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Claxton takes the bite out of pipe tensioning

A Claxton Gecko Grip tension ring in use during a North Sea drilling campaign

Dannie Claxton, technical director, Claxton says, “We developed Gecko Grip by drawing on extensive knowledge of the systems available within the industry. The short development time, less than a year from concept to commercial application, shows the value of applying proven technology in new ways. We expect Gecko Grip to have worldwide application, but our initial focus will be on the North Sea market.”

But there was more to the development process than taking an existing product and repurposing it, as Matthew Marcantonio, research and development manager, Claxton, explains, “The development process called for some fundamental theoretical work. We had to establish in-depth understanding of how the existing products worked and take an informed view on how any new system we developed would perform under field conditions. This project was not a small step because we were moving away from established methods for pipe tensioning that have been in place for 20 years or more.

“In addition, we had to consider a wide range of component variables. It was never going to be enough to have a tensioning system that worked on some pipe, some of the time. So, we tested Gecko Grip on all kinds of paint finishes and coatings to determine its applicability. From bare steel to greased and painted in various combinations, we had to be sure that Gecko Grip could handle anything that a traditional tensioning system would.”

The results of these tests were very encouraging. The Gecko Grip performed as required across the full range of pipe types and coatings, and the reduction in surface damage was clear for all to see. Even better news for operators is that the cost differential of applying Gecko Grip is insignificant when weighed against the potential damage to pipe and long-term fatigue issues associated with traditional tensioning equipment.

Commercial application

In mid-2014, a riser project in the North Sea provided Claxton with its first commercial opportunity to install the Gecko Grip tension ring.

The team delivered two 200Te systems to tension and handle the high-pressure drilling riser on a newly built jackup drilling rig for an expected four-to-five-year drilling programme.

The first (primary) unit was used successfully for three months, before removal to assess its performance. The second (backup) unit was then installed.

“The customer wanted to use the Gecko Grip for this project to stop fatigue damage on the conductor pipe and saw a marked improvement by switching to this product. The primary unit was inspected after use and was found to be in exactly the same condition as when it was installed. The second unit also worked well out in the field, so it was a very successful result for the Gecko Grip and the client,” says Marcantonio.

Claxton put the new tension rings through a full development cycle of sample testing, scale testing and then full-size testing before sending them out to the North Sea project.

“When the units went out on the job, they just sailed through. The project went very smoothly and the installation team reported the units as being very easy to put together,” says Marcantonio. “The extensive upfront work also meant that there was no need to amend the design for future projects.”

This upfront work paid dividends in early 2015 when a third Gecko Grip tension ring entered service for an additional client; field proving the technology up to 400Te.

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