Interview: Rapid innovation, gradual adoption

What clarifies gradual or slow adoption of new technology within an industry? Could it be that the industry has become too set in their ways? Or maybe too weary of what new technology might entail?

Marnix Boorsma, interim CEO of Airborne Oil & Gas offers his insights to the development and adoption of the company’s Thermoplastic Composite Pipe, commenting: “The industry operates in joint ventures with many contractors. This involves many parties, and changing ways of working with large groups of stakeholders takes time.”

Airborne Oil & Gas is a manufacturer of high-end composite pipes for offshore applications. Composites in this context pertain to a combination of plastics (polymers) and fibers. This is a stark contrast with the steel pipes that dominate the oil & gas industy. The initial idea for the thermoplastic composite pipe was first discussed with Shell during the late nineties. In 2004 Airborne first started developing the product and now 20 years later are finding ground in regards to certification and commercial value.

“Compared to steel, the main advantage of TCP is that there is no corrosion. So, not a little corrosion, no – just no corrosion which is a huge advantage because these days, sour gas and sour oil is more and more prevalent. Furthermore, operational costs can be cut by 20 to 30 per cent and the product is able to withstand the various kinds of corrosion, unlike steel.”

Another advantage lies in the weight, as TCP is far less heavy then steel and due to its flexibility can also be used in a spool. “In addition”, says Boorsma: “TCP is very strong and shows fewer signs of fatigue. And finally – it is very flexible. Steel pipes need to be fully prepared onshore; TCP can be cut in the field, provided with end fittings and installed.”

 

Risk within ecosystem oil and gas

So, where does the struggle lie? A product with benefits that can easily outweigh steel must stand for something? Why is there not more eagerness from the industry? “The slow adoption process is known, we are not the first to encounter it or the first to speak about it. In an industry with very large stakes, financially but especially with respect to environment and safety, new technologies are met with reservation. You need to make people comfortable that the benefits outweigh the perceived risks. Perhaps even more importantly, you need to help people understand that those risks are not material or can be mitigated”, comments Boorsma.

“Corrosion entails a huge challenge for our industry. The way our industry handles project management is another factor. As a project starts the manager will have a limited timeframe to get everything done. In such cases it is easier to stick to tried and tested products then to take the time to try new technology.”

Ensuring products are qualified is another important part of the process. Boorsma: “Many companies demand to perform their own qualifications of products. In that sense oil and gas differs from industries like aviation where the guidelines for qualification are universal. The oil and gas industry has its own ideas about risk and how to minimize this. It remains a costly and time-consuming process. It is easier to stick to what you know. Real steps to change are made in the speed they are accepted. As time goes on we have an increased track record and step by step qualifications are coming in.”

Boorsma continues: “A final hurdle is that our product addresses changes across the value chain. For example, to bank the lower costs of installation, an operator must work with smaller and cheaper vessels. But in many cases, an operator will have a longer-term contract for an existing larger vessel. Then there are matters of personnel. In short, applying our TCP requires more than purchasing some pipe.”

Sustaining motivation in breaking into the industry can be challenging. Boorsma says that finding enthusiastic people who believe in the product is key. “The industry is made up of engineers, who live for new technology and have engineering running through their veins. We have received significant support from the industry; we are proud to count Shell, Chevron and Saudi Aramco as our shareholders. And we have sold and are selling our products to many big names.

“However, like any company, we prefer to accelerate our business development and grow our volumes. We want to see our product deployed on a wide scale, and help the industry lower its cost base, improve its asset integrity – especially when it comes to battling corrosion.”

 

Airborne Oil & Gas scores Shell Contract

Airborne Oil & Gas has recently been awarded a qualification program from Shell for a high-pressure, deepwater thermoplastic composite pipe (TCP) jumper spool. Its first application is anticipated in the Gulf of Mexico region. The TCP jumper spool will be manufactured using carbon fibre, and designed for application in depths greater than 2000 meters at pressures in excess of 10,000 psi.

The qualification program will be performed at the Airborne Oil & Gas manufacturing facility in Ijmuiden, the Netherlands, and is expected to be completed by summer 2017.


Airborne Oil & Gas spoke during Offshore Energy 2016’s Technical Session on Subsea Processing. The Technical Session on Subsea Processing & Facilities (breakfast session)  will be back this year: “If subsea processing is not part of your project’s concept phase, it should be” coined one of our OEEC 2016 speakers. This year, we continue our stocktaking of subsea processing deployment and of technological developments in cost-efficient subsea field development, focusing on processing and facilities. For more information head to www.offshore-energy.biz.

OEEC is one of Europe’s leading offshore energy events. It is unique in bringing together the oil & gas, offshore wind and marine energy industry.With the industry in transition, OEEC offers offshore energy professionals the ideal meeting place to network, discuss and learn about the future of energy. OEEC 2017 will be held at Amsterdam RAI on October 9, 10, 11, 2017.

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