New system offers safer, faster, more efficient hot tapping

The demands of deepwater and the risks in shallow water have necessitated development of a completely diverless, remote-controlled system. Responding to these demands, T.D. Williamson (TDW) has developed the Subsea 1200RC Tapping Machine, a remote-controlled hot-tap machine.

The system, which is extremely lightweight, allows hot tapping to be carried out from the safety of a diving support vessel (DSV) or platform via an on-board laptop, resulting in significant safety benefits and improvement in operational control.

The laptop-based program facilitates control remotely, rather than relying on the divers’ manual handling of the cutting process. The end result is a level of accuracy and quality that is not possible in diver-based operations.

Further benefits of the new technology are that it offers total control and visibility of the tapping operation where there was none before. Built-in sensors allow continuous recording of actual pressures, temperatures, rotation and movement of the pilot drill and cutter. They shed light on what is going on inside the enclosed space, right at the heart of the cutting operation.

TDW Vice President – Offshore Pipeline Solutions Mike Benjamin said “The most critical part of the hot-tapping process is the point at which the drill penetrates the pipe, which has now been rendered diverless by the Subsea 1200RC Tapping Machine. The direct control and visibility from a laptop will revolutionise hot tapping, giving way to a more efficient and safer process.”

The Subsea 1200RC Tapping Machine was tested and successfully deployed in 2011 on a tapping operation for a project in water depths of 91 m. The tap size was 406 mm on an existing 711 mm diameter gas pipeline.

TDW performed the operation from a DSV. The cutting operation itself lasted approximately two hours. The entire operation was conducted safely, while flow through the gas pipeline continued uninterrupted.

The benefits of this technology can also be extended to onshore operations. A remotely-operated system automatically implies safe operations, for instance in emergency situations where pipeline intervention and repair takes place in dangerous environments following an incident.

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