US 3724061 A
A method and apparatus for aligning the mating surfaces of two sections of fluid conduit that are to be joined, one section of which is lowered from a position above the other, and for maintaining this aligned configuration of the mating surfaces until the joining of the aligned sections can be accomplished. The method and apparatus involves the use of notched plates attached to the fixed conduit section and a T-bracket attached to the conduit section being lowered between a pair of fixed guidelines, which T-bracket engages with the notched plates and guides the mating surface of the conduit section being lowered into mating alignment with the fixed conduit section.
Claims available in
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent Schipper [4 1 Apr. 3, 1973 54 METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR 3,517,520 6/1970 Hammett ..61/72.3 PIPELINE CONNECTION 3,566,500 3 1971 Simon ..29 157  Inventor: Dirk A. Schipper, PO. Box 28, Primary Examiner chaflie Moon Taplme' Sldon Lebanon Attorney-John Boustead et al.  Filed: July 7, 1971 57 ABSTRACT  Appl. No.: 160,309 1 A method and apparatus for aligning the mating surfaces of two sections of fluid conduit that are to be  US. Cl. ..29/464, 29/237, 61/72.3, joined, one Section of which is lowered from a position 7/15 above the other, and for maintaining this aligned con-  Ilft. Cl- ..B23q 3/00 fig i of the i g Surfaces until the j g of  Field of Search ..29/464, 237, 157; 61/ 3 the aligned sections can be accomplished. The method 137/15 and apparatus involves the use of notched plates attached to the fixed conduit section and a T-bracket at-  References C'ted tached to the conduit section being lowered between a pair of fixed guidelines, which T-bracket engages with .UNITED STATES PATENTS the notched plates and guides the mating surface of 2,787,051 4/1957 Risley ..29/464 UX the conduit section being lowered into mating align- 3,260,270 1966 Watkins 6t ment with the fixed conduit section. 3,298,092 1/1967 Dozier et al. 3,512,246 5/1970 Messano ..29/237 X 9 Claims, 4 Drawing Figures PATENTEDAPR 3 197a SHEET 1 BF 2 INVENTOR.
} DIRK A. SCHIPPER BY Maw FIG. 4
M ATTORNEYS PATENTEDAPR3 197a SHEET 2 BF 2 DIRK A. SCHIPPER ATTORNEYS METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR PIPELINE CONNECTION BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 1. Field of the Invention My invention relates to a method and apparatus for aligning the mating surfaces of two sections of fluid conduit that are to be connected, and maintaining that aligned configuration while the connection is made.
2. Description of the Prior Art In recent years the quantity of crude oil and other petroleum products being transported by tankers and ocean-going barges has greatly increased. This increase is a result of the greater number of such vessels being utilized and also of the increased capacities of individual vessels. The greatest problem attending the increased numbers and tonnage of these vessels is the provision of suitable berthing space while their liquid cargoes are being pumped on board or being offloaded. It has been found that these cargoes may be most expeditiously handled by providing underwater conduits or pipelines running from shore facilities, which conduits are attached to the sea bottom and terminate at anchorages where the depth of the water is sufficient to accomodate the fully loaded vessels. The submerged pipelines, which often terminate in manifolds or headers may not only be used by more than one vessel at a time, but also avoid the hazards to navigation which are attendant structures that project up through the surface of the sea.
However, in order for the barge or tanker to receive or discharge its cargo it is necessary to connect a hose or other flexible piping running from the ship to the terminus of the fixed submerged pipeline. This has been accomplished by anchoring the ship over the submerged pipeline, lowering the necessary hosing from the ship to the sea bottom, and then sending divers to the sea bottom to secure the connection between the pipeline and the hose. The divers, of course, must first locate the hose suspended from the ship, move it to the position of the fixed submerged pipeline, align the mating surfaces and the bolt holes therein and maintain this alignment while the bolts are threaded into the flanges to secure the connection. This task is not only arduous, but can be time consuming and dangerous as well, and will generally require the efforts of several divers. Furthermore, if the seas are running high it may not be possible for the divers to control the suspended hose and maintain the alignment for sufficient time to secure the connection between the mating flanges due to the action of the sea on the suspended hosing. In this event all underwater activity must cease and the ship will have to lie at its anchorage while the divers and crew await a change in the weather or the condition of the seas.
