METHOD OF LAYING A PIPE BUNDLE ON THE SEABED
1. A method of laying empty pipes on the seabed, the method comprising:
- arranging a plurality of empty pipes in a bundle;
arranging at least one bundle-strengthening element in a cavity defined by the pipes of the bundle;
binding the bundle; and
lowering the bundle to a seabed.
Provided is a method of laying empty pipes on the seabed, which method includes arranging a plurality of empty pipes in a bundle; arranging a bundle-strengthening element in a cavity defined by the pipes of the bundle; binding the bundle; and lowering the bundle to the seabed.
- 1. A method of laying empty pipes on the seabed, the method comprising:
arranging a plurality of empty pipes in a bundle; arranging at least one bundle-strengthening element in a cavity defined by the pipes of the bundle; binding the bundle; and lowering the bundle to a seabed.
- View Dependent Claims (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
This application claims priority to PCT Application No. PCT/EP2017/082067, having a filing date of Dec. 8, 2017, which is based on German Application No. 10 2017 212 967.0, having a filing date of Jul. 27, 2017 and German Application No. 10 2017 206 857.4, having a filing date of Apr. 24, 2017, the entire contents all of which are hereby incorporated by reference.
The following describes a method of laying empty pipes on the seabed. The following further describes a bundling system.
An offshore facility such as a wind turbine (mounted on an offshore support structure) requires a transmission link to an on-shore connection point and/or to other offshore facilities such as other wind turbines of a wind farm, a wind farm substation, etc.
Cable connections to/from such off-shore installations can be installed by conventional means, e.g. by simply laying a sub-sea cable on the seabed. A sub-sea cable may optionally be ploughed into the seabed. Sub-sea cables may be installed using horizontal directional drilling. Another approach comprises a step of first arranging empty flexible (plastic) tubes or pipes on the seabed. In this approach, transmission cables are then pushed or pulled through the empty pipes as described in EP3086424A1.
Since cable installation off-shore is quite labour-intensive and costly, it is advantageous to install as many cables as possible during the same operation. However, placing three or more empty pipes together before lowering them to the seabed or underneath the seabed (ploughing or using horizontal directional drilling), gives rise to some problems. For instance, the individual pipes tend to be flattened out, making it difficult to load them with transmission cables, or making them unsuitable for the transport of fluid such as oil or gas. Flattened pipes generally pose a problem for any equipment that is used for such tasks.
Furthermore, since the process of laying cables is quite expensive, normally the wind turbines of a wind park are connected to an off-shore substation or “collector point”. An export cable is then used to connect the offshore substation to an on-shore facility. However, the need for an off-shore substation adds significantly to the overall costs of a wind farm.
An aspect relates to an improved way of laying empty pipes on the seabed that overcomes the problems described above.
According to embodiments of the invention, the method of laying empty pipes on the seabed comprises the steps of arranging a plurality of empty pipes (in some embodiments, at least three) in a bundle; arranging a bundle-strengthening element in a cavity defined by the bundle of empty pipes; binding the bundle; and lowering the bundle to the seabed.
In the context of embodiments of the invention, a bundle comprises three or more empty pipes—which may be of the same diameter—with at least one additional bundle-strengthening element arranged in a cavity of the bundle to give support to the bundle during installation. The bundle-strengthening element is also afforded protection on account of its position within the cavity.
An advantage of the inventive method is that regular unarmoured flexible tubes or pipes can be used. Such unarmoured pipes are generally used for on-shore pipe-laying procedures, and are far less expensive and more flexible than the armoured cables that are normally used for off-shore installations. An objective of embodiments of the invention is a bundle design for empty tubes or pipes which are to be laid down to off-shore installations for the purpose of electricity transport. Of course, pipes of the pipe bundle can be used for the transport of a fluid such as gas or oil.
The inventive method is to bundle three or more empty pipes together and to place an additional bundle-strengthening element or “centre-core cable” within the bundle. Taking a three-pipe bundle as an example (in some embodiments, with three empty pipes of the same radius), the three empty pipes are arranged in a triangular configuration so that a small cavity is formed in the centre, and the bundle-strengthening element is arranged within this cavity. To this end, the bundle-strengthening element has a radius that is smaller than that of the empty pipes and sufficiently large so that the bundle-strengthening element touches each of the empty pipes.
