Mitigating Risks in Oil Transfer for Growing FPSO Market

As floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) projects have become one of the primary methods for many offshore oil and gas producing regions around the world, the oil hose industry is growing in importance. With so many manufacturing options to choose from on the market, it can be challenging to figure out which solution fits a project best.

Hose + Coupling World recently had the opportunity to connect with Vincent Lagarrigue to discuss his experience with hose applications in the oil and gas industry and the importance of FPSO operators investing in safe practices and equipment.

By Brittani Schroeder and Angelica Pajkovic

Lagarrigue began his career as a product engineer for Michelin over 19 years ago. After working in a variety of industrial sectors, he accepted a position with Trelleborg’s oil and marine division in 2006 as a design engineering manager and has since progressed to the position of director. During this time, Lagarrigue has played an integral role in the expansion of the team, which today offers the widest range of multi-faceted crude oil, LNG, LPG and refined product handling solutions in the market.

Hose Expertise

With over a decade of experience, Lagarrigue has been engaged with several different hose applications and has acquired a thorough understanding of their various uses.

As understanding the intended function of each hose is essential to ensuring that all the transported material will be moved in an effective and efficient manner, Lagarrigue stresses the importance of knowing each hose’s process. For example, the nipple and nippleless hoses have been specifically designed for terminal and offshore transfer, and are applicable for use on floating configurations, and reeling applications. “The nipple and nippleless hoses are qualified in accordance with GMPHOM 2009 (OCIMF Guideline),” said Lagarrigue. “Certifying the hoses to these standards helps to maximize safety and technical integrity. It also reduces the potential for negative environmental impact.”

Lagarrigue further explained how the years of research and expertise has led to the implementation of specialist applications for a variety of hose types. Hoses that are developed for operation on a reel can prevent damage between offloading operations, while hoses used for seawater intake of FPSOs and FLNGs, can bring large quantities of cold water onto floating production platforms in order to absorb the heat that is generated from gas compression and liquefication. “Our unique CRYOLINE hose is bringing about a new generation of LNG infrastructure, both in ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore configurations,” Lagarrigue explained. “The floating hose design allows the LNG transfers to occur where it would otherwise be necessary to build a jetty. Having an integrated monitoring system in the hose means that operators can control the transfer process closely, which ultimately makes it safer and minimizes boil off.” For Lagarrigue, ensuring that the integrity of the hose is in no way compromised is vital to a safe and successful operation. That is why it is crucial to have the best team on hand who have expert understanding of the conditions that a particular hose will withstand.

A Balancing Act

Although Lagarrigue has a number of responsibilities, his position consists of two principle roles; managing and sales directing. “As a manager, I must ensure that my team is working well together and that they have all the resources they need to complete each project successfully. As a sales director, I need to go out and secure new business. This involves coordinating with the regional sales managers, as well as meeting customers face-to-face and working with them to understand how I can support their operations most effectively and help accelerate their business,” explained Lagarrigue.

“It is incredibly important to me to know that I am helping bring out the best in each employee and that we are working together effectively as a team,” he continued. “This takes time, as you need to empower people to make sure they have the confidence to do the job to the best of their ability, and to build trust within the team. This type of leadership drives the best results from your team.”

In addition to his primary responsibilities, Lagarrigue also takes time to develop and execute strategies, help introduce new technologies to the market, and propose creative business models for a wide range of hose applications. These include multi-faceted crude oil, LNG, LPG, and refined product handling solutions for the current market.

Learning to Adapt

One of the largest issues that Lagarrigue has witnessed in the industry is a need to rapidly adapt to a new ‘normal’ after a period of challenging market conditions. “There are a few things that are defining the offshore industrial hose market,” explained Lagarrigue. “First, there is an uptick in FPSO orders. A report was published by Global Data stating that more than 60 planned and announced FPSOs are expected to start operating by 2025. Six were ordered from global shipbuilders in 2017, and 11 more were announced in 2018. Throughout 2015 and 2016, no new FPSO orders were made, so this is quite the jump.”

The floating hose design allows the LNG transfers to occur where it would otherwise be necessary to build a jetty. Having an integrated monitoring system in the hose means that operators can control the transfer process closely, which ultimately makes it safer and minimizes boil off.

