Moulded Foams Ltd

Consortium ready to develop buoyancy unit fro deep-sea drilling

The UK Materials Technology Institute (MATRI), a Pera Technology company is part of a consortium of nine companies from across Europe that have announced their involvement in a European funded research project called CeraSphere.

The consortium’s stated aim is to develop an innovative buoyancy unit to aid oil and gas exploration as it enters ever deeper water to replace depleting reserves.

The CeraSphere consortium will work to create a perfectly spherical, low-cost, ceramic-coated macrosphere. The spheres will be designed and manufactured in more than one size for improved packing density, which will allow higher compressive strength and ultimately use at greater depths.

If successful, the team will then look to address sphere contact issues within current syntactic foams which often contribute to failure from stress concentrations. The proposed solution will be to coat the higher strength ceramic spheres with an elastomeric resin, reducing stress, and the risk of failure.

The CeraSphere solution aims to replace current buoyancy modules for drill risers used in exploration lines which are made from syntactic foams using micro and macro-spheres. Despite having buoyancy advantages, manufacturing inconsistencies make them increasingly unreliable at greater depths which, if they fail, can necessitate costly repairs and lead to environmental harm. They are also often thin-walled, fragile, and easily damaged. 

The British producer Moulded Foams initiated this project back in 2011 and contacted Pera Technology to apply for an EU Grant under the Framework 7 scheme and were marked in the top 1% of submissions. John Thornberry owner of Moulded Foams explains:

The overall goal of the CeraSphere project is to develop a high volume, low cost technology, and manufacturing process, which will result in ‘perfect’ ceramic spheres. These can then be integrated into buoyancy units for ultra-deep-water oil and gas exploration. The task sounds simple to create floatation under the sea, but the pressures and therefore technical problems are immense. It was clear very early in discussions we would have to assemble a high competent team from many disciplines, if we were to have a chance of success. We believe we have that team and are very grateful to REA for the € 1,111,000 funding package through Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

"The team’s success will address current weaknesses in the sector; creating new opportunities for the SME supply chain and making improved technology available to ultimate provide greater security for the oil and gas industry. The European market is under threat from cheaper and inferior competing products, so we see this project as vital in maintaining European presence in these markets."

The CeraSphere project will result in a pilot-scale supply chain for the manufacture of each modular buoyancy unit component, tested for proof of principle. The project consortium consists of the following companies:

·         Moulded Foams Ltd

·         Plasto  AS

·         De Cavis AG

·         Almath Crucibles Limited

·         The UK Materials Technology Research Institute Limited

·         Eidgenoessische Materialpruefungs - Und Forschungsanstalt

For further information please contact enquiries@mouldedfoams.com

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