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Materials for flexible riser

systems: problems and


solutions
Fraser Moore
Co[texip ( UK) Limited, London, UK

Criteria to be satisfied in the selection of materials for unbonded flexible


risers are first outlined. The paper then describes how three main types
of thermoplastic and two classes of steel meet these requirements, and
briefly discusses selection criteria and materials used for ancillary
equipment for flexible riser systems.

Keywords: dynamic flexible riser, unbonded flexible pipe, high density


polyethelene, Rilsan, Coflon, autensic stainless steels, low alloy carbon
steels

Flexible riser systems are now proven technology in the Rough bore structures
development of hydrocarbon resources in the North Sea.
These are used whenever gas may be present in the
The design of these systems can involve many different
transported fluid. They are most commonly used for
engineering skills, from multiphase flow techniques to
multiphase oil and gas production, gas export, gas lift,
complex nonlinear dynamic analysis. These aspects are
of course important in ensuring the integrity of the system, gas injection and annulus control. The basic structure is
shown in Figure 1 and each layer has the following
but the basic elements which make these stages of design
functions.
possible are structural design and material selection.
Today, flexible risers may be divided into two types
• The inner interlocked steel carcass prevents the
depending on their construction, i.e., bonded or un- collapse of the pressure plastic sheath. Collapse may be
bonded. These terms are fairly explicit, with the bonded caused by either hydrostatic pressure (in the case of a
variety comprising layers of fabric, elastomers and steel damaged external sheath) or build-up of diffused gases
which, when bonded together by adhesives or by the in the annulus between the plastic layers (in the case of
application of heat and/or pressure, form a single con- depressurization of the flexible pipe structure).
struction. Unbonded pipes have separate steel and plastic • The intermediate pressure plastic sheath ensures that
layers which are free to move relative to each other. The
the pipe remains leakproof during service.
vast majority of flexible risers currently used are of the
• A spiralled steel layer of'zeta' wires is used to sustain
unbonded variety. The purpose of this paper is to the radial loads generated by the internal pressure.
highlight the problems and associated solutions relating
Whenever necessary, this layer may be reinforced by a
to the selection of material for this type of construction. fiat steel spiral to enable the pressure rating of the
The nature of flexible risers is such that unique structure to be increased.
constraints are placed on the designer when selecting • An additional thermoplastic layer may be inserted
appropriate materials for both internal and external
between the pressure-resistant layers and the tensile
environments. However, one advantage to the designer armour wires. It is applicable to dynamic structures
is that no material need satisfy all conditions, so some of
only and serves as an anti-friction layer.
the problems which are common in rigid pipe design will • Double crosswound armour layers with a long pitch
not be relevant to flexibles. are incorporated to provide a good resistance to tensile
It is hoped that this paper will provide an overview of
the problems associated with materials selection for
Thermoplastic sheath
flexible risers and one manufacturer's solutions to these
problems. The selection process is, of course, dependent

/••/uble
crosswound armours
on the design techniques employed, so these are also Thermoplastic sheath
discussed below. Zeta spiral

cked steel carcass


Flexible riser design
These are two basic designs of unbonded flexible risers
which are commonly used; rough bore and smooth bore.

This paper was originally presented at a meeting on 'Flexible risers'


held 9 January 1989 at University College London, UK. Figure 1 Typical rough bore structure (dynamic riser)

