Brunswick Technologies Inc. is providing the fiberglass fabric for a subsea oil well cover being used in the North Sea. Norwegian company Brodrene AA of Floro makes the protective covers for engineering firm Mari-time Seanor AS, based near Oslo. Maritime supplies the covers to Saga Petroleum.
Brodrene makes the cover through hand layup from a composite of BTI's noncrimped knitted fiberglass fabric and polyester, said Bill Dubay, BTI's president. BTI produces the structurally reinforced, heavy-weight composite materials at its Brunswick, Maine, headquarters plant, where it employs 65.
According to BTI, Maritime is the first firm to develop and supply subsea protective structures with composites. Though Mari-time had been using a woven material to make the well covers, the material typically used for the covers is steel, Dubay said recently by telephone. His firm has been involved with the project for roughly 11/2 years, he said.
Dubay said BTI's technology tries to optimize the fiber orientation of the fiberglass fabric to give the covers good engineering loads and capacity. He added that not only does noncorroding fiberglass-reinforced plastic last longer than steel and afford more protection to the well head, but it weighs much less, simplifying installation. Dubay claims installation costs for a steel cover could be as much as one-third more than for FRP.
The cover protects oil well heads from trawler nets, and objects such as pipes or other construction debris that sometimes fall from offshore platforms or ships. In the North Sea, Norwegian fishermen must be able to drag their nets for fish, and the cover's flat-top pyramid design allows nets to slide up one side and down the other without catching, he said.
``Otherwise, [the nets would] just break the well head right off,'' Dubay said.
The hinged cover also flips open easily for maintenance and inspections, in contrast to heavy steel covers, which require complicated opening mechanisms, BTI said in a news release.
``For us it points out that with the right amount of engineering we can be cost-competitive with steel applications,'' Dubay said.
Norway-born Martin Grimnes is founder and chief executive of BTI.
Contact BTI at tel. (207) 729-7792, fax (207) 729-7877.