An e-loop installed on a rig in the North Sea resulted in few snags and improved productivity, even on the windiest of days. (Image: igus)

Winds racing across the North Sea often wreak havoc among vessels in the 600-mile waterway. While its many islands and sandy beaches make it a popular vacation spot, the North Sea is often rough and stormy. In April, nine nations signed a pact to expand wind farms in the North Sea by eight times from its current level.

The North Sea is replete with rigs and is one of the world’s most active regions for offshore drilling. Wind presents several challenges. One company from Denmark found a problem with its oil rig, where wind caused service loops to swing, become entangled and snag, resulting in downtime to fix the issue.

The company solved the problem with a 33.5-meter e-loop from igus, the Germany-based manufacturer of high-performance plastics. The e-loop was installed in the top drive of the rig, resulting in fewer snags and improved productivity even in the windiest days on the fabled sea where pirates once roamed.

An alternative to service loops, called e-loops, help oil rigs stand up to high winds and virtually reduce downtime. (Image: igus)

Any drilling rig becomes inoperable without reliable service loops. The loops are in the top drive of the rig and power a large electrical drilling motor that is installed in a derrick, which supplies the torque to turn the drill string.

Most rigs include hydraulic hoses in which cables are placed. Repair work on rigs is quite dangerous, with all sorts of moving parts and components and the possibility of flammable chemicals or natural gas or oil in the well.

The rig in the United Kingdom sector of the North Sea was buffeted by high winds. The company was also required to have spare parts on board the rig for replacement, and drillers had to monitor seven loops. The rigs remain in operation until the tangle breaks, causing significant downtime before the rig gets back up and running.

Unlike the previous system, the e-loop system from igus uses just one service loop. All cables and hoses are within one system, and each service type is housed in separate compartments. “This decreases potential sources of snags and is less sensitive to wind,” said Tim Schneebeck, Industry Manager for Offshore, Energy, Oil and Gas at igus.

In the previous setup, drillers were required to watch over multiple service loops for snags. The e-loop system needs oversight of just one loop. It also has a much smaller footprint on the derrick.

Thes e-loops also provide more reliability with higher pulling loads and increased cable/hose protection. Operating expenses are more stable, and the rig requires less area for maintaining stock of critical components.

“The e-loop in this case is a much more reliable solution,” Schneebeck said. “It’s stronger than a service loop, less impacted by wind and modular, which saves the operator maintenance costs and time.”

A recently introduced innovation from igus can help rig operators in the oil and gas industries see exactly how the e-loop system can be incorporated into their system.

The “iguverse” allows engineers to visualize the e-loop without having to visit igus or have a sales member showcase the application. Team members can meet as avatars in a digital space and exchange ideas. Projects become clearer and tangible right from the outset.

“It’s a nice way to show the customer the integration of the new e-loop to the rig,” Schneebeck said. “Both ends, the top drive and derrick. There are some challenges if it comes to the cable routing or even the counter brackets to fit the e-loop flange. In the end, it is always better to visualize how things are going to work and the iguverse shows how that is done.”

The iguverse offers a range of advantages, including faster integration into production, improved safety, cost reduction through simulation, saving time on the site and minimal downtime. The lowered travel costs reduce expenses and support important sustainability measures.

Virtual collaboration is one of the important trends in global engineering and manufacturing. Rather than reviewing presentations and data, businesses can work together to see firsthand exactly how projects come together.

Customers working with igus can put on virtual-reality glasses during consultations and immerse themselves in the iguverse platform. Instead of brochures, sales literature, and Power Point presentations, the end-user can see precisely how components can be integrated into their product, how it will work and the benefits of the components. The eventual objective is to bring customers, engineers, and material experts together as avatars in the digital space and solve engineering problems there.

“The iguverse represents a new way of presenting, selling, and engineering,” igus CEO Frank Blase said.

Since igus introduced the e-loop in 2020, 35 rigs have adopted e-loops as a solution to reduce downtime. No issues have been reported since the first installation, and several other applications, such as mining, shore power, and ship loading have turned to the e-loop as a solution.

The e-loop works well on retrofits and new projects and can be easily adapted to any rig. The plug and play cables and hoses, connectors, brackets and steelwork and the e-loop are quickly installed. In one project in Canada, the e-loop installation occurred in just eight hours. All cables also come with a three-year guarantee.

“Even in extreme conditions the loop functions very well,” said Darren Hrynkiw, a Senior Manager for K + S Potash Canada. “I am always pleased when an engineered solution can be found to eliminate a safety hazard as this is far more effective than procedural safeguards.”

This article was written by Thomas Renner for igus (East Providence, RI). Renner writes on engineering, building, construction, and other trade industry topics. For more information visit here .