Differentiating through technology

Elaine Maslin

January 1, 2016

Aging infrastructure, deep waters, high-pressures and rising levels of H2S and CO2 are all on the hit for Technip’s VP of technology development. Elaine Maslin spoke to Group SVP Subsea Innovation & Technology Laurent Decoret.

Laurent Decoret. Photo from Technip.

Laurent Decoret has an enviable job, not least in today’s cash-strapped environment. He is Technip’s VP Technology Development.

While many are cutting costs, Technip has increased its research and development (R&D) budget, from under €60 million (US$63.4 million) in 2010, to more than €75 million ($79.3 million) in 2014.

On Decoret’s desk is everything from unmanned surface vessels and to aluminum power core umbilicals. The French engineer, graduated from the Ecole Centrale de Lyon, gave a rundown of some of the future technologies’ we can expect from Technip.

The aluminum core power cable is a technology the firm hopes to bring to the industry early this year, Decoret says. Already used onshore for power networks, Aluminum core power cables have been used in offshore wind farms, to save weight and costs. As projects move into deeper waters, with subsea processing adding to power requirements, copper cable can reach limitations.

“We are in the final stages of qualification with the last full scale testing [mid-November],” Decoret says, with qualification to 3000m water depth and including a wet mate 18/30kV connector system. “The key benefit of using aluminum is that it has much better mechanical performance than copper in terms of strength and weight and capability to accommodate loading, as well as a significant increase in performance in fatigue behavior and a reduction in weight,” he says. “This is something we see as very pertinent for deepwater power umbilicals, especially with more and more subsea processing.”

Technip’s umbilical prototype manufacture and qualification uses a 300sq mm 18/30kV triplex extruded and dry cured design with Aluminum 6000 series corrosion resistant conductor material, supported by high-strength steel strands to take stress off the working core. Specifications on future projects will depend on umbilical length and power requirements.

To create extra strength aluminum core power umbilicals, it has high strength steel strands to support the cable, taking the stress off the working cable section.

Technip is also looking at carbon fiber armor for flexible pipe, instead of steel, to reduce the weight of flexibles in ultra-deepwater by up to 50%, as well as having greater mechanical strength. Such technology could also be used for oil offloading lines, which traditionally use steel armor, which then has to be supported in the water by buoyancy modules, because of its weight.

Technip's current work in this area led to it being awarded a contract to supply the first flexible pipes for Petrobras’ ultra-deepwater and fluid harsh Libra pre-salt field offshore Brazil.

Technip is also working on next generation carbon fiber armor to cope with higher temperatures, as well as CO2 and H2S, and its potential use in other layers of pipe.

For flexible pipe monitoring, Technip is in the final qualification phase of its Morphopipe technology, a MEMS- (microelectronic mechanical systems) based riser curvature monitoring system, which uses MEMS sensors mounted on the outside of the riser, protected by a sheath, at a critical bending point to provide live and historic motion data. The current design is a hard wired system, but future systems could be wireless.

Decoret says Technip is adding fiber optic sensing to electrically traced pipe-in-pipe technology, to bring more accuracy to pipe heating, as well as trace-heated blankets. The firm is also developing an in-service riser inspection system (Iris), as well as an anti-H2S sheath – a polymer with special components which captures H2S – and nano materials to improve insulation.

“For Technip, differentiating through technology is a strategic priority,” Decoret says, through both in-house development, but also by working with specialist providers in the likes of polymers and composites.

For Decoret, the key challenges for the industry today are aging infrastructure, as well as tackling deepwater reserves, and complex and difficult reservoirs, with high pressures and temperatures, H2S and CO2, all while remaining reliable.

“Today, 2000m water depth, in West Africa, the Gulf of Mexico, Brazil, these are now regular,” he says. “Today, we see that we are going to go beyond that and many operators are looking at reserves in deeper waters towards 4000m.”

Decoret’s career has seen him working for Coflexip out of Aberdeen as a flexible pipe design engineer, before rising up the ranks to head the firm’s UK engineering department. In 2007, he returned to Paris to coordinate the engineering of the Total E&P Angola Pazflor SURF project, one of the largest subsea contracts to be undertaken by Technip at that time.