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Innovative Tool Tackles Splash Zone Challenges

The notoriously unpredictable splash zone poses challenges on many fronts for those involved in the inspection, repair and maintenance of assets. But at the forefront of rope access inspection, repair and maintenance services across the global oil and gas industry for 20 years, TRAC, in collaboration with ToolTec, has led the way in pioneering a trailblazing innovation which will transform off shore inspection, cleaning and repair solutions within this potentially volatile and inaccessible area.

From an asset integrity perspective, the splash zone is particularly difficult to access – intermittently exposed to air and immersed in the sea. Unlike the deep-water environment, where divers and workclass ROVS can function relatively undisturbed, the more dynamic splash zone presents a number of specific hazards to both humans and technology. Variations in tide and weather, together with the proliferation of pipework found within the splash zone create unpredictable circumstances which make it unsuitable for divers, whilst ROVs also have trouble operating safely and effectively in such choppy waters.

The frequent result is a less-than-comprehensive surveillance of an asset’s splash zone. The potential for a neglected integrity problem to turn into an expensive issue is considerable. And as operators within the UKCS commit to a strategy of MERUK, the life of ageing assets is being extended – increasing the financial and safety ramifications of a neglected splash zone.

In response to this, TRAC and ToolTec developed the Universal Cleaning and Inspection Tool (UCIT).

ToolTec, with its extensive experience in subsea tooling and team of skilled engineers, designed, built and tested the tool, with TRAC adding its expertise in accessing challenging locations and knowledge of inspection methods. The result is a remotely operated, platform deployed system capable of safely cleaning and inspecting various types, sizes and configurations of caissons and conductors, negating the need for divers, ROVs and DSVs.

ToolTec Managing Director, Nick Rettie explained: “The project is a great example of collaboration as two companies pooled their expertise to come up with an innovative and cost-effective solution to undertaking thorough and robust inspection and repairs in a challenging environment.”

The UCIT allows for comprehensive inspection of the splash zone to take place. Asset owners now have the ability to inspect all areas of an asset equally, mitigating the evolution of an undetected, fixable issue into a major operations problem.

Traditionally, splash zone maintenance and repair has required the use of a diver support vessel at an approximate cost of £150,000 per day. As splash zone work is highly dependent upon favourable weather conditions, the estimated cost of a splash zone workscope can increase significantly - particularly in certain areas of the North Sea. The UCIT answers both cost and safety challenges by negating the requirement for a DSV and use of divers, and by significantly opening up the weather window for eff ective, remote splash zone work.

TRAC Project Manager John Sim said: “The UCIT leads to improved asset integrity, increased safety and provides major cost efficiencies with estimates that the tool could reduce the annual costs of a platform’s splash zone inspection by an incredible 90%. “The UCIT has already been successfully deployed in the North Sea and we look forward to making it available to more clients in 2020.”

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