Raising the regulatory standard

OE Staff
Monday, April 5, 2010

A set of international standards for a wide selection of vital oil & gas industry materials, equipment and offshore structures is emerging from the International Standards Organization (ISO). OE reviews some of the latest developments in this area.

Primarily the responsibility of ISO Technical Committee 67 (ISO TC67), these standards are developed using a consensus process that includes more than 1500 oil & gas industry experts from around the globe and an international review and approval process.

In all, 145 ISO standards have now been issued, including 21 revisions or new publications in 2009. A further 23 are planned for revision or new publication this year. The international oil & gas industry and national standardisation organisations support these standards for worldwide applications. Standards bodies in North and South America, China, Europe, the Gulf states, Russia and elsewhere are now adopting them for regional and national use.

The International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (OGP), which promotes the development and use of simple, fit-for-purpose ISO and IEC international standards, believes the payoff for industry is reduced costs and delivery time, while facilitating trade across national borders. ‘These standards are now being implemented widely in oil & gas provinces around the world, replacing existing industry, regional and national standards and eliminating or reducing the need for company-specific specifications,’ says OGP.

Regulators’ use of standards. OGP Report 426, published March 2010, analyses the use of national, regional, international and industry standards by 14 national regulators and shows they make good use of them. In total, 1348 references to standards were identified, whereas 1140 of these references were to different, individual standard titles.

Of these different standards, as many as 989 or 87% were referenced by one regulator only, indicating a wide spread in regulators references and leaving only 13% of the standards to be referenced by two or more regulators. These standards emanated from more than 60 different standards organisations worldwide. Among European regulators alone, reference to international standards had risen from 16% to 38% since 1996 while reference to national standards fell from 39% to 14%.

Summarising its main conclusions, OGP says: ‘This report shows clearly that standards play an important role in the regulators’ technical definition of the safety level of oil & gas installations they regulate. The diversity of references provides a challenge for international operators in understanding and applying correctly all of these different references for the actual E&P activities in different countries. Duplication of standards should be looked into for harmonisation, with the objective of reducing the number of standards covering the same subject. Whilst the references to international standards by the regulators on a global basis have increased to 21%, there is still more international standardisation effort to be done.’

Bolted joint technology: ISO 27509, Petroleum and natural gas industries – Compact flanged connections, is in development in ISO/TC 67/SC6 based on Norsok standard L-005, which was launched first time in 2003 for the Norwegian oil and gas industry.

The Compact Flange Connection (CFC) was developed for demanding applications such as in dynamic pipeline risers offshore 20 years ago. As opposed to commonly used flange connections with a relatively soft gasket or a metal seal ring transferring all bolt load between the flanges, which are found in ISO 7005 and ASME B16.5 etc, CFCs transfer all bolt load through metal-to-metal contact between the flange faces. A radially self-energised and also pressure-energised metal seal ring is used as the sealing member. The CFC is typically leak tight and static with no changes of bolt or sealing loads through any combination of internal pressure and external loads corresponding with the ultimate strength of the adjoining pipe.

The CFC technology was released for standardisation in 1999. Since large weight and space savings are obtained by using CFC, this technology has been widely used in process piping for high pressure oil and gas in Norway. The CFC dimensions are easily adapted to standard valve used in the oil and gas industry such as ISO 14313 and ASME B16.34.

The CFC technology can be found today in oil and gas service in subsea pipelines and production units, dynamic pipeline risers, process piping onshore and on fixed and floating plants offshore. More than 100,000 CFCs are in operation in Norway, UK, Brazil, the US Gulf of Mexico, West Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

External pipeline coatings: The existence of different standards throughout the world for pipeline coatings has in the past posed problems for suppliers, manufacturers and end users. Solutions are now available, however, in the form of five unified standards developed by the ISO/TC 67/SC 2, three of them published recently and the other two due for publication soon:

  • ISO 21809-1: Polyolefin coatings (three layer) – publication pending
  • ISO 21809-2: Fusion-bonded epoxy coatings
  • ISO 21809-3: Field joint coatings
  • ISO 21809-4: Polyethylene coating (two layer)
  • ISO 21809-5: External concrete coatings – publication due first half of 2010.


Each of these standards will provide in a single document a consistent and unified approach to requirements for these pipeline coating systems worldwide. The standards specify in detail the requirements for the qualification, application, testing and handling of the coatings applied for the external corrosion protection of bare steel pipe for use in pipeline transportation systems in the petroleum and natural gas industries. They will facilitate the educated purchasing, specification, manufacturing and application of these coatings in the international market place.

These ISO standards will cut costs and complications for petroleum and natural gas sectors. OE

Categories: Subsea Pipelines Maintenance Regulations

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