Title:
PRELOADING TO REDUCE LOADS AND SAVE STEEL ON TOPSIDES AND GRILLAGE OF CATAMARAN SYSTEMS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention reduces loads and saves steel on topsides and grillage of a catamaran system by creating a counteracting moment to offset a sagging bending moment of its self-weight on the topsides during transportation. The present invention can reduce the span of the supports on the topsides on the catamaran float-over barges and move the reaction forces toward inner edges of the float-over barges. The counteracting moment can cause a reduction of stress on the topsides' and grillage's members caused during the topside offloading and transportation. The stress reduction can result in the members withstanding the additional dynamic load caused by a catamaran system without increasing member sizes adequate for an offloading operation. The reduction results in a significant savings, given the size of a typical topsides for a Spar hull.



Inventors:
Luo, Michael Y. H. (Bellaire, TX, US)
Application Number:
12/359860
Publication Date:
07/29/2010
Filing Date:
01/26/2009
Assignee:
TECHNIP FRANCE (Courbevoie, FR)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
114/124, 114/266
International Classes:
B63B1/10; B63B35/44; B63B43/06
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Primary Examiner:
VASUDEVA, AJAY
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
LOCKE LORD LLP (HOUSTON, TX, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method of preloading a catamaran system to reduce loading and material on a topsides for a Spar hull, comprising: transferring a topsides having a weight onto at least two float-over barges; coupling the topsides with the barges to create the catamaran system; and adding a ballast to the barges to at least partially counteract a sagging bending moment caused by the weight of the topsides.

2. The method of claim 1, further comprising transporting the catamaran system to a location for installing the topsides on the Spar hull.

3. The method of claim 1, wherein adding the ballast to the barges comprising adding the ballast outwardly from a lateral center of gravity of the barges.

4. The method of claim 3, wherein adding the ballast comprises adding the ballast along the length of the barges.

5. The method of claim 1, wherein coupling the topsides with the barges comprises coupling the topsides to a grillage system mounted on each barge.

6. The method of claim 5, wherein coupling the topsides with the grillage system comprises coupling the topsides at a location that is near a lateral center of gravity of the barges.

7. The method of claim 6, wherein adding the ballast to the barges comprises adding the ballast outwardly from a lateral center of gravity of the barges in a direction distal from the topsides coupled between the barges, the weight of the ballast at a distance from the lateral center of gravity at least partially counteracting the sagging bending moment.

8. The method of claim 5, wherein coupling the topsides with the grillage system comprises coupling a locking plate at least partially around a guide pin installed on the topsides, the grillage system, or a combination thereof to maintain a lateral coupling of the topsides with the grillage system.

9. The method of claim 5, wherein coupling the topsides with the grillage system comprises coupling at least two braces between the topsides and the grillage system, the barges, of a combination thereof, the braces being disposed inwardly from a lateral center of gravity of the barges.

10. The method of claim 9, wherein coupling the braces between the topsides and the grillage system, barges, or a combination thereof comprising preloading the braces in a compressive load by adding the ballast to the barges prior to transporting the catamaran system to the location for installing the topsides.

11. The method of claim 1, wherein coupling the topsides with the barges comprises hingeably coupling the topsides with the barges to allow adding the ballast to the barges to at least partially counteract the sagging bending moment.

12. The method of claim 1, wherein adding the ballast to the barges comprises pumping fluid into one or more tanks on the barges.

13. The method of claim 1, wherein adding the ballast to the barges comprises adding solid ballast to the barges.

14. The method of claim 1, wherein the lateral center of gravity is disposed along a lateral centerline of each of the barges.

15. The method of claim 1, wherein the barges collectively comprise sufficient buoyancy for a weight of the topsides, weight of the barges, weight of the ballast, and wave load during transporting the topsides to the location for installing the topsides.

16. The method of claim 1, further comprising: positioning the topsides over the Spar hull; and de-ballasting the Spar hull to transfer the topsides to the Spar hull.

