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The Omani Desert Challenge

Published: 12 March 2019 - Sarah Mead

The Omani desert may be a tough environment for everyone, but for the oil and gas sector companies that work there, it is especially so. The electrical components that are used in the industry suffer. Of course, any stoppage of electrical supply that comes about because of a fault leads to a costly delay in oil production. Essentially, the natural environment, though rich in natural resources, is harsh for electrical components because the temperatures can reach up to highs of 60°C with high ultraviolet exposure. In addition, there are issues of corrosion caused by the Sulphur emitted from vehicles, plus there are sandstorms to consider.

Such circumstances often lead to spot punctures in electrical infrastructure. Typically, this will cause the erosion of shielding materials as well as damage to stress-relieving components. Termination boots and cable insulation tend to suffer the most. One Omani production company faced a particular issue with this sort of damage. Its electrical grid had hundreds of heat shrink connections and terminations. The global oil and gas exporter – in the business of running thousands of oil wells – simply could not risk cuts to its electrical supply as a result of erosion. 

The challenge came to a head when multiple electrical breakdowns in the existing 33 kV joints occurred. Terminations were found to fail after only a few years in the field, as a result of the harshness of the local environment. The oil and gas company set about finding electrical shielding products that would be capable of withstanding the tough environmental conditions of the Omani desert. With their search, they also looked for improved safety as well as the reliability and cost-effectiveness of the components it would use in its electrical infrastructure going forward.

Dealing With the Issues 

The oil company's professionals chose to work with engineers at TE Connectivity to collaborate on the development of a novel Raychem 33 kV heat shrink termination product. The new development made use of an ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) material which was ideally suited to the rough environment. The new heat shrink termination was developed with a crucial additional layer of insulation at the lower end of each of the terminations for additional protection. The result was positive: They found a clear reduction in pin-hole style erosion in the field.

It was TE’s know-how with product design coupled with materials science that led to the uniquely formulated EVA solution. It was tested and found to be suited to heat shrink system. What's more, it was found to offer a good level of UV radiation resistivity. In addition, it showed little surface cracking, even when exposed to corrosive factors making it perfect for tough environments, such as deserts.

A Positive Result 

In much of the oil and gas industry, electrical infrastructures face extreme conditions. Outages in the sector understandably occur, but when they do, they can cost millions of dollars in lost production. 

In this case study, TE demonstrated its six-decade-long experience and adaptability to come up with an ideal solution for the harsh environment of the Omani desert and one which could be applied elsewhere. TE was able to successfully show that its products can handle the high temperatures associated with the desert as well as other important factors, such as local airborne pollutants and exceptional ultraviolet levels - all this while remaining reliable and durable. 

The engineering team at TE are used to such problem solving, particularly where the environment adds a complicating factor. TE’s approach is to accompany clients the whole way to meeting their objective, from the initial design stage all the way through to installation. 

The Omani oil and gas company described in this case study was so satisfied with TE’s EVA heat shrink products, that it conferred a 'key supplier' status on TE for its 33 kV heat shrink technology across its termination, insulator and surge protection products.

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