0141-0296/89/040208-09/$03.00
208 Eng. Struct. 1989, Vol. 1 1, October ~ 1989 Butterworth& Co (Publishers) Ltd
Materials for flexible riser systems: F. Moore
loads and torque. A layer of adhesive tape is wound and designer have many secondary criteria to consider
over the second layer of steel wires to maintain the which could influence the final selection.
armours during manufacture. The selection criteria may be summarized as follows:
• An external plastic sheath is used to protect the metallic
layers of the structure against external corrosion or • functional suitability
abrasion and to bind the underlying armours. • long-term integrity
• ease of manufacture and supply
In the case of relatively low pressure requirements, designs • certification requirements
involving only tensile armours to sustain both radial and • client specification
tensile loads may be envisaged. The corresponding • economic viability
armouring angle is modified (increased to 55 °) and the
intermediate thermoplastic layer provides both the pres-
sure containment (seal) and the anti-friction requirements. The functional suitability of the material refers to its
ability to fulfil its mechanical requirements in the overall
pipe design while resisting attack from the internal and
Smooth bore structures external environments. The internal contents of flexible
Smooth bore structures are used in a variety of applica- risers range from seawater to very severe multiphase
tions which do not involve gas diffusion through the fluids. In addition to the natural fluids experienced in oil
pressure-containing plastic layer (e.g., water or chemical production, many additives such as various types of
injection, dead oil export). The basic structure is shown inhibitors may also be present during the operational life
in Figure 2 and comprises the following. of the risers. Also a function of the internal conditions
are the temperature and pressure requirements of the
• An inner plastic tube which makes the pipe leakproof. system. The temperatures experienced during normal oil
• Spiralled steel layers (zeta spiral or carcass) are used to production are not sufficiently high to cause concern with
sustain the radial loads generated by the internal respect to the metallic materials; however, the tem-
pressure. As for rough bore structures, the zeta spiral perature restrictions of the plastic materials provide a
may be reinforced by a fiat steel spiral to increase the basic design criterion which must be closely adhered to,
pressure rating of the structure. especially regarding the long-term plastic ageing effect at
• An anti-collapse thermoplastic sheath is used to trans- high temperatures. The pressure rating of the system will
mit the external pressure onto the underlying steel dictate not only the thickness of the steel layers but can
carcass or spiral. also influence the grade of material. Depending on the
• Double crosswound armour layers with a long pitch nature of the internal fluids (sweet or sour service), higher
are incorporated to provide a good resistance to tensile grades of steel may be specified in systems where extreme
loads and torque. A layer of adhesive tape is wound pressures induce high stresses in the steel layers.
over the second layer of steel wires to maintain the Another functional criterion is of course the ability of
armours during manufacture. the materials to withstand dynamic service. This is
• An external plastic sheath is used to protect the metallic particularly relevant to the external sheath which is under
layers of the structure against external corrosion or the greatest strain during operational service; it is also
abrasion and to bind the underlying armours. at the lowest temperature, so the potential for tearing is
increased.
A further important criterion for flexible riser material
Material selection criteria selection is its suitability for installation and retrieval.
The previous description of unbonded flexible risers Approximately one-eighth of flexible lines installed are
described the function of each layer in the structure. The retrieved for re-use, so the requirement for safe installa-
associated materials must fulfil this function and hence tion and retrieval is essential. The type of environment
ensure that the integrity of the flexible pipe is maintained experienced during these operations is frequently more
during its design life. Although this must of course be the severe than normal operational conditions.
primary criterion of material selection, the manufacturer The long-term integrity of a flexible riser is, as with
any other item of offshore equipment, a critical factor in
the selection of materials. The suitability of the material
to operate satisfactorily over a predicted design life is
essential from both safety and production viewpoints.
Thermoplastic sheath
The steel materials must have long-term characteristics
Double crosswoundarmours in three main areas: fatigue, wear and corrosion. The
/ Thermoplosticsheoth fatigue aspect of steels is well known and selection of
materials based on a suitable endurance limit is one
~ 7moplassthiecath possible solution. The wear aspect of steel selection is
based on bench tests and full scale-trials of various
materials and subsequent correlation with the mechanical
properties of the material. Wear is usually the limiting
criterion in the prediction of the system design life for an
unbonded flexible riser. The corrosion of steels is also a
well known phenomenon and the basic techniques used
in the prediction of corrosion rates and protection of the
Figure2 Typical smooth bore structure (subsea flowline or standard offshore steels also apply to flexible riser
dynamic riser) materials. The assessment of the long-term integrity of

