Over the last decades, the complexity and duration of offshore drilling operations have steadily increased. The size and weight of the risers and BOP stack has grown significantly. These factors have led to an increase in fatigue loads imposed on the wellhead structures during drilling and completion operations. Wellhead fatigue might ultimately lead to loss of well structural integrity and pressure containment and therefore safe and reliable drilling of subsea wellheads has gained high priority in the global oil and gas industry. This paper presents two of the most complex real time instrumentation campaigns for drilling operations.

Analyses of a connected drilling riser system including the well structure are complex and involve several engineering disciplines. In addition, there are many unknowns going into the equations when accumulated fatigue damage of the wellhead is estimated. Therefore, assumptions need to be made, very often on the conservative side. A typical example are the global drilling riser analyses where the environmental conditions, actual rig motion and riser / BOP behavior are uncertain.

With the duplex scope of accurately documenting the wellhead fatigue status during drilling operations and of achieving a better understanding of the actual risk level of wellhead fatigue, Statoil decided to start a very comprehensive monitoring campaign. Two MODU representing very different generations of rigs in terms of weights and types of equipment were instrumented from topside to BOP connector. Strain gauges were installed around the BOP connector as close as possible to the wellhead in order to capture wellhead response as accurately as possible. Due to the large number of sensors, high accuracy requirement and high sampling frequency of data to be shown live, a cabled solution was selected vs remote battery operated sensors transmitting via acoustic. Double set of cables, sensors and topside equipment were installed in order to make the instrumentation system fully redundant and suited for permanent installation. All data were additionally made available real time onshore to allow the full overview of the operation. To author’s knowledge, these two instrumentation systems are the most comprehensive and complex of this type installed on a drilling riser as of today. The first of the two system was installed approximately three years ago and it is still in operation. This paper describes the instrumentation systems installed and gives an extract of the quality data extracted and already used in already published studies [1, 2, 3].

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