17. The method of claim 1, wherein adding the ballast comprises redistributing a weight of the barges to counteract the sagging bending moment.

18. A catamaran system created for a Spar hull, comprising: a topsides adapted to be installed onto the Spar hull; at least two float-over barges adapted to support the topsides, the topsides being coupled to each of the barges with the barges being spaced apart from each other, the barges comprising a ballast adapted to create at least a partial counteracting moment to a sagging bending moment created by the topsides on the barges.

19. The system of claim 18, wherein the ballast is located outwardly from a lateral center of gravity of the barges in a direction distal from the topsides coupled between the barges, the weight of the ballast at a distance from the lateral center of gravity adapted to at least partially counteract the sagging bending moment.

20. The system of claim 187, further comprising a grillage system mounted on each barge, the topsides adapted to be coupled with the grillage system.

21. The system of claim 20, wherein the topsides is coupled to the grillage system at a location that is near a lateral center of gravity of the barges.

22. The system of claim 18, wherein the topsides is hingeably coupled with the barges to allow the ballast to at least partially counteract the sagging bending moment.

23. The system of claim 22, wherein the topsides is hingeably coupled with the barges with a locking plate to maintain a lateral coupling of the topsides with the barges.

24. The system of claim 22, wherein the topsides is hingeably coupled with the barges with at least two braces between the topsides and the barges that are bendable and disposed inwardly from a lateral center of gravity of the barges.

25. The system of claim 18, wherein the ballast comprises liquid ballast.

26. The system of claim 18, wherein the ballast comprises solid ballast.

27. A method of preloading a catamaran system to reduce loading and material on a topsides for a Spar hull, comprising: transferring a topsides having a weight onto at least two float-over barges; coupling the topsides with the barges to create the catamaran system; and applying a pushing-up reaction on the topsides to at least partially reduce a sagging bending moment by the weight of the topsides.

28. The method of claims 27, further comprising transporting the catamaran system to a location for installing the topsides on the Spar hull.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

Not applicable.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not applicable.

REFERENCE TO APPENDIX

Not applicable.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The invention disclosed and taught herein relate generally to Spar topsides installation methods and systems; and more specifically related installation methods and systems to preloading float-over barges to reduce loads and save steel on topsides and grillage of catamaran systems.

2. Description of the Related Art

A Spar platform is a type of floating oil platform typically used in very deep waters and is among the largest offshore platforms in use. A Spar platform includes a large cylinder or hull supporting a typical rig topsides. The cylinder however does not extend all the way to the seafloor, but instead is moored by a number of mooring lines. Typically, about 90% of the Spar is underwater. The large cylinder serves to stabilize the platform in the water, and allows movement to absorb the force of potential high waves, storms or hurricanes. Low motions and a protected center well also provide an excellent configuration for deepwater operations. In addition to the hull, the Spar's three other major parts include the moorings, topsides and risers. Spars typically rely on a traditional mooring system to maintain their position.

Deck or topsides installation has always been a challenge for floating structures, particularly in deep draft floaters like the Spar, which must be installed in relatively deep water. In the past heavy lifting vessels (“HLV”), including but not limited to, derrick barges have been used for Spar topsides installations.

In traditional efforts, the topsides of a Spar require multi-lifting, for example five to seven lifts, to install the whole topsides due to the lifting capacity of available HLV. Due to multi-lifting, the steel weight per unity area of the Spar topsides can be higher than that of topsides of fixed platforms installed with a single lifting. If the weight of the topsides is reduced, the weight of the Spar hull may also be reduced.

Recently catamaran float-over systems have been used to install a topsides onto a Spar platform. A float-over method is a concept for the installation of the Spar topsides as a single integrated deck onto its Spar hull in which the topsides is first transferred from a single barge onto at least two float-over barges (called “offloading”) and transported with the float-over barges to the installation site for the Spar hull. At the installation site, the float-over barges are positioned on both sides of the Spar hull with the Spar hull below the topsides, the elevation is adjusted between the topsides and the Spar hull, and the topsides is installed to the Spar hull. Installation of the Spar topsides to the Spar hull by the float-over method can allow a high proportion of the hook-up and pre-commissioning work to be completed onshore prior to load-out, which can significantly reduce both the duration and cost of the offshore commissioning phase. The float-over installation method allows for the installation of the integrated topsides or production deck on a fixed or floating structure without any heavy lift operation.

