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Case study

Keeping production flowing by understanding subsea asset movement – wirelessly

Client: Oceaneering Inc.

November 18, 2021
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An important feature of extending, or even preserving, offshore life of field is to know and understand what is happening with deployed subsea assets. Are they vibrating, perhaps they are slowly walking from their original position, is this happening as a one-off or regularly due to flowline properties? Oceaneering learnt all of this by deploying smart and intelligent sensors at a deep-water development offshore Africa.

The challenge

The worldwide quantity of flowlines, spool pieces, pipeline end termination units, risers and all manner of other installed subsea assets is staggering. All serve as important interconnecting elements in the overall offshore hydrocarbon supply chain. With an aging asset portfolio, it is sometimes very difficult to understand how these assets have been moving during their operational life and what this means to their accumulated fatigue figures and, therefore, safe end-of-life point.

At one offshore field development, Oceaneering, was set a challenge by an international operator. They suspected spool piece movement caused by slugging events, and asked Oceaneering Inc. to provide subsea data for third party analysis so the extent and frequency of movement could be determined. They hoped this would help with the introduction of mitigation measures that would ensure safe and controlled production from the connected producing wells.

With the field located in over 1,000 m of water and with no designed-in points for sensor mounting or hardwired connectivity, this was easier said than done.

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The solution


Oceaneering turned to our wirelessly communicating and intelligent monitoring sensors called Subsea Monitoring, Analysis and Report Technology, or SMART for short. Additionally, a series of Autonomous Monitoring Transponders, or AMTs, were deployed within a seabed array to detect any longer period movement that SMARTs would be unable to detect.

Battery operated SMARTs were chosen as they incorporate a low-power inertial measurement unit, or IMU, that can precisely measure the installed sensor’s six degrees of freedom. This means that 3-axis of rotation and 3-axis of acceleration relating to the SMART sensor’s movement can be measured at very high sampling rates over a measurement window set by the operator.

This measurement window, which can be adjusted acoustically at any time from a topside transceiver, can be set between a minimum period of approximately 5 minutes to continuous recording. However, a one-hour measurement window is far more commonplace.

Once the measurement window has ended, SMARTs analyse the recorded raw data, producing and storing one statistical summary file for each window period. When required, these summary files can be requested for wireless transmission through the water column from each SMART’s location to a topside transceiver using Sonardyne’s fast and robust 6G Wideband 2 acoustic protocol on the Dunker 6 LBL and telemetry transceiver.

Importantly for the operator, all SMART raw, time-series, data is securely recorded and saved in-situ for more detailed analysis post-recovery.

Through the combination of edge analytics, low power electronics and acoustic communications, SMARTs could be installed for over a year. Even longer deployments are achievable by supplying larger battery packs or reducing the sampling frequency.

SMARTs are designed for high frequency motion monitoring, but the operator was equally concerned that longer periods of motion were in play that may have caused the subsea asset to gradually move from its installed position. Thus, monitoring for possible flow induced vibration (FIV) and vortex induced vibration (VIV) was also required. To monitor this motion, Oceaneering Inc. chose another Sonardyne sensor called an AMT.

AMTs are used for long-term survey and monitoring applications where instruments are needed to acquire acoustic ranges and other sensor data, like pressure, temperature, and sound velocities, without any surface control. By creating a Long Base Line (LBL) array of static seabed located AMTs with an AMT on the asset needing to be monitored, highly accurate measurements of any horizontal movement of the monitored asset can be measured, accurately timestamped, and logged. Vertical movement of the asset-mounted AMT can also be determined by the recording of precise pressure sensor information and comparing it to those from the control array.

An additional benefit identified by Oceaneering is that data from the AMTs can be wirelessly recovered using the same topside hardware as that of the SMART, resulting in less topside subsystems.

The results

Oceaneering mobilised the equipment in 2018 and it has been in operation ever since. The performance of the SMARTs in determining motion characteristics, coupled with the motion mitigation measures that were introduced, enabled the operator to continue producing safely and within the design life of the installed spool pieces. What’s more, the operator now has a far better understanding of their accumulated fatigue figures for the spool pieces and is able to determine the safe end-of-life point for their subsea assets.

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