Flexible products are becoming ever longer and larger to cope with the technical demands of deepwater fields and tie-backs. The implication of this being that product reels are becoming larger, heavier and more complex to manage during installation and recovery operations.

This paper explores the current limits of reel-based installation equipment evaluating the implications of the increased deck footprint, the necessity for modularity from an equipment repositioning and handling perspective and the limitations placed on vessel selection and vessel stability during installation. The safety, engineering, operability and commercial factors associated with each area of development are analysed to produce a complete snapshot of where the current industry limits lie and how far we can push the envelope for this method of installation.

Specific equipment focus is placed on reel-drive systems which are the industry standard and under-roller systems which, although represent a more dated technology, are still accepted in certain regions for flex lay operations.

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