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Roncador P-52 Hybrid Riser Review: Key Concepts, Construction and

Installation Challenges
V. C. Mello, V. T. Lacerda, M. M. Paixo, C. V. Ferreira and M. G. G. Morais, Petrobras

Copyright 2011, Offshore Technology Conference

This paper was prepared for presentation at the Offshore Technology Conference held in Houston, Texas, USA, 25 May 2011.
This paper was selected for presentation by an OTC program committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper have not been
reviewed by the Offshore Technology Conference and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material does not necessarily reflect any position of the Offshore Technology Conference, its
officers, or members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper without the written consent of the Offshore Technology Conference is prohibited. Permission to
reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgment of OTC copyright.

The first Petrobras Hybrid Riser was installed in Campos Basin and is part of the Roncador P-52 oil export system. This
system, which connects the SS platform P-52 (1800m water depth) to the fixed unit PRA-1 (100m water depth), is in
operation since November 2007 comprises an 18 in diameter flowline and the Free Standing Hybrid Riser (FSHR). The
FSHR is composed by a grouted foundation, 1500m of rigid steel riser, a near surface Buoyancy Can and a flexible jumper
connecting the top of rigid riser to the platform. The basic design evolved almost until installation, in October 2007, due to
engineering, construction and supplier restrictions.
Key concepts of design and main considerations that led to this Hybrid Riser final design are reviewed. Moreover, this
paper presents some of the aspects of construction and installation that influenced the implementation and some of the
lessons learned are discussed. The Riser foundation and flexible jumper were free issued by Petrobras to Contractor and
some of the interfaces over the design are addressed as well.
This paper points out some of the key issues to be taken into consideration to improve the design of future projects and
presents some important lessons learned that can be used for further studies in ultra deepwater large diameter Hybrid Risers.
In November 2007 the first Petrobras Hybrid Riser, part of P-52s oil export system - also known as PDET Profundo A
project, started operating in Roncador field in Campos Basin, Brazil. The system has been operating successfully over the
past years proving the efficiency of the concept. This riser concept allows for a more compact subsea arrangement compared
to Steel Catenary Riser (SCR) as it was the case of P-52 FSHR which was installed nearly 300m from the platform. Some
other advantages were also pointed out in Sert et al (2001) and include:
Loads: FPU motions are transferred to the Flexible Jumper and not to the main catenary (in case of SCR).
Reduced Loads on the FPU: the loads come uniquely from the weight of the catenary flexible jumper and are
shared between the buoyancy can and the FPU.
Installation with Pipelay Vessel: The installation can be done by standard pipelay vessels with standard laying
methods (J-Lay, Reel-Lay or S-Lay) depending on the specific design restrictions which, in this case, were
suitable only to J-Lay method.
Improved Installation Schedule: It does not depend on the FPU schedule. The installation campaign can start
with much anticipation to the platforms arrival.
Suitable for Ultra Deepwater: In certain situations like water depths beyond 2000m it may be impractical to
have a flexible riser (or bundle). This was the case with P-52 where the concept was installed in depths of
Roncador oil export system FEED was developed by 2H Offshore Engineering considering that the FSHR installation
would be performed by a Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit (MODU). The foundation was designed as a drilled and grouted
36in OD conductor and there was a rigid connection between the riser and the foundation. The vertical rigid pipeline of

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FHSR runs through the buoyancy can to the gooseneck connector as seen in figure 1. The 16in diameter Flexible Jumper
connects the riser gooseneck with the FPU in the original 2H design.

(a) Detail of upper part of FSHR FEED Concept

(b) Detail of lower part of FSHR FEED Concept
Figure 1: Concept elected FSHR FEED
Changes to the FEED were allowed during the bid phase in order to suit the proposed installation methods and vessels as
per their availability. Technip was awarded with the contract to execute the procurement, the detail engineering, the
construction and installation of P-52s oil export system with J-lay Deep Blue vessel.
The final FSHR design decoupled the buoyancy tank from the stem pipe lowering the gooseneck connection and adding a
Top Riser Assembly (TRA) and a Tether Chain, as shown in figure 2. These changes were proposed due to the capabilities
of potential construction yards and installation vessel capabilities.

