Not Your Average Garden Hose – Part 1 Transcript
00:00 Michael Gaines: Okay, great. Where am I? Where are we? Is it...

00:04 Marie Haahr: In Broøndby?

00:06 Michael Gaines: Oh, yeah, yeah. Broøndby, in Denmark. Sorry, it was just... I had a very brief moment of, I wasn't sure what country I was in.

00:13 Marie Haahr: Oh, really? [chuckle]

00:14 Michael Gaines: Yeah, I was just... I knew I was on earth so that was okay.

00:17 Katy Weintritt: He has been trying to move us over to the Netherlands all day.

00:19 Michael Gaines: I'm like, "Am I in the Netherlands yet?" Where am I? So, okay.


00:33 Michael Gaines: Hello and welcome to NOV Today, I'm your host Michael Gaines. Over the last few episodes, we've been visiting Denmark and getting to know more about the people and technology behind some of the most advanced flexible pipe in the world. The experience, while certainly exhilarating and enjoyable, has forced me to eject some potential important information from my short-term memory, like the country I'm currently in. Nevertheless, my guides for the last few days, Adam Rubin and Marie Haahr, are fortunately of more sound mind when NOV's photojournalist, Katy Weintritt, and I sit down to talk to Marie and Adam a bit more about NOV's flexible pipe, and also about their personal journey in this space. Here's our interview.

01:25 Michael Gaines: Marie, Adam, thanks for being here.

01:27 Adam Rubin: Thanks for having us.

01:29 Marie Haahr: Sure.

01:29 Michael Gaines:
So, first I'd like to start out talking a little bit about your backgrounds because I don't think that you were necessarily probably born into these positions, so I think you got here somehow. Maybe Marie, we can start with you so maybe first off can you tell me how long have you been at NOV? 

01:46 Marie Haahr:
I've been here a little more than 10 years now, so born into the company's oil, I guess. [chuckle] But yes, 10 years. I'm a chemical engineer with a focus on material science, and after my work, I worked in a small company doing some electroplating of some metallic materials. And then I saw this position, and my first job was to introduce a nickel coating on our end-fitting materials, so that was why my electrochemical experience helped me get this position and that got me into the metals group. And when the nickel coating was qualified, then I moved on to the wire materials where I have been ever since.

02:40 Michael Gaines:
So Adam what about you? What's your... Well, one, can you tell me how long you've been here at the company? 

02:46 Adam Rubin: I started out at NKZ, at that time 19 years ago, then I've been stuck ever since.

02:54 Michael Gaines: Stuck in a good way, I guess.

02:55 Adam Rubin: Yeah, yeah, absolutely because it's been... I started out as a material engineer. I got the opportunity to start, together with one of the other guys here, to lay out the first sour service laboratory that we have, that was sort of a new initiative where we wanted to focus more on doing the testing ourself. And I've built on that ever since, so the material lab goes from the sour service directly focused on the metallic wires to expand to the polymers. And suddenly, it was a big laboratory with 10 technicians working there, and then I was offered to lead that facility. And yeah, so it went on with sort of one thing taking another. And I'm still here.

03:44 Michael Gaines: Yeah.

03:45 Adam Rubin: And everyday is something new.

03:46 Michael Gaines: Yeah, absolutely. The average person, when they look at a piece of flexible pipe, they might just see what might look to be a large diameter plastic pipe of some sort or polyethylene type pipe. The passerby might say, "Okay, it's... "

04:04 Marie Haahr: "It's just a yellow pipe."

04:04 Michael Gaines: Yeah, "It's an oversized garden hose. How hard can it be?"

04:09 Marie Haahr: Of course, we work with high temperatures, high pressures both from the well and from the hydrostatic pressure of the sea. There is a lot of movement and there is, of course, a lot of chemistry in the bore media, so all our material needs to be able to resist these conditions. The actual pipe is just a line of material, it's just a plastic pipe, but then we have all the supporting needed to make it withstand all these conditions. So, innermost, we have the carcass which is a stainless strip interlocked preventing this plastic pipe from collapsing from the hydrostatic pressure. But then again, to prevent the plastic pipe to blowing up from the bore pressure, we need to add some wires to prevent that, so that's on the outer side of the inner liner. And then to actually carry the pipe, which with this steel already put in it, we need a tensile armour wire, so it goes along the pipe and then to prevent these two armour wires layers from corrosion, we add another sheet on the outside.

