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Friday | 06 August, 2010 | 3:31 am

BP uses waterjet systems

By Lauren Duensing

August 2010 - Government agencies, nonprofits and even metals-industry companies have come together to help BP plc stop the Gulf of Mexico oil leak, which has been flowing since April 20 when an explosion on the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon led to the massive spill.

As of July 19, the total volume of oil collected or flared by the containment systems is about 826,800 barrels, according to BP. The cost of the response as of July 19 is roughly $3.95 billion, including the cost of the spill response, containment, relief well drilling, grants to the Gulf states, claims paid and federal costs, according to the company. The U.S. government in its ongoing effort to fight the oil near shore and offshore has deployed nearly 42,000 personnel, more than 5,300 vessels and more than 100 aircraft, according to the White House.

Recently, waterjet technology companies Jet Edge Inc., St. Michael, Minn., and Chukar Waterjet Inc., St. Michael, Minn., began helping BP stem the flow of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. The companies provided ultra-high-pressure waterjet equipment and on-site expertise to remove hydrate ice crystals that had formed inside a containment cap at the spill site. The hydrates were clogging the containment system.

BP engineers contacted Chukar to discuss the problems and to seek a waterjet solution, says Bruce Kivisto, Chukar general manager. The companies started work on the project June 3.

"Chukar managed the project and all logistics by working with Jet Edge, a third-party integrator and subsea specialist; an offshore transportation group; BP and a safety group," says Kivisto, who spent time on site in the Gulf for the project.

Jet Edge engineered a 36,000-psi waterjet intensifier pump to power a robot-operated waterjetting lance intended to blast away the hydrates. The company designed the system to blast with seawater or liquid gas.

Challenging conditions
The pump had to be capable of withstanding harsh undersea conditions, as on-site personnel deployed it 5,000 feet into the Gulf of Mexico.

"Some of the seals in the equipment were exposed to the chemicals and saltwater. Both are corrosive to some materials," says Kivisto. "The ambient pressure at the depths we were operating at was about 2,300 psi. This posed a risk in terms of mechanical operation of some of the components."

To ensure the system could withstand the environment, Jet Edge used advanced filtration and ultra-high-pressure seal technology in its design. The companies used "careful engineering assessments of strength of materials and chemical compatibility of materials" in determining the extent of project challenges because they needed to achieve "longevity and reliability in the saltwater environment," he says.

A subsea-capable power plant operates the system, says Kivisto. "This is the electric-powered (from the surface) hydraulic system that is used with many subsea remotely operated vehicles," he says.

The project came together quickly at the behest of the customers, says Kivisto, noting that the accelerated time frame for implementation also was a challenge. "Engineering changes were put in place over a five-day period. Testing followed during the next two weeks," he says. MM

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