Eng. Struct. 1989, Vol. 11, October 209


Materials for flexible riser systems. F. Moore
the plastic material, however, is a complex process their integrity without the occurrence of bubbles,
involving many different parameters and field conditions. blisters, cracks, tears, etc.
The basic components are temperature and fluid content • ageing resistance.
but other factors, which can be unique to each production
scenario (addition of scale inhibitor, etc.), can also have
a significant effect on the predicted design life. These limits are defined for typical applications, i.e., oil,
Efficient and cost-effective manufacturing is another water, oil and sour gas and acid.
fundamental consideration. Many materials which can In general these limits have been evaluated using
satisfy all the other requirements cannot be considered various technical sources. The most obvious source is the
due to their limitations in the manufacturing process. supplier's documentation and technical support for the
This may be the suitability for extrusion of certain plastic specific requirement laid down by the manufacturer.
materials or the ability of the steel wires to be formed in In addition, laboratory test results on material samples
the required profiles. Another factor relating to this is can provide the requisite data when the supplier's support
the raw material procurement. Due to the nature of the is not specific to the manufacturer's requirement. These
unbonded design, the steel materials must be supplied in can be performed in addition to full-scale tests on a pipe
sizes and finishes which are not common in industry and structure, simulating working conditions. The final source
so suppliers can be difficult to find. This is especially true of data is lines retrieved for re-use which have been
for high grade stainless steel strip. operational for up to 10 years. Analysis is performed to
The certification requirement of flexible pipes is limited ensure the integrity of the line before starting a second
to a few recommended practices from the various certi- operational term.
fying authorities. However, the certification of the There exist three main types of thermoplastic materials
materials used in the pipe construction is similar which fulfil, to varying degrees, the selection criteria
to those of rigid pipe or any other material used offshore. described previously.
Quality control from source must be applied to all
components of the system.
High density polyethylene ( HDPE). Polyethylenes are
The client specification of materials is common, a family of resins obtained by polymerizing the gas
especially for the internal steel carcass. The reasons for ethylene, Cz H4. By varying the catalysts and methods of
the use of a particular material by the client is usually polymerization, the density and most other properties
based on some practical experience with this material. can be regulated over wide ranges. Due to the longer
The final selection requirement is economic viability. chains in higher density polyethylene, a more rigid
This is linked to the ease of manufacture and supply, and material with greater strength, hardness, chemical resis-
is an important material characteristic at the design stage. tance and higher softening temperatures is obtained.
However, since safety is the ultimate objective, it cannot The improved properties mean that the material
be considered as a primary design consideration and is displays excellent durability in the presence of water or
usually only considered after the other criteria have been acid products. However, its relatively low melting point
satisfied. (compared with the polyamides) at 120°C means that
its operational temperature is rather limited. Figure 3
Flexible pipe materials shows how the sl~ear modulus varies with temperature.
In addition, its resistance to blistering decreases at higher
As already described, unbonded flexible riser structures temperatures and so the recommended temperature limit
are basically composed of steel and thermoplastic in the presence of petroleum products is restricted to
materials. The steel layers give the mechanical perfor- 60°C even at low pressure levels. The results of decom-
mance of the pipe structure, while the internal and pression cycles under severe conditions are shown in
external leakproofness are provided by the plastic layers. Table 1. The samples were submerged in lran crude at
100°C and 100 bars for 100 hours, during which 10 fast
depressurizations were performed. The process was then
Thermoplastic materials
The different thermoplastic resins selected for manu-
facturing the various plastic sheaths have been the subject
of in-depth analysis with regard to their chemical I000
properties, in an effort to provide a more accurate
assessment of their suitability at various temperatures 500 ~ o n
and fluid conditions. Whatever layer they are used for, "G
these materials have technical limits which can be defined Q.
either by the supplier of the materials, with or without tb
additional qualification test from the manufacturer, or [O050105 PAl2
the manufacturer, which may have defined its own criteria
for specific applications. These limits must be determined E
for each thermoplastic material with respect to: .g:
u3
• temperature
• compatability with typical transported products I ] I I I I I I ,I ! I
-6( -40 -20 0 20 40 60 80 I00 120 140 160
• permeability .to gas
• blistering resistance - - considering that all the Temperature (°C)
materials, within their defined limits, should maintain Figure 3 Shear modulus vs. temperature

