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Proceedings of OMAE99, 18 International Conference On Offshore Mechanics and Arctic Engineering July 1116, 1999, St.

Johns, Newfoundland, Canada

th

OMAE99/PIPE-5009 OMAE
St. Johns,

99: July 11 - 16,1999 Newfoundland, Canada

PL5009
Test of Seal System for Flexible Pipe End Fitting
Lars Banke NKT Flexibles NKT Cables A/S Thomas Gregers Jensen

ABSTRACT The purpose of the end fitting seal system is to ensure leak proof termination of flexible pipes. The seal system of an NKT end fitting normally consists of a number of ring joint gaskets mounted in a steel sleeve on the outside of the polymeric inner liner of the pipe. The seal system is activated by compression of the gaskets, thus using the geometry to establish a seal towards the inner liner of the pipe and the steel sleeve of the end fitting. This paper describes how the seal system of an end fitting can be tested using an autoclave. By regulating temperature and pressure, the seal system can be tested up to 130C and 5 1.7 MPa. Pressure, temperature and the mechanical behaviours of the pipe are measured for use in further research. The set-up is used to test the efficiency of the seal system as function of parameters such as cross sectional shapes of the gaskets, tolerances between gaskets and inner liner, number of gaskets, surface roughness and gasket material. INTRODUCTION A non-bonded flexible pipe is a composite structure that offers high strength to axisymmetric loading, such as tension and pressure and low strength to bending. This performance is achieved by using a combination of concentric polymeric layers and helical wounded steel armour layers. The characteristics for a non-bonded flexible pipe is the separation of the functions in the layers; i.e. one layer prevents collapse, one layer seals the internal fluid, one layer carries internal pressure etc. All the separated layers must be terminated in an end fitting in such a way that the connection to other structures can be made. In the end fitting the inner liner, i.e. the internal fluid barrier, must be terminated in a mechanism that ensures a leak proof structure. To achieve this a number of ring joint gaskets separated by steel rings are mounted between the outside of the polymeric layer and a steel sleeve in the end fitting. The gaskets must be designed to provide sealing during the expected lifetime of the flexible pipe taking into consideration the varying pressure and temperature of the pipe content, as well as material properties changes in the polymeric inner liner.

There are many parameters to consider when designing the seal mechanism, such as geometric tolerances, surface roughness of used materials, dimensions and number of rings. To clarify the sensitivity to variations in these parameters a test set-up for testing the seal mechanism has been developed. The basic principle is to reproduce the seal mechanism of a flexible pipe end fitting without having to assemble the entire end fitting. The test set-up must be easy to use and be re-usable for successive tests. An autoclave is developed for this purpose. This paper describes the principle of the autoclave and how it is designed. THE PRINCIPLE OF THE NKT END FITTING SEALING An axial force applied to the gaskets exerts sufficient contact pressure towards the inner liner and the surrounding steel to prevent leakage. A more detailed description of the seal system including a Finite Element Analysis has been presented by R.N Burke et. al. (1998). The gaskets are mounted under the steel sleeve to which the casing is connected through bolts, see Figure 1.

Figure 1: Principle of sealing

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The casing is moved towards the steel sleeve by applying torque on the connecting bolts. This movement will affect the axial force on the gaskets, which due to the gasket geometry is transferred into a sufficient contact pressure towards the inner liner and the surrounding steel. DESCRIPTION OF THE AUTOCLAVE Figure 2 shows the layout of the autoclave. Gasket
t

bolts. To close the leak path an O-ring is installed between the flange and the gasket house. The O-ring is installed radially to make the set-up less sensitive to the fact that the two flanges will move apart due to the internal pressure and the elongation of the stud bolts. To allow larger tolerances between the gasket house outer diameter and the inner diameter of the flange, the O-ring is supported by a back-up ring. The pipe test section consists of a 6 carcass with an extruded inner liner of PA1 1. The length of the test section is 415 mm. The autoclave has as shown in Figure 2 an overall length of 538 mm and an overall diameter of 425 mm. The weight is approximately 500 kg.
1ger

contact ring

The test section is filled with hydraulic oil and pressurised by means of a pump. The autoclave is designed to withstand a pressure of 5 1.7 MPa (7500 psi) with a safety factor of 1.5. The temperature in the autoclave can be regulated between 5C and 130C by circulating oil in a heat exchanger. This allows an testing of sea systems e.g. on extruded PVDF inner liner. The heat exchanger is described in more details later in this paper.