05:28 Marie Haahr: And that's just the base materials because in between all these layers we have different tapes preventing a wear of the material or keeping them together closely. So there are a lot of products going into this and then again, comes the whole system with the buoyancy modules and mid-water arches, in fittings, bend stiffness too to have everything as a full system working with all the dynamics that goes into a sea structure like this.

05:56 Michael Gaines: So then, I guess, I was still accurate. So it's the most advanced garden hose that you could ever hope for. [laughter]

06:03 Adam Rubin: Yeah, the basic concept is very, very simple. Basically, what we sell is just a hole where something can be transported from one into the other, but to do that, we have this layered structure which, in fact, it's like a macro composite with all these layers serving different purposes. And adding up to a very complex product, which is needed because it operates in the most harsh condition, as you could imagine, at sea, down to water depths of 2.5 km with very, very high pressures, it's up to 10,000 PSI, temperatures continuously for up to 130 degrees C, and it needs to do that for 20 to 30 years continuously.

06:47 Michael Gaines: Yeah. And all of those data points that you mentioned, that really piqued my interest. So when you're looking at a typical land rig or some other application that's on land and you have a component that fails or that needs to be repaired it's inconvenient, but essentially, in most all cases, you put the repair components on a truck, you drive out, you do what you have to do and then you're done. And in this case, you're saying that once you install it, that's it until it's being retired, right? 

07:25 Adam Rubin: Yeah, it will have a design life which is typically 20 to 30 years. And in that period, you will not be able to do any detailed inspection of it, you'll not be able to monitor if there's something going wrong, it just needs to work day in, day out and do that for the entire period. So that's what makes it different to most other components, that you have quite a long service window and you cannot monitor it closely while it operates. For dynamic applications for the riser system, where you have the pipes hanging from a production vessel that could be an FPSO, the pipe will constantly be exposed to dynamic loading. What determines the lifetime of the product in this application is the fatigue life of the pipe, meaning that you can form small cracks that will eventually propagate to make the structure fail. And we're starting from the metallic material, we do the S-N curve testing, where we look at how many cycles can you actually bend a wire until it fractures.

08:37 Adam Rubin: We use these S-N curves to put into our models, calculating the stresses applied on each wires in the pipe in a specific configuration, and then that gives the calculated mean service life of that product. And then we add a safety factor of 10, that's given from the standards. So if we need to design a pipe which would last for 20 years, then the average life of that product would actually be 200 years of lifetime.

09:10 Michael Gaines: So when you're looking at this testing that you're doing, and I know that it can go from a week up to a year, five years, even 10 years. That time window demands a high degree of resilience and patience, I would say, right? It's not like I can go to the office, punch out a report and be done in a day, I have to really think through and plan. And I suspect it takes a specific kind of personality to be able to be okay with those longitudinal-type studies. So I'm curious, I mean, when you look at your job and what you're doing here, how do you feel about it? What is it that drives you to continue to do it each day? 

10:07 Marie Haahr: It's a variety of assignments that I have to do. It's not just designing the test, putting in over and sitting there waiting. Then in the meantime, it might be writing the reports, as you said. But it could also be discussing with the suppliers. We prefer to be there all the way from the liquid steel, all the way through the casting, through the wire rod manufacturing, and at our wire suppliers because everything is important for these wires. They are not a shelf type of thing you can just buy which is a standard material with a long track record. You can just ask, "Okay, please give me this material, I need it for 10 millibars of H2S with a strength of 1500 megapascal." It's a product that we develop with our suppliers, so there is a lot of work together with our suppliers. "Okay, should they add vanadium? Should they have higher carbon content? Should they maybe add some more cold work? Should they have annealing process or not?"

11:12 Marie Haahr: So there are a lot of handles all the way from the supplier in which we are usually involved when we are designing. So we find a gap, usually, we would like to have a stronger wire but that would be always on behalf of a lower sour resistance. So having the higher strength material is always compromising the sour service resistance. So we need some materials that can be used for those pipes where we have a lot of H2S and then we need some stronger materials for where we only have a little bit. So we have a lot of different materials that each of them needs to be qualified, and we have several suppliers on each grade. So there is a lot to do and I really love this work with the suppliers. These, maybe a bit geeky things of, "Why is this working? What can we do to make it work? How do we need to convince our clients?" So it's also sometimes discussing with the clients, "Okay, we have really performed this test, we have really qualified." They ask, "How is it qualified? Is it good enough? Can you assure us that this will work for our pipe?" So it's a very different day everyday, talking with both the end clients and the suppliers and the projects and the pipe designers, which sit with all their handles of making the perfect environment for both the wires and the polymers.