However, to accomplish the catamaran float-over procedure, the float-over barges are necessary separated. During loading and transportation to the desired location for float-over and installation of a topsides on a Spar hull, the catamaran system is subjected to several loading conditions primarily due to wave action on the separated barges. These loading conditions would not occur with a single barge loaded with the topsides on deck, but such a single barge arrangement would not be conducive to a float over installation of the Spar topsides.

FIGS. 1A-1B illustrates two major different modes of loading. FIG. 1A is a schematic top view of a racking load on a catamaran system used to install topsides on a Spar hull. FIG. 1B is a schematic end view of a lateral bending load on the catamaran system. The figures will be described in conjunction with each other. In general, a catamaran system includes at least a pair of barges 115a, 115b (generally 115). A fabricated topsides 110 is removably coupled to the barges 115 through a supporting structure, referenced herein as a grillage system 125a, 125b (generally 125) mounted to the barges 115a, 115b, respectively. Different loads 101-102 occur on the catamaran system 100 that are not prevalent in a single barge system. These loads can include (i) racking moments 101a, 101b (generally 101), as shown in FIG. 1A, where the barges 115 are prone to twist relative to each other in response to wave loads causing stresses on the system; and (ii) lateral bending moments 102a, 102b (generally 102), as shown in FIG. 1B, where the barges 115 are prone to twist laterally in response to wave loads causing stresses on the system. The catamaran system 100 generally behaves as a rigid body when it is subjected to head and beam seas. Wave diffraction on single body catamaran system 100 has been performed to calculate the hydrodynamic load on this system.

To withstand these different loads particular to a catamaran system, the members used to construct the topsides and the grillage system are strengthened generally by an increase in size, adding weight and expense, compared to a single barge system with the topsides loaded onto the single barge. Because a topsides is generally a functioning micro-city suitable for extensive periods for working crews and other personnel, the topsides structure is relatively a significant size. An overall increase in size of even a small percentage can become a significant increase in actual expense.

There remains then a need to provide a catamaran system for a float-over procedure with a topsides, but more efficiently use the weight and strength of the members in the catamaran system to reduce weight and costs.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention reduces loads and saves steel on topsides and grillage of a catamaran system by creating a counteracting moment to offset a sagging bending moment of its self-weight on the topsides during transportation. The present invention can reduce the span of the supports on the topsides on the catamaran float-over barges and move the reaction forces toward inner edges of the float-over barges. The size of the members of the topsides and grillage that typically would be necessary to withstand the various forces during the float-over procedure and transporting on the float-over barges to a desired location can be reduced as a result. The counteracting moment can cause a reduction of stress on the topsides' and grillage's members caused during the topside offloading and transportation using supports spanning from one barge to the other barge. The stress reduction can result in the members withstanding the additional dynamic load caused by a catamaran system without increasing member sizes adequate for an offloading operation. The reduction results in a significant savings, given the size of a typical topsides for a Spar hull.

In at least one embodiment, the invention discloses a method of preloading a catamaran system to reduce load and save steel on topsides and grillages comprising: transferring a topsides onto at least two float-over barges (known as “offloading”) to create the catamaran system; installing sea fastening members; pumping water or installing other ballast into exterior tanks or on the barges' deck of the float-over barges to at least partially counteract a wave load created on the catamaran system; and transporting the catamaran system to a location near to a Spar hull.

The disclosure provides a method of preloading a catamaran system to reduce loading and material on a topsides for a Spar hull, comprising: transferring a topsides having a weight onto at least two float-over barges; coupling the topsides with the barges to create the catamaran system; and adding a ballast to the barges to at least partially counteract a sagging bending moment caused by the weight of the topsides. After the preloading, the catamaran system with the topsides and float-over barges can be transported to a location for installing the topsides on the Spar hull.

