All at sea: load cells in the offshore oil industry

Published On: August 31 2018


Offshore oil exploration and extraction involves working in extreme weather and hostile environments where safety and accuracy are paramount. That’s why you’ll find load cells used across the industry, from the initial building of an rig to the final delivery of oil to a refinery.

Lifting with confidence

Assembling an oil platform involves a lot of lifting elements into place, long before the assembled platform sails out to sea. Wireless load cells ensure that cranes are first capable of lifting the elements into place, an also that they are kept in the correct alignment for fitting. The wireless element ensures that readings can be taken safely and continuously up to 100 metres from the actual lifting site itself. Equally, load cells can ensure safe lifting of equipment on and off established oil platforms even in the ever-moving environment of the open ocean.


Sitting pretty

Many offshore oil installations in daily use are of a standard design known as the Tension Leg Platform, or TLP. First used in the mid 1980s, these platforms sit on a series of legs sunk into the water. Load cells are places between the platform and the leg to ensure even weight distribution. Like all load cells, they need calibrating to ensure an accurate reading, and to do calibration, the weight of the platform must be taken off the load cell.

In the past, this involved lifting using hydraulic cylinders at each contact point, then moving the cylinders to the next point to take the weight off the next set of load cells. A solution pioneered by the Norwegians gave each leg load cell its own dedicated lifting cylinder, so that all the load cells underneath the platform ca be calibrated at once. It reduced the time taken as fewer lifts were involved, and the platform could be lowered back more gently, avoiding shock to the load cells.


Mooring line measurements

Oil platform stability also relies on a series of single and multi-point mooring solutions and rig anchors. Load cells can provide continuous monitoring of the line tension loads and relay the data to the surface for analysis and assessment in the comfort of a control room, 24/7. It’s a testament to the durability and quality build of underwater load cells that they can withstand the forces involved themselves, maintaining accuracy even when fully submerged for long periods and under considerable pressure at depths.

Indeed, wireless load cell technology can be applied to a wide range of oil platform and drilling activity, to “improve safety, reduce costs and drive efficiencies” according to a new article in Oil and Gas Technology newspaper.

Wireless monitoring reduces the need for workers to be in hazardous areas, by providing a continuous output of data for line tension monitoring and other tasks. Like many technologies, the issue has been in the past that one solution for one task wouldn’t ‘talk’ to another. Wireless load cell technology enables various different set-ups and arrangements to relay data to a central point for collation and analysis.

The solution featured in the article

“Replaces existing cabled sensors with highly accurate, hazardous area certified (zone 1/class 1 division 2) wireless sensors that communicate directly with wellsite control, monitoring and data handling systems to provide real-time operational information, as well as storing the data for analysis for potential learning, improvement opportunities and incident investigations.”


Load cells for learning

One of the major advantages of continuous monitoring is the ability to create an accurate picture of activity over time. Rather than just be informed at the point of failure, or detecting an issue just beforehand, continuous monitoring allows users to build a complete picture over time. This data can be analysed to identify potential improvements, detect early signs of possible issues, and help in the investigation of incidents.


Load cells for your business

As a leading UK manufacturer of load cells, including a bespoke ‘made to order’ service, we can help design the right monitoring systems for your business needs. So, whether you want to monitor the strain on underwater installations,or need accurate materials testing for your products, we can help. Call us with your requirements, or check out our range of ‘off the shelf’ load cells at our online shop.