12:37 Michael Gaines: Right. And I suspect, Adam, you get a bit of variety in your work as well, right? 

12:42 Adam Rubin: Yeah, and I think another thing that really motivates me is also the constant strive to be the best, to really be accurate, doing absolutely the best you can and being second to none. So I think that's what we try to pass through all these things that we are doing, that nobody might never have done this before so you need to be creative and you need to be curious. You don't know exactly where you're going, but I got the sense that the only way that you can actually succeed is this, is you are really, really good at what we're doing. And that's really motivating to have colleagues who feel the same and to be constantly challenged to be the best you can. And that's one of the things that really is a key to keep employees here and also keeping myself going up every morning and come to work. And this cross-field about going really deep into the matter, having the very long look and then knowing that you need to apply it directly into the product as fast as you can.

13:55 Adam Rubin: One of the project, that Marie and I did together in the past, was we call it Flow Sour, and that's a good example of how we work. It was about a big qualification project that we have been doing towards Petrobras for the pre-salt development that goes offshore Brazil, one of the biggest offshore developments running. And this is extremely deep water, so we need the pipes to use much stronger strains of steel in sour environment than we have previously done, so we need to develop this annulus model, as we call it, which predicts what environment the wires are exposed to. So we need to go down and really in the fundamental of corrosion to understand when H2S molecules enters into this environment, how do they react with the steel, how fast do they do it. At that time I was in the lab and you were a metallurgist. So we need to come up with new test set-ups that would actually allow us to measure this and as far as we could see nobody has done it the way that we've done this before.

15:08 Adam Rubin:
So, that was almost academia, but at the same time we know that we need to be successful on a short time frame in order for Flexibles to actually succeed in the development of these pipes that needs to be supplied within a few years. So that's the kind of way where what you do needs to be really fundamental but also be applied right away.

15:32 Michael Gaines: One question that I get asked sometimes is what the culture is like, the NOV culture is like, at different facilities around the world so you wonder... Well, I wonder what is it like there? I'm curious, in your own words, how would you describe the culture here in Flexibles? 

15:58 Marie Haahr: We care for each other, I think that's a key thing. I have numerous colleagues that I really like a lot, so we care for each other and we have a nice time, we actually enjoy coming in to our offices everyday. We work very widely with different departments here and my own boss always says that it has to be fun, it has to be fun working here, and I really think it is. So, I like it here. I think everybody feels free and have the possibility to come up with whatever they think or feel and ask questions, come up with new ideas. We have great support to actually develop stuff, as we saw in the test hall that some ideas come and they just make it work.

16:58 Michael Gaines: Yeah.

17:00 Adam Rubin: I think that's a key that you said care and we care for each other, but that also means that we help each other. So whenever, independent of your... If that might not be your responsibility to do something, but if you have the ability to do it, it's expected that you also help and do it, so not just looking at the silos from an organogram, but if you can help, you might be working with a different something else. But if you have something to add then please go and do it, and that's the way that we progress not sitting in our small silos, and just wait and blame each other, but trying really to work together to add to progressing.

17:47 Marie Haahr: I think what is special for our product is that it's specially designed for every project, every well, every position, so every pipe length is in detailed designed. We have many different materials of polymers, of steels, of tapes, and everything is minutely handled with making the optimal pipe, not making it too heavy, not making it too expensive, not making anything less good than what is needed. I'm really proud that we have a product that is really engineered down to the optimal solution every time for every use of the pipe.

18:36 Adam Rubin: What we need to be good at is to be on the forefront of knowing what is needed in the future because obviously with... You said 10 years, that's like getting the extreme out of it but if we're talking about a wire qualification from start to end, from when we identified the need to bring in a new supplier or a new grade of steel for the armour wires, it will take roughly two years before you have something with sufficient documentation that you can actually apply it on the project. So we need to look ahead and say, "Okay, what is needed? How can we plan and start this up in due time to actually have it available when it's needed?" And then sometimes things happen, so it will become available a little... It will be needed a little bit before it's available. And then when we have this very close corporation with sales and with the project department saying, "Can we accelerate some of the testing? Can we prioritize differently?" So for this huge project, we could actually use this more beneficial material, and that would add to either the performance of the product or the cost-effectiveness of what we are doing, to the benefit of NOV. So that's where we could accelerate it and potentially get a lot of gain by doing so.

