or more securing elements such as a latching mechanism are used to secure the connector 1220 to the further component 1310 or structure, thereby holding the connector 1220 and the further component 1310 together in a secured state. Once in the secured state, the magnetic elements are deactivated in order to allow the magnetic tool 1210 to separate from the connector 1220 and the further component 1310, subject to releasing fastening elements between the connector 1220 and the magnetic tool 1210.

Figure 14 illustrates a flow chart of the method of connecting a first component with a further component via a magnetic tool or tool member. The first step 1410 of connecting a first component with a further component via a tool member is to guide a tool member into alignment with the first component via a remote transporter such as an ROV. A guide member is provided for guiding the tool member into alignment with the first component. Once aligned, a second step 1420 is provided of engaging the tool member with the first component, which includes a securing step 1430 of interlocking or fastening the tool member to the first component via one or more fastening elements. The tool member and first component can then be manipulated as one unit by the ROV.

In the following step 1440, an ROV urges the first component and tool member towards a further component. A further guide member is provided to guide the tool member and the first component into alignment with the further component. Thus, an alignment step 1450 is provided where the guide member is configured to correct misalignment of the first component of up to about around 15 degrees from a primary axis of the further component. Aptly, the guide member may be configured to correct misalignment of the first component of greater than 15 degrees from a primary axis of the further component. In a subsequent step 1460, the ROV is capable of at least partially engaging the first component with a further component. Partially engaging the first and further components helps ports and other features of the first and further components align prior to fully engaging the first and further components.

At this stage, a significant force is required to bring the first component into a complete interference fit with the further component. This force is provided by a magnetic field generated by a magnetic element. The magnetic element may be provided in the tool member or in the further component or both. The first component may also include a magnetic element. Providing the force by a magnetic field, rather than driving the ROV, helps provide even force across a connector and helps maintain alignment of the first and further components as they are brought into an interlocked state. In the interlocked state, the first and further components are fully engaged and held in this arrangement by the magnetic field generated by the magnetic element. In this step 1470, activation of the magnetic element, such as an electromagnet, generates a magnetic field that urges the connector by magnetic attraction, either directly between first and further components and the magnetic element or indirectly, for example via a magnetically driven shaft of the tool member having a shaft head interlocked with the further component.

Once in an interlocked state, a securing step 1480 utilises securing elements to secure the first component to the further component to provide a secured state. Securing elements include one or more latching mechanisms for releasably securing the first and further components together. Alternatively, an automated locking mechanism may be provided reactive to the first and further components achieving an interlocked state.

Once a secured state has been established, a final step 1490 involves releasing and separating the tool member from the first and further component via the ROV. Releasing may involve disconnecting fastening elements between the tool and the first component. Aptly, the fastening mechanism may be a type of shear mechanism. Aptly this may be a secondary release mechanism. Alternatively, the tool member may remain fastened to the first and further components and released from the ROV, for example by removing the latching mechanism between the tool member and the ROV.

Figures 15 to 17 illustrate alternative arrangements of a magnetic tool. A magnetic tool may be provided for connecting a subsea module to a mounting base. For example, a subsea transformer module (STM) 1510, a power and communications module (PCM) 1610 or a subsea control module (SCM) 1710 (each shown in Figures 15, 16 and 17 respectively) may be connected to a respective mount base 1520, 1620, 1720 via a magnetic tool 1530. Aptly, a combination of subsea modules may be connected to one or more mount bases by a magnetic tool.

A connection system for connecting a subsea module to a mounting base includes a remote transporter in the form of an ROV (not shown). Alternatively, a guidance tooling system or the like may be provided as a remote transporter for manoeuvring the subsea module. Aptly a magnetic tool is provided on or in connection with the ROV for connecting the subsea module to the mount base. A magnetic tool 1530 includes one or more magnetic elements such as an electromagnet, or a permanent magnet, or a combination thereof. Similar to the connection system described for connectors, an ROV may urge or drive a subsea module towards a mount base. Alignment of the module with the mount base may be provided by a guide member 1540 provided either on the mount base or on the subsea module. The guide member 1540 is shown mounted to a mount base in Figure 15 to 18. Activating a magnetic element of the magnetic tool, as the subsea module approaches the mount base, allows the subsea module to interlock with the mounting base. Whilst in an interlocked state, the subsea module may be secured to the mount base by one or more securing elements, such as a latching mechanism or a shear pin type mechanism. The securing elements are shown supported on the guide member 1540 in Figures 15 to 18. Once in a secured state, the ROV can be removed from the connecting site for use elsewhere. Optionally, the magnetic tool remains on or in the subsea module, such that when a subsea module is removed, the magnetic tool may assist with urging and separating the subsea module from the mount base.

Figure 18 shows an alternative magnetic tool arrangement 1800 that includes an ROV 1810 supporting a magnetic tool 1820 from an extension or boom 1830. The extension provides clearance for the ROV to mount components of a particular size and shape. For example, in Figure 18, the extension is shown supporting a mounting base cover 1840 that is shown having a wide profile with relatively low thickness in comparison to a subsea module. Aptly, an extension may be provided to overcome certain environmental features. Otherwise, the magnetic tool arrangement for securing a mounting base cover to a mounting base 1850, shown in Figure 18, operates in a similar manner to the connection systems shown in Figures 15 to 17.

Throughout the description and claims of this specification, the words “comprise” and “contain” and variations of them mean “including but not limited to” and they are not intended to (and do not) exclude other moieties, additives, components, integers or steps. Throughout the description and claims of this specification, the singular encompasses the plural unless the context otherwise requires. In particular, where the indefinite article is used, the specification is to be understood as contemplating plurality as well as singularity, unless the context requires otherwise.

Features, integers, characteristics or groups described in conjunction with a particular aspect, embodiment or example of the invention are to be understood to be applicable to any other aspect, embodiment or example described herein unless incompatible therewith. All of the features disclosed in this specification (including any accompanying claims, abstract and drawings), and/or all of the steps of any method or process so disclosed, may be combined in any combination, except combinations where at least some of the features and/or steps are mutually exclusive. The invention is not restricted to any details of any foregoing embodiments. The invention extends to any novel one, or novel combination, of the features disclosed in this specification (including any accompanying claims, abstract and drawings), or to any novel one, or any novel combination, of the steps of any method or process so disclosed.

The reader’s attention is directed to all papers and documents which are filed concurrently with or previous to this specification in connection with this application and which are open to public inspection with this specification, and the contents of all such papers and documents are incorporated herein by reference.




 
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