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Custom-built hydraulic motors designed and manufactured by Parker Hannifin are helping oil and gas flow equipment supplier Cameron make deep-sea oil wells safer and more productive.

Oil wells are equipped with valves called blowout preventers (BOPs) during drilling and completions operation.

The devices, positioned at the cap of the well, are designed to shut quickly around the drill pipe or to seal the open wellbore in the event of a well control problem.

In essence, they contain pressure in the well, avoiding a potentially catastrophic blowout, thereby protecting lives, capital equipment and preventing the possible release of hydrocarbons into the environment.

Cameron BOPs are installed on half the floating oil production platforms operating worldwide, and on more than 70 per cent of the mobile jack-up platforms that can be moved to different locations on the seabed.

In 2008, the company’s engineers embarked on a programme to develop a new generation of blowout preventers capable of operating at greater depths and pressures.

While existing devices operated at pressures of up to 15,000lb/in2, Cameron wanted to make BOPs that could work and contain wellbore pressures of 20,000lb/in2 in water depths up to 15,000ft.

These extreme pressures and depths presented large engineering challenges, both in creating a BOP that could shut quickly enough when required, and in ensuring that, once shut, the device could contain the well with no leaks.

Space on the BOP stack of an oil well was already at a premium, and this was another challenge facing Cameron’s engineers.

The ‘Christmas tree’ structure fitted at the top of the well must contain not only BOPs but also a range of other chokes and valves used to control flows into and out of the well.

Blowout preventers need to be as compact as possible, so that they do not take up too much room and to ease installation.

They also need to operate reliably for many years in deep-sea conditions, and routine maintenance must be as straightforward as possible so it can be conducted without disrupting oilfield operations.

During initial prototype conceptual testing, the Cameron BOP hydraulic locking mechanism, initially powered by an off-the-shelf Parker vane-type motor, was not optimised for the application.

With time running out before the prototype was due to be qualification tested, Cameron’s engineering team in Houston, Texas, explained their issue to Joe Kovach, vice-president of technology at Parker Hannifin.

Parker engineers discussed the problem and, once they understood Cameron’s requirements, they set to work designing a motor for the new hydraulic actuator that could meet the demanding specifications.

The designers used the experience of extreme conditions hydraulic equipment to create a design that used a 250cc displacement motor designed to operate a hydraulic motor-powered locking mechanism able to operate and contain wellbore pressures of up to 20,000lb/in2.

The unit, which was more compact than Cameron’s existing design, also included an array of safety and back-up features.

It could, for example, be actuated by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) in the event of a total hydraulic failure at the wellhead.

Parker manufactured the prototype unit at Parker’s Calzoni facility in Bologna, Italy, and sent the first unit for testing at Cameron.

Cameron put the prototype through an exhaustive validation process over the next two months and signed off the design for production at the beginning of January 2009.

By the end of March, the actuators were arriving at Cameron’s manufacturing facility for installation on the first of its new generation of BOPs.

To date, more than 100 motors have been manufactured and shipped to Cameron; they are already being installed on BOP stacks for operation on wells throughout the world.

Parker Hannifin — Parker Sales UK

With annual sales exceeding $10bn, Parker Hannifin is the world's leading manufacturer of motion and control technologies and systems, providing precision-engineered solutions for a wide variety of commercial, mobile, industrial and aerospace markets.

To meet its customers' needs in motion and control, Parker provides the broadest range of products available from any single supplier. This is supported by expertise in nine major technologies:

  • Hydraulics
  • Pneumatics
  • Electromechanical
  • Filtration
  • Process control
  • Fluid and gas handling
  • Sealing and shielding
  • Climate control
  • Aerospace

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