Design to Keep Semi-Submersible Drilling Rigs Afloat in Disaster Conditions

Advanced Flotation Technologies (AFT) today announced completion of initial designs on a patent pending process to keep semi-submersible drilling rigs afloat in a disaster such as a hurricane, or loss of buoyancy.

"Most experts don't understand the ease and power of simple flotation in sea water," said Chris Pearson, President of AFT. "The weight of water displaced by anything that is underwater, offsets the overall weight of the object in the air. It doesn't take as much flotation as you would think to keep large objects afloat."

The AFT concept depends upon a sophisticated monitor and control program, supplied by REMAS, which is activated by critical attitude or list of the rig and in some cases the intake of water. When either the water intake or the list exceeds a predetermined "norm" the computer sends electronic signals that inflate a series of large, robust bags in a pattern needed to keep the rig level and afloat. As conditions change, the program inflates or deflates the bag system to keep the rig stable.

"These days we make warships out of inflatables," said Pearson. "They don't corrode and they don't dent. The inflatable bags are fabricated from coated, ballistic woven nylon material. The coatings, either rubber or polymer, are formulated not to support nutrient growth and to be highly resistant to corrosive fluids. The number of bags required to keep very large objects such as ships and rigs afloat, is determined by their inherent weight in water. The bags are stowed, deflated and rolled, inside a permanently attached, covered container that houses them until deployment is necessary. We have taken this idea to the extreme, but it works." The next step is the construction and test of a sub-scale proof of concept model. AFT is seeking Industry partners for this effort.

Flotation devices can be easily manufactured in any shape and size to meet requirements. This gives them an advantage over metal. No special shop tools are required and the time between concept and actuality is greatly compressed.

"If we can float rigs, we can float the many high value assets that are aboard as well," said Pearson. "We simply mount a hidden panel that holds the inflatable and in some cases the canisters of compressed gas that are needed for inflation. When a triggering event happens, the inflatable springs from its container and deploys in a shape and size that fits the component it is rescuing."

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