210 Eng. Struct. 1989, Vol. 11, October


Materials for flexible riser systems: F. Moore
Table I Blistering resistance of thermoplastics

Behaviour according to number of cycles (200 h)

1 5 10 20 50

High density polyethylene3 Good Good Fair (small Poor (cracks, --


blisters) blisters)
Polyamide 113 Good Good Good Good Good
Coflon 4 fluorinated Good Good Good Good Good
polymer
Polyamide 124 Good Good Good Good Good

repeated for methane. The behaviour of the materials was facture of flexible risers is Rilsan (trademark), which is a
examined after each 200 hour cycle. It is evident that the specially designed grade of nylon 11 and is more flexible
HDPE does not withstand this type of loading as well and suitable for use in dynamic risers. It has an excellent
as other materials under these conditions. resistance to blistering, better than many other thermo-
HDPE is commonly used for internal layers of water plastics and most elastomeric materials, at the same time
injection risers, but it is most common as an external displaying a very good preservation of properties in
sheath for static flowlines and wellhead jumpers, and as temperatures up to 90-100°C. This is evident in Figure
such its permeability to gas is not critical. However, 3, where the shear modulus value of approximately
Figure 4 shows that HDPE has a relatively high per- 50 MPa is held constant around this temperature.
meability to methane (CH4) compared with other thermo- The blistering characteristics are also shown in Table
plastics. At the same temperature Coflon is 10 times less 1, where even after 50 cycles the resistance is still good.
permeable then HDPE. Further evidence of the resistance to blistering can be
found in Reference 3 where PAll, when tested for
Polyarnide (PAll or PAl2). This is perhaps better wellhead seal rings, was found to have 'excellent blistering
known as nylon (11 or 12) in its basic form. It is produced resistance and exceptional property retention'.
by the polycondensation of the monomer 11--amino- The permeability of Rilsan with respect to other plastics
undecanoic acid, a derivative of castor oil. The basic is also shown in Figure 4. Figure 5 shows that the
plastic produced by this process has good impact permeability to hydrogen sulphide is greater than that to
strength, hardness and abrasion resistance. It also has an carbon dioxide or methane. Although Rilsan would
exceptionally low water absorption (lower than other appear to have reasonably high rates of diffusion for these
nylons) and hence is more suitable for manufacturing. different gases, it is around 150 to 500 times less than
The most common thermoplastic used in the manu- that found in similar tests performed with various

7--

E
o

PAll
9--

fion

IO ] I I L I ! L I I I I
23 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 28 2.9 3.O .3.1 3.2 3.3
IO3T/K
I 1
I;0 1215 I(~O 75 50
F(°C)
Figure 4 Permeability of thermoplastic materials (CH 4, 100 bars)