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(a) Hybrid Riser

(b) Connection of Flexible Jumper
Figure 2: P-52 Free Standing Hybrid Riser

This paper describes the construction and installation challenges as well as some key design issues of the implemented
FSHR design (figure 2). Design basis, detailed design description and engineering analysis were presented in Roveri et al.
FSHR Design Description
The concept is shown in Figure 2. Also denominated as Single Line Offset Riser (SLOR), this hybrid riser is composed
by a near vertical API 5L X-65 steel pipe, with 50mm solid Polypropylene (PP) thermal insulation, connected to a foundation
system at the mud line region. The riser is sustained by a Buoyancy Can (BC) which provides the uplift necessary to keep
the system in position. The BC is located in a planned position below the sea level in order to be away of current and wave
influence effects. The connection between the BC and the rigid pipe is made through a Tether Chain and a Top Riser
Assembly (TRA) which also serves as the frame for the Gooseneck Connector that links the Flexible Jumper (FJ) to the rigid
riser system. This FJ would for instance link the riser to the platform.
Then the FSHR actually goes from the P-52 hang off down the PLET of the flowline. An important component is the
Rigid Jumper (RJ) that connects the vertical riser to the flowline and is part of the FSHR implementation once its design
much dependable of the riser movements.
Buoyancy Can
The rigid riser is tensioned by means of the nitrogen filled BC. This is a cylindrical assembly of nearly 34m in length and
5.5m in diameter fabricated from 50 ksi yield material. It is a modularized structure with 16 compartments, 15 of them with
2.3m in height separated by bulkheads as in figure 3. This BC is designed to be pressure balanced, with internal pressure
being slightly higher than the external water pressure. This approach resulted in in thickness of the BC shell plates.
Running along the longitudinal axis is the 56 in diameter central stem pipe with closed ends which serves as one tank by
Requirements of fabrication, NDT and Welding had to be adjusted to the yard capabilities and personnel availability
regarding Petrobras general requirements, and then AWS standards were used as base construction requirements. The
resident Petrobras inspection worked in the adequacy of the standards meanwhile kept tracking of the tight schedule. As
well, some structural modifications for installation purposes benefit from the permanent inspection.
Also the modularized construction allowed the ramp up of the parts production, but imposed tight tolerances to the final
assembly. The BC assemblage was one of the major construction challenges due to the need of lifting and positioning of the
parts that need to perfectly fit together as well as the stem tank that had to fit the central space of the modules.

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With a modularized assembly like this one, the dimensional tolerance and the mounting sequence are two of the most
important factors to be aware; a module can be seen in Figure 3.

(a) BC Module

(b) BC Load out in Gulf of Mexico

Figure 3 Buoyancy Can fabrication

The ship BBC Australia transported the tank in a cradle with the tether chain already connected as can be seen in Figure 3
(chain in red). A chain to link the BC to the TRA is installed before the BC shipment and has the advantage to decouple the
BC and rigid riser movements.
Top Riser Assembly

(a) TRA Scheme

(b) TRA transport to Brazil.

Figura 4 Top Riser Assembly

Just below the tether chain there is the Top Riser Assembly (TRA) that serves as the frame for the curved rigid spool that
connects the Flexible Jumper to the vertical rigid pipe of the FSHR. Measuring 16.5m in length and weighing nearly 68 Te
this structure also transfer the load of the BC to the lower FSHR part. This structure has three important forgings: one for the
Flexible Jumper to pipe connection; one for the rigid pipe connection; and the one for the load spool and tether chain
connection. Due to the delays in forgings supply some actions were taken in order not to impact the delivery date. The use