This design is highly beneficial for bundle stability, especially in an installation procedure that deploys horizontal directional drilling. This techniques is established for on-shore installation procedure but is not commonly used for off-shore installations. However, the technique of horizontal directional drilling is being considered for off-shore installation procedures, especially for near-shore wind turbines.
An advantage of the inventive bundling concept is that a bundle of empty pipes can be installed over long distances in a single step, before being split up to connect the empty pipes to individual off-shore installations or arrays of off-shore installations. Because the inventive method is cost-efficient and overcomes the problems mentioned in the introduction, the inventive bundling concept can do away with the need for a substation.
According to embodiments of the invention, the bundling system is realized to carry out the steps of the inventive method and comprises a plurality of drums, each drum carrying a coiled empty pipe; a further drum carrying a coiled bundle-strengthening element; a bundling unit adapted to arrange a plurality of empty pipes in a bundle and to arranging a bundle-strengthening element in a cavity defined by the bundle of empty pipes; a binding unit adapted to bind the bundle; and a feed means adapted to feed the bundle towards the seabed.
An advantage of the inventive bundling system with its “hollow tube” principle is that it can be realized using relatively little additional effort. The empty pipes can be supplied on standard drums to a bundling unit. Similarly, a bundle-strengthening element can be supplied on a standard drum to the bundling unit. The bundling unit can be configured in any number of ways to combine different numbers of empty pipes with one or more bundle-strengthening elements to achieve any number of different bundle configurations, as will be explained below.
Other embodiments and features of the invention are given by the dependent claims, as revealed in the following description. Features of different claim categories may be combined as appropriate to give further embodiments not described herein.
In the following, it may be assumed that an offshore facility is a wind turbine of a wind farm. The wind farm may comprise a large number of wind turbines arranged in arrays.
A cable later inserted into an empty pipe may be a power cable for electricity transport, a fibre-optic cable for communication, etc. However, in the context of embodiments of the invention, any cable later inserted into an empty pipe may be assumed to be used for electricity transport. While the inventive method and bundling system are particularly suited for the installation of empty pipes between an onshore facility and the wind turbines of an offshore wind farm, they may also be used to connect facilities such as oil or gas producing platforms, in which case the tubes or empty pipes are used for the transport of fluids such as oil or gas. In the following, an empty pipe of the bundle may be referred to as a “primary cable”, and a bundle-strengthening element may be referred to as a “secondary cable”.
The inventive bundling system enables an automatic bundling process, and can be realized for installation on a marine vessel, for example. The empty pipes and the bundle-strengthening element(s) can be guided into the desired configuration and bundled at the same speed as the laying speed of the marine vessel. Equally, the inventive bundling system can be realized as an onshore system that feeds the bundle onto the seabed, and which may also deploy a technique of horizontal drilling to bury the bundle under the seabed.
In one embodiment of the invention, a single bundle-strengthening element is used to provide strength to the bundle. This bundle-strengthening element may itself be a communications cable with a diameter that is large enough to touch each of the empty pipes when it is arranged in a cavity in the interior of the bundle, or to touch two empty pipes when arranged in a channel along the outside of the bundle, formed by two adjacent empty pipes. Such an arrangement may be sufficient to achieve a stable bundle. Alternatively, a bundle-strengthening element may comprise an empty tube which has the desired diameter and which will later be loaded with a communications cable, for example.
The buoyancy of the bundle will depend to a certain extent on the diameter of the empty pipes. Therefore, in an embodiment of the invention, a bundle-strengthening element may be provided to add weight to the bundle. Besides having a bundle centre-core cable, additional cables can be placed in the bundle. For example, a bundle-strengthening element may comprise a twisted wire rope. The bundling system comprises one or more drums, each carrying a coil of such a wire cable. These may add additional weight to the overall bundle and thus prevent the bundle from unintentionally floating upwards from its intended position on or in the seabed.
In a configuration comprising three empty pipes, a single central bundle-strengthening element may be a communications cable, or a tube loaded with such a communications cable. Such a three-pipe bundle may already have sufficient weight to remain in its installation position on or under the seabed. If necessary, such a three-pipe bundle may comprise one or more additional bundle-strengthening element(s) in order to arrive at the necessary weight. For example, a three-pipe bundle may comprise a central communications cable as well as one or more wire-rope bundle-strengthening element(s). The bundling unit is realized to combine a number of empty pipes with a suitable number of bundle-strengthening element(s) in a desired configuration.
