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Suppliers emerge as valuable allies in the challenge to thrive in the ‘new normal’. By Nicolas Landriere

Speaking recently to the New York Times about the outlook for the Oil and Gas Industry, Otto Waterlander, Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company, argued that “the global oil and gas industry…needs to further reset its productivity and cost base to produce its resources economically.”

He continued: “Oil companies, therefore, need to innovate and shift to cost-effective operating models: supply chain reconfiguration, modular/standardisation in development, production efficiency and field recovery, and digital. All these require new capabilities, amid an aging oil and gas work force, to modernise, organise and manage projects and operations.”

This has affected a significant attitudinal shift in how oil companies are planning for the long term – seeking out long-term solutions for efficiency, as opposed to simply looking for short-term costs to cut. Earlier this year, Trelleborg asked professionals what they deemed to be the most important factors when selecting an oil hose. Respondents listed ‘quality and durability’ as ‘vital’ over 80 per cent of the time, while ‘price’ was listed as vital only 19 per cent of the time. The next most ‘vital’ factors were ‘aftersales support and service’, and ‘ease of installation’ at 32 per cent and 28 per cent respectively – indicating that the industry is striving to learn lessons from the last few years and future-proof their businesses in the face of the ‘new normal’.

Nowhere is this more crucial than in the field of oil transfer. This is one of the most technically challenging areas that the industry faces, and one in which the costs of failure – environmental, financial and reputational – have the potential to be most detrimental. Oil transfer requires precise, engineered solutions that must often operate in harsh conditions for lengthy periods of time, up to a decade in some cases. It is vital that, whatever the conditions for the market in the future, that the significant safety gains made in recent years are not lost.

As suppliers, we can add value at every point throughout the lifecycle of a transfer solution – which can be broken down into three sections, as follows.

1. Analysis and Discovery
Understanding the environment in which a hose will function is a crucial first step in safe hose management.This is why, at Trelleborg, our R&D teams become involved at the earliest stage of any project to ensure that the environment is properly understood, and that we create appropriate solutions.

Our teams will usually begin by using prototypes, which undergo rigorous chemical and mechanical testing, in addition to hydrodynamic analysis. This allows the creation of models that match real-life service conditions, while granting researchers a detailed analysis of performance under fatigue.

This testing process will vary according to whether the product in question is a qualified hose designed to meet GMPHOM 2009 requirements, or API Spec 17K, which is typically used for customised, one-off projects for which the requirements are harder to standardise, typically in extreme operational or environmental conditions.

2. Selection
Having completed an analysis of the environment, the next stage is to select an appropriate solution. In mostcases, the most suitable solution for non-harsh, low cost extraction environments will be a single or double carcass nipple hose. The design uses binding steel wires fixed on the nipple flange to attach the hose body structure made with textile layers and reinforced with a steel helix. This type of hose is the most commonly used in today’s market, in both floating and submarine configurations.

Key factors to consider at the selection stage are mechanical characteristics, such as the minimum bend radius (MBR) of an oil hose. This determines how much movement a hose will be able to withstand without affecting its performance (see fig. 1). This is a crucial metric of performance for products that will either function for extended periods of time, or in particularly harsh environments. Other key properties include tensile, torsion and bending stiffness, as well as bending and axial load resistance.

A nippleless hose excludes the stiff metal connector used in nipple hoses, to increase flexibility. Instead, it carries a flange, which is embedded in the rubber itself. This reinforced flange design, combined with an integrated bending stiffener, can then be used to create a hose that survives harsher conditions for longer.

When it comes to selection, this is another area where a supplier’s guidance, based on extensive technical knowledge, is invaluable. Different levels of specialisation will be necessary depending on each project, and suppliers need to act as trusted advisors to recommend the best solution.

3. Maintenance
The role suppliers play in oil transfer does not end at the delivery of a product. Suppliers must support projects throughout their execution to ensure that the highest safety standards are upheld, as well as guaranteeing the benefits of proper lifecycle management. This approach includes on-site inspection and testing for requalification, hose maintenance and inspection programs, and on-site repairs to ensure that hoses are not only performing correctly but are meeting the required standards in safety and quality. This may need inspections, tests on site or in the factory such as OCIMF and burst tests, or ageing analysis of the components such as adhesion tests or elastomer property analysis.

As we look towards 2018 and beyond, suppliers will be under pressure to demonstrate how their expertise, research and know-how can add value by understand the task at hand, selecting the right products and equipment, and supporting it from beginning to end of its lifecycle. By following this three-stage approach, suppliers can continue to build on the awareness of how CAPEX can reduce OPEX over the course of a product’s lifecycle – and help their customers to thrive within the ‘new normal’ of prioritisation given to capital discipline, cost reduction and deleveraging.

Trelleborg Oil and Marine
Nicolas Landriere is Product Manager at Trelleborg Oil and Marine. Trelleborg is a world leader in engineered polymer solutions that seal, damp and protect critical applications in demanding environments. The Trelleborg Group has annual sales of SEK 31 billion (EUR 3.23 billion, USD 3.60 billion) and operations in about 50 countries. The Group comprises five business areas: Trelleborg Coated Systems, Trelleborg Industrial Solutions, Trelleborg Offshore & Construction, Trelleborg Sealing Solutions and Trelleborg Wheel Systems, and the operations of Rubena and Savatech.

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