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of dummy spools in the forgings place and changes sequencing the construction were some of them that allowed for
construction progress.
Attention has to be paid to the curves of the rigid spool that will transport oil during the operation. The specification
needs to take into account that some properties may change during the curving process especially hardness and toughness. In
this case, the final characteristics of the pipe were adequate. But other implements may benefit if a specification of higher
grade materials is made in order to have a fit-for-purpose spool, but this must be studied in a case-by-case analysis.
Other significant point of attention is the forging to pipe welds that had to be especially qualified thus there was the need
of forging specimens for the qualification process. The delay of these large forgings was partially overcome by using dummy
spools but it was necessary ring specimens to proceed with the weld preparation, and then it is a better approach to keep track
of these materials in advance of the whole supply and get them ready as soon as possible due to the nature of welding
Taper Stress and Adaptor Joints
The Taper Stress joints were fabricated from 80 ksi yield strength forged carbon steel. These components are deigned to
sustain the bending at the base and top of the riser. With a linearly varying wall thickness it is devised to withstand both the
extreme loads and long term fatigue loading. Flanges are used to connect with the top riser assembly and with the offtake
The fast track nature of the project led to longer stress joints and forgings to be supplied due to lead time of procurement
that did not allowed for further optimization. Figure 5 shows the Upper Taper Stress Joint (UTSJ), Upper Adaptor Joint
(UPJ), Lower Taper Stress Joint (LTSJ) and the Lower Adaptor Joint (LAJ).

(a) Rigid Riser Stress Joints

(b) Taper Stress Joints forging

Figure 5 Stress Joints

FSHR Foundation
The foundation was a drilled and grouted 36 in conductor similar to what is done in a conventional well construction
method. Installed by a MODU the base was completely free issued to the contractor. This became an important interface and
needed careful coordination through the engineering phase since the foundation data was an important input to FSHR
The conductor length is nearly 120m and the 12m segments were joined by Merlin connectors. Due to operations
uncertainties, two capping cement shortfall cases were considered in design: 0 and 25m from mud line. The verticality
parameter proved to be an important measure to be controlled during drilling activities and only a deviation of 1 (maximum)
was possible; an error would demand the abandonment of the hole and start drilling again in another position. A modified
base was used as installation aid to the pull down procedure; this mounting was deployed with the conductor. Figure 6(b)
present the site integration test of the Lower Riser Assembly and the modified base.

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(a) Modified drilling base scheme

(b) Lower riser assembly x base - Integration test
Figure 6 Modified drilling base
Lower Riser Assembly
This assembly is composed by the offtake spool, the LTSJ and the LASJ and is seen in figure 7(b). It has the function of
connecting the FSHR with the base, hold an upward facing mandrel with the curved spool brace and serve as the interface
with the upper part of the rigid riser. The final design only was possible after the system pull down definition in order to
correct position the braces and mandrel.

(a) offtake spool scheme

(b) Lower Riser assembly ready for installation

Figure 7 Lower Riser Assembly

Rigid Jumper Base

The last rigid part of the FSHR is the 18 in rigid jumper (RJB), or Rigid Jumper (RJ), which connects the riser with the
flowline Pipeline End Terminator (PLET). Design of the RJB is dependent of the riser, PLET movements, amplitude of
temperature variation and number of oil export shutdowns. These movements become more intense with the increase of the
currents due to dynamics arising from the Vortex Induced Vibrations (VIV) and flexibility of the FSHR.