Secondly, finding cost efficiencies can mean the difference between a company thriving and just simply surviving. “Operators are turning to FPSOs more than ever before, and they are leveraging the economical and efficiency benefits of floating production that storage and offloading vessels can deliver,” said Lagarrigue. New design concepts, creative financing options, fabrication and integration innovations at global shipyards, and industry partnerships are all contributing to an upswing in orders.

When considering LNG, the market is growing so fast—from small-scale energy production, to large-scale imports, to the use of LNGs as marine fuel—that the development and construction must accelerate to keep pace. “For us, this means working closely with our partners both within our Trelleborg group and beyond to develop applications in a variety of new spaces,” Lagarrigue explained.

Another big issue that the company faces in the oil and gas industry is harsh weather conditions. Equipment is significantly put to the test and selecting a hose can make or break a project. Selecting the correct hose can ensure the highest safety standards while not compromising on optimizing service life.

It is incredibly important to me to know that I am helping bring out the best in each employee and that we are working together effectively as a team,” he continued. “This takes time, as you need to empower people to make sure they have the confidence to do the job to the best of their ability, and to build trust within the team.

Safe Practices for FPSOs

In order to effectively adapt to the changing environment, industrial hose companies need to increase their investments in safe practices as global FPSO pipelines continue to grow. Guaranteeing a safe, successful, and reliable performance of the cargo transfer is of the utmost importance.

“There are a number of inherent safety risks that operators of FPSOs must mitigate,” said Lagarrigue. “For offloading transfers, these include a collision between the FPSO and the tanker vessel, tanker drift-off, unexpected pressure surges, and transfer failure. All of these can result in asset damage, injury to operational personnel, and product spills.” To reduce these types of risks, operators often use a marine breakaway coupling (MBC) or an emergency release coupling (ERC).

While ERCs and MBCs seem superficially similar, there are a few fundamental differences that operators need to be aware of. Ultimately, being aware will inform their decision making, and could lead to fewer product failures. Trelleborg advocates for the use of MBCs for several reasons, as opposed to an ERC. “The MBC requires no manual activation from personnel, which eliminates the potential risk for possible operator failures,” explained Lagarrigue. At the same time, an MBC is superior in mitigating the risk of surge pressure and offers greater protection of the offloading hose in the event of a tanker drift-off.

“Despite its advantages, there are still challenges when using MBCs in combination with a hose reel,” Lagarrigue admitted. “There can be an unintended parting of the MBC during the reeling operation, and it often happens when an operator uses a standard double carcass nipple hose. When an MBC is added, a stiff section is created, and it could stretch longer than 1.7 meters.” When a hose is stored on a reeling application, the stress placed upon the stiff section becomes too great, and this results in the unexpected release of the MBC.

Choosing the Best Solutions

To overcome challenges such as too much stress on hoses, or unexpected releases of MBCs, Trelleborg spent a significant amount of time researching and developing new solutions for reeling applications on FPSOs. “Our goal was to create a product with reinforced compact flanges and integrated bending stiffeners, which means more flexibility, higher resistance to tension and collapse, and no stress concentration in the flange area,” Lagarrigue explained.

When operating in challenging sea conditions, Trelleborg’s goal is to have offloading solutions with a great track record in terms of long service life, which will ultimately make offloading operations safer and more reliable.

To make sure the customer is given the right solution for the projects, Lagarrigue said, “We take a consultative approach with our customers. We want to ensure the most suitable solution is chosen for each application, whatever the environmental and operational conditions may be.”

Only the Best Hoses for Trelleborg

Trelleborg gets all their hose solutions from their world-class manufacturing facility in Clermont-Ferrand, France. The plant serves as the location for manufacturing rubber compounds, performing full-scale tests, developing new material and components, assessing aging hoses, among other things.

Every single product is subjected to Factory Acceptance Tests, to ensure that they meet international standards and project requirements. “Our hoses are only released if they can withstand the demanding proof-testing session,” explained Lagarrigue.

A Growing Optimism

Moving forward, Lagarrigue expects the FPSO market to keep growing passed what has already been predicted. “At the same time,” he said, “the need for more stringent operability standards in oil and gas transfer is evident throughout the industry. Over the past year, I have seen a rise in the number of operators upgrading their installations in accordance with API 17K specifications, particularly in Europe and the United States.”

When looking for new developments and trends, Lagarrigue sees a growing optimism in capital and innovation spending throughout the supply chain and he considers this a “breath of fresh air for all those working in the sector.”