UK: Flexlife Completes First Application of FlexGel in North Sea

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Flexlife, an oil and gas industry specialist in subsea project and integrity management, has announced the successful first application of its innovative product FlexGel, in a North Sea operation for an oil major.
FlexGel, an oil-based product that is non-soluble in water and with a density that can be adjusted depending on the application, was devised to halt corrosion of damaged areas of flexible risers or umbilicals within caissons and help safely extend the operating life of assets within the oil and gas production process.
The patented substance can be pumped into a caisson to completely surround a riser with an annulus breach, displacing seawater and preventing further corrosion in the structural tensile armour wires of the flexible pipe, increasing the possible lifespan of the riser.
The first deployment of FlexGel was carried out following consultation with the HSE by Flexlife for an oil major. An annulus breach was discovered during testing by Flexlife in a 4.5in gas main flexible riser at a point 4.5metres subsea. 9,500 litres of FlexGel was deployed to fill the I-tube from 11.5metres above seawater levels to 33.5metres subsea.
FlexGel was pumped in approximate metre increments above the MSL within the I-tube. This deployment method allowed time for the FlexGel to settle and displace all water and air to fully surround the breach.
Flexlife director of strategic development, Stuart Mitchell, said: “It is common for the outer sheath of flexible risers and umbilicals to be damaged either during installation or even by regular friction caused during operation. If the problem is left un-addressed, it can lead to rapid corrosion of tensile armour layers and premature pipe failure.
“The enclosed area inside a caisson is particularly problematic because there is restricted access for inspection and damage usually occurs around the splash zone level where oxygenated seawater can cause accelerated corrosion. The advantage of FlexGel is that it can be deployed from topside or subsea without the need for costly intervention by rope access or diving teams and the associated health & safety risks of those types of operation.
“Once it’s in place, Flexlife carries out predictive engineering and testing of the flexible, setting a benchmark for continued operation and allowing the pipe to remain in safe service rather than having to be changed out at considerable expense.”
Mr Mitchell added: “FlexGel provides a highly efficient solution for operators and major sub-contractors faced with costly change outs of risers. Our products are devised not only to resolve issues but also to prevent them from happening in the first place. We believe there is a huge potential market for FlexGel as it is ideally suited for the large number of flexible pipe driven fields off Brazil, Asia Pacific, West Africa as well as the North Sea.
Flexlife’s global HQ is in Aberdeen, Scotland. The company also has offices in Rio, Houston, Newcastle, Kuala Lumpur and is looking to open an operational base in Angola. It was Scotland’s fastest-growing young company in 2010.

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