Pyrogel Insulation for Offshore Platforms │ DNV GL Recommended

By John Williams

January 31, 2021

Let’s start with two questions:

  • What’s the highest wind speed recorded in the North Sea?
  • And how is Pyrogel® aerogel insulation related to that figure?

It’s a hard measurement to nail down, but Wikipedia reports that the Statfjord-B platform in the North Sea, off the coast of Norway, recorded wind gusts of 166 miles per hour (267 km/h) on January 1st, 1992.

Wind speeds like that are pretty scary, but offshore oil and gas platforms are engineered to withstand extreme winds. In particular, much thought goes into limiting exposed surface area on the topside (the part of the platform that stands above water). Reducing profile area is critical to reducing wind drag—a force that can have serious repercussions.

So how can you achieve lower wind drag?  Here’s one way:

Follow DNV GL Recommended Practice

In the latest edition of DNVGL-RP-E401, the Recommended Practice for selecting standards for piping and components, Section 3.2 identifies high-temperature aerogel blanket insulation (also known as Pyrogel) as “the best alternative piping insulation solution” because “wind/blast induced drag forces will be reduced due to reduction in insulation thickness.”

DNV GL is a global organization that provides technical advice, software solutions, and independent expert advisory services to the maritime, oil & gas, and energy industries. They commonly share industry best practices to help companies improve their safety and reliability while managing the project and operational costs.

The recommended practice, according to the document’s acknowledgment, “is one of a series resulting from a Joint Industry Project (JIP) led by DNV GL to reduce cost and increase predictability without compromising quality and safety in international offshore development projects.”

Reducing the impact of, and potential hazards associated with, forces beyond your control (like gale-force winds) are critical for topsides to run safely and efficiently.  It’s also why the DNV GL recommendations are important to consider.

Staying Thin to Reduce Wind Drag

Pyrogel is a high-temperature aerogel blanket insulation with several unique characteristics and properties, including an ultra-efficient silica aerogel core. It is that aerogel core that helps Pyrogel achieve the same heat loss performance as other insulations—but at a fraction of the thickness.

Piping and components insulated with Pyrogel have reduced insulation thickness, and therefore, reduced profile area compared to those insulated with traditional insulations.  And again, less profile area means a reduction in wind drag and blast loading in the event of an explosion.

Installation Convenience in Limited-Space Quarters

The benefits of lower wind drag weren’t the only advantages noted in the DNV Recommended Practice. It also highlighted Pyrogel’s ability to help with another important factor for offshore platforms: “installation convenience.”

The DNV Recommended Practice states that aerogel blanket insulation has advantages over cellular glass because “installing cellular glass requires more time in order to assemble the large size of pre-formed sections over pipework and fittings, whereas aerogel can be easily handled by cutting and wrapping 5 mm and 10 mm insulation blankets over pipework and fittings.”

With Pyrogel insulation, there’s no need for large staging areas, space that is decidedly lacking on topsides.

The additional benefit of Pyrogel insulation is its streamlined logistics. With Pyrogel, you don’t need a multitude of parts and sizes, nor are large amounts of storage space required—either on land or at sea. You need only one, versatile format.

Maintenance events and turnarounds take advantage of streamlined logistics, too—through pre-fabrication and test fitting of Pyrogel on-shore, prior to transport to the platform. After test fitting is complete, containers are staged appropriately to maximize installation speed.

Choosing Insulation for Smooth Sailing

Your choice of piping insulation is an important part in keeping your offshore platform running smoothly. If you refer to Recommended Practice from DNV GL and choose Pyrogel aerogel insulation, you’ll achieve advantages in wind drag reduction and installation convenience and speed. As an added benefit, you’ll also be working to protect your assets from damaging corrosion under insulation (CUI).

After all, offshore platforms operate under some very challenging circumstances: high winds, waves, limited space, and complicated logistics.  Don’t let the wrong choice of insulation add to your list of worries.