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Introduction

As oil and gas exploration and production moves to deeper waters such as the Gulf of Mexico, offshore Angola or Brazil, floating production systems are increasingly being used. Floating systems are required in water deeper than 200-300 m and cannot be connected by rigid steel pipes, requiring the use of flexible risers to connect the subsea well to surface vessels.

Flexible Riser and Structure
Figure 1 Flexible Riser and Structure

Flexible riser pipes (Figure 1) are complex multi-layered structures with around 12,000 km installed worldwide3. Current non-destructive testing (NDT) techniques, such as ultrasound or eddy current, cannot reliably assess their condition until it is too late and a failure has occurred. They often require removal of the flexible protective coating and cannot penetrate all the layers of the pipe. Radiography (Figure 2), widely used in medical diagnos-tics (X-rays), is the ideal technique for flexible risers as it penetrates through all the layers in the riser structure, giving a full picture of the entire structure.

Radiography Inspection Techniques
Figure 2 Radiography Inspection Techniques

The objective of this work is to rapidly bring to market a new product, RiserSure, based on novel subsea digital radiography detector that is able to see right through the riser structure, providing detailed information on any damage to the various layers from which the riser is made. One of the major developments will be to improve the deployment method of the detection system and to scan the riser 360°.

It is forecasted that if 70% of flexible risers are inspected every three years there will be a market for nearly 250 machines worldwide by 2023. It is anticipated that if RiserSure is brought to market rapidly, outpacing the competition, there is an opportunity to capture at least 30% of this market. With a selling price of €550k and 55% margin, plus income from after-sales support and a new NDT service, this would deliver revenues of €90M with a profit of €50M cumulative over this period with annual revenues from sales and services of €30M, creating 139 new jobs.