My invention provides a method and apparatus which has special utility in facilitating the connecting or alignment of fixed underwater pipelines with hosing or other sections of pipeline which are lowered from above the bottom of the sea.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION My invention broadly relates to a method and apparatus for aligning the mating surfaces of two sections of fluid conduit that are to be connected, and maintaining that aligned configuration while the connection is made. One of the sections of conduit is fixed to a platform or base and is initially lower relative to the other section of conduit. This fixed section has a pair of notched plates attached to it. The second section of conduit, which is to be aligned for the purpose of securing a connection between the two, has a T-bracket attached to it and is lowered between a pair of fixed guidelines from a position above the first section until the T-bracket engages with the notched plates and guides the mating surfaces into alignment and this aligned configuration is maintained until the connection between the conduits can be completed.
My invention has general application wherever it is necessary to align the mating surfaces of conduits or pipelines which, because of their size or their location, cannot be easily manipulated or maintained in a precise abutting configuration utilizing manual or ordinary material handling means while the connection is being made.
My invention has special utility in aligning the mating surface of a section of submerged conduit fixed to the sea bottom with that of a second section of conduit which is lowered from the surface of the sea above, so that the sections may be joined by appropriate means. In general, the mating surfaces will be flanges attached to the ends of the conduits to be joined and the final connection will be made by bolting the two flanges together. Further, my invention provides for the rapid alignment of these mating surfaces and the respective bolt holes therein so that a single diver may accomplish the relatively simple task of threading the bolts between flanged portions of the fluid conduits to be joined. In addition, using the aligning means and apparatus of my invention in conjunction with devices which are known in the art for securing a connection between mated .conduits by remote means, it would be possible to circumvent the requirement for a diver altogether.
Another advantage of my invention is that it can be used with currently existing pipeline header or manifold systems whether the flanged mating surfaces run horizontally, or parallel to the bottom of the sea, or are vertical, or perpendicular to the sea bottom.
One object of the invention is to provide a method and apparatus for securing the alignment of two sections of conduit which requires minimum amount of special material handling equipment and manhandling of the conduits.
A particular object of the invention is to facilitate the alignment between, and connection of submerged conduits of any size and underwater pipeline manifolds or headers of any size, and at any depth of the water and without regard to the conditions at the surface of the sea. A further object is to provide means and'apparatus for obtaining the rapid alignment of flanges and bolt holes between underwater fluid conduits which are to be joined.
Another object is to provide for the alignment of unweildy conduits where the mating surface of the flxed conduit is at any angle from 0 to to the vertical.
In addition to aligning conventional flanged mating surfaces which must be bolted together, a further purpose of the invention is to provide a method which is adaptable for use in conjunction with other automatic or remotely controlled connecting devices which are known to the art.
These and other objects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following description and the accompanying drawings, in which like structural members in the figures are designed by the same number.
FIG. I is a perspective view, diagrammatically illustrating one embodiment of the invention in the operation of aligning a descending hose for connection to a fixed submerged pipeline.
FIG. 2 is an enlarged side elevation, partly in phantom, of the embodiment shown in FIG. 1 with the fluid conduits in aligned position.
FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the embodiment of the T-bracket only as shown in FIG. 1.
FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the receiving fixture only as shown in FIG. 1.
Referring to FIG. 1, showing an embodiment of the invention in operation where the vessel 50 is anchored in the sea over the terminus of submerged pipeline 1, which is fixedly mounted on base 2 on the sea bottom 51. Receiving fixture is shown adjacent the terminus of pipeline 1.
A pair of guidelines 5 extend vertically from base 2 and are secured to bollards 52 on board the vessel. T- bracket 20, mounted at the terminus of flexible conduit 30, is shown descending between guidelines 5. Hose string 40, attached at one end to the flexible conduit, controls the rate of descent of the conduit 30 and T- bracket 20 by means ofa winch 41, on board the vessel.
The receiving fixture 10, shown in greater detail in FIG. 4 is comprised of a pair of notched steel plates, 11 and 12, disposed angularly to each other, and rigidly mounted on pipeline 1 adjacent to the terminus thereof. As can be seen more clearly in FIG. 4, these plates are conveniently mounted on the upper surface of, and parallel to the axis of pipeline 1, and disposed at equal angles from the vertical, with the total angle between the two nominally selected in the range from 30 to 45. Notched plates 11 and 12, in addition to being rigidly fixed to the pipeline 1, are joined together by reinforcing members 13 and 15 to insure the overall rigidity and strength of the receiving fixture 10.
