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CASE STUDY: FABRICATION SURVEYS IN ENSURING THE INTEGRITY OF

OFFSHORE INSTALLATIONS
Praba Karunakaran (Integrity Engineer),
Mark Wilson (Principal Structural Engineer)
iicorr Asia Sdn Bhd
61 Jalan PJS 11/9, Bandar Sunway
46150 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Tel: +60 (0)3 5635 5002
Fax: +60 (0)3 5635 5004
praba.karunakaran@iicorr.com

ABSTRACT
Experience has demonstrated that about 25% of subsequent inspection and maintenance
expenditure during the operating life of an offshore installation results from the defects
that happen during the fabrication stage. These defects are related to materials, corrosion
protection & coatings, welds, and QA/QC aspects. It is therefore important that the events
causing these defects and work practices are understood so that the best, most optimised
Inspection, Repair and Maintenance (IRM) plan can be devised.
iicorr has substantial experience in design review, fabrication review and Risk Based
Inspection (RBI) planning of offshore installations. The ultimate aim of these reviews
and RBI planning is for the optimisation of long term inspection and maintenance and the
reduction of Operational Expenditure (OPEX) over the life of the field.
This paper outlines the lessons learned from the design review, fabrication surveillance
and baseline survey works performed on offshore installations fabricated in South East
Asia (SEA). It also intends to demonstrate the importance of the fabrication surveillance
in ensuring the integrity of offshore installations.

INTRODUCTION
iicorr have to-date performed fabrication
surveys on 10 steel jacket structures and
three topsides, at three different
fabrication yards. In the interest of
protecting our client, names of the
installations or fabrication yards are not
revealed in this paper.
Typically, fabrication surveys would
include the following to identify future
(when operational) integrity and
inspectability issues:

Material conformance check


Fabrication quality check
Repair locations check
NDT procedures and compliance
check
Painting and Cathodic Protection
(CP) system conformance check
QA/QC aspects
General observations from an
integrity point of view
Observation on fabrication record
keeping system
Checks on variation to construction
specifications
Photographic survey for future
references

The purpose of the survey is to identify


future integrity constraints. Experience
has shown that by identifying and
documenting these constraints, the
Operational
Expenditure
(OPEX)
especially relating to subsea inspections
can be substantially reduced.
This paper highlights few key integrity
and inspection constraints (cases),
observed during the fabrication surveys
in the South East Asia (SEA) region.

The cases highlighted, good practices


observed and recommendations made
will be of benefit to design team,
fabricators, and operators of offshore
installations.
Chart 1 is derived from a North West
European Continental Shelf (NWECS)
database covering over 4000 platform
years of defect and repair. It gives the
breakdown of the factors that influences
the likelihood of structural failures.
Although this statistic cannot be directly
correlated to the platforms in the SEA,
the information available is useful to
understand
the
significance
of
fabrication defects (10%), material
issues (4%) and fatigue sensitive welds
(20%) in managing the integrity of
offshore installations.

Static Loading
Fabrication Defects

Fatigue

Past Inspection

Service Defects

Vessel Collision

Material
Marine Growth
Corrosion

Dropped Objects

Chart 1 WECS database of platform defects


and repairs.

16 cases discussed in this paper relates


to the defects in the chart. These cases
are covered under the following topics:

Material (3 cases)
Welds (5 cases)
Corrosion (6 cases)
Inspection (3 cases)

The discussions include possible


improvements in designs, fabrication
procedures and QA/QC aspects.

type I and high yield type II. Type II


with improved through thickness
properties is used at main jacket joints to
improve fatigue resistance performance.

MATERIALS

At a particular yard, it was noticed that


the material grades were getting mixed
up. Number of type II steel had been
used where only type I steel was
required and one case where the opposite
had occurred. Clearly the use of type I
steel where type II is required at main
joints was a concern. This type I steel
was later tested and accepted as it
achieved the level of performance
equivalent to type II steel.

Material checks performed during the


fabrication surveys is principally a paper
exercise, with occasional visual checks
to validate the material correctness and
assessing the fabrication quality and
inspectability of fatigue sensitive joints.
This
exercise
typically
includes
recording of the piece number and the
heat number, and taking a photograph of
the material. The steel quality is also
checked against the mill certificate,
inspection certificate and materials
acceptance certificate.
Three cases
material issue.

discussed

concerning

Case 1 demonstrates how the use of a


simple procedure can avoid mistakes of
using wrong material grades during
jacket fabrication.

