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How Does Aerogel Insulation Save Space and Time in Offshore Installations

Introduction

An offshore platform is a large structure with facilities to drill wells and to extract oil and natural gas from deposits under the ocean bed. They can range from small unmanned platforms to extremely large manned facilities. Due to the criticality and harsh conditions in which these platforms operate, space and weight are key considerations in any design of these platforms to balance the cost of construction.

How does Aerogel Insulation Help Manage Space and Weight Constraints

Aerogel is a lightweight solid derived from silica gel in which the liquid component in it has been extracted and replaced with air. The trapped air has very little room to move thus inhibiting convection. The solid parts in silica aerogels are poor conductors. These characteristics make Aerogel Insulation one of the highest performing industrial insulation materials available in the market.

What this translates to is that you will be able to achieve an equivalent amount of thermal insulation with a significantly thinner profile when using Aspen’s Aerogel’s hot (Pyrogel XTE) or cold (Cryogel Z) insulation blankets compared to other conventional insulation materials such as calcium silicate, perlite, cellular glass and mineral wool. A comparison of equivalent thickness is illustrated in Figures 1 and 2 below.

This significant reduction in thickness is ideal for offshore platforms as it allows designers to fit in more insulated piping on a smaller footprint, saves precious piperack space and minimizes clashpoints with existing equipment.

In the latest edition of the Recommended Practice for selecting standards for piping components, Aerogel insulation is identified as “The Best Alternative Piping Insulation Solution” as it can reduce the drag force on an offshore platform due to reduction in insulation thickness and therefore, reduced profile area for wind drag and blast loading in the event of an explosion.

On top of that, Aerogel insulation is flexible and adaptable in terms of installation convenience over rigid types of insulation material like cellular glass, perlite and calcium silicate. Aerogel insulation comes in a blanket form where it can be easily cut to shape with a penknife (no specialized tools required) on the offshore platform and is then just wrapped over the pipes or equipment that needs to be insulated. This allows for easy and convenient spares management on platforms where storage space and logistics costs are significantly more expensive as the site only needs to store one type of material on board. The material can be stacked or kept standing and has no shelf life or special storage requirements. This cannot be achieved with rigid type insulation where the pre-formed section needs to be stocked in various sizes and shapes. Rigid type of insulation also requires very careful handling during storage, transportation and installation as it breaks easily due to its brittleness. In many cases, this material is also re-usable if sections of the insulation needs to be removed for e.g. inspections or maintenance and this significantly reduces wastage generation on a platform saving costly disposal charges as well.

Conclusion

Choosing the right type of insulation is an important aspect in designing, upgrading or maintaining your offshore platforms cost-effectively with great life cycle cost benefits. It saves you time and cost through a convenient and easy to install system as less manhours are required for the installation, less space during transportation and the thin thickness profile provides easier access for insulation in tight spaces. As an added benefit, Aerogel insulation will also protect your assets from the damaging effects of Corrosion Under Insulation (CUI).

KLAY EnerSol Sdn. Bhd. is an official distributor of Aspen Aerogel Insulation Materials in Malaysia. We supply and provide installation services either onshore or offshore in South East Asia and Oceania regions. We maintain a ready stock of Aerogel Insulation materials to help clients to procure this superior insulation material at a shorter lead time.

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