Eng. Struct. 1989, Vol. 11, October 211


Materials for flexible riser systems. F. Moore

rubbers. A further phenomenon noted with these tests The long-term ageing characteristics of these materials
was the relative filtering effect of the gases which were at elevated temperatures have been assessed over a
least abundant in the main pipe bore. This is an important number of years involving tests and field trials under very
phenomenon when considering the possible degradation severe conditions. In general, the degradation of thermo-
of the outer steel layers by attack from sour gases which plastics such as Rilsan involves several possible
are normally least abundant. mechanisms which may be either physical--e.g., dis-
tO -6
solving/removal of plasticizer in crude oil or other
transported fluids--or chemical--e.g., oxidation of the
plastic due to temperature and hydrolysis in the presence
of water at high temperatures. This degradation
phenomenon can be thermally activated (particularly
for the chemical mechanisms which follow an exponential
kinetic law). Therefore, to accelerate the ageing process,
10-7 laboratory tests on samples are generally carried out at
higher temperatures than the actual field conditions.
The results are then extrapolated to cover a wider range
of temperatures. Ageing of Rilsan in flexible risers is likely
to happen at high operating temperatures (mainly with
production of hydrocarbons), and will result in time in
a deterioration of its tensile properties. Viscosity is also
affected by temperature and may be used for assessing
10-8
1,3
the amount of material degradation.
Figure 6 shows the results of extensive test pro-
.<,
grammes performed on Rilsan samples. The graph shows
the variation of both yield and ultimate elongations of the
o~
plasticized polyamide 11 as a function of time and
temperature. Three distinct stages are apparent on each
curve. These are:
10-9
• a sharp initial decrease attributed to the Rilsan
material reaching equilibrium under test conditions
CH4 (temperature, pressure, nature of crude oil, degree of
humidity, etc.);
• a stabilization plateau where the tensile properties of
the material remain constant over a period of time
i0 -I0 I I which depends on the test temperature;
2.5 3.0 3.5 • a second sharp yielding to a state characterized by a
103T/K
L I I I I I very small ultimate elongation and the absence of
I00 75 50 25 plastic deformation. This condition is unsuitable for
T(*c)
Figure 5 Permeability o f Rilsan ( P A l 1 )
flexible riser applications.

120
ULtirnoteelongotion
Yield elongation
I00

8O

-E

6O

4O
3C
140eC I -- 130°C ~k
, ,iii
u

ZO

I I
2O 40 60 80 IOO 120 140 160 180 200
Time (weeks)
Figure 6 Strain vs. time ( P A l l + Iran crude)

212 Eng. Struct. 1989, Vol. 11, October


Materials for flexible riser systems: F. Moore
The criterion used for the quality of the Rilsan is that Poly vinylidenefluoride (Cation*) [Coflon is a Coflexip
the ultimate elongation be at least 45% (30% yield). This registered trade mark]. This is a specially designed grade
ensures that a satisfactory safety margin is maintained of PVDF which has remarkable thermal stability at both
when compared with the maximum elongation (7.5%) processing and service temperatures. A typical maximum
that the flexible pipe is likely to see at its minimum bend fluid temperature of 130°C can be considered for long-
radius for storage. From these results it is possible to plot, term life with higher temperatures for short terms (see
on log-linear axes, the experimental lifetime of the Figure 3).
material at various temperatures (see Figure 7). Selecting It is essentially used as a pressure sheath when tem-
the most unfavourable test data enables us to determine peratures exceed the allowable for Rilsan. It is known for
a lifetime of 10 years at 100°C in the tested fluid its excellent resistance to blistering and cracking as well
conditions (oil with 10% water). The expected service life as for its compatibility with most of the produced and
may be increased to 20 years if the operating temperature injected fluids commonly considered (Table 1).
is lowered to 90°C. Its resistance to long-term ageing is also excellent. This
As stated above, the short-term use of flexibles with has been tested in a similar way to that of Rilsan using
Rilsan sheaths means that higher temperatures could be accelerated ageing techniques and extrapolating the
withstood without affecting the integrity of the system. results for lower temperatures. The results show that
Recently a test was performed to demonstrate the high Coflon is not subject to chemical degradation.
temperature capabilities of Rilsan. It involved a 3 in. line One phenomenon worth noting is that Coflon has a
which was pressurized to 1050 bar (filled with crude oil) lower melting point than Rilsan although it has a higher
with an internal temperature of 100°C. This was main- operational temperature. The reason for this is the sudden
tained for a further 24 hours when the temperature was decrease in properties of Coflon near its melting point
then increased by 3°C per hour up to 160°C. This was where Rilsan has a gradual degradation of properties.
held for 24 hours and the temperature was then increased
by 3°C per hour until the line failed. The pressure was
successfully maintained throughout the test until a leak Steel materials
occurred at 193°C. Although this test may not be
At present there exist many different grades and specifi-
definitive in terms of riser design, it is an indication that
cations of steels used in unbonded flexible pipe which are
in certain conditions Rilsan could provide a suitable
selected using the guidelines described above. There are,
solution for high temperature production for a limited
however, two general classifications of steels which are
design life. most commonly considered: stainless and low carbon
A lifetime of 20 years effectively covers most current
steels.
applications in oil production. However, to meet the
specific needs of some oil fields that require resistance at
higher temperatures, a new plasticized formulation for Stainless steels. The use of high grade stainless steels is
fluorinated polymers, Coflon, was developed. becoming increasingly common in subsea systems, and
flexible risers are no exception. The high resistance to
Laboratory tests corrosion offered by this group of steels, coupled with
Agha-dari crude, injected samples •
moulded samples o good mechanical characteristics, means that many prob-
Es-Sider crude, injected sarnples zx lems associated with severe functional conditions can be
Arabica-S crude, injected samples
id, + 10% water, injected samples <> overcome and hence the long-term integrity of the system
Bench tests can be maintained or even increased. Within this group
Agha- Jari crude, extruded samples I] of steels there are many variations on the basic theme of a