Such errors can be eliminated with a


simple colour coding system observed at
another fabrication yard.
At the latter yard, the materials of
different grades were marked with
coloured stripes. The type I steel had
green and blue stripes at the end
sections; where else the type II steel had
red and blue stripes as shown in figure 1.

Case
2
indicates
the
typical
communication breakdown from one
stage of the project to another.
Assumptions and requirements made
during the design stage are not
communicated accordingly to the
fabrication stage.
Case 3 emphasises the importance of
having adequate information in material
certificates.

Figure 1 - Reducing material grades error by


using colour coded stripes.

Case 2 Fatigue Sensitive Joints


Case 1 Mismatching Material Grades
Fabrication of jacket structures utilises
two principle steel grades: high yield

Fatigue sensitive joints are major and


important feature to be inspected to

ensure the continued integrity of a jacket


structure.
On a specific jacket, few fatigue
sensitive joints did not initially achieve
the target minimum life (of 50 years).
Re-analysis with reduced corrosion
allowance indicated these joints to be
acceptable. However, this is only
justified if a high performance Thermal
Sprayed Aluminium (TSA) is used at the
joints to compensate for the reduced
corrosion allowance.
However, this was not implemented at
the yard. It was discovered that the
coatings applied at the elevation of these
joints were in fact Ultra High Build
Epoxy System, rather than the TSA.
This will have future weld integrity
implications
and
have
been
recommended to be re-analysed for
acceptance.
Without the design review and material
checks this non-compliance might not
have been noticed.
Case 3 Material Certificates
Material certificates are important as it
contains the historical and technical
information required to ensure the right
use of material. In many cases such
certificates are found to be incomplete or
not available at the fabrication yard.
One case where Glass Reinforced Epoxy
(GRE) piping was used, the certificates
of material provided by supplier is
general certificates, not specific to the
piping delivered. There was no
production batch number.

Should a piece fail in the future, and this


may be due to faulty production (faulty
epoxy mix for example), there is no way
to trace the item to a particular
production batch. With metal pipework,
you can inspect other materials with the
same heat number to see if they have the
same fault.
Another case is where equipment
arriving at the fabrication yard without
material certificates or mill certificates.
This causes problem in establishing if
the correct material was used.
If the certificates are not made available
at fabrication yard, then potentially the
only way to check the equipment would
be to subject it to pressure testing. This
option is not preferable as it increases
the workload during fabrication.

WELDS
Case 4 Temporary Attachments
During the fabrication survey, a review
of weld documents is performed. This
involved checking weld summary
reports and the corresponding NDT
records.

Temporary construction aids, such as


support braces and pad-eyes, should be
properly removed and areas ground
flushed and MPId, as shown in figure 2.

Welds subjected to repairs are


established. Common weld repairs are
due to slag inclusions, lack of
penetration or lack of fusion.
This information is collated in a
database, which will give locations of
repairs, type of repair and other relevant
information.
This information is valuable for focusing
inspection efforts and assessing future
integrity. Especially, repairs on fatigue
sensitive welds at jacket leg, caisson
guide stub, crane pedestal and flare
boom.
There are five cases discussed with
relation to fabrication of welds.
Case 4 focuses on the temporary
attachments found on structures during
fabrication and the associated integrity
and inspection issues.
Case 5 focuses on the poor welding
practices at site, leading to weld
contaminations.
Case 6 and 7 focuses on specific
problems related to weld finishing that
affects the fatigue properties.
Case 8 highlights a general issue,
observed at all sites, relating to training
and welding procedure.

Figure 2 location of temporary attachment


ground flushed and MPId.

If these locations are left in-place they


often become a source of integrity
problem in the future. These locations
become possible residual stresses,
corrosion areas or snagging problems for
ROVs and divers during inspections.
Also, if the temporary attachments are
left in place and not marked on the as
built drawing diver may waste a
significant amount of time examining it,
recording it as an anomaly and
subsequently closing the anomaly.
Experience has indicated the need to be
vigilant in removing the attachments
towards the load out date, as schedules
gets rushed removal of attachments are
forgotten.
Sometimes the temporary attachments
are removed but the locations are not
ground flush properly or not MPId, as
shown in figure 3.

