Apart from typical technical and operational challenges of onshore pipelines i.e. 3rd party, corrosions, geohazards; offshore pipelines and subsea facilities have additional challenges i.e. logistics and weather-related, ultra-high pressure/temperature for ultra-deep/deep water. Thus, that’s the reason why the front-end loading (FEL)/design stages are very crucial for offshore pipelines and subsea systems so that all challenges/issues are taken into consideration that the pipelines and subsea facilities can be operated and maintained with utmost reliability and integrity. Not to mention that comparatively higher cost of installation/construction, hook-up, pre-commissioning, commissioning and abandonment for offshore pipelines and subsea facilities require continuous innovations and emerging technologies so to maintain that any greenfield and brownfield project/development will be feasible throughout its entire operating life.
Having said, the role of Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR4.0) could be the ‘game changer’ in the offshore field development that also include pipelines and subsea technologies. The IR4.0 elements of robotic, automation, sensors/IOTs, data analytics, advance material and advance engineering will help O&G companies or operators reduce or optimise the project/development and operation and maintenance (O&M) cost. For instance, the use of innovative pipeline joining method of mechanical interference fit connector has been used in PETRONAS and several other companies to replace conventional welding method; and the method could provide similar reliability and integrity as required by common pipeline codes and standards.
The other example would be the use of fully autonomous robotic in-line inspection to inspect the condition of O&G pipelines that could provide a cost-optimization alternative. It needs to be noted that current available technologies including the innovations from IR4.0 have their limitations and operating boundaries; and it is believed that there are innovators out there that continuously challenging the status-quo so that we, the O&G companies and its stakeholders could reap the benefits of any emerging and pacing technologies, moving forward.
Mohd Nazmi bin Mohd Ali Napiah, Custodian/Head/GTA (Pipeline), Engineering Department, Group Technical Solutions, Project Delivery & Technology Division