Deep water umbilicals are a core component of any subsea project. They create an essential connection between subsea infrastructure and surface facilities. In playing this part, they must withstand an extremely harsh environment and therefore require protection of the highest calibre. Is deep water umbilical protection an on-demand option?
CNC engineering is seen as a contributor to both product innovation and supply chain transformation by upstream equipment manufacturers. State-of-the-art CNC technologies enable designers to flex designs, produce prototypes quickly, develop and modify tools for manufacture and achieve requisite quality levels at the manufacturing stage. Improvements in umbilical and power cable protection production will yield significant benefits to operators in future deep water and ultra-deep applications.
Deep Ocean Challenges
Given the harshness of the environment in which a subsea cable must survive, they must be developed with strength in mind. To support this crucial structure, a robust, corrosive-resistant protective layer is of great importance. It is reported that up to 40% of subsea cable failures can be accounted for by the loss of their protective layers due to corrosion and abrasion.
The protective layer needs to be lightweight to reduce installation and operating loads; and be heavy enough to withstand strong and frequently unpredictable seabed currents.
Given the size of the component parts of umbilical protection systems, one of the most cost-effective means of creating them is through the subtractive process of CNC engineering. Today’s technologies can create large, complex geometries from the toughest, abrasion- and impact-resistant materials whilst also delivering value through reducing time and production costs.
Polyurethane and Polypropylene Solutions
Popular umbilical protection materials include polyurethane and polypropylene. Both materials can be cut and shaped using CNC processes more efficiently than through more traditional moulding methods which rely on costly tool creation.
Industrial grade polyurethane (PU), is a popular choice of material for the manufacture of umbilical protection. Industrial PU is semi-rigid and has integral hinge properties allowing for it to perform well in high flex-fatigue applications. As a result, it has high load capacity in both tension and compression. It is durable, tough, highly corrosion resistant and has excellent impact and abrasion resistance, meaning it has the potential to last many years in subsea applications. It can also be bonded to a wide range of materials during the manufacturing process, making it a highly adaptable material.
More recently, the common thermoplastic Polypropylene (PP) has gained popularity for umbilical protection. More durable, with greater corrosion and shock resistance, PP is slightly more expensive than PU. However, this seems to be a trade-off preferred by the industry for the longer life span.