The disclosure also provides a catamaran system created for a Spar hull, comprising: a topsides adapted to be installed onto the Spar hull; at least two float-over barges adapted to support the topsides, the topsides being coupled to each of the barges with the barges being spaced apart from each other, the barges comprising a ballast adapted to create at least a partial counteracting moment to a sagging bending moment created by the topsides on the barges.

The disclosure further provides a method of preloading a catamaran system to reduce loading and material on a topsides for a Spar hull, comprising: transferring a topsides onto at least two float-over barges; coupling the topsides with the barges to create the catamaran system; and applying a pushing-up reaction on the topsides to at least partially reduce a sagging bending moment by the topsides' weight. After the preloading, the catamaran system with the topsides and float-over barges can be transported to a location for installing the topsides on the Spar hull.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1A is a schematic top view of a racking load on a catamaran system used to install topsides on a Spar hull.

FIG. 1B is a schematic end view of a lateral bending load on the catamaran system.

FIG. 2A is a schematic end view of an exemplary embodiment of a topsides being offloaded from single transportation barge to two float-over barges.

FIG. 2B is a schematic top view of a detail portion of the topsides from FIG. 2A to be coupled with a portion of the grillage system.

FIG. 3A is a schematic end view of an exemplary embodiment of a topsides coupled to the grillage system of the float-over barges.

FIG. 3B is a schematic top view of a detail portion of the topsides and the grillage system from FIG. 3A with sea fastening coupled between a grillage top and the topsides.

FIG. 3C is a schematic side view of a detail portion of a brace on the topsides from FIG. 3A with a link plate in a retracted position.

FIG. 3D is a schematic front view of the brace of FIG. 3C.

FIG. 4A is a schematic end view of an exemplary embodiment of a topsides coupled to the grillage system of the float-over barges after the single barge is removed.

FIG. 4B is a schematic side view of a detail portion of the topsides from FIG. 4A coupled with sea fastening between the float-over barge and topsides in which a brace is lowered and installed.

FIG. 4C is a schematic front view of a detail portion of the brace between the topsides and the float-over barge from FIG. 4B.

FIG. 5A is a schematic end view of the catamaran system with a ballasted pair of barges that are coupled to the topsides.

FIG. 5B is a schematic end view of the catamaran system with an alternative preloading on tie down braces that are coupled to the topsides.

FIG. 6 is a schematic end view of an exemplary embodiment of the catamaran system without the ballast 150, showing loading calculations.

FIG. 7 is a schematic end view of an exemplary embodiment of the catamaran system with the ballast 150, showing loading calculations.

FIG. 8 is a chart illustrating the beneficial effect of the counteracting moment according to the present invention.

FIG. 9A is a schematic end view of the catamaran system floating over a Spar hull.

FIG. 9B is a schematic top view of a detail portion of the topsides from FIG. 9A with the sea fastening between grillage top and topsides removed.

FIG. 9C is a schematic top view of a detail portion of the topsides from FIG. 9A with the sea fastening between barge and pre-installed brace of the topsides removed.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The Figures described above and the written description of specific structures and functions below are not presented to limit the scope of what Applicants have invented or the scope of the appended claims. Rather, the Figures and written description are provided to teach any person skilled in the art to make and use the inventions for which patent protection is sought. Those skilled in the art will appreciate that not all features of a commercial embodiment of the inventions are described or shown for the sake of clarity and understanding. Persons of skill in this art will also appreciate that the development of an actual commercial embodiment incorporating aspects of the present inventions will require numerous implementation-specific decisions to achieve the developer's ultimate goal for the commercial embodiment. Such implementation-specific decisions may include, and likely are not limited to, compliance with system-related, business-related, government-related and other constraints, which may vary by specific implementation, location and from time to time. While a developer's efforts might be complex and time-consuming in an absolute sense, such efforts would be, nevertheless, a routine undertaking for those of ordinary skill in this art having benefit of this disclosure. It must be understood that the inventions disclosed and taught herein are susceptible to numerous and various modifications and alternative forms. Lastly, the use of a singular term, such as, but not limited to, “a,” is not intended as limiting of the number of items. Also, the use of relational terms, such as, but not limited to, “top,” “bottom,” “left,” “right,” “upper,” “lower,” “down,” “up,” “side,” and the like are used in the written description for clarity in specific reference to the Figures and are not intended to limit the scope of the invention or the appended claims. Where appropriate, elements have been labeled with an “a” or “b” to designate one side of the system or another. When referring generally to such elements, the number without the letter is used. Further, such designations do not limit the number of elements that can be used for that function.

