As oil and gas companies push the frontiers of their operations, the offshore marine construction industry has to keep up. And in this case, keeping up means furnishing oil and gas extraction, transport and processing facilities with the most rugged materials available. Polyurethane has long been a frontline choice for various oil and gas operations, as it is with the offshore construction industry, which overlaps with much of the oil and gas field. Before extraction can begin, the platform has to be built, whether it’s a shallow fixed rig or a technologically impressive SPAR platform, and along the way, polyurethane will prove useful to the task.
Polyurethane – An Essential Building Block
It’s no surprise, but oil and gas extraction operations rely heavily on long stretches of pipe, and getting that pipe there takes a collection of pipe laying vessels and technologies. From the very first part of the process, polyurethane is there to facilitate the kind of extensive pipe laying operations that are typical of deep water construction. But how is polyurethane filling its role as a leading material in the field?
1. Polyurethane is the ideal material for handling long lines of pipe. Pipe handling begins onshore, where long lines of pipe are drawn onto cargo barges with lifts. These lifts may be fitted with polyurethane roller cradles to help ease the pipe into place, and to give the lift operator greater control over placement and movement. Once on the cargo barge, the pipe is eventually moved over to the pipe laying vessel, where again, polyurethane roller cradles will afford maximum control and safety over the process.
The job has only begun. As the pipe moves through the beveling, clamping, welding, cooling, blasting and sleeve application processes, readying the pipe for installation into the wellhead, it is polyurethane rollers that keep the line under precise control of the crew. Heavy duty rollers, fitted with attachments to help anchor the line in place are typically utilized, and they are rock steady even while handling tons of pipe at once. Polyurethane’s low friction surface ensures no sticking, and allows operations to keep the line moving at a safe, steady speed that slots in perfectly with pipe laying speeds.
2. Polyurethane is reliable and does its job quietly. Polyurethane is not sensitive to the elements like metal and handles both pressure and heat better than plastics. There is little to worry about with polyurethane, as it can tolerate extreme levels of abrasion and impact, heat and cold, wet and dry. It is impermeable to most airborne biological threats, so it will not attract mold growth.
3. Polyurethane can be molded in several forms, and to any level of hardness. In pipe laying operations, rigid elastomers are a regular choice for line handling. More flexible polyurethane can be developed for applications where the material must give and warp before returning to its original shape. An example of flexible elastomers doing their job is current dispersal strakes, which are designed to redirect current forces that might interfere with wellhead components. During installation, these strakes are subjected to powerful compression, but must return to their original shape following installation to function. Polyurethane can even be fabricated as a high density foam, which is typically filled in field joint cavities to give the line additional stability.
4. Polyurethane can be used to retrofit, replace or refurbish. Polyurethane has near limitless potential as a moldable material, so it can be used as a replacement for components that have worn out. It can also be used to refurbish tools, usually in the form of a polyurethane spray that coats the tool. Polyurethane coatings impart the durability that the material is known for, extending the lifespan of tools and components significantly. Polyurethane can also be molded into components with a standardized design or components with a custom design. Marine’s engineers will assist with the drawing, prototyping and testing processes, ensuring the client gets the component they need for the job.
Polyurethane is the present and the future of pipe laying and other offshore construction projects. As oil and gas companies look to stretch the limits of platform technology further and further, polyurethane will be there to make the impossible possible, and the difficult doable.