Figure 2: Autoclave for test of gaskets The gaskets are placed on the outside of the inner liner in the gasket house which simulates the steel sleeve in the end fitting, see Figure 1. The gasket house is bolted to the support sleeve and by applying torque on the bolts the gasket house is moved towards the gasket pressure ring, compressing the gaskets axially and thereby activating the seal towards the inner liner and the gasket house, see Figure 3.
gasket pressure ring sleeve

Temperature gauges are installed to measure the internal temperature in the autoclave, the temperature at the gaskets as well as the ambient temperature in the container. Holes are drilled through the gasket pressure ring into the gaskets house, see Figure 4.
Hole for temperature sensor

Figure 4: Holes for temperature sensor The temperature is measured in the bottom of these holes to indicate the temperature of the gaskets. It is not possible to continue the holes into the gaskets because the gasket would be extruded into holes during the activation.
gasket ia activated

Figure 3: Activation

of gasket

During activation of the gaskets a relation between the axial displacement of the gasket house and the radially deformation of the carcass is established. The deformation of the carcass is measured by use of strain gauges. The support sleeve simulates to the pressure armour layer of the flexible pipe. The flanges are held together by the long stud

Pressure and temperature inside the autoclave are controlled by a computer and logged at a defined frequency to the data acquisition system. There are three possible leak paths in the system. If the autoclave is not capable of keeping a constant pressure, it is important to know where the leakage is. The three possible leak paths are: l loss O-ring seal between the flange and the gasket house.

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l l

leakage between the gasket and the gasket house. leakage between the gasket and the inner liner.

and the gasket house. If the system is pressurised to 5 1.7 MPa the bolts will elongate approximately 0.5 mm. The heat exchanger is modelled as a uniform thick walled tube under external pressure. The oval&y of the tube due to bending into a helical coil is not considered, i.e. it is assumed that the heater has a circular shape. The steel has a yield stress of 245 MPa at 120C. This yield stress is used when the utilisation of the heater is determined. In the first test, the design of the connection between the gasket house, gasket pressure ring and the support sleeve is identical to the end fitting of the NKT 6 Flowline used for Qualification. This design is chosen because of its proven functionality, and it can therefore be used to test the function of the autoclave and as a reference for future tests. Following features are copied l number and cross sectional shape of gaskets l diameter of steel and gaskets relative to the test section and the surrounding steel l tolerances of steel and gasket l surface roughness of steel and gaskets The gaskets are made of carbon reinforced teflon. A certain amount of carbon (5 - 25 ~01%) is necessary to ensure sufficient hardness of the gaskets. PRESSURE REGULATION Figure 5 shows the pressure regulation system of the autoclave.
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If the O-ring between the flange and the gasket house leaks the oil from the pipe section can escape between the flange and the gasket house towards the gasket pressure ring. Machined cuts have been made in the edge of the gasket pressure ring to facilitate detection of leaking oil. If the leakage occurs between the gasket and the gasket house the oil passes the gasket at the slope and continues in between the gasket and the gasket house. This will allow the oil to flow into the void between the gasket house and the gasket contact ring. Small holes have been drilled in the gasket pressure ring to facilitate detection of leaking oil.

If the leakage occurs between the gasket and the inner liner the oil flows under the contact ring. On the inside of the contact ring a groove is turned. From the groove a hole is drilled through the contact ring, and in this hole a plastic tube is fixed allowing the oil to flow from the groove into the tube. The tube is taken out through a hole in the gasket pressure ring again to facilitate detection of leaking oil. This system offers the opportunity to detect possible leakages in the system. DESIGN OF THE AUTOCLAVE The autoclave is designed in accordance with the Danish Standard DS458 (1986). This code defines partial factors to be used on the load and the material parameters used in the design. All steel parts are made of St. 52-3, with an approximate yield stress of 350MPa. The heat exchanger is made of a temperature consistent material, which is necessary to ensure a certain mechanical strength when oil at a temperature above 150C is circulated while subjected to an external pressure of 52 MPa. The flange is modelled as a plate subjected to pressure inside the area defined by the O-ring. Holes for the in and outlet of oil and the heater are drilled in the flanges. These holes gives a reduction in the strength which must be taken into account. The flanges have a minimum thickness of 75mm. The support sleeve is modelled as a thick walled uniform tube under internal pressure. Since the support sleeve is capped at the ends by the gasket pressure ring the sleeve will be subjected to a longitudinal stress. Moreover, there are radial and circumferential stresses. A wall thickness of 56mm is necessary to sustain a pressure of 5 1.7 MPa using the partial safety factors defined in DS 458. There are 12 stud bolts (M36 quality 8.8) with a yield stress of 640 MPa. The design is less sensitive to the elongation of the bolts because the O-ring is installed radially between the flange

Figure 5: Pressure regulation system Due to safety reasons the autoclave is situated in a container. The logging of data and control system is located outside the container, as well as a manual pressure relief valve. The basic principle of the pressure regulation is pneumatic pumps and valves. The system is designed to pressurise and depressurise the autoclave at controlled rates, e.g. 0.3 MPa/min.