The float-over catamaran installation of the topsides onto its Spar hull can involve several major steps. The Figures illustrate various steps of an exemplary procedure to achieve preloading on a catamaran system that can be used to install one or more topsides on a Spar hull. Each figure will be described below.

A first step is to load the topsides from the fabrication yard onto the deck of a transportation barge and then tow the transportation barge from the fabrication yard to a sheltered location, including, but not limited to, a quayside location. A quayside location is a structure built parallel to the bank of a waterway for use as a landing place. A second step is to transfer the topsides from the transportation barge to at least one float-over barge, and generally at least two float-over barges, at the sheltered quayside to create a catamaran system that will be used to install the topsides on a Spar hull.

FIG. 2A is a schematic end view of an exemplary embodiment of a topsides being offloaded from single transportation barge to two float-over barges. FIG. 2B is a schematic top view of a detail portion of the topsides from FIG. 2A to be coupled with a portion of the grillage system. The figures will be described in conjunction with each other.

A single transportation barge 105 can be loaded with the topsides 110 from a fabrication facility and towed and offloaded to the float-over barges 115a and 115b (generally 115) that together with the topsides creates a catamaran system 100 for towing or otherwise transporting the topsides to the Spar hull (not shown). The float-over barges 115 are designed to provide buoyancy for the load of the topsides 110 and withstand environmental load of sea and weather conditions during the catamaran towing of the topsides to the Spar hull.

Each of the two barges 115 has a grillage system, 125a and 125b (generally 125). The grillage system 125 generally has an array of beams and crossbeams with attachment points for the topsides, such as described below. In at least some embodiments, the grillage system is able to withstand the wave load from the topsides for a catamaran towing of Hs up to 5.6 m, where Hs is the significant wave height. Hs is approximately equivalent to the visually observed height of the wave and the measurements and calculations for loading of such wave heights would be known to a person of ordinary skill in the art.

The topsides 110 is provided with a fork 130a, 130b (generally 130) on the topsides. The grillage system 125 is provided with a tall installation guide pin 131a, 131b (generally 131). The forks 130 on the topsides are designed to guide the float-over barge's grillage systems 125 to a coupling position with the topsides using the installation guide pins 131.

A third step is installing sea fastening members to secure the grillage systems mounted to the float-over barges with the topsides. The nature of the fastening can create a solid hinge system that is bendable in response to loading on the topsides relative to the float-over barges.

FIG. 3A is a schematic end view of an exemplary embodiment of a topsides coupled to the grillage system of the float-over barges. FIG. 3B is a schematic top view of a detail portion of the topsides and the grillage system from FIG. 3A with sea fastening coupled between a grillage top and the topsides. The figures will be described in conjunction with each other.