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Figure 8 Rigid Jumper

There is the need of an accurate metrology of the offtake spool mandrel and the PLETs hub in order to fabricate the RJB.
As a matter of fact, the availability of a quayside area to construct the RJB to deal with its large dimensions is very important
and must be considerate while planning the sequence of construction. It can be noted the large dimensions in figure 8. The
final design has more than 33m in length and 12 m in height. The construction sequence could anticipate most of the work
but the final welding that could be done only after the final metrology of both PLET and FSHR hubs.
Flexible Jumper
The non-rigid FSHR component is a 16 in flexible pipe with nearly 400m in length developed during the project and
acting as a jumper to connect the vertical rigid riser to the platform P-52. Procurement of the FJ started later than the
engineering of the FSHR had progressed and components had its preliminary dimensions defined, thus some modifications
should be expected. It is important to keep track of the stiffness because it can be an issue that imposes adjustments to the
system analysis and some rework may be necessary. The impact of FJ modifications can be various including the stress joint
design, TRA structural design and hang off angle.
As the major interface between the platform movements and the FSHR, the FJ plays an important role in the system
behavior. Parameters as stiffness, weight and length, among others are needed in order to design other FSHR components
due to the system response. Looking at the FSHR as a system, the Flexible Jumper fits best as part of the engineering
analysis and should be procured along with other FSHR components. Another possibility is to anticipate the FJ procurement
to have its parameters better defined to design the FSHR.
FSHR Installation
Restrictions as lack of reasonable availability of heavy duty barges, tight schedule and cost led to the use of Deep Blue as
the main installation vessel. Also, the operation needed a general construction vessel throughout the work and an AHTS was
used to tug the Buoyancy Can to the riser position ant assisted during BC transfer to Deep Blue outrigger.
The installation occurred in four main steps: (a) rigid riser construction; (b) Buoyancy can upending and connection; (c)
FSHR pull-down; (d) Flexible Jumper and Rigid Jumper installation.
Rigid Riser Construction and Installation
The vessel Deep Blue performed the following tasks to build the rigid riser system: (a) keel-hauling of Lower Riser
Assembly (LRA) and hanging in the Hang-Off Module (HOM); (b) welding of 18in steel riser pipe with the use of its J-lay
tower; (c) connection of the Upper Taper Stress Joint to the riser string; (d) hang-off the riser string below the vessels hull;
(e) connection of the TRA to the string; and (f) further lowering of the rigid riser (with TRA connected) to prepare the
Buoyancy Can connection.
This method of construction used the Deep Blues J-lay capability but an option that may increase the speed of
installation for other projects is be the use of the reeling method. This method could not be used in this case due to supplier

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restrictions to guarantee the needed characteristics for reelable pipes mainly because of the large diameter and wall thickness.
The reeling method is applicable to Deep Blue as well.
Buoyancy Can Upending and Connection
Meanwhile Deep blue was constructing the rigid riser; the Buoyancy Can was being brought to the sea in sheltered waters
by two cranes of HLV BBC Australia, which transported the Tank from the Gulf of Mexico (USA) to the Campos Basin, in a
delicate task relative to the size of the BC relative to the vessels.
Once the BC was in the water in horizontal position, an AHTS and the construction vessel Geoholm assisted in the
upending operation to get the final direction of the BC. This task used a manifold and umbilicals onboard of the AHTS to
control the flooding of the BC, the result was approximately 6m of the BC length lying above the water in the vertical
position. The BC was then towed more than 260km to the riser location in order to be connected with the rigid riser string
(figure 9).

(a) BC Towing

(b) BC Transfer to Deep Blue

Figure 9 Buoyancy Can installation

After the BC arrival nearby the final location, it was transferred from the Tug vessel to the outriggers of Deep Blue thus
the following activities could be performed: (a) installation of the TRA guidelines needed to guide the chain soft landing
system; (b) pendulum operations of the BC and keel haul from the outriggers to the moonpool (figure 9); (c) connection of
BC fairleads to the guidelines; and (e) removal of suspension slings; then, occurred the soft land connection of the chain to
the TRA, recovery of the soft landing system and BC deballasting.
FSHR Pull-Down
The FSHR system hanging from Deep Blue was then prepared for its pull down to connect with the base. The procedure
devised by Technip was fairly complex, mainly due to orientation restriction and risks involved, but rather effective to get the
riser into location smoothly.
A temporary suction pile and the pull-down system structure mounted on its top were installed so that it was possible to
achieve the correct FSHR orientation and position. The offshore activities involved: (a) Suction pile and pull-down system
installation; (b) installation of the pull down buoys in the pull down system; (c) Deballasting the FSHR to get positive
buoyancy; (d) FSHR Pulling down through the pull down system and buoys; (e) locking the foundation connector and final
deballasting of the BC. The final tasks were cleaning the area from all installation aids which had among them the pull-down
system such as the buoys, suction pile and clump weight.
The pull down operation counted on a 45 Te clump weight used to control the descent of the system up to the point it
could be locked into the foundation connector and another 15 Te weight was connected to the bottom of the TRA in order to
maintain the position and speed during the operation. This procedure reduced the risks of installation and put aside the need
of a subsea winch.
Flexible Jumper and Rigid Jumper Installation
After all operations for pulling the system down were performed, the final phase of FSHR occurred with installation of
the Rigid and Flexible Jumpers. A pipe carrier transported the Rigid Jumper to the location. After being transferred into the