Often it is noticed that no specific QA


system is in place to ensure tools used on
field welds (used at fabrication site)
were separated between different
material types. For example grinders and
steel brushes used on carbon steel should
not be used on stainless steels and
copper nickel pipework.
Also, habitat is sometimes not being
used on field welds as shown in figure 4.
This result in hot metal from grinding
and welding process projected onto new
machinery or equipment in the vicinity.
Contaminated welds should be identified
in the pipework RBI plan and closely
monitored to ensure integrity.
Figure 3 Poorly treated temporary attachment
removal locations

Case 5 Weld Contamination


Welds can be contaminated
inclusions of dissimilar materials.

by

Pressure testing of all pipeworks and


equipment is undertaken during the
fabrication process to ensure the
integrity of these field welds.
Contaminated welds may very well pass
hydrotesting, however, it is the long term
integrity of the weld which may be
compromised.
For example carbon steel particles
entrained in a stainless steel weld will
act as an anode to the stainless steel
cathode and be consumed very quickly.
i.e. causing accelerated corrosion.

Figure 4 Left: Welding without habitat; Right


top & bottom: Contamination to nearby
equipments.

Case 6 Overlay Splices


It has been noticed that some T and K
joint braces have been welded over or
adjacent to chord circumferential seam
welds, as shown in figure 5.
In most cases it was due to
circumferential seam welds on brace
members had not been fabricated as
indicated on the drawings.

These locations may well adversely


affect the fatigue performance of the
joint. Therefore it was recommended
that these joints be referred back to
designers, to assess the impact on fatigue
strength.

Figure 6 Joint not profile controlled

Case 8 Welding Procedures &


Training

Figure 5 - K-joint brace welded adjacent to chord


circumferential weld.

Case 7 Weld Profiling


Weld profiling increases the fatigue life
of a weld. The predominant members
that require weld profile control are
horizontal brace to leg connections and
conductor guide frame members.
Checks during the fabrication surveys
have revealed that some welds requiring
weld profile control are missed out.
Figure 6 shows an example of an unprofiled weld.
The missed welds are recorded for future
reference. It is also essential that any
joints that are profiled be recorded, even
if it is not in the requirement of the
specification.
Profiling a weld reduces the probability
of joint failure, and hence reduces the
requirements for inspection of that joint
under the RBI program.

There is a system of monitoring and


acting on poor welding performance at
fabrication site. Weld repair rates
measured weekly provide the basis for
this. The acceptable rates depend on the
project and what has been agreed
between the fabricator and the operator.
Typically this will be between 0.7% and
1%.
It has been noticed those weeks where
the repair rates peak attributes to either
poor welding procedure or welders
performance.
For example, in one case changes in
weld configuration (splice welds with
back gouging) caused difficulties in
avoiding slag inclusions.
In another case where lower quality weld
consumables used caused hydrogen
cracking on ultra high strength steel (460
MPa)
These two problems were rectified by
providing training and increasing the
awareness of welders on correct
procedures.

Therefore, training sessions for welders


are recommended whenever deemed
necessary to maintain high fabrication
quality.
At one particular site, a good practice
was noted, where procedures are pasted
at site notice board for reference. This is
shown in figure 7.

Figure 7 Welding procedure displayed at the


work site.

CORROSION
Fabrication surveys include checking
of external paint systems to see if
they are being applied at the right
locations and to correct procedures.
Also, areas of potential corrosion
problem are observed.
Case 9 details a specific problem
well documented in the North Sea
relating to caisson corrosion.
Case 10 explains how pitting
observed at fabrication stage can
avoid unnecessary future integrity
concern.

aluminium) pump body in close


proximity to the carbon steel caisson
and erosion due to the turbulence
around the pump body, removing
protective corrosion products.
It is acknowledged that coating the
internal surfaces of caissons is not
always the best approach. Unseen
damage to coating could occur
resulting in heavy and localised
corrosion.
However, there are other possible
measures can be taken to reduce
corrosion at the interface of pump
body and caisson. These are as
listed:

Case 11 details a common issue


observed at all sites which lead to
caisson guides corrosion problems.