Since most off-shore installations require communications lines, the secondary cable could advantageously be a communication cable, for example a fibre-optic cable. Cables such as communication cables are generally not armoured, and may be damaged when installed, especially if the installation method comprises pulling the cable though surrounding material such as soil, sand, rocks and the like, as is the case with a horizontal directional drilling method. As mentioned above, while the bundle-strengthening element may have a diameter that is sufficiently large so that the bundle-strengthening element touches the empty pipes along its length, it is equally possible that the bundle-strengthening element or secondary cable may have a smaller diameter, which may be the case if the bundle-strengthening element is a communications cable such as a fibre-optic cable. The bundle-strengthening element in this case may not necessarily provide the same degree of stability to the bundle, but the cavity formed within the centre of the primary cables would advantageously provide protection or shielding of the secondary cable, since the hollow empty pipes are usually of a strong durable material such as HDPE (high-density polyethylene).
Alternatively or in addition, a bundle-strengthening element can comprise any other cable type, for example a steel wire cable. The mass of such a bundle-strengthening element is chosen to counteract the buoyancy of the empty pipes of the bundle. In this way, the bundle-strengthening element can increase the weight of the bundle, preventing up-drift of the bundle from its position on the seabed.
As explained above, the empty pipes and the bundle-strengthening element(s) are arranged in a bundle immediately prior to installation on the seabed, for example empty pipes and cables are fed from individual drums on a ship or at an on-shore bundling facility (e.g. for horizontal directional drilling), and then prior to being installed on the seabed, the empty pipes and bundle-strengthening element(s) are bundled together. The bundle, prior to being installed on or below the seabed, is bound in some suitable manner to ensure that the bundle remains intact. The step of binding the bundle comprises wrapping a number of tapes around the bundle. A suitable wrapper machine can be used for this purpose. A tape can simply be wound tightly about the bundle to provide the desired effect. Alternatively, a tape may have an adhesive surface so that the tape sticks to the surfaces of the empty pipes. One or more tapes can be wrapped about the bundle in a helical manner, for example. Alternatively, a suitable plastic material may be wrapped about the bundle.
As indicated above, a bundle can be lowered to the seabed from a marine vessel. Alternatively, a bundle can be lowered to the seabed from an onshore bundling facility. This step may be combined with a horizontal directional drilling procedure to bury the bundle under the seabed.
Once a bundle has been installed between its end points—between an onshore facility and a wind turbine of a wind farm, between two wind turbines of a wind farm; etc.—the step of installing transmission cables may commence. The installation of a sub-sea transmission cables in the hollow tubes can be done by pulling/pushing, i.e. a power cable is inserted from one end of an empty tube and pulled from the other end.
It is well known to connect an export cable from a wind farm to a transformer station onshore. All power generated by a wind farm is transmitted through the transmission cables. At times of high production, the cables will heat up due to the power loss. Since most of the cabling is located in water or below the seabed, there will be a natural cooling of these parts. However, at the end positions of the export cable i.e. where it is attached to the substation or turbine and/or where the cable enters ashore, the cable may not be cooled sufficiently. Such overheated parts of the cable are referred to as “hot spots” and may cause damage to the cable. A further advantage of the hollow tube principle is that, in addition to carrying the transmission cable, the tube can be filled with water during or after cable installation. Therefore, in an embodiment of the invention, the step of lowering the bundle to the seabed is followed by a step of subsequently pumping water into an empty pipe. In this way, water can advantageously be filled into the tubes (before or after the transmission cables are installed) at least over part of the tube length to provide some cooling means, especially around the cable end connections.
In an embodiment of the invention, water may be used as the driving force to install a transmission cable. In such a technique, a “pig” is connected to one end of a transmission cable and inserted into one end of an empty tube or pipe. The pipe is provided with a water inlet and a seal through which the transmission cable passes. When pressurized water is pumped into the pipe, the pig is propelled along the pipe, pulling the transmission cable behind it. An arrangement of friction rollers (between a drum carrying the transmission cable and the insertion end of the tube) can assist in pushing the transmission cable into the pipe.
Some of the embodiments will be described in detail, with reference to the following figures, wherein like designations denote like members, wherein:
Such a division is illustrated in
In a prior art approach as shown in
Although the present invention has been disclosed in the form of preferred embodiments and variations thereon, it will be understood that numerous additional modifications and variations could be made thereto without departing from the scope of the invention.
For the sake of clarity, it is to be understood that the use of “a” or “an” throughout this application does not exclude a plurality, and “comprising” does not exclude other steps or elements.