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Deep Blues crane, the descent to about 1800 m water depth occurred successfully being followed by the final approach when
the connectors came into place locking into the PLET and FSHR mandrel hubs smoothly.
Finally the 16in Flexible Jumper was loaded in Sunrise 2000 for the final pull-in of the FSHR. Sunrise 2000 needed to
be adapted to perform the activities to be able to cope with the dimensions and the stiffness of the flexible pipe. An auxiliary
side platform was designed to perform the gooseneck attachment to the Flexible Jumper. The FJ was deployed and connected
to a mandrel at the TRA with an ROV actuated hydraulic connector then unreeled and pulled in into the P-52 slot. It was
seen that the logistics to load the FJ into the vessel was as important, if not more, as the launching and connection. One key
point to the FJ installation was the stiffness of the system that may introduce risks to operation success.
Concept Review and Comments
Hybrid risers had been studied by Petrobras for many years before it was then implemented in this PDET Profundo A
project. Petrobras contracted 2H engineering to develop the FEED with closed ends Buoyancy Can using the flexible jumper
connection on top of FSHR as in Figure 1; Further, Hatton et al. (2005) discussed the foundation adopted by Petrobras with a
conventional well construction and grouted pile.
Some advantages of this type of foundation are:
Soil conditions are not a major problem for the drilling process and the desired depth is usually
Needed axial load resistance is achieved by adding more conductor joints or increasing the wall
Conventional drilling derrick and equipment can be used;
Short drilling and grout setting time.
Disadvantages are as well addressed in the above reference to be:

Subject to drilling vessel priority;

Good welding requirements usually place a need for complex procurement;
Open Hole stability in deep water and sediments may result in its collapse;
Damage and wetting of the hole may reduce the soil capacity and need better cement quality control.

During the detailed engineering other important parameters came up as the stiffness of the foundation, the orientation of
the base, the pull down system and the verticality of drilled hole. General engineering assessment is coupled with the riser
base stiffness, so the definition of the level of flexibility in the foundation is crucial for the stress joint design among other
FSHR components. In such case, there has to be paid much attention to the effectiveness of the cement and so it may require
some more analysis to check the fatigue life of the FSHR components.
Another option that could overcome the above mentioned issues is the suction pile foundation with a flexible joint to
connect the riser. This can be used to have a better understanding and control of the orientation and flexibility of the
foundation making it easier to design and minimize the size of stress joints, for example, as well as to lower the number and
complexity of the necessary engineering analysis. Some of the advantages and disadvantages of this type of foundation were
also addressed by Hatton (2005) and despite the necessity of bigger piles for this riser foundation, compared with the ones
used for pipeline initiation, it can be an effective solution as well.
Fatigue stress verification plays an important role especially regarding the stress joints due to the nature of environmental
and system loads applied during the riser life. The stress joint size is much affected by the riser movements and therefore is
dependent on riser stiffness. The result of a rigid connection between the base and the riser led to an increase in stress joints
lengths. Therefore, supply options were limited for the present project thus increasing logistic complexity for procurement
and schedule risks were increased.
The original FEED concept took into consideration a cylindrical pressure vessel trespassed by the rigid riser and a vertical
flexible jumper connection on top of it. As mentioned earlier, the final project concept included a tether chain and a TRA to
lower the gooseneck connection. This allowed the decoupling of the BC construction from the riser and made possible the
installation with Deep Blue. The BC design came up with a careful installation procedure that involved the upending with
controlled deballasting happening simultaneously.
Environmental conditions were crucial to the BC design and installation. Factors as the variation of water temperature,
current, waves and swell have to be carefully taken into consideration in the design phase in order to cope with all effects that
impact the pressure inside the tank and therefore the size of the BC structure and ballast system.
In the case of a decoupled BC and a wet connection, as seen in this project, the environmental conditions can be very
restrictive due to the amplitude of response movements of the tank. In this case the answer to make the BC connection,
meanwhile dealing with the sea state, was the use of a temporary soft land system to connect the chain to the TRA. This
system was assisted by an ROV and accomplished the task successfully.