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The pressure regulation contains three subsystems. A high pressure circuit, a low pressure circuit and an air circuit, see Figure 5. High Pressure Circuit The high pressure circuit is made of 140 MPa steel tubing with outer diameter of 0.25 (6.35mn-r) and inner diameter of 0.109 (2.77mm). The pressure in the autoclave is generated with an air driven high pressure pump. When valve A is open, air runs from the compressor to the pump. The pump drives oil from the reservoir into the autoclave. The autoclave has two outlets. One is used during pressure reduction while the other leads to a safety relief valve. On the outlet to the safety relief valve the pipe divides into two where one branch leads to the valve while the other passes the container wall as outlet for a mechanical and an electrical pressure gauge. The electrical pressure gauge logs into a computer, while the mechanical gauge is used as back-up. From the gauges the pipe string ends in a needle valve, where pressure can be taken off manually. From the needle valve the oil is circulated back to the oil reservoir. The outlet used to control pressure reduction leads via an actuator controlled 3-way valve to a closed volume, made of a pipe section with a contra valve at the end. The pressure reduction procedure is described below. Low Pressure Circuit The low pressure circuit has three parts. One connects the oil reservoir with the pump, while the second leads from the 3-way valve back to the oil reservoir and the third is from the safety relief valve to the oil reservoir. The low pressure circuit is made of rubber tubes. Air Circuit Air is circulated in plastic tubes at a pressure of approximately 0.6 MPa. The air is used to drive the pump and the valves. From the source air flows into a control valve that allows a certain air pressure in the system. This can be useful when the autoclave is used at low pressure. After the regulation valve the plastic tube divides into two. One of the lines is connected to the high pressure pump and therefore used during pressurisation, while the other line is used during controlled pressure reduction. To protect pumps and valves it is necessary to clean the fluid passing through them. Therefore filters are placed both in the oil circuit and in the air circuit. Controlled Pressure Reduction The principle in the controlled pressure reduction is to divert controlled doses of oil from the autoclave. This is done by

connecting the autoclave with a closed volume thus increasing the total volume of the system. The closed volume is disconnected from the system and emptied, thereby leading oil away from the autoclave. This process is then repeated. The pressure drop depends on the size of the closed volume and the actual pressure in the autoclave. A closed volume of approximately 1000 mm3 gives a pressure reduction of 0.025 MPa and 0.05 MPa at a pressure in the autoclave of 10 MPa and 38 MPa, respectively. TEMPERATURE REGULATION A heat exchanger is installed to regulate the temperature of the oil in the autoclave The principle is to circulate oil at a certain temperature through the helical coil shown in Figure 2 and thereby regulate temperature of the hydraulic oil in the pipe test section. There are three circuits attached to the heat exchanger; one for heating and two for cooling, see Figure 6.

Heat exchanger autoclave


Autoclave

for

/L?Cooling cooling 0 deg unit from 35 deg to

oliereservoir 65 litres (at 35 deg Heating

20 de Electrical circuit Cooling circuit 1 oil heater Cooling circuit I1

Figure 6: Temperature regulation system The circuits are described below. Heatiw circuit An electrical heating unit and thermometer is placed in a reservoir containing 10 litres of oil. The oil heater is set to a certain temperature and the heating unit heats up the oil until the temperature unit reads the defined temperature. A pump is used to circulate the oil into the helical coil and back to the reservoir where it is reheated. The heat exchanger has a power of 2500W and a maximum outlet temperature of 250C which

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makes it possible to heat the oil in the autoclave from 5C to 120C in less than 1 hour. Cooliw circuits The cooling unit has two circuits. One is a used as a buffer to bring the temperature down from high such as 120C to approximately 35C. It contains of 65 litres of oil at ambient temperature (-20C) which is pumped into the helical coil at a flow 3.0 litres/min. This brings the temperature from 120C to 35C in about 15 minutes. When the temperature has reached 35C an electrical cooling unit is used. This unit is placed in the second circuit. The cooling unit has a power of 3300W and is able to cool 25 litres of oil down to -5C. These 25 litres are circulated through the helical coil which brings the test fluid from 35C to 5C in less than 10 minutes. The cooling unit has a built-in pump The reason for using the buffer is that the cooling unit is not designed to inlet temperatures above 15C. The temperature from outlet of the helical coil, i.e. the inlet to the cooling unit is 70C in the beginning of the cooling when the autoclave is heated to 120C. With the heat exchanger it is possible to cycle the temperature in the oil between 5C and 120C in less than two hours. TEST PREPARATION Because of higher compressibility of air than hydraulic oil, it is important that as little as possible air is suspended in the autoclave. Both the test section and the pressure regulation pipes must be vented. The test section is filled as shown in Figure 7.
The transparant autoclave rubber is filled tube Oil is spotted in rubber tube and filling is stopped the the The oil because carcass level sin s the YO,.%s in is filled

