Testing times for subsea compression

Meg Chesshyre
Thursday, December 1, 2011

The subsea gas compression system for Norway's Ormen Lange subsea compression pilot is about to start a six-month endurance test which will last until June 2012, Aker Solutions project director Øystein Haukvik revealed last month at the opening of his company's new engineering office in west London. Meg Chesshyre reports.

A 12.5MW subsea gas compression system has been installed in a specially built 14m-deep water-filled test pit, hollowed from the rock at Ormen Lange operator Shell's Nyhamna processing plant. Depending on the outcome of these trials, the field partners will decide on whether to proceed with a full-scale subsea compression station for Ormen Lange or a compression platform next summer, with a view to installing the chosen solution on the seabed in 2014 (OE January 2010).

The Ormen Lange pilot is being developed in parallel with Statoil's Åsgard field subsea compression project, for which Aker Solutions was awarded a NKr3.4 billion EPC contract last December to deliver a complete subsea compression system to boost gas pressure from the Midgard and Mikkel satellite fields, tied back to Åsgard B. The Ormen Lange and Åsgard licensees agreed in 2009 to share information and seek to capture development synergies between the two projects. Aker will supply three compression trains for Åsgard, two of them intended for permanent installation in the field, the other to be kept as a spare onshore. The 10MW compressor units will be manufactured by MAN Diesel & Turbo and the topsides variable speed drives and transformers by ABB (OE February 2011).

The Åsgard compression station, at 4800t, will be similar in size to an offshore platform and will be of modular design, enabling each of the modules to be retrieved using conventional vessels. Initially the trains will operate in parallel, but will have to be rebuilt in series to improve the production profile as reservoir pressure declines. Start-up of Åsgard subsea compression is targeted for early in 2015, which could make a world first, and is expected to extend the life of the field by 15 years.

Haukvik described subsea compression as ‘a technically advantageous solution'. By placing the compressors as close to the wells as possible, he said, production will be increased, and the compressors will be installed faster than a large platform, requiring lower energy consumption, and thereby reducing CO2 emissions, making subsea compression ‘a green solution'. All the operations will be unmanned, enhancing offshore safety, he added.

London return

The inauguration of Aker Solutions' engineering office in the Chiswick Park development, where the likes of Tullow Oil, Halliburton and Baker Hughes also have a presence, marked the Norwegian contractor's return to London after an absence of a decade. There are currently 50 staff there, but the intention is to grow this to 500 by 2015, with an additional 500 agency personnel, assembling the manpower to carry out three substantial projects in parallel.

The new London facility, which provides 25,000ft2 of floor space but has options to expand, will work with Aker's existing operations in Oslo, Kuala Lumpur and Mumbai, using state-of-the-art communications technology to offer a global execution model. The company said it expects to invest £25 million in the UK in the coming year, with local area spending in the supply chain amounting to some £120 million.

It is already engaged on a work share with the Oslo office on the recently awarded FEED contract for Statoil's heavy oil Mariner project in UK block 9/11a (OE October). Due for completion by 1 July 2012, the work will enable Aker to offer Statoil the benefit of bringing UK expertise on the specifics of the UK continental shelf.

‘The timing of this reopening could hardly be better, because today the level of activity in oil & gas is higher than ever and the level of optimism is even higher,' commented Aker Solutions executive chairman, Øyvind Eriksen. ‘This year the two largest discoveries have been made on the Norwegian Continental Shelf.'

He added: ‘So far the financial crisis has not had any material adverse impact on our part of the oil & gas industry. Our customers continue to invest and oil services are still expected to double during the course of this decade.'

Erik Sjølie, president of Aker Engineering & Technology, explained: ‘The reason that we are here is that London is definitely in Europe, but perhaps also on the global scene the biggest source of competent resources. We are targeting younger people,' he said, adding that the aim was to achieve an average age 10 years below current industry norms, ie in the 40-45 year range. This also means a willingness to recruit graduates, to train people, and to cross train people from other industries, said Sjølie.

Operations director Mike Smith elaborated: ‘We've researched 52 universities within 50 miles of us. We've analysed them and we've ranked them and we've come up with our top three.' He would not reveal which three, as they had not yet been notified. ‘We are going to put in place with those three universities an induction and graduate training programme.' This would include taking students on holiday jobs and sandwich courses. ‘We are going to work with these three universities across the whole gamut of engineering disciplines we require, and we are integrated with a Norwegian training scheme.'

Valborg Lundegaard, engineering EVP, observed: ‘We are able to take a holistic approach, because within Aker Solutions we have competence from reservoir studies, subsea solutions and floating platforms. We are growing at all our engineering locations quite substantially. So far this year we have increased our capacity with over 600 people. The main growth has taken place in Kuala Lumpur, but also in India and in Norway.

‘We see large developments coming up now in the North Sea, both in Norway and in the UK sector, and in the Norwegian market it is difficult to grow as much as we would like to. It is a small country, so we definitely need access to a pool of competence located here in London.'

Looking ahead, she said that Brazil was an interesting market for Aker's products. The company has a presence in Houston on the floater side, and a small presence in Perth, Western Australia, which it would like to expand. There is also a representative office in Moscow.

The deepwater floater market offshore West Africa could also be interesting in the future, chipped in Sjølie, adding that this was probably a market that would be addressed from London. In Australia, he reported, Aker has delivered the design for Woodside's Browse project, and is now working on the competition. OE

Categories: Equipment Europe

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