An interview with… Ismael Ripoll

Ismael Ripoll, one of our Subsea and Pipeline Engineers and an Xpert in Finite Element Analysis co-authored a cutting edge paper on Effect of Temperature, Reeling Speed and Pipe Tension on the Performance of Field Joint Coating during Reeling of Offshore Pipelines which was presented at OTC 2021.

We interviewed Ismael to find out more about his journey to becoming an Xpert in FEA, how it will be a key tool for the energy transition and what is his key takeaway from the paper.

Ismael Ripoll

Role – Advanced Analysis Lead
Years in Industry – 15
Years with Xodus – 2

How did you become an expert in FEA?
My first exposure to FEA dates back to my master project at the Department of Aeronautics, Imperial College London where I was an Erasmus student from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia. Afterwards, I secured a job in KW Ltd, which was a consultancy firm which specialised in designing subsea pipelines. There, I had the opportunity to perform FEA using Abaqus for a deep-water pipeline repair project offshore Angola. This project was a real eye-opening experience. Since then I have worked on many projects using FEA and I like to challenge myself to solve novel issues in FEA. Throughout my career I have championed continuous learning from experience, literature, colleagues and collaborators and this is how I have become a recognised expert within the field.

What are the challenges in the energy industry that require this kind of analysis?
FEA analysis is an essential skill in the energy industry that has broad applications in a variety of situations, such as thermal and mechanical analysis. FEA is used to design optimal pipelines and design how best to harness the wind energy. For instance, in deep water pipeline projects, FEA is used to design the optimal solution to control the lateral buckling response of the pipelines within the allowable limits ensuring integrity of the pipelines and stopping failures. In offshore wind farm projects, FEA is used to design the optimal monopile structural configuration of the wind generators meaning the turbines are better suited for normal and accidental operating conditions.

What is different about how Xodus applies FEA?
Xodus is at the forefront of the energy sector meaning that we have the opportunity to work on the most challenging projects across the globe. These projects demand the highest expertise in FEA and continuous adaptation, learning and improvement. Being at Xodus and working in an integrated team means that I have access to experts in all aspects of an asset that requires FEA analysis. This integrated approach which is quite unique to Xodus means my design work is never in isolation, I can always ensure my work fits in with the bigger picture.

How is FEA relevant to the energy transition?
FEA is key to solving the challenges associated with phasing out hydrocarbons, developing renewable energies and setting ambitious climate goals as it is a computerised method for predicting how a product reacts to real-world forces, heat and other physical effects. It will be used to engineer all the components required to decarbonise the energy industry. Two good examples of this are:

  • FEA being used to design the new network of pipelines for hydrogen transportation; and
  • Using FEA to optimise the structures of the next generation of floating wind turbines, helping to reduce costs, making them more economical.

What is the key take-away you would like people to remember from the paper?
Pipelines are often coated with wet insulating material to maintain desired temperature. The cracking of the wet insulation coating during pipeline installation has been a hurdle in the industry for many years, because of the complex relationship between coating thermal and mechanical properties. At the moment, projects qualify the adequacy of the coating mechanical performance through qualification testing based on experience and observations. This paper shares the results obtained from a novel finite element analysis approach, which is much more intelligent and thorough than the commonly used method. As a result of this novel approach, the relative influence among reeling temperature, speed and back tension in terms of coating peak strains is now understood much more easily than before. Therefore this paper offers a route to optimise coating designs and to minimise the cost of coating repairs.

What developments could be made in this area and what benefits could that provide for the industry?
Subsea pipelines need to be maintained at the desired temperature to avoid hydrate formation and to maintain an uninterrupted product flow, especially when pipelines run over long distances. Coatings are provided as insulation to minimise heat losses in order to control the temperature of the product transported by the pipeline. Important factors which govern the overall design of the insulation are its thermal and mechanical properties. Selection of coating materials and thickness is essential to achieve the desired thermal performance. Cracks and defects have been observed during reeling operations at geometric locations. Therefore, the mechanical aspects, which determine the coating performance, are critical for success. This paper has significantly advanced the field and provides a better solution for design. The pipeline industry should start using the approach presented in this paper to define the required constraints during reeling to prevent cracking. In the future, the approach presented in the paper will be complemented with the definition of the relevant design criteria.