This paper presents a methodology in order to perform a drift off calculation for drillships according to given parameters such as: environmental conditions and water depth. Drift off occurs when there is insufficient thruster force so that the vessel is drifted away from the target position by the environmental forces. For a safe operational drillship it is expected that the drifting off will be resumed in due time when blackout recovery system starts running and, therefore, enough thrust takes place. Water depth plays an important role when considering the default maximum release of Lower Flex Joint (LFJ) angle for physically disconnecting, which is 10 degrees in the majority of suppliers. This methodology is intended to be applied to drillship design, by comparing the time to stop drifting and the distance from the reference point after a total blackout occurs.

Electrical generators sets installed in drillships are designed to work with extreme environmental conditions. Since there is an excess of installed power for the majority of the operational time, drillships often operate with all high voltage busbars connected to each other improving engine efficiency, decreasing levels of pollution emissions and reducing maintenance. The use of this electrical power configuration is possible because there is no need to turn on all generators at the same time, but only the ones that are needed on that particular moment. However, when a single failure such as a short circuit occurs and the system is not prepared to disable and segregate the failure, all electrical system will crash, causing a total blackout and the drillship will start to drift off.

The drifting off time was obtained by numerical simulations conducted by modeling a standard drillship using time domain software. The model took into consideration the vessel hydrodynamics under environmental conditions (wind, current and wave), the drag force in marine drilling riser, and the thrusters in Dynamic Positioning (DP) operation.

The simulation is divided into three steps: First, the behavior of the DP system in full operation is simulated until system is stable. After that, all thrusters are turned off to simulate a total blackout. Finally, since the ship will not stop immediately because of its inertia, a time range for the ship’s inertia was also considered and this time is added to the pre-established blackout duration.

The conclusion of the study shows how parameters as water depth, environmental conditions, and blackout recovery time affect the necessary time to stop drifting off, so as to foresee that after a total blackout the standard drillship will remain in safe limits.

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