carcass out to the inner liner. Due to the high viscosity of the oil the tilling of carcass will take some time. The pump is started and the test section is refilled as required. The test section is vented for a period and then refilled again. Before every new test the electrical pressure gauge is calibrated by use of a dead-weight tester. The mechanical pressure gauge is calibrated by the supplier. The temperature sensor is calibrated by use of an oil bath. The heat exchanger in the autoclave is under external pressure equal to the internal pressure of the autoclave. Therefore, it is necessary to pressure test the helical coil, since a collapse may result in leakage of the autoclave. To test the pressure and temperature regulation system as well as the control system, a pressure of 2 MPa is loaded on the autoclave. This pressure is kept constant for about 3 hours. EXAMPLE OF A TEST PROGRAM A test programme as the one shown in Figure 8 is possible with the autoclave. This programme contains four different combinations of pressure and temperature l Low pressure, low temperature l Low pressure, high temperature l High pressure, high temperature l High pressure, low temperature

Figure 8: Test program The test contains a strength testing of the system carried out at 1.5 times the design pressure and held constant for 24 hours. This corresponds to the Fabrication Acceptance Test (FAT) carried out for all flexible pipes according to API Spec. 175 (1997). Then a cycling of the pressure at given rates, e.g. 0.3 MPalmin up and 0.9 MPalmin down between 2 MPa and 1.l times the design pressure is carried out. These test are carried out at ambient temperature. Hereafter, the temperature is increased to its maximum at a given rate, while the pressure is kept constant at a level of 2 MPa. When the temperature has reached maximum the pressure is increased to 1.1 times the

Figure 7: Filling of test section Oil is filled from the lowest point, i.e. at the bottom flange, while air is vented at the top flange. Oil is then pumped into the bottom flange and the test section is filled. When oil is detected in the transparent rubber tube from the top flange, the pump is stopped. Because of voids in the carcass the oil will fill the

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design pressure. Now the temperature is cycled between 20C and 90C at rates of 2Clmin up and down. The programme can be modified to a programme that reflects a certain operation profile for flexible pipe. Because of the small test volume (approximately 7 litres) a strong interaction between pressure and temperature is experienced. Therefore, it is necessary to let out oil when the temperature is increased and to pump in oil when the temperature is decreased to keep the pressure constant. Moreover, it might be necessary to adjust the heat flow to keep a constant temperature at cycling pressure. CONCLUSION The importance of a reliable and robust termination of the internal fluid barrier of a flexible pipe is obvious. The seal system must be able to withstand functional requirements during the lifetime of the flexible pipe. The design of the seal system includes many parameters each of which it is important to evaluate with respect to the sensitivity of the seal system. An analysis of the parameters is performed by use of tests. Because of the high expenses on full scale tests of the seal system, a set-up for the testing of the seal system of the NKT flexible pipe end fitting has been developed. The set-up uses an autoclave in combination with auxiliaries to generate pressure loading and temperature loading. The set-up allows to test the performance of the seal system under cyclic variation of pressure and temperature in ranges between 0 MPa and 5 1.7 MPa and 0C and 130C respectively. These ranges allows an efficient test of a 5000 psi flexible pipe with internal barrier layer of e.g. PVDF. The rates of pressure and temperature variations are controlled by use of computer software. The principle of the NKT end fitting sealing is presented. A description of the autoclave is given. The pressure regulation systems as well as the heat exchanger are reviewed. Finally a test programme is suggested. REFERENCES Ill Burke, R.N., Witz, J.A., Langkjar, K.I. & Rishoj Nielsen, N.-J, 1998.: On the Mechanics of Gasket Seal Rings in Flexible Pipe End Fittings. Offshore Mechanics and Arctic Engineering. 121 DS 458: Dansk Ingenorforenings Code of Practice for Design and Construction of Components subjected to Pressure, (Dansk Ingenorforenings Norm for trykbzrende anlaeg, Dansk Standard 458). Dansk Ingeniorforening 1986. 131 American Petroleum Institute: Specification for Unbonded Flexible Pipe, API Specification 17J, First Edition, March 1997-

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