/
id. + I0 % water, extruded samples •
2.-( Field tests significant chromium content instigating an immunity to
ioo Casablanca crude, extruded samples • corrosive attack. Additions such as molybednum, nickel,
titanium and others help to improve further the resistance
to corrosion or the mechanical properties of the steels.
IIC

~'i2c
/°t Further classification of the basic nature of these
materials yields three common ranges: austenitic, ferritic
and martensitic. The basic production processes and
properties of these different structures are, of course, well
documented, but it is the corrosion resistant chromium-
2.5
tSO
nickel austenitic steels which are most commonly used
in unbonded flexible pipes. They are primarily used for
the inner interlocked steel carcass. The selection of grade
14C is based on the corrosiveness of the internal fluid
2.4 conveyed as well the operating temperature of the pipe.
The grades most commonly used are AISI 304/304L/316/
15C DO 316L.
The fundamental problem affecting the selection of
stainless steels is the constituents of the produced oils.
- 2'31
Whereas basic oil is not corrosive (it actually prevents
I I I I I I corrosion of the system), the presence of CO2, chloride
0.08 0.5 I 2 5 I0 and water in the system increases the corrosive potential
t c (years) of the fluid.
Figure 7 Fluid t e m p e r a t u r e vs. t i m e Corrosion can be caused by CO2 dissolving in water

