LMRP Disconnect in Deepwater, Harsh Environment Conditions

Dupal, K. (Shell International Exploration and Production Inc.) | Curtiss, J. P. (Shell International Exploration and Production Inc.) | van Noort, R. H. (Shell International Exploration and Production Inc.) | Mack, C. (Shell International Exploration and Production Inc.) | Greer, S. (Stena Drilling)


Operations were being conducted with a drill ship in deepwater, harsh environment conditions offshore Nova Scotia. After securing the well, the rig disconnected the Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP) from the lower Blow Out Preventer (BOP). After disconnecting, dynamic loads caused an uplift of the marine riser, ultimately resulting in a failure of the tensioner ring support and loss of the riser/LMRP to the seabed. No personnel were injured in this incident and no spilling of synthetic base mud to the environment occurred. This paper provides a summary of the root causes and contributing factors for the incident.

The Tripod beta method was used to conduct the review of the incident. The scope of the review included the following:

Measured data (rig heave, tensioner stroke, tensioner pressures)

Moonpool video camera recording of riser and tensioners during and after disconnect

Analytical models for vessel & marine riser dynamics, including the riser tensioner anti-recoil system

Rig/moonpool geometry, riser tensioner ring design, and space-out

Weather forecasting

Operating procedures


Based on initial findings, further studies and analyses were conducted to better understand the dynamic behavior during the transition phase from initial disconnect to the hang-off position.

Forecasted Metocean conditions from a late winter storm indicated the potential to exceed the threshold for rig heave, with the marine riser connected to the well.

In preparation for disconnecting the LMRP, the well was secured with two barriers, a storm packer and closed blind shear rams. Once the rig heave limit was reached, the LMRP was disconnected from the lower BOP stack. Seven minutes after unlatching the LMRP, the riser tensioner profile on the slip joint outer barrel lifted off the riser tensioner ring and landed back onto the tensioner ring off-center. This uneven loading caused the tensioner ring halves to separate, dropping the LMRP and riser to the sea floor.

Analysis showed that one of the most critical phases of disconnecting the LMRP from the BOP occurs immediately after disconnecting and prior to moving the rig a safe distance from well center. The investigation indicated that the root causes of the event included human factors, such as adding additional air to tensioner system and re-setting of the Riser Anti Recoil System (RARS) prior to final hang-off condition. Contributing factors included the dynamic behavior of the riser and a lack of specific procedures for addressing the dynamic system conditions during the critical transition phase.

The paper provides additional information for riser/tensioner configuration and riser dynamics analyses during harsh environment conditions. In particular, additional analyses are presented for the transition phase from disconnect to hang-off position. Initial data is provided for further development of a smart disconnect algorithm, based on machine learning techniques of hind cast data.