Product diversification and innovation offering
the key to success

It is no secret that industry has suffered its challenges throughout 2009, but there are some sectors defying the downturn, primarily through diversification and innovative product development, according to Bridon International – the specialist wire and rope manufacturer.

“As the Offshore industry continues to explore ever deeper waters, operators working in notoriously harsh and challenging environments look towards manufacturers to develop products which guarantee durability and live up to expectations,” says David Ward, General Manager of Bridon’s Oil and Gas sector. “Companies which are fortunate enough to be in a position to adapt products and research new ones for specific customer demands are achieving greater success.”

Bridon has come to the fore as the leader in its field, with its wire and synthetic rope product portfolio under constant research, development and innovation. This is particularly relevant to the Oil and Gas sector where the requirement for increased durability and characteristic differentiation is essential. Bridon has acknowledged this to great effect, with oil and gas sales responsible for a significant proportion of the company’s total annual turnover last year.

“Generally, vessels and platforms are now required to operate over their initially intended lifespan and with that we face greater demands on product longevity – something which has risen sharply over the last decade,” continues David. “As a result, the industry has seen a considerable rise in demand for more innovative solutions when it comes to cranes, lifting and moorings in particular, as operators look to extend rig and vessel service lives.

“Bridon positions itself to listen to industry trends and aligns its product development accordingly. This helps to enrich product lines through further proactive research and development. Any new product based upon actual or potential customer requirement as the market changes - whether it is to develop a rope for higher strength and lighter weight for working at greater depth, or improving lifetime performance by using plasticated components.

“Complex as the design process is, product development should always begin with the same initial stages, whereby close technical relationships are formed with clients to establish and understand the critical success factors involved in order to create a plan,” says David.

A wire rope comprises of several small component wires spun into strands, and strands spun into ropes with each detail of the design selected to meet customer requirements. Options for termination types will then be selected from a host of choice including simple sockets, combined swivel sockets, special enhancements for long-term performance, such as electrical isolation, improved bearing performance and individually designed interfaces.

“Wire ropes are complex, with many working parts, so you have to consider the environment in which the product will operate to achieve the best results. For example, Marine contractors working at depth require higher strength ropes, but at a lightest weight with robust but low rotation construction; those working in harsh environments such as those operating within the Arctic regions demand materials which operate effectively in low temperatures. Every eventuality should be visited to create and select the best solution for the application.

“It is important to remember that steel and synthetic are not isolated or discrete solutions. By combining expertise from synthetic technology and applying it to steel rope or vice versa, a product can be greatly enhanced with improved product performance a realistic opportunity. Building from the breadth of available knowledge is important for real product enhancement.

“Synthetic fibre and combination ropes are offering a more lightweight option for deepwater operations. However, fibre isn’t without its challenges. Wear and tear, heat, friction and handling systems should all be considered and operators often find that a lightweight steel rope is more suited to their requirements. It’s about working with the client to select the best product for their application. Bridon prides itself on customer relationships and openness in sharing our detailed technical knowledge of ropes and working with clients to optimise their applications.”

Since any lifting or lowering operation requires the use of wires or ropes, Bridon has inevitably become an integral part of subsea and decommissioning projects. With a host of OEMs on its books, such as Timberland and Huisman, Bridon’s products are active with a wide range of owners and operators such as Acergy, DOF and Subsea 7.

“Our ropes have been used in major projects around the globe for offshore deployment projects, including many with The Heerema Group. Its deepwater construction vessel Balder houses a world record holding abandonment and recovery winch for the largest piece weight for a single rope at 340 tonnes. Johannes Verwaayen, Bridon’s Technical Director worked very closely alongside Hereema’s technical team to determine the exact technical requirements for this project. From initial design right through to finished product took almost two years, with the end result something we are very proud of – the Bridon ‘Big Hydra’. The Balder has since gone on to be used for the installation of several large-scale projects such as the deepwater deployment of the Thunder Horse and Holstein facilities in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Operators are looking for guaranteed durability,” continues David, “but they are also depending upon market experience. Those which can come up with new techniques or niches will have the lead on the competition. For Bridon, we have found markets and applications not covered by any other rope manufacturer including offshore cable armouring for ROVs and seismic cables.

“Innovation and product development means we are starting the New Year with a positive outlook as the market begins to recover. A strong order book for long term and ongoing projects combined with new projects and an in demand service provision means we have a healthy year ahead. In my opinion, the market is tough, yet 2010 looks set to reiterate that evolving and moving with trends and not against them will continue to strengthen our presence as a strategic part of the supply chain and a vital partner to the offshore marine and oil & gas industry.”