API Standards for Subsea Equipment Progress

By Pamela Boschee 22 May 2014

Among the exhibitors at the 2014 Offshore Technology Conference, held recently in Houston, there were 162 subsea system-related companies, an increase of 13 from last year. The increased exhibitor presence was accompanied by subsea-related technical sessions, including a comprehensive review of the development of subsea equipment standards.

John Bednar of BP reviewed the American Petroleum Institute (API) Subcommittee (SC) 17 standards and the importance of their development in tandem with input from US regulatory agencies, such as the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. He serves as the chairman of SC17. He said, “The regulatory agencies recognize the high level of expertise that inherently resides within the petroleum industry and would prefer that industry recommend and generate the core standards that are to become the basis for applicable US regulations. In the absence of industry doing so, the regulatory agencies must rely on their in-house expertise to establish the basis for related regulations, potentially leading to very conservative requirements as a default.”

SC17 has conducted activities for more than 40 years and was initially formed to address the arrival of subsea production equipment as a novel means to deliver offshore hydrocarbons. Since that time, SC17 has continued to grow in membership and purpose as subsea technologies have matured and grown to accommodate deeper water, higher pressure, higher temperature, more aggressive reservoir fluid properties, and operational challenges. (OTC Paper 25387 is available at OnePetro.)

Raymond Stawaisz of Chevron dove into the ballot draft of the third revision of API 17G, Recommended Practice for Completion/Workover Risers (excluding high-pressure/high-temperature), as it migrates from a recommended practice to a system and equipment design specification. This revision provides a systematic approach for the design and operation of the blowout preventer/drilling riser and open-water subsea intervention systems and provides the boilerplate from which ancillary recommended practices for emerging well intervention equipment and methods can reference common and standard requirements. 

Stawaisz emphasized that equipment must be “safe by design.” He noted that an aspect of API 17G “not yet hammered out” concerns metallurgy and design. “The geometries and metallurgy create complexities that have not yet been agreed upon after a year of discussion.” 

It is the intent of SC17 that this specification becomes the base standard from which other subsea well intervention technology can develop. The specification updates design guidelines addressing: safety analyses, intervention planning, and identification and testing of well barriers, including performance requirements for specific hardware, and provides updates to global and local stress analyses. The user of API 17G is encouraged to closely examine standard interfaces and the reuse of subsea well intervention systems and equipment in the interests of minimizing life cycle costs and increasing reliability through the use of proven interfaces. (OTC Paper 25402 is also available at OnePetro.)

Pam Boschee is the Senior Editor for Oil and Gas Facilities.