The grillage system 125 can provide a number of hingeable couplings to connect with the topsides. The term “hingeable” coupling is used broadly and is not limited to a pair of plates rotating about an enclosed pin. For example, a hingeable coupling can include a bendable coupling that can flex and bend as needed or one that is constrained significantly in one plane and flexibly located in another plane. Examples are described herein. Also, it should be appreciated that a person of ordinary skill could design the grillage system with any number or type of supports and in any configuration to accomplish the goal of creating a catamaran system 100. As one example, when the fork 130 of the topsides is engaged with the guide pin 131 on a float-over barge, a locking plate 132b (generally 132) can be placed on the side of the guide pin opposite the fork 130 and welded or otherwise coupled to the fork to entrap the guide pin therebetween. This coupling of the fork 130 with the locking plate 132 restricts the horizontal movement between the topsides and the float-over barge, but still allows vertical or bending movement because the fork and the locking plate are not welded to the guide pin. Further, the fork can be made of plate steel, such as and without limitation 1 inch (25 mm) thick plate, that relative to the size of the topsides forms a bendable solid hinge 128a, 128b (generally 128) that can flex as needed for bending movement of the topsides relative to the float-over barges. In general, the topsides fork 130 and guide pin 131 will be coupled near a lateral center of gravity 134a, 134b (generally 134) of the barges 115a, 115b, respectively. The center of gravity will be generally the center of the barges from side to side when the barges are constructed symmetrically from side to side. The coupling can occur along the length of the barge at one or more points. When multiple points are used to couple the topsides to the barge through the grillage, the coupling can be made effectively at the center of gravity, for example, where two points might be equidistant from the center of the barges, so that the result is an effective coupling though the center of gravity.

Further, after the topsides' weight is transferred to the float-over barges 115, the middle single barge 105 can be pulled out. In general, the single barge 105 can be removed after the topsides is secured at least horizontally to the barges, such as with the locking plate 132.

In at least one embodiment, the topsides 110 can be supported by at least four locations with the forks/locking plates and guide pins along the length of each float-over barge 115. However, a person of ordinary skill could design any number of supporting locations and mechanisms for the topsides 110 on the barges 115.

FIG. 3C is a schematic side view of a detail portion of a brace on the topsides from FIG. 3A with a link plate in a retracted position. FIG. 3D is a schematic front view of the brace of FIG. 3C. The figures will be described in conjunction with each other.

Another hingeable coupling at a hinge 129a, 129b (generally 129) between the topsides and float-over barges can be made by coupling a tie down brace 120a, 120b (generally 120 and also shown in FIG. 2A) between the topsides 110 and the grillage system 125. The brace 120 can include a center tubular member 121b (generally 121) and a plate 122b (generally 122). The tubular member 121 can include a slot 124b (generally 124), shown particularly in FIG. 3C, through which the plate 122 is slidably coupled. One or more fasteners 123b (generally 123) such as wire rope or chain, can secure the plate 122 in a retracted position in the tubular member 121. Generally, the tie down braces 120 are not welded to the barges until the weight of the topsides is transferred from the single transportation barge to the float-over barges.

The tie down brace 120 can be positioned above a tie down structure 127a, 127b (generally 127) adjacent the barge inner edge in a retracted position shown in FIGS. 3C-3D. The brace 120 is generally disposed laterally inward from the center of gravity 134 of the barges toward a center of the topsides. In at least one embodiment, the brace 120 reduces the length of the supported topsides between the guide pins 131.

FIG. 4A is a schematic end view of an exemplary embodiment of a topsides coupled to the grillage system of the float-over barges after a single barge is removed. FIG. 4B is a schematic side view of a detail portion of the topsides from FIG. 4A coupled with sea fastening between the float-over barge and topsides in which a brace is lowered and installed. FIG. 4C is a schematic front view of a detail portion of the brace between the topsides and the float-over barge from FIG. 4B. The figures will be described in conjunction with each other.

After the weight of the topsides 110 is transferred from the transportation barge to the float-over barges, the brace 120, specifically the plate 122, can be dropped down and welded to the tie down structure 127 on the barges 115, as shown in FIGS. 4B-4C. Further, the plate 122 can be welded to the tubular member 121, so that the coupling between the topsides and the grillage system is fixed in length. In at least one embodiment, the plate 122 can be made of two thin side plates welded to the support structure and one thicker middle plate with stiffeners coupled to the support structure, that relative to the size of the topsides forms a bendable solid hinge that can flex as needed for bending movement of the topsides relative to the barges.