Case 12, 13 and 14 demonstrates the


issues that can be addressed at
fabrication stage, which will reduce
various corrosion problems during
the operations stage.

Fitting anodes around the pump


elevation to protect the caisson,
Coating of the noble material
pump body,
Providing
reasonable
gap
between pump and caisson.
North Sea operators use a
100mm gap.

Case 10 Pitting
Case 9 Unprotected
surface of caisson

internal

There are cases where the internal


surface of caissons is left
unprotected. For some of the
caissons this should not be too much
of concern. However for seawater
pump caissons in general this can
cause
internal
corrosion,
concentrated around the suspended
pump body.
This is caused by a combination of
galvanic corrosion due to a more
noble metal (stainless steel or nickel

Sometime fabricators or operators


use steel from the stock which may
have been used on previous projects.
Using such steel is not a problem as
long as the quality of this steel is not
compromised.
In one case it was found that there
was pitting of around 2mm depth, as
shown in figure 8. Wall thickness
check was performed on all affected
parts and found to be within
tolerance accounting for the pit
depth.

Figure 8 Pitting of 2mm on jacket leg.

There should be no real concern with


these pitted areas given long term
protection from the CP system.
However from an integrity and
inspection point of view, it is
important to note these defects now
to ensure that future underwater
surveys do not record the pitting as a
new anomaly.
Case 11 Guides not painted
internally
A common issue noted at various
fabrication yards is where internal
side of caisson and riser guides is left
unpainted, as shown in figure 9.

Figure 9 Uncoated inside surface of


caisson guide.

At these uncoated locations,


corrosion will certainly occur and it
should be monitored during the
routine inspections for possible loss
of guide wall thickness.
Case 12 Corrosion
Insulation (CUI)

Under

CUI is mainly related to water


ingress. Damages to insulation
during fabrication will result in
locations of potential water ingress,
as shown in figure 10.

This raises concern over corrosion of


the guide from the inside. This is
likely to be enhanced by the
movement of the water within this
annulus
causing
removal
of
corrosion product which would
otherwise act to protect the uncoated
surface.
Figure 10 Potential CUI location

At site this issue should be detected


and highlighted before the caisson or
riser is in place. When they are inplace it will be impractical to coat
the internal through the small
annulus gap.

These damages occur during the


installation, fabrication and fit up of
other equipments and piping near
insulated areas.

It is best to address these damaged


insulations prior to the topsides
becoming operational.
When operational the pipes and
equipments tend to be hot and unsafe
for any remedial work, and in case of
water ingress then complete removal
of insulations for inspections may be
required.
Case 13 Dissimilar Materials
Potential areas of galvanic corrosion
are also investigated during the
fabrication surveys.
Where dissimilar metals come into
contact with each other as shown in
figure 11, there should be an
electrical isolation by the use of
insulation gaskets. During the survey
it is closely checked to ensure they
are in place.

Figure 12 Carbon steel bolts on stainless


steel flange

Case 14 General Corrosion


Equipments arrive to the fabrication
yard from various parts of the world,
and the logistic can sometimes take
months.
If not properly protected against
damages, especially if they are not
covered against corrosion, the
equipments
integrity
is
compromised before even it reaches
the yard.
One case was observed where a
Pressure Safety Valve (PSV) internal
was fully corroded, as shown in
figure 13, because it was not capped.

Figure 11 An example of contact between


dissimilar materials.

Even dissimilar bolts used on flanges


and connections, as shown in figure
12, should be monitored for potential
risk of galvanic corrosion.

PSVs are safety critical equipments


and are subjected to testing and
checks to ensure it functions
accordingly. It should be properly
capped at all times during logistics
and storing as shown in figure 14.
It is important to record the condition
of this PSV so that the internal
corrosion is not attributed to
operational condition during future
recertification tests.

Case 15 Potential area


misleading inspection results

Figure 13 PSV fully corroded internally

for

Normally open ended members are


covered with plastic polythene
sheeting during fabrication to
prevent water ingress into jacket, for
flotation reasons.
From an inspection point of view
water ingress can also affect the
confidence of future Flooded
Member Detection (FMD) results.