Eng. Struct. 1989, Vol. 11, October 213


Materials for flexible riser systems. F. Moore
to lower the pH level of the system. This, combined with There are three main grades used by Coflexip: FM 15,
chlorides, can cause severe pitting in the carcass of the FM35 and FM72. Typical characteristics of these
pipe. Corrosion due to H 2 S (sour corrosion) dissolved in materials are shown in Table 2. The selection of a
water also results in weight loss and the combination of particular grade is dependent on the local service condi-
all three (HzS, CO2 and chlorides) in water can lead to tions; F M I 5 and FM72 are widely used, whereas FM35
a very severe environment for steel. These factors can be is a more recent development which, like FM 15, can be
accelerated by high temperatures and flowrates, but in used for zeta wire or tensile armours.
the presence of oxygen there is a drastic increase in the Such steel specifications, or their equivalents, are not
corrosivity. uncommon in industry but the type of finish required is
Extensive testing must be performed in conditions as almost unique. The materials have usually to be cold
relevant as possible to determine the suitability of the drawn in small bars and yet still retain the charactertistics
material for its function. Numerous tests have been suitable for the various constraints associated with oil
performed, mainly by IFP and Coflexip's Research production.
Department, since 1975 to evaluate the behaviour of inner These steel armours, which provide the flexible pipe
carcass materials to corrosion. These involved samples with mechanical resistance, are situated between the
of the basic materials, pre-formed strips and full pipe internal and the external thermoplastic sheaths. The
sections. The tests were performed in different media leakproofness of these sheaths prevents corrosion
(water, saltwater, NaC1 solution, NACE solution, crude attacking the armours. However, accidental tears in
oil, etc.), all with or without partial pressures of CO2 and the external sheath will mean seawater is in contact with
HzS, and at varying temperatures. The results are too the steel armours (although this would be very unlikely
extensive to report in detail here; however, the general in a riser system). This seawater, combined with diffused
behaviour of the materials indicates that there are very gases from the internal fluid, could lead to local corrosion.
few instances where grade AISI 316L could not be used Corrosion due to seawater alone can be either uniform
as an inner carcass material and indeed, for most produc- or differential. Both these types are limited by the amount
tion conditions, 304 or 304L would be suitable. of aerated seawater in contact with the armours. Stress
For very aggressive environments higher grades of corrosion cracking can be caused by this type of cor-
stainless steel can be used. Duplex steels were also tested rosion; however, the materials selected undergo very
and in general demonstrated excellent corrosion resis- severe tests as specified by ASTM 1141. Any gas diffusion
tance in severe conditions. Duplex steels have been used through the pressure sheath can lead to CO2 or H2S
on some flexible pipes, although the cost implications can being present around the armours.
be significant. The forms of corrosion possible in this environment
An important consideration in the selection of the steel can be:
grade for the inner carcass is the function of this layer in
an unbonded flexible pipe. It provides a resistance to • uniform - - caused by diffused gases coming in contact
collapse from external pressure and does not have any with the armours. This is limited by the very small
other mechanical function in the pipe, so some degree of amount of aggressive gases generally found in the
degradation could be allowable without affecting the annulus.
integrity of the system. This would probably not be the • pitting - - this is similar, except small bubbles attack
case in a rigid pipe design, since any pitting or surface the steel locally. Tests have been performed to examine
corrosion could be detrimental to the overall integrity of this phenomenon and the results showed that any cor-
the system for similar conditions. rosion either ceased after a few days, or was negligible
(a few micrometres per year).
Carbon steels. The remaining steel layers of unbonded • sulphide stress cracking (SSC) some steels are
flexible pipes are essentially composed of carbon steel subject to SSC, which is characterized by a brittle
wires. The basic selection criteria are structural strength breaking when steel is in the presence of both HzS and
and fatigue resistance, since very high loads must be seawater and under tensile strength. Simulation of
withstood by wire sizes which are limited by the manu- severe conditions are specified in NACE TM.01.77
facturing processes. Typical ultimate tensile strength standard.
values up to 1500 M P a are currently in use for sweet
crude production. The actual steel grades adopted in All steels used by Coflexip for sour service have passed
flexible risers systems are mainly derived from the this test or have an HRC value of less than 22.
A F N O R 35.051 specification, and these have been Another important criterion for the selection of wires
thoroughly tested in many different conditions in the for flexible risers in their resistance to wear and fatigue.
laboratory, test sites and in operation. Extensive testing has been performed on the wear and

