British engineering designers have taken a new approach to subsea emergency breakaway technology, bringing offshore operators cost savings and environmental benefits.
Emergency disconnections most often become necessary when a vessel loses dynamic positioning or the downline hose becomes obstructed, and conventional methods can compromise staff safety, increase costs, and bring the risk of unwanted spillages.
SECC Oil & Gas – a subsidiary of the Self Energising Coupling Company – addresses these issues with the Hot Make Hot Break dry break coupling system, which was patented in 2006 and is now being used for the first time in the North Sea.
Well Ops, one of the Helix group of companies, has incorporated the SECC disconnect system as part of its new subsea intervention lubricator (SIL) package on the Well Enhancer, which recently entered service to provide subsea operators with both open water and riser-based intervention services.
What distinguishes the SECC system is the use of pressure-balanced technology to ensure all connectors remain balanced at any pressure and any depth. This protects subsea equipment by dispensing with guillotines and uncontrolled subsea and surface disconnections in an emergency.
Instead, pressure lines can be quickly disconnected — manually or automatically — under full working pressure, and because the break is 100% dry there is virtually no spillage risk and no hazards posed to personnel.
Reconnection is quick and straightforward, and can be completed at depths of 10,000 ft or greater via ROV without the need to de-pressurise or de-water the high-pressure hose line. This offers significant safety benefits as well as cost savings through both reduced downtime and fewer hours worked.
Key applications for the SECC Hot Make Hot Break system and its range of mid-hose breakaway coupling and connectors include pumping and injection lines, vessel hoses, umbilicals and down lines. Among others are:
- Gas and water injection
- Chemical injection
- Choke and kill
- Pipeline Testing
- Stab connections
- Hot flow.
Matthew Readman of SECC Oil & Gas, and the inventor of the technology, said:
“It is no longer essential for the reconnection to be made manually as the technology is specifically designed to be operated by ROV and this brings significant savings in vessel costs. The approach is also much safer, meaning fewer personnel are placed at risk during the emergency disconnect process.”