The depth of, and opening at the top of the notched plates 11 and 12, shown in detail in FIG. 2, must be determined with regard to location of the ends of guidelines 5 below the bottom of the notches at 15, and the angular displacement of guidelines 5 that results from the movement of the vessel above and horizontal forces transmitted through the descending T-bracket assembly. It is necessary that the tops of the notches extend beyond the'furthest point described by the arcuate movement of guidelines 5 in a plane parallel to the axis of pipeline 1. Sufficient opening should be provided at the tops of the notches to allow for this movement of the guidelines and to preclude the possibility that spreader bar 23 will not engage with either one or both of the notches as it is lowered down the guidelines 5. It should be obvious that if guidelines 5 can be maintained in an absolutely vertical position with no pivoting about their fixed ends at pad eyes 5, then the vertical distance 60 and the arcuate opening 61 can be relatively small. Thus, the principal parameter to be con-- sidered in determining the depth 60 and angle 61 of the notch, will be the horizontal displacement of the guidelines 5 under actual operating conditions.
Shown in phantom in FIG. 2 is a partial section of conduit 30, terminating in flange fitting 31, with T- bracket 20 fixed thereto. Also shown is gasket 33 in place on flange 31. T-bracket 20 is comprised of bracket plate 21, upper and lower stabilizer plates25 and 26, respectively, flange plate 22, and spreader bar 23 having swivel guide eyes 24 attached to either end thereof.
As is seen more clearly in FIG. 3, bracket plate 21 is located centrally on spreader bar 23 and stabilizer plates 25 and 26 are mounted at right angles to, and on the center line of 21. The stabilizer plates serve to reduce the lateral movement of the conduit and T- bracket assembly as it descends down guidelines 5. The
dimensions of plate 21, taken parallel to the axis of spreader bar 23 are determined by the horizontal distance between the inner surfaces of notch plates 11 and 12 taken on a plane through point 15 when the mating surfaces are in aligned configuration. Similarly, the angle between bracket plate 21 and flange plate 22 will be determined by the angular displacement of the mating surface of the fixed conduit from the horizontal. For example, in FIG. 2, when the mating surface of the flange fitting 4 on fixed conduit pipeline 1 is vertical,
then the angle between plates 21 and 22 is Also shown in FIG. 3 are bolt holes 28 which are positioned to match corresponding threaded holes 34 in flange fitting 31 to provide a means of assembling T- bracket 20 to conduit 30 using bracket bolts 29.
With the conduit 30 in the final aligned position, FIG. 2 shows flange bolts 32 partly secured and bracket bolts 29 partly removed in preparation for the detachment of T-bracket 20 and the installation of additional flange bolts in the threaded holes. formerly occupied by the bracket bolts.
The following sequence of events when read in conjunction with the above description of the drawings illustrates one method of utilizing my invention shown in FIG. 1, in making a connection between a submerged pipeline or header and a conduit or hose descending from a tanker or barge on the surface of the sea above.
One end of each of the guidelines 5 is secured to the pad eyes 4 located on the base 2, and to the right and left sides of the submerged pipeline 1. The running, or free ends of the guidelines 5 are brought aboard the vessel which has been moored in a position so that the guidelines are held as nearly vertical as possible. The guidelines 5 should be of a heavy rope. Nylon is preferred because of its elastic properties which enable the lines to stretch vertically and thereby compensate for the continuous movement of the vessel on the surface of the sea while remaining taut throughout their length.
The T-bracket 20 is mounted on the hose or conduit which is to be lowered from the ship for connection to the submerged pipeline. Bracket bolts 29 are threaded through the bracket plate 22 and into flange bolt holes 34. The length of bracket bolts 29 should be such that they do not protrude through the mating surface of flange 21. In addition, flange bolt 32 can be installed in the remaining threaded holes in the flange fitting 31, and gasket 33 can be installed. Where, as shown in FIG. 2, flanges 4 and 31 are of the same diameter it will be advantageous to extend the leading edge 16 of lower stabilizer plate 26 to a position tangentially abutting the circumference of hose flange 31, the leading edge 16 also being parallel to the axes of the conduits being joined. One end of line 40 is attached to the hose 30, the other end running to power winch 41.