Table 2 Typical mechanical properties of low alloy carbon steels

Specification Grade Finish Ultimate tensile Suitability for


strength (MPa) sour service

AFNOR FM15 Cold drawn 784 Yes


AFNOR FM35 Cold drawn 850 Yes
AFNOR FM72 Cold drawn 1500 No

214 Eng. Struct. 1989, Vol. 11, October


Materials for flexible riser systems: F. Moore
fatigue properties of these wires and all show a suitable and be suitable for moulding. The material most com-
resistance to long-term wear and fatigue under the monly used is polyurethane. This fulfils all the above
operating conditions experienced in a riser system. requirements and can be tailored to a variety of specific
applications.
Flexible riser system equipment
Buoyancy
Apart from the basic pipe structures there is, of course,
a considerable amount of ancillary equipment used in a In the majority of riser systems, buoyancy - - either in
flexible riser system. Details of the materials and processes the form of subsea arches or discrete buoyancy units - -
used in the manufacture of this equipment are diverse is required to maintain the system in the desired con-
and complex and are beyond the scope of this paper. figuration. There are several different types of buoyancy
However, a brief discussion of the materials used in each foam available on the market but the most widely used
application is presented and some details as to the nature for this application is syntactic foam. It is manufactured
and selection criteria for each is also included. by blending microspheres with rigid resin. The buoyancy
is increased by the addition of larger (macro) spheres and
the system is usually coated in polyurethane film. Syn-
End fittings
tactic foam buoyancy of this type is suitable for water
A typical end fitting for an unbonded flexible steel pipe depths of up to 3000 m (typical) and has a long-term
is shown in Figure 8. It is composed of various crimping resistance to water ingress. It can be moulded into almost
rings and flanges which mechanically fix the layer to a any shape and as such is ideal for use in a riser system.
steel vault which forms the main bore and flange of the
connection. A cap is placed over the various pipe layers
and epoxy resin is applied to hold the tensile armours. Final comments
The basic cap and vault are composed of a high strength, It is hopedthat the reader of this paper will now have a
low alloy carbon steel (typically AISI 4130), although no general overview of the different types of materials used in
girth welding is involved in the standard mounting flexible riser systems and some of the constraints the
process so restrictions on the maximum carbon content designer and manufacturer have to satisfy.
may differ from normal flanged connections. The internal The selection of materials for flexible risers cannot be
rings are a combination of steel and thermoplastic defined by any standard set of rules since each pipe is
materials. The end fitting is usually cathodically pro- 'custom' designed for its unique operating conditions
tected, although further protection in the form of painting and the selection process must be dictated by these. There
or kanigen treatment is provided. The latter resists both is no global design of flexible pipe which will satisfy the
corrosion and abrasion. functional requirements of every field and still offer a
commercially and technically attractive solution.
Stiffeners It is very tempting to compare the various merits of
The purpose of a typical dynamic bending stiffener is to the materials used in rigid and flexible pipes. However,
provide an additional resistance to overbending at critical although the internal and external environments are
locations along the riser system (usually at the top and identical, the nature of the designs is different, and specific
bottom connections). As such, the material selected must requirements for rigid and flexible risers may well differ.
be resilient under high bending (strain), have a good load- The present-day challenges for flexible risers are mostly
bearing capacity, be suitable for long-term cyclic loading in the field of providing high temperature plastics and a

Tensilearmours Front crimpingring Rear crimpingring


\ ] Front crimpingflange /
Cap,~ \ / / Epoxyresin / Rearcrimping flange

Flat steel spiral lockingring


Figure 8 End fitting section

Eng. Struct. 1989, Vol. 11, October 215


Materials for flexible riser systems: F. Moore
cost-effective solution to the problem. At the moment performed to reduce costs and provide a more cost-
long-term temperatures of around 130°C and short-term effective product.
temperatures of possibly 160°C are attainable, but
already questions about possible systems for 200 to 300 °C
are being asked. References
Future development of materials will probably be 1 Dawans,F., Jarrin, J., Lefevre,T. O. and Pelisson, M. 'Improved
driven by deepwater developments. With depths of up to thermoplastic materials for offshoreflexiblepipes', OTC 5231, 1986
1000m being considered, riser weight will be a critical 2 Mallen,J., Estrier, P. and Amilhau, S. 'The quality and reliabilityof
factor in future designs. Extensive research and develop- flexible steel pipes', RINA, January 1989
3 Potts, D. J. 'Explosive decompression resistance of elastomers in
ment of new materials and designs is being undertaken, gas duties', Offshore Engineering with Elastomers, June 1985
to satisfy the industry's requirements for the foreseeable 4 Marion, A. 'Unbonded flexible pipes and riser systems, general
future. This is in addition to the work which is being design considerations', Coflexip Internal Document, 1988

216 Eng. Struct. 1989, Vol. 11, October