Figure 14 Correctly protected PSV with


intact plastic cap

INSPECTABILITY
Part of the surveillance scope is to
identify areas of future inspection
constraints.

FMD detecting water within


structural members indicates through
thickness crack formation, which is a
significant integrity issue.
At one particular yard, it was
observed that members were not
always covered, as shown in figure
15.

Case 15 details an issue relating to


possible misinterpretation of future
inspection results due a poor
construction practice.
Case 16 details typical areas where
future inspection installation is
restricted.
Case 17 details two areas of safety
implications to inspectors due to
poor design and construction
practice.
The issues discussed here can be
eliminated or at least reduced with
some design considerations and
improvements
to
fabrication
procedures.

Figure 15 Open-ended members allowing


water ingress.

Case 16 Restricted areas for


inspection
Some welds were encountered to be
potentially difficult to inspect in
future due to space restrictions.
These are usually between two
structural members.
Two examples are shown here.

One was the weld lengths at the


footing box beam and leg tubular
joint, shown in figure 16.

Figure 16 restriction to weld inspection at


footing

The other is the caisson guides which


have fatigue sensitive stub welds as
shown in figure 17.

Case 17 Safety during inspection


It was also learned during the
surveillance of a particular jacket
that due to high demand for cooling
water on the platform all the
seawater lift caisson be operating
continuously.
This will pose difficulty for carrying
out inspection in the area
immediately below the caissons with
the risk of ROVs or diver being
sucked upwards.
Mesh guards are fitted to the caisson
as shown in figure 18, however this
does not completely eliminate the
possibility of damage to inspection
equipment or risk to diver.

Here, ring stiffeners were added to


provide additional strengths to
compensate for shims removal,
following design changes at the
fabrication stage.
The addition of the ring stiffeners
was observed to be future inspection
restriction on welds, particularly
close-in ROV and FMD.
Figure 18 Typical mesh wire design to
prevent suction of objects

At another site, during the lifting


operation of flare boom for
installation, it was observed that the
pad eyes provisioned for lifting was
not used.

Figure 17 Inspection restriction by ring


stiffeners

Instead wire strops were slung


around a nodal connection as shown
in figure 19, without the use of any
medium to prevent damage to the
aluminium coating.

This area is close to the flare tip and


when operational i.e. hot, rapid
corrosion can occur.
If repairs are not conducted before
the sail off, this location will have to
be monitored to ensure the integrity
of flare boom. Evidently, there is a
risk to the inspector given the
location of the coating damage.

Figure 19 Coating damage at flare boom.

Simple improvements in design can


reduce inspection risks dramatically,
especially where divers and subsea
inspection are involved.
One project where design review and
recommendation made from an
inspection perspective resulted in
fabrication of profiled anode cores,
as shown in figure 20.
This profiled anode cores will
prevent snagging of diver or ROV
umbilical
during
in-service
inspection.

Figure 20 Profiled anode cores.

CONCLUSION
The 17 cases presented in this paper are
key issues, which improvements or
eliminations could result in significant
savings in inspection.
There are other cases that resulted from
the fabrication surveys, which are not
presented in this paper.
It is evident that even with a good QA
system, procedures and third party
inspections during the fabrication of
offshore installations, defects are
deemed to occur.
A proactive approach to manage the
fabrication defects and integrity of
offshore installation is to be involved at
early stages of a new project, i.e. design
stage.
Person or team within operators
responsible for integrity when the
installation comes operational should
perform design reviews and fabrication
surveys to eradiate or reduce potential
problem areas.
Also, fabrication information should be
systematically collated for the benefit of
performing effective RBI planning or
any further analyses.
Although there is an initial cost
implication for doing this, the
operational cost (OPEX) in the long run
can be considerably reduced.
REFERENCES
QCL ref: 1357/RT12334 Phase 3 report:
Topsides Structure and Process, 28th
October 2002.

QCL Ref: 1357/11851 Phase 3 Report:


Jacket Structure, 2nd August 2001
QCL Ref: 1514/12420 Jacket Fatigue
and Inspectability Survey, 12th July 2002
QCL Ref: 1523/12627 Fabrication Audit
Final Report, 9th January 2003
5376 RT3950 Rev. B Topsides
Baseline Inspection Report, 19th May
2005
OTR 2001/011, Corrosion Protection,
2002