Flexible Pipe Technology
The ancestor of
flexible pipe now widely installed in offshore oil and gas operations
was a flexible drillstem developed by Institut Français du Pétrole (IFP)
beginning in the 1950s for use with downhole electrodrills and
turbodrills, the then predominant means of drilling in Russian oil
fields. IFP is a scientific research and industrial development,
training, and information services center active in the fields of oil
and gas. Funded by the French government, IFP’s mission is to develop
technology that can be licensed to French companies.
intensive R&D program with Russian participation, IFP produced its own
Flexodrilling process. However, cost and mechanical stress challenges
proved insurmountable and focus was redirected to offshore flexible pipe
The first patent
application titled “Undersea Transport of Fluids by Flexible Pipe” was
filed in 1961. Early flexible pipe (a combination of steel
reinforcements and thermoplastic sheath for tightness) was optimized for
mechanical and physico-chemical stresses (temperature, pressure, crude
type) in placement and producing operations. In the early 1970s, new
dimensioning tools and a sealing sheath of polyamide l1 were
incorporated. In 1972, this led IFP to found the Coflexip company to
commercialize the technology, with a focus on developing flexible pipe
for pipeline use in the petroleum industry.
commercial installation was in 1973 in Elf’s Emeraude Field, offshore
the Congo. Flexible pipeline applications continued to increase and the
technology was broadened for use as risers for floating production,
storage and offshore loading systems (FPSOS). Flexible pipe also has
facilitated development of fields in remote areas because it can be
shipped and installed from spools, thus minimizing the need for large
acquisition of several companies to broaden and complement its
technology base, including a merger with Stena Offshore, enabled
Coflexip to become both a supplier and installer of flexible pipe.
Then, in 2002, the company was purchased by Technip.
Flexible pipe has
progressed from small, low pressure pipe to pipe with inside diameters
up to 19 inches and pressure ratings of up to 15,000 psi. Today flexible
pipe is routinely used in global offshore oil and gas operations in
water depths up to 2500 meters (8,000+ ft).