Oil and gas activity in the Gulf of Mexico remains high, as does the commitment to operational and process safety. Every procedure involving a pipeline, platform or asset is closely scrutinized, which means pipeline operators are under considerable pressure to meticulously maintain their networks by regulatory bodies. This being so, increasingly efficient valve replacement has become a top priority. Executing a valve upgrade program is a complex operation, in and of itself, as it must be completed safely, with minimal disruption to production. However, additional care must be taken to ensure that the sections of pipeline in need of new valves are securely isolated from pressure in the pipeline so that they can be safely replaced.
When a major operator set out to execute a gas valve upgrade project on a deepwater gas export pipeline offshore New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico, it turned to pipeline services specialist T.D. Williamson (TDW). Working in a strategic partnership with this operator, TDW provides pipeline pressure isolation services under the terms of a global pipeline isolation and intervention services contract entered into in 2012. TDW uses its remote-controlled SmartPlug® tool to isolate pressure in specific sections of pipelines and risers so that repairs or interventions can be carried out safely.
Initially, TDW was required to isolate a 16-inch gas riser connected to a major subsea gas pipeline network in order to replace a valve, so it carried out engineering work, assembled the pressure isolation tool, and completed all factory acceptance testing (FAT) in mid-2012. Plans changed when the operator decided to postpone replacement of the single valve so that three additional valves could be installed, and a launcher extension added to facilitate inline inspection tool runs. In the event that the original valve did not meet the regulatory function requirements, TDW shipped the SmartPlug tool and FAT rig to Houston where they remained on stand-by for a rapid response during this interim period. In early 2014, TDW was advised that the planned isolation would commence in May 2014.