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The use of a drilled and grouted foundation with conventional well equipment led the way of the pull down system. In
order to deal with heading constraints of the FSHR the base needed to be modified to add tube bumpers and the lower riser
assembly had braces to get the correct orientation and verticality to lock onto base connector. This arrangement was
necessary from the fact that the connector did not have any orientation system and had tight requirements for verticality.
The pull down was done through a system composed for buoys and weights as per figure 10.

Figure 10 Pull down system

Besides the technical complexity there were important impacts coming from the overheated market and quality needs that
created restrictions to schedule and logistics. The Buoyancy Can was fabricated at GMF in Gulf of Mexico (EUA) and had
to be transported down to Campos Basin; the stress joints were fabricated in Sweden and EUA; the chain and TRA were
constructed and tested in Europe as well, respectively UK and Spain. One important challenge that demanded much
coordination work was to deal with the fabrication and construction spread over many countries and get everything ready on
time for installation. The logistics and coordination to keep resident inspection integrated was not an easy task due to the fast
track characteristic of this project but it was decisive to deal with the tight schedule and high quality requirements.
This paper reviewed the general concept of the first Petrobras FSHR implementation, briefly discussed its evolution and
described the main components. Important design and installation challenges were highlighted as for example the foundation
and Flexible Jumper that were free issued by Petrobras. Moreover, restrictions to installation method of pull down due to
orientation of the riser were commented. Besides, the necessity to adjust the engineering analysis to the uncertainties of
foundation stiffness had several impacts over the riser design since the base and the rigid pipe are rigidly coupled. Possible
use of a flexible connection at the bottom of the FSHR, e.g. a flexjoint, was commented highlighting the benefit to allow
some flexibility. Despite the fact that a flexjoint use would need a qualification for the specific purpose it would permit less
bending loads over the riser and potentially smaller stress joints would be necessary.
Further, the tight schedule associated to the supply chain scenario became the major challenges to the project, demanding
from Petrobras and the Contractor, Technip, much coordination work. A strong project management matrix was then
implemented to keep track of all purchase orders placed around the world and to assure that the interfaces among them would
not impact the product quality, the delivery date and the whole project planning. Important component fabrication sites were
spread over different countries, e.g. BC in EUA, TRA in UK and Stress Joints in Sweden and EUA. A well coordinated
resident inspection and a disciplined routine to track the project progress was then implemented to cope with this logistics
complexity meanwhile the final detailed engineering was being completed.
An important factor for project success was the world class companies involved. The installation method was very
successful despite several restrictions like unavailability of heavy lift barges, tight orientation requirements, limitation of
permissible sea states and system dynamics. The apparent complex arrangement was built over simple concepts and was
devised in order to guarantee a smooth installation while keep the risks to a minimum reasonable level.
Finally, information presented in this paper is intended be a general review of the P-52 FSHR, revisiting the project and
highlighting the main aspects of its development.
The authors would like to thank Petrobras for permission to publish this work.

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