The guidelines 5 are drawn through the swivel guide eyes 24 located at either end of spreader bar 23. The free ends of the guidelines 5 are secured to the vessel after they have been drawn up to insure that the guidelines will remain taut during the lowering and alignment stages of the operation. The hose 30 is lowered into the water utilizing the hose string 40. As the T-bracket descends the guidelines 5, and spreader bar 23 passes through the plane described by the tops of notch plates 11 and 12, the horizontal movement of said spreader bar in the direction parallel to the pipeline axis, in addition to being constrained by the guidelines 5, will also be increasingly limited by the inclined sides of the notches. Similarly, the lateral motion of the T-bracket in a direction perpendicular to the axis of the submerged pipeline in the plane parallel to the sea bottom will be increasingly restricted by the lessening clearance between the inside walls of notch plates 11 and 12 and the lateral edges of bracket plate 21. When spreader bar 23 comes to a final resting position at the bottom of the notches at 15, all vertical movement and all horizontal movement in the direction parallel to the axis of the submerged pipeline is effectively restricted. As additional hose string 40 is played out from winch 41 on the vessel 50 above, spreader bar 23 pivots on its axis about swivel guide eyes 24 at its position at 15 and the bracket plate 21 moves within the confines of the inner faces at notch plates 11 and 12 describing an are which brings the mating surfaces of the hose and the submerged pipeline flanges into alignment. As can be seen in FIG. 2, the leading edge 16 serves to prevent further downward displacement between the aligned mating surfaces. Sufficient slack in hose 30 and hose string 40 is allowed so that the alignment of the mating surfaces will not be disturbed by tension on hose string 40 resulting from the up and down motion of the vessel on the surface of the sea above. Under these conditions the vertical component of force exerted by the hose 30 on the T- bracket assembly insures that the mating surfaces will remain in the aligned abutting configuration.
With the flanges and bolt holes thus maintained in an aligned position, a diver at the sea bottom location secures the flanges together using the bolts 32 which had been partially threaded into the hose flange. The bolts through the bracket plate 22 can be withdrawn at this point and the entire T-bracket fixture removed and the remaining bolts installed to secure the circumference of the flanges together and insure a tight seal at gasket 33. Guidelines 5 can be removed from pad eyes 4 and these lines, as well as the T-bracket 20, can be removed to the surface for subsequent use in making another connection.
From the foregoing description of one embodiment of the invention it is apparent that obvious modifications can be made to the apparatus and method to provide for the alignment of conduits having axes disposed at from 0 to 90 to the vertical.
In addition, the receiving fixture 10 can be removably mounted on the fixed conduit, and other means can be provided for attaching T-bracket 20 to the conduit which is to be lowered for connection, such as a ring or collar means attached to said conduit.
It is also apparent that the invention has application in other than underwater connections, and that it can be used to advantage where conduits are being laid in a narrow trench or other confined areas and where conventional material handling equipment cannot be used.
1. The method of aligning the mating surfaces of two sections of conduit, the first conduit section being fixedly positioned, the other section of conduit descending from a position above the first conduit, which comprises:
a. fixedly positioning a pair of upwardly opening, spaced apart, notched plates adjacent the mating surface of the fixed conduit so that the plane bisecting the opening between the notched plates passes through the axis of said fixed conduit; securing each of one end of a pair of vertically extending parallel guidelines outside the vertical projection of the tops of each of the notched plates on either side of said notch plates, the guidelines lying in the vertical plane passing through the bottoms of the notches, the guidelines terminating at a point lower than the bottom of said notches;
. fixing a T-bracket adjacent to the mating surface of the conduit which is to be lowered from a position above the fixed conduit, the cross-member of the T-bracket being of the same length as the distance between the parallel guidelines;
d. passing the guidelines through pivoting guide means located at either end of the cross-member;
maintaining tension on the upper ends of the guidelines to maintain them substantially parallel throughout their length;
f. lowering the conduit and T-bracket down the guidelines until the cross-member comes to rest in the bottom of the notches in the notched plates; and
lowering the conduit an additional distance thereby causing the conduit and T-bracket to pivot about the axis of the cross-member until the mating surfaces of the fixed conduit and the lowered conduit are in alignment.
2. The method in accordance with claim 1 wherein the mating surfaces of the respective conduits are the outer faces of flanges and the T-bracket is fixed to the lowered conduit by means of bolts threaded through the l-bracket and into the flange.
3. The method in accordance with claim 1 wherein the axis of the fixed conduit is at an acute angle to the horizontal and the notched plates are fixedly positioned on the outer surface of the fixed conduit.
4. The method in accordance with claim 3 in which the notched plates are disposed radially on the fixed conduit lying in planes passing through the axis of the conduit.
5. The method in accordance with claim 3 in which the bottoms of the notches in the notched plates lie in a plane above the mating surface of said fixed conduit.
6. An apparatus for aligning a first fixed conduit with a second conduit which is lowered from above, comprising a pair of upwardly opening notched plates located adjacent the terminus of the fixed conduit, the plates disposed equijacent a vertical plane passing through the axis of the fixed conduit, a pair of vertical guidelines terminating on either side of the notched plates and at points lower than the bottoms of the notches, a T-bracket attached to the second conduit adjacent the terminus of the second conduit, the T- bracket having a cross-member of length equal to the distance between the vertical guidelines, the crossmember terminating in swivel guide means for lowering the T-bracket and second conduit down the guidelines to place the cross-member of the T-bracket into the notches of the notched plates.
7. The apparatus of claim 6 where the upwardly