Cost and safety drive cable developments

Paul Boughton

The harsh conditions that cables are exposed to in the offshore environment are making manufacturers focus on ever more durable solutions. Sean Ottewell reports.

Cables have to survive in environments where the risk of penetration by chemicals is typically very high. The traditional solution to this was to coat the cables in a lead sheath. Although a good barrier, lead suffers from an environmental and safety point of view.

Nexans' new range of HYPRON cables are an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional lead-sheathed cables. The technology took five years to develop, and consists of three concentric, co-extruded sheaths working together to provide three important characteristics: an inner aluminum polyethylene (AluPE) tape for watertightness; a high density polyethylene (HDPE) sheath for resistance to inorganic chemicals (chlorine, synthetic oils); and polyamide (PA) for resistance to organic chemicals (aromatics, benzene, petrol, oil).

As such, HYPRON technology can be used in a wide variety of applications, including energy cables, control/instrumentation/compensation cables, and communication cables.

All the new cables can be customised to offer fire-reaction (reduced flammability, fire spread, heat release smoke emission and toxicity) and fire-resistance (electrical continuity under fire conditions), the latter achieved by Nexans patented INFIT technology. In the event of a fire, INFIT insulations are transformed into a tough ceramic jacket to assure circuit integrity and keep alarms, exit lighting, elevators, pumps, public address systems and fans operating. Cables can also be protected against rodents, UV, sulphur and more.

Nexans points to other advantages, too, including: 20 per cent less cost than with traditional lead-sheathed cables; more compact for higher plant network density; up to 45 per cent lighter for easier transportation, storage and installation; minimum of 25-30 year longevity; and an ability to withstand scorching temperatures up to 870C.

Geocable Systems (GCS) designs and manufactures custom cable and umbilical assemblies for the total seismic market, from the harsh environment of marine seismic to connectorised cable assemblies for use in a multitude of land seismic, downhole, and transition zone applications. They are designed and built for use in a multitude of marine geophysical applications from conventional to wed arrays to the latest technology in ocean bottom sesimic (OBS) The cables are compatible with acquisition systems produced by input/output (ION), Aram, Sercel and others and include leader wire and connectors for geophone and hydrophone strings.

In-house manufacturing capabilities located near Houston, Texas, include injection moulding of connectors and high volume cable extrusion. GCS can offer short cable runs for repairs and small systems as well. The seismic division of HL-Technologies, GCS recently received two of its most substantial orders to date from international pure-play Geophysical company CGGVeritas. The orders from CGGVeritas include over 8 km of airgun umbilicals for CGGV North America and CGGV Europe and in excess of 27 km of lead-in cables for CGGV worldwide.

Last year, Geocable Systems' parent company HL Technologies announced that it now holds the management system standard certification ISO9001:2008. This follows a successful audit by DNV and replaces the earlier ISO9001:2000 certificate. "HL Technologies and its subsidiaries are pleased to have achieved this certification and are looking forward to the future," said the company. It also urged potential customers to be aware of the lower levels of quality management offered by some competitors.

Meanwhile, JDR Cable Systems has been included in the list of companies to be granted a prestigious Queen's Award for Enterprise 2010. This special award is in recognition of the company's success in international trade for the period from April 2006 to March 2009.

Over the past five years JDR has made significant investments in new people, facilities and equipment to manufacture larger and longer subsea umbilicals and power cables for worldwide oil and gas projects. New production facilities at deepwater quayside locations in Sattahip, Thailand, and Hartlepool, England, have enabled the company to deliver complex systems to a wide range of overseas projects. Service centres in Houston, Texas, and Bergen, Norway have added to the company's service capability. The Littleport, UK factory provides complete workover control umbilical and reeler packages to the majority of deepwater oil and gas projects worldwide.

For its part, Cortland Fibron BX provides airgun umbilicals consisting of single hose or multi-hose; a combination of single or grouped electrical components and/or fibre optic components contained within a robust design utilising steel armoured or aramid fibre strength members. These umbilicals can be offered with full termination, ensuring the successful transfer of the tow loads and protecting all electrical, optical and pneumatic interfaces. The final package includes full testing in accordance with industry standards.

Ocean bottom cables are another speciality - having the electrical content and characteristics of a tow cable, but rugged, lightweight and flexible in design. Tensile strength can be achieved with either a central strain member, a braid, or a serving of aramid fibre. Termination and testing of the finished cable can be offered to customer specific requirements.

Parker Scanrope supplies a wide range of umbilical types from simple static umbilicals to complex dynamic umbilicals. The control umbilical, for example, consists of hydraulic lines used for transfer of chemicals and fluids. In addition, electrical and fibreoptical components used to monitor pressure, temperature, flow, vibrations and more can be part of the construction.

The hydraulic line material is dependent on the functional requirement. Both thermoplastic hoses and steel tubes are in the company's product range. As for the hydraulic lines, the communication and power components are adapted to the suit specific customer requirements.

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