Wind. Rain. Heavy waves, rising up and pummeling down into the vast ocean waters below.
As any offshore diver will tell you, the ocean isn’t always a calm place to work.
Onboard oil rigs, commercial divers often spend their time securing the most valuable sections of the rig: Riser pipelines
These risers funnel products like gas and oil to the leg of the oil rig. To properly secure the risers, divers use riser clamps. Without these clamps, the pipelines can bend and break, unleashing a torrent of financial disaster and environmental hazards into the ocean.
But the ocean isn’t the only place for this equipment.
Jeff Stiefel, Divers Institute of Technology (DIT) Instructor, says riser clamps provide a universal application for pipelines in various locations. Still, oil rig application is the most well-known.
Think of it like an ice pick: Though breaking ice comes to mind first, ice picks can also remove dirt from the bottom of a shoe or bore into wood.
Purpose & Process of Riser Clamps
Riser clamps come in different sizes and pieces (often two per clamp). These sections are straight on the outsides and curved in the middle so they can be secured around the pipeline.
Jeff explains the installation process:
“The riser clamps are installed at different depths. They are installed from the top-most point of the pipe to the mudline and are placed at different depths in between. Engineers are responsible for locating the placement of each clamp. Each rig will have different amounts of clamps to compensate for the rig location and pipe length.”
There’s a lot that goes into the planning and application of riser clamp installation.
To ensure that DIT divers were prepared for this type of work, Jeff and a team of instructors worked together to create a training course.
Project Origins & Equipment
DIT instructors first began working on the Riser Clamp Project in 2012. It’s now a fully-integrated portion of the Offshore & HAZMAT Module (the Offshore section of this module lasts for about two weeks).
Thinking through his own offshore experience, Jeff laid out all the necessary equipment that would be needed to properly simulate a riser clamp installation.
“The riser clamp project consists of a simulated oil rig leg which is 20 feet long and 16 inches in diameter; the riser pipe is 20 feet long and 15 inches in diameter. There are two styles of clamps here at DIT that are secured to each pipe locking them together, basically the clamps are braces.
There is heavy rigging gear involved, such as 20-foot straps, endless slings, 3/4-foot shackles , two chain falls, and poly line for tying knots, just to name a few.”
Instructors demonstrate each of the tools that students will use to complete the project. Instructors use tools that help students connect and apply their knowledge on basic level.
“The riser clamp hat we use at DIT is a lot smaller than most clamps used in the industry, but it is a real working clamp. It is better and safer teaching with a smaller clamp that weighs less,” Jeff says.
Focusing & Fastening: From the Classroom to Application
It’s a project that required the full attention of student divers.
To understand how it works, the students begin in a classroom setting. They watch a video of the project being assembled, and each student is provided a handout the shows all the steps involved with installing the riser clamp.
By the time the application portion of the project begins, students are fully prepared.
“There are two man dive teams in the water working on this project, Jeff says. “Topside tenders are there to support the divers with lowering and lifting tools, rigging gear and clamp pieces. There can be as many as 6-12 students conducting support.”
Students also form their strategy for installing the clamps. Instructors guide them to ensure the plan’s feasibility and safety.
“The divers are responsible for establishing their dive plan and how they want all the tools, rigging gear and clamp pieces placed in the water. When they have their safe dive plan, they will tell the topside personnel how they want the gear lowered and when to lower it.”
Learning Outcomes to Secure a Job
Like all modules at DIT, the Riser Clamp Project provides practical learning outcomes for the students:
- Mid-water dive work
- Limited visibility diving
- Rigging techniques
With experience in these areas, students are set up for success when they dive into offshore work.
“For a new tender, learning how the clamps work as well as the purpose of the clamp is a necessity to further their career in the offshore commercial diving industry,” Jeff says.
This article was originally written for Diver’s Institute of Technology. It was reposted with permission from the school.