The grillage system 125 of supports and braces make the topsides-barge system similar to a rigid catamaran with hinged links at sea fastening members, such as the fork 130/locking plate 132 and brace 120, thus creating the catamaran system 100.

A fourth step is adding ballast to the barges to at least partially counteract a sagging bending moment exerted on the barges by the topsides. The sagging bending moment generally is the mathematical product of the weight of the topsides acting at a support distance between the barges, described in more detail herein. The ballast can be added by pumping ballast into exterior tanks or by placing ballast on the float-over barges' deck to create a counteracting moment against the sagging moment of the topsides. The ballast can be liquid or solid. Further, the term “adding ballast” is to be broadly construed and can include redistributing ballast or other weight on the barge to create the counteracting moment against the sagging bending moment, described herein.

FIG. 5A is a schematic end view of the catamaran system with a ballasted pair of barges that are coupled to a topsides. A ballast 150a, 150b (generally 150) is loaded into or onto the float-over barges 115 or otherwise coupled thereto. The ballast 150 can be a variety of weighty substances, including sea water, fresh water, or other liquids. Further, the ballast 150 can be solid ballast. In general, the ballast 150 is installed on the float-over barges 115 after the catamaran system 100 is formed with the topsides 110 coupled to the barges 115. The ballast is generally preloaded with the barges prior to the barges and topsides being transported to the site of the Spar hull. The extent of preloading depends on the barge capabilities of strength and available buoyancy. In general, the ballast will be loaded along the length of the barge, although in some embodiments, the ballast can be loaded along portions of the length of the barge.

Generally, the ballast will be loaded laterally outward from the center of gravity 134 of the barges, which generally will be outward from the centerlines of the barges when the barges are symmetrically constructed. Loading outward from the barge's center of gravity creates a counteracting moment toward the center of the topsides that provides a lifting force to the inside portions of the barge and thence to the topsides coupled to the barge.

FIG. 5B is a schematic end view of the catamaran system with an alternative preloading on tie down braces that are coupled to the topsides. The topsides and barges can be coupled with the tie down brace 120. A jack system 160 can be coupled to the brace. The jack system can exert a pushing reaction load between the inner edge of the barges and the topsides on each brace to preload the system and reduce the stress on the topsides' members.

FIG. 6 is a schematic end view of an exemplary embodiment of the catamaran system without the ballast 150, showing loading calculations. The barges 115 are coupled with the topsides 110 to form the catamaran system 100. The suspended portion of the topsides between the centers of gravity of the barges is subject to a sagging bending moment due to gravity effects on the suspended mass. In general, the sagging bending moment applied on the topsides without preloading ballast can be represented as 0.125 qL2, where q is equivalent linear load on deck and L is the distance between coupling locations on the barges (that is, the effective centers of gravity, which can be the barges' centerlines when the barges are built symmetrically across its lateral cross section). The equivalent linear load is the weight of the topsides, assumed to be distributed evenly across the suspended length L.

FIG. 7 is a schematic end view of an exemplary embodiment of the catamaran system with the ballast 150, showing loading calculations. In FIG. 6, the ballast 150 having a weight of P on each barge at a distance “a” from the center of gravity 134 creates a counteracting moment 150 as the mathematical product of P and a or “Pa”, where P is weight of ballast installed on each barge. Thus, with ballast 150a and 150b (generally 150), the sagging bending moment is reduced to 0.125 qL2−Pa. With a reduced sagging bending moment, the topsides can be designed lighter and more efficiently.

For example and without limitation, the inventor has determined that approximately 100 kg m2 or more of steel for the topsides area can be saved with an exemplary Spar topsides weight of about 20,000 metric tonnes (MT). Stated differently, an estimated 5% to 10% increase in steel is typical and understood to be necessary to provide structural integrity to the topsides when a float-over process is used. This 5% to 10% penalty can be reduced or eliminated with the use and teachings of the present invention.

