The Nord Stream twin pipeline system through the Baltic Sea runs from Vyborg, Russia to Lubmin near Greifswald, Germany. The pipelines were completed in 2012. Because manufacturing and weight coating of pipes would be completed in advance of the pipe laying, the project requested the highest standards in pipe safety + security prior to off-shore pipe lay. The line pipe had to be stored in huge quantities prior to construction: within the project, 20 stockyards in 5 harbors were operated in parallel with up to 100,000 pipes. The storage of pipes was deemed to be most critical for the pipes in regards to quality, safety and security.
From the historical background, Nord Stream evaluated three possible options to fulfill the project’s requirements:
- Area protection concept including necessary fencing and safeguarding, corrosion protection of pipe ends, and full cleaning of pipes prior to load-out
- Final check-out system including necessary non-destructive internal surface test, corrosion protection of pipe ends and full cleaning of pipes prior to load-out
- Customized Intelligent Pipe Cap Solution provided by ROSEN (“all in one” solution)
The most expensive part of the construction process is pipe laying:
- To keep the lay barges up and running at full speed, it is mandatory to keep within the project time schedule and to secure the project budget
- Load-out of pipes from the stock yards need to follow a very tight time schedule to avoid the slowing down the speed of the lay-barge
- The pipe joints needed to be stored in a way that the load-out can be performed without any delay and with “no bad surprises”
- The operator needs certainty that all pipes upon load-out are without any defect / damage
- Any damage, corrosion, or contamination due to weather, environmental conditions and / or third party interference needs to be avoided
- “No bad surprises” at load-out eliminates delays in pipe laying
To secure the quality of the pipes, a “Pipe Cap System” was selected with the following features:
Smart Pipe Cap
- Maintains full internal cleanliness of pipes throughout the project cycle
- Provides corrosion protection of the inner and outer cutback areas
- Minimizes damage to bevels and pipe ends; up to 20 handlings at weights up to 30 tons
Pipe Monitoring System
- Tracks each pipe joint in real time by RFID technology and a wireless sensor network
- Secures the pipes against 3rd party violence
- Suitable for refurbishment of the entire cap for reuse in the second pipeline
In summary, ROSEN and Nord Stream experienced the following:
- After a storage period of more than 3 years, and up to 30 handlings per pipe, only 10 of 210,000 pipes were rejected from the lay barge due to damage or unsuitable pipe-condition.
- The safety and security cap system proved its viability and made a smooth load-out of the pipe joints possible.
- Proprietary cap mounting and demounting equipment worked well.
- Corrosion protection, as well as interior protection of the pipe joints, exceeded expectations.
- Development and large-scale manufacturing of Pipe Caps and electronic components was executed in a short time. Deliveries were on time.
- In total, this novel system, developed and commercialized over a very short period of time, proved to be a success; translating into significant cost savings for the pipeline operator.