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VAM® SLIJ-3: Delivering superior performance in the North Sea for TotalEnergies

In the North Sea’s turbulent offshore environment, TotalEnergies needed a connection that would deliver beyond standard reliability for its project.

In the North Sea’s turbulent offshore environment, TotalEnergies needed a connection that would deliver beyond standard reliability for its project. Vallourec proposed its new VAM® SLIJ-3 semi-flush connection, designed to tolerate critical loads for offshore use.

Looking to expand and improve operations in the North Sea, energy supplier TotalEnergies prepared for further rigorous conditions in the offshore region. Faced with temperatures of up to 215°C, the energy major also saw the possibility of mud permeating the formation during the drilling phase of the well. This permeation results in gas leakage from the formation. TotalEnergies thus required a gas-tight, heat-resistant connection, with robust drilling capabilities in the event of these mud losses and necessary sealability performances inside and outside of the casing. They thus turned to Vallourec for a solution meeting all of these requirements.

Asking for external gas tightness was a truly unique request,” says Technical Sales Manager Mark Byrne. Mark had not encountered a demand of precisely this nature in his 10 years in Technical Sales at Vallourec. “If you’ve ever come to the south coast of England, you’ll see the white chalk formation of the cliffs of Dover,” Mark says.

The formation they’d be drilling through was much like that in terms of makeup. The pressure that you drill with here is very near to the pressure at which you start to permeate the rock. If the pressure is even slightly more than it should be, you’ll get mud losses. TotalEnergies is the only company I know that’s dealing with this challenge.

Mark Byrne
Technical Sales Manager

Vallourec first introduced VAM® SLIJ-3 to TotalEnergies in 2017, providing details on the new connection and its increased performance rating in comparison to their earlier model, VAM® SLIJ-II. Over time, information was exchanged with regards to the development of this new connection. TotalEnergies, who were aware of the very real possibility of mud permeation and gas release, saw VAM® SLIJ-3 as a suitable connection for this application.

A blueprint etched in reliability

VAM® SLIJ-3 is a semi-flush premium connection that was seen as a potential solution to the occurrence of mud losses during drilling. “When you’re in the middle of the North Sea, there’s a different project plan and mindset that becomes necessary,” Mark says. “You must consider every situation to make sure you’re not caught shorthanded and incapable. Any non-production time is a massive loss for the company.

Representing the latest generation in a legacy of reliability, VAM® SLIJ-3 inherits the advanced thread design of industry standby connection VAM® SLIJ-II. For superior performance in ultra-deep offshore environments, it is equipped with higher torque capacity, a metal-to-metal seal for internal and external pressure resistance and increased compression and tension capabilities.

Put to the test

To verify performance quality, Vallourec worked with TotalEnergies to devise a testing protocol that would simulate the demands that VAM® SLIJ-3 would come up against in the North Sea. TotalEnergies needed to see that the connection would be externally gas-tight. “The challenge here is that any external pressure test we do is never done with the medium of gas, but with fluid, which is less susceptible to leakage than gas,” Mark says.

The research and development (R&D) team at the Vallourec Research Center in Aulnoye-Aymeries, France, collaborated with TotalEnergies to create a test specifically encompassing these variables. The physical testing was witnessed by the TotalEnergies Drilling Engineer heading the project, as well as Mark Byrne and a Third Party Inspector representative from TotalEnergies. Two steps of the test took place within the R&D facility: one at 195° C, the other at 215° C.


VAM® SLIJ-3 successfully met the requirements of the testing protocol. “This process was a genuine joint effort in which the customer was actively involved,” says Mark. “Both parties share equal pride in the successful results.

Coming out on top

With an outstanding story behind its first delivery in the North Sea, VAM® SLIJ-3 has now exceeded its abilities as the highest-performance semi-flush casing connection to date. Application of the connection in other regions, such as the Gulf of Mexico, where more than 45,000 joints have been successfully installed, speaks to global circulation to come.