FIG. 8 is a chart illustrating the beneficial effect of the counteracting moment according to the present invention. The table also includes a moment created by the wave action on the catamaran system, Mwave, which can be calculated and is known to those with ordinary skill in the art. The Mwave calculation is not believed relevant to the purposes of the present invention and is only shown to illustrate that broader calculations are needed for determining the ultimate loads that the catamaran system 100 will face in actual use, in addition to the adjustments advantageously afforded by the present invention.

A fifth step is transporting the catamaran system to the location near to the Spar hull. During this step, the above described loads in FIGS. 1A-1B can have serious effects on the catamaran system without either proper structure or proper counteracting moments to reduce the loads, as described herein. Before arrival to the location, the Spar hull is ballasted down deep enough to leave ample clearance for the topsides 110 to float over. Upon arrival, the fifth step can include the mooring and lashing setup between the catamaran system 100 with the topsides 110 and the pre-installed Spar hull at the site.

FIG. 9A is a schematic end view of the catamaran system floating over a Spar hull. FIG. 9B is a schematic top view of a detail portion of the topsides from FIG. 9A with the sea fastening between grillage top and topsides removed. FIG. 9C is a schematic top view of a detail portion of the topsides from FIG. 9A with the sea fastening between barge and pre-installed brace of the topsides removed. The figures will be described in conjunction with each other.

A sixth step is transferring the topsides to the Spar hull. In general, a Spar hull 165 is at least partially de-ballasted, such that weight of the topsides 110 can be gradually and safely transferred to supports at the top of the Spar hull. Once at least the partial weight of the topsides 110 is transferred from the barges 115 to the Spar hull 165, the braces 120 between the topsides 110 and the barges 115 can be cut or the welds can be removed, for example at locations 172, so that the brace is uncoupled, as shown in FIG. 9B. After uncoupling the brace, the topsides 110 is supported primarily at the fork/locking plate locations on the barges 115. The locking plates 132 may be cut, for example at locations 171, to allow the barges to be pulled away from topsides, as shown in FIG. 9B. The lashing lines can then be detached. Once the barges are free from the forks 130, the barges 115 can be pulled away from the Spar hull.

Other and further embodiments utilizing one or more aspects of the inventions described above can be devised without departing from the spirit of Applicant's invention. Further, the various methods and embodiments of the catamaran system can be included in combination with each other to produce variations of the disclosed methods and embodiments. Discussion of singular elements can include plural elements and vice-versa. References to at least one item followed by a reference to the item may include one or more items. Also, various aspects of the embodiments could be used in conjunction with each other to accomplish the understood goals of the disclosure. Unless the context requires otherwise, the word “comprise” or variations such as “comprises” or “comprising,” should be understood to imply the inclusion of at least the stated element or step or group of elements or steps or equivalents thereof, and not the exclusion of a greater numerical quantity or any other element or step or group of elements or steps or equivalents thereof. The device or system may be used in a number of directions and orientations. The term “coupled,” “coupling,” “coupler,” and like terms are used broadly herein and may include any method or device for securing, binding, bonding, fastening, attaching, joining, inserting therein, forming thereon or therein, communicating, or otherwise associating, for example, mechanically, magnetically, electrically, chemically, directly or indirectly with intermediate elements, one or more pieces of members together and may further include without limitation integrally forming one functional member with another in a unity fashion. The coupling may occur in any direction, including rotationally.

The order of steps can occur in a variety of sequences unless otherwise specifically limited. The various steps described herein can be combined with other steps, interlineated with the stated steps, and/or split into multiple steps. Similarly, elements have been described functionally and can be embodied as separate components or can be combined into components having multiple functions.

The inventions have been described in the context of preferred and other embodiments and not every embodiment of the invention has been described. Obvious modifications and alterations to the described embodiments are available to those of ordinary skill in the art. The disclosed and undisclosed embodiments are not intended to limit or restrict the scope or applicability of the invention conceived of by the Applicants, but rather, in conformity with the patent laws, Applicants intend to fully protect all such modifications and improvements that come within the scope or range of equivalent of the following claims.