Australian innovation in international offshore drilling operation

The Richmond-designed rollers are set to be deployed on the ground-breaking Japanese vessel, Chikyu. The ship, which set a world record in 2012 by drilling down and obtaining rock samples from deeper than 2,111 m below the seafloor, offshore Japan in the northwest Pacific Ocean, was commissioned by the Japanese Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology to take on ultra-deep water scientific research work using oil and gas technologies.

NuStar Technologies, which contracted Richmond to assist in supplying rollers for the vessel’s construction, assisted in the design and build of the guide roller structures to enhance the installation process of drill pipes and other completion equipment.

The design process

Richmond manufactured two kinds of rollers for the project, with the following specifications:

Drilling guide roller

  • Weight: 714 kg
  • Diameter: 711.2 mm
  • Length: 1,308.1 mm

Completion guide roller

  • Weight: 231 kg
  • Diameter: 398.8 mm
  • Length: 508 mm
  • Richmond began preparing the rollers for NuStar in late May 2012, and immediately employed innovations in its manufacture in order to fit the design requirements of the vessel.

    According to NuStar, the roller design for the application supplied by Richmond needed to have a defined curvature for a 254 mm radius for the Completion Guide Roller, which has a diameter of 398.8 mm, and a defined curvature for a 1,524 mm radius for the Drilling Guide Roller, which has a diameter of 711.2 mm.

    The rollers were also manufactured to take into account NuStar’s required design impact loading of 13.6 t and 27.2 t respectively at high frequency.

    The roller material helps to dampen vibration and reduce noise in the course of high frequency impact under loading, while providing the rigid circular enclosure for the purpose of guiding.

    To minimise the number of parts, the amount of required maintenance and to ensure impact robustness, NuStar took out any bearing requirement between the shaft and the roller carrier. A Xylan-coated shaft was also used to provide anti-corrosion measures, as well as to reduce friction.

    Innovations on the project

    Richmond Engineering Department Manager Breon Winslow-Moore notes that each of the three 508 mm rollers required the company to process over 450 kg of polyurethane in one single casting.

    “To achieve this, we needed to run two machines at the same time to process the material at the required flow rate, ensuring the material did not begin to set before the pour was complete,” said Mr Winslow-Moore.

    “This was a new company record for the largest single polyurethane castings”.

    The end result of this manufacturing process was a perfect fit for NuStar’s required guide rollers structure. The guide roller structure that Richmond supplied will now be used to constrain drill pipe/riser
    movement caused by sea currents in the vessel, as well as to transfer some of the loading induced by these currents against drill pipes and risers via the guide structures to the moon pool working carts.

    Getting the job done on time and on budget

    According to NuStar Technologies Engineering Director Teo Sim Guan, Richmond was selected as the pipe roller supplier due to its excellent track record, quality product and services.

    “We knew Richmond through previous trade show contacts, knew their product and services through their website and their good project track [record],” Mr Teo said.

    Richmond was also able to meet NuStar’s strict timing requirements in its supply of the rollers.

    Mr Winslow-Moore notes that much of Richmond Wheel and Castors’ engineering products and solutions involve wheels/rollers,
    so the nature of the business is to get things moving.

    “In over 50 years of business, we have become very efficient at manufacturing products quickly. Fast delivery is almost always a top priority for our customers,” said Mr Winslow-Moore.

    As part of its regular service, Richmond employed its standard quality assurance programs in the manufacture of the rollers for the vessel, including the particular requirement to maintain documentation from steel certification, the Xylan coating process, polyurethane hardness verification, dimensional verification, shipping documents, and more.

    According to Mr Teo, the quality of the end products was extremely satisfactory, and in line with NuStar Technologies’ business philosophy of providing innovative solutions to challenging land and offshore engineering projects.

    When questioned about the engineering services that Richmond offers, Mr Winslow-Moore said the offering is quite unique.

    “To complement our large, off-the-shelf range of wheel products, we have the engineering and manufacturing capacity to design and build the product of the day,” said Mr Winslow-Moore.

    Mr Winslow-Moore noted that Richmond’s excellent reputation for wheel making has attracted many international customers, and following the success of its work on this ground-breaking Japanese project, there should be many more.

    The Chikyu vessel is set to be deployed offshore in early 2014.

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