Coatings Expert Sees 'Step-Change' in Subsea Flow Assurance
Introduced three decades ago, Dow Chemical's polyurethane-based coating systems applied to offshore oil and gas pipelines and related infrastructure have helped exploration and production companies to exploit deeper wells, according to a flow assurance specialist with the company.
"They've been a really durable and versatile tool to help operators exploit hydrocarbon resources," Alex Lane, senior business segment manager – transmission with Dow Oil & Gas, said at the 2014 Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston. The coatings, which protect and insulate line pipe and other equipment from harsh conditions on the seabed, offer good, lasting adhesion to suitably prepared metal surfaces and can be applied quickly, he added.
Dow Oil & Gas, which markets various polyurethane-based coating systems under the "Hyperlast" trade name, has formulated the insulation products for more than 530 deepwater projects in the Americas, North Sea, West Africa and Asia-Pacific since 1984. Although the technology should fill an important niche for years to come, even time-tested polyurethane-based coatings may not always be the best choice for protecting and insulating infrastructure as operators pursue deeper subsea wells flowing crude at temperatures unforeseen back in the 1980s, Lane said.
"You're seeing a lot of wells now with crude oil flowing at 100-plus degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit)," he explained. "In the future, temperatures will reach 150 degrees Celsius (302 degrees Fahrenheit) and above. That's going to require a real step-change in flow assurance."
Dow Oil & Gas has developed new hybrid polyether thermoset technology to help meet changing industry needs, Lane said. The company markets the newer technology under the "Neptune" trade name.
"It's a new kind of chemistry for the industry," Lane noted. "We've tried to retain things people like about polyurethane – compactness, speed of application and ease of use – and combine it with some new features."
For instance, the Neptune product line does not contain the glass spheres, boosting simplicity, while retaining excellent thermal and insulation properties, he said. Having past multiple tests at 160 degrees Celsius (320 degrees Fahrenheit), the Neptune system has been conceived to coat all components: flow lines, field joints and subsea equipment with a similar material, he added.
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