The Compelling Case for Drilling Riser Monitoring

Pulse Structural Monitoring, a recent offshoot from 2H Offshore, is gearing up post Macondo to provide what it claims is the most comprehensive drilling riser monitoring service on the market, as Bill Clewes reports.

Despite its environmental impact, the blows to people’s livelihoods, the government rhetoric and, above all, the loss of life, the Macondo disaster has never really looked like putting an end to deepwater drilling. There is a strong sense that the world needs oil and gas too badly for that. But nobody wants to go where BP has been this past 12 months – arguably, close to ruin with its reputation severely shredded. One might therefore expect the industry to proceed with considerable caution, certainly in the Gulf of Mexico, as the pace of deepwater drilling picks up. It would be surprising if casing design, cementing procedures and blowout preventer inspection and testing were not top of most drilling project agendas, That said, attention is likely to be paid to every aspect of the drilling process, from the rig right down to the reservoir.

Though the Deepwater Horizon’s drilling riser seems to have played no direct part in the Macondo incident, there are some in the industry who have been arguing for years that more needs to be done to monitor the behaviour of drilling risers, the crucial link between the surface and the seabed, especially given the industry’s move into ever deeper waters.

The arguments sound compelling. Drilling risers are incredibly dynamic and complex structures with elaborate, flexible interfaces on the rig and at the wellhead. They are subject to a range of sometimes extreme environmental and operational forces. They are prone to vortex-induced vibration (VIV) and accumulate fatigue in several other ways besides. They are manhandled relatively regularly for connection and disconnection. And, finally, by the nature of their design, they provide the sole barrier, a single steel wall, between the high-pressure well fluids and the outside world.


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