Subsea Technologies

Vortex-Induced Vibration (VIV) occurs whenever a current flows past a long slender object. Most people have experienced VIV when trying to move an extended arm quickly across the water in a swimming pool. VIV causes oscillatory motion of long slender structures such as risers and tendons. This results in bending of these structures.

In the early to mid-1980s, as deepwater exploration and production activities began to exceed water depths of 2,000 feet, the need to understand VIV and its impact on fatigue of deepwater structures, particularly risers, became imperative. Early work had focused on single mode VIV. With increased water depths and higher ocean currents, it was clear that deepwater tubulars (production risers, drilling risers, tendons, etc.) would need to withstand modes as high as 20 and 30 in the Gulf of Mexico loop currents. The increased number of participating modes and their interaction made VIV analysis nearly impossible with models at that time.

During this same timeframe, Professor J. Kim Vandiver and his students were developing a program called “SHEAR” used for modeling deepwater tubulars experiencing VIV. Concurrent to Vandiver’s research, Don Allen and Dean Henning were conducting experiments on deepwater tubular VIV in Shell’s current tank facility. As their respective research evolved, Vandiver, Allen and Henning saw the benefit of working together and formed a MIT-Shell Joint Industry Program in the early 1990s. The MIT-Shell Joint Industry Program utilized Vandiver’s SHEAR program and Allen and Henning’s test data to achieve a more robust program named SHEAR7. Li Lee, a graduate student and later as a post-doctoral engineer working with Professor Vandiver, joined the program by writing the SHEAR7 code and provided his own insights into the model using the Shell (Allen and Henning) data.

As a result of the collective research and development efforts, the tall helical strake geometry; a very short tear-drop fairing; and, improved analysis and modeling could reliably suppress VIV and confidently ensure that the vibrations reduced to a safe level for increased, deepwater drilling and production.

Companies and individuals honored are a subset of the many contributors to the research and development of Vortex-Induced Vibration Analysis and Suppression of Deepwater Risers: Don Allen, Shell Oil Company; Dean Henning, Shell Oil Company; Li Lee, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Shell Oil Company; Professor J. Kim Vandiver, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Modern subsea oil and gas production requires hydraulic power and electrical signals to operate and control its various components. Before reliable wet-mateable conductive connectors became available, the industry had only limited means to establish electrical connections between subsea components. The origin of the flying lead can probably be traced back to Shell’s deepwater drilling program off the USA east Coast 1983. They made provisions for the ROV to deploy and mate flexible hydraulic tubing on the lower marine riser package. Following that experience, and with the availability of reliable wet-mateable connectors and the maturation of the ROV as a capable subsea robot, the technology was advanced to deploy and connect electrical and multicore hydraulic “flying leads” between subsea components as far away as 200 feet.

This technology allows: subsea architecture with multiple smaller modules placed on the seabed, installed and retrieved with modest and widely available surface equipment; flexible subsea architecture allowing the addition of equipment at a later date when needed (e.g. subsea pump modules when reservoir pressure is in decline); relatively simple and inexpensive interconnections between modules made by ROV using flexible umbilicals (flying leads).

Recognizing the pioneering efforts of the following individuals and organizations that contributed to this technology:

Dick Frisbie, Howard Shatto, Mike Williams and Tom Williams
FMC (now TechnipFMC), Oceaneering and Shell

Conventional pressure boosting has been important to the oil and gas industry for many years with pumping technology routinely used to move oil and gas long distances from points of production to storage, refining and shipment.

Since the early 1980’s, much effort has been expended to adapt these long-used and proven conventional boosting technologies to more challenging subsea production applications to facilitate the movement of subsea production to receiving or processing facilities.

Taken collectively, subsea boosting can help make marginal fields viable and can extend the useful life of existing fields, while also permitting tiebacks from long distances and great depths.

Many challenges had to be overcome to adapt boosting equipment to subsea use including: ‘marinizing’ equipment, delivering power and controls over long distances, and accommodating full well-stream flows.  Research and development were fostered by government policy and joint industry programs, and private companies contributed significantly to the technology advancement.

Companies honored are a subset of the many contributors to the research and development of subsea pressure boosting systems:   ExxonMobil, Framo (now Schlumberger), Nuovo Pignone (now Baker Hughes, a GE company), Petrobras and Statoil (now Equinor).

Today’s applications for wet-mateable connections include high-power lines, low-power data links, hydraulic fluid lines, and fiber-optic cables. Each has formidable challenges. Complex umbilicals may combine all of these applications in a single multi connection plug-in. The design must exclude even the smallest drop of highly-conductive sea water. In the early 1990s, reliable wet-mateable connectors became available, but the challenge was not over. The industry required that connections could be made in water depths beyond that accessible by divers. So plugs and sockets had to be modularized into connections that could be handled by Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV). Today, plug-n-play (PNP) components can be routinely connected on the sea bed. Shell’s Popeye installation was performed in 2,000-ft of water without incident. Applications of modern wet-mateables include:

• Downhole electrical sensors and instrumentation
• PNP subsea modules
• Flexible architecture that allows additional equipment installations at a later date
• Simple interconnections between modules in-situ
• High-power supply for subsea processing.

Recognizing the pioneering efforts of the following individual and organizations that contributed to this technology: James L. Cairns, Ph. D SEACON Group, Teledyne ODI, and Tronic (now Siemens)

The first underwater completions were a series of gas wells on the north shore of Lake Erie. Designed to avoid ice damage, trees were installed by suited divers in 20- to 30-ft of water. Shell’s RUDAC System used a nested suspension system incorporating casing and tubing hangers, master valves and dual flowline connections for introduction of remote, through-tubing maintenance tools. The concept was first used in West Cameron 192 in 150-ft of water in 1960. Meanwhile on the west coast, Shell used a free-swimming remote controlled robot, called MOBOT, to make up bolts and operate valves. Five wells at Gaviota were completed this way starting in 1962.

Recognizing the pioneering efforts of the following people and companies who contributed to the development of this technology:

John Haeber, Ron Geer, Bill Bates, Howard Shatto, Bill Petersen, Bruce Watkins.
WKM Valve (Cameron), Regan Forge & Engineering (ABB Vetco Gray), Shell Oil Co., Cameron Iron Works (Cameron)

Scroll to top