20:03 Marie Haahr: I think most of our new products, where it's not only a new supplier supplying same product as we usually have, but a totally new product, it's usually motivated by a project. In some projects, we do have a lot of years, maybe two, three, four, five years even till delivery. So in this period of time, we have the possibility to actually develop something new. So some of these are very high-strength steels with some sour service resistance anyway, it has been developed based on a project that came up. "Okay, we do need... We have to have strong wires, but there is still this H2S in it, so what can we do?" "Okay, let's see, what can we do?" And we have a new carcass coming up, which is also a new thing that is being motivated by clients saying, "Okay, we need these pipes to be in this way." And then we say, "Okay, how can we accommodate that requirement?" And then, "Okay, all the way through. How can we engineer it? How can we test it? How can we make everything alright before pipe delivery?" So sometimes, we do have the time, and other times it's a new supplier and it's more, "Okay, we can see up front that we might have capacity issue with this specific material, so we need to introduce a new supplier."

21:22 Adam Rubin: And that also adds back to the talk we had about the culture and the cross-department work together. Because if you wanna do this, then you need to understand what's going on in the projects, what's going on in the sales, and they need to know what are the actual boundaries of what we are currently developing. And you only get that by communicating closely with each other, so I guess that's why this is such an important cultural scene here in Flexibles.

21:49 Katy Weintritt: Well, I'm gonna say that while we were in one of the final rooms of the lab tour, Marie got a sparkle in her eye while she was talking about, basically, metals. And so I'm just very curious from a personal standpoint, did you grow up wanting to examine metals as an adult? Or what did you wanna be when you were a kid? 

22:14 Marie Haahr: Oh, that was a question I frequently got as a kid, and as a teenager, and also in high school, but I actually never knew. So in all my doubts, I did try some few creative months trying to figure out whether I should do something more creative. But then I found out that actually I missed all the math, and the physics, and the chemistry, so I took this chemistry class at DTU, the technical university, and then I just saw the light. I really found it so interesting to have all this chemistry. And then the metals themselves, they came at the last two, three years, where I found this material science to be very, very interesting, and also the job possibilities later on seemed to be just up my preferences. So no, not as a kid. It came slowly but I've never regretted it.

23:18 Michael Gaines: It would have been an interesting story if you said, "Yes, I've wanted to be a metallurgist since I could... " [laughter] But that's really interesting, that's cool. I guess, I have the same question for you now that I'm thinking about it, Adam. Are you where you originally thought you'd be? 

23:30 Adam Rubin: More or less, yes and no, depending on how much... I think I always knew that I want to do something technical, and most likely be an engineer. After high school, I was lucky enough to get a student job where I worked at the laboratory, so that was where I first got the feeling of mechanical testing of materials, and that was some polymers and polymerization and stuff like that. But then I think, "I wanna be a biochemist. That's much more cool to sort of work with molecules and that." So I entered the university with that in mind, and I had the first classes, but unfortunately, I failed utterly because I need to... That was all by memory, and I'm not clever enough to do that, so I had to sort of made up my mind of where I was going because I couldn't do all this by the head.

24:24 Adam Rubin: And then, luckily enough, it turns into... There was also this material science and there was a really good metallurgical department at the technical university at that time, and that was where I really settled in. And then it goes back to my student work, and I still had that, so that was a great synergy. And then it all just followed with going to NKT at that time, with doing partly student work and then my master's thesis as well.

24:54 Michael Gaines: Yeah, great. Okay, well, Adam and Marie, thanks for taking the time to share your perspective and having us here at the facility.

25:06 Marie Haahr: Thank you for coming.

25:07 Adam Rubin: Yeah, it's been a real pleasure.

25:09 Michael Gaines: Join us on our next episode as we wrap up our visit in Denmark and talk with two more experts in the field of flexible pipe, one of which being a titan in the world of polymer research.

25:21 Speaker 5: I always say a lot to people "Oh, to find a new material, that's easy. You just go to the internet today, you can find all kinds of materials." But to get it work in a pipe? That's your talent. That's what I like to do.

25:35 Michael Gaines: Thanks for listening to this episode of NOV Today. We'd like to hear your feedback. Share your thoughts by tweeting us @NOVGlobal and using the hashtag #NOVtoday. Or you can contact us by sending an email to [email protected]. To stay up-to-date on the latest episodes, visit our website at There, you can find show summaries and links to subscribe on iTunes, Google podcasts, or wherever you get your favorite podcasts. For NOV Today, I'm Michael Gaines. Thanks for listening and we'll talk to you later.