The future of subsea technology

Aker Solutions, FMC Technologies, and GE Oil & Gas set out where they see the future of subsea technologies going. 

Aker Solutions

A vision for the future: advanced subsea production systems. Photo from Aker Solutions.

Offshore oil exploration will continue to push boundaries over the next decade. There will be an increased emphasis on harsh environments, deeper waters and more complex reservoir structures. This will coincide with a need to increase oil recovery, reduce operating and capital expenditure and extend the life of existing fields. This creates a paradox as we seek to advance technology while also reducing costs.

Aker Solutions has been anticipating these challenges for some time. We have chosen to invest significantly in creating advanced subsea production systems – a suite of tools for maximizing oil recovery through the life of a field. These tools range from seabed booting systems capable of enhancing existing subsea infrastructure to key technologies that will enable complete automated subsea facilities.

One such solution is subsea gas compression technology. The first subsea gas compression system is on schedule to be fully operational in 2015 at Statoil’s Åsgard field. The implementation of this technology is estimated to generate an additional 280MMboe from Åsgard’s satellite reservoirs. Moving forward, we will develop next generation gas compression technologies that will be more compact and scalable.

Maximizing recovery is also a key focus for our subsea production alliance with Baker Hughes. The alliance seeks to combine Aker Solutions’ subsea capabilities with Baker Hughes’ in-well expertise to deliver integrated technologies that will significantly enhance recovery at subsea fields.

The industry will require more efficient and simplified well access and intervention as subsea fields get older. This must be delivered without compromising safety and well integrity. Aker Solutions has developed a multi workover system capable of intervention work on any tree, regardless of manufacturer or age, to help extend the life of subsea fields.

We will over the next 10 years see a broader range of advanced subsea production systems, further integration of subsea and in-well technologies and simplified intervention systems. The technologies being developed today will address the key challenges the subsea industry faces now and in the future.

Hervé Valla
is senior vice president of research, innovation and technology strategy within Aker Solutions subsea business. A qualified mechanical engineer from Ecole Nationale Superieur des Arts et Metiers in Paris, he joined the oil and gas industry in 1990 as a process engineer for topside platforms and moved into the subsea sector two years later.

Following international experience across Europe and West Africa mainly with Technip, Valla joined Aker Solutions subsea controls business in 2007. Later, as project director he was responsible for several major tenders in Angola, Nigeria and Congo before moving to his current post in January 2012.

GE Oil & Gas

The oil and gas industry is experiencing tremendous transformation with the emergence of the “Industrial Internet”—a place in which the physical and analytical worlds come together. The industrial world, where GE has operated for more than 100 years, is being digitized and reshaped by software and big data analytics, opening up new levels of productivity for oil and gas customers, especially those operating offshore.

Software coupled with expertise-driven services will play a critical role in helping oil and gas companies achieve improved outcomes, including improved safety, maximized production, better reliability, availability and efficiency—and ultimately get more value out of their equipment.

Today, we are seeing machines more connected, with more data being collected and analyzed. Looking forward, the industry will look to create even more value from this data, with better analytics, scaled beyond the asset level to encompass the operations of an entire enterprise.

The industry will look to Industrial Internet technology that connects data across the value chain and eliminates data silos. With a connected enterprise, data-driven insights relating to operations and maintenance can be made available faster and to a much broader audience, resulting in the ability to deliver technical expertise and operational support globally. Better and quicker decision-making will drive reduced downtime and lower operational expenses across the enterprise.

GE is helping customers begin this journey today with a solution called Unified Operations, which gives oil and gas companies an enterprise visualization and interaction layer for asset and operations optimization. It delivers critical information from all equipment, across various facilities and locations. With that visualization the software provides actionable insights and allows users to quickly connect with a network of experts.

As more subsea power, processing production and controls-related infrastructure is gradually shifted from the surface to the seabed, such remote monitoring, diagnostics and optimization technologies will be crucial to the offshore oil and gas industry’s success in the years ahead.

Ashley Haynes-Gaspar
is the general manager of Software & Services for GE Oil & Gas. Prior to this role, she was chief marketing officer of GE Oil & Gas and also served time as chief marketing officer of the Measurement & Control division. She joined GE after graduating from the University of Florida with a B.S. in marketing and statistics.


FMC Technologies

The past 50 years of technology development in the subsea industry was all about enabling safe access to reserves in challenging environments of deepwater, arctic, high pressure and high temperature reservoirs. We have designed and deployed systems that can drill and complete wells in water depths of over 3000m with pressures at the seabed over 15,000psi. While the next 10 years will certainly see us pushing the envelope of water depth out to 4000m, and upping the pressure and temperature capabilities of subsea equipment to 20,000psi/400F and beyond in order to access new discoveries, the main focus of technology development will be centered on reducing the capital cost of developing offshore fields and ensuring that the flow of hydrocarbons from these fields is maximized and uninterrupted during the producible life of the field.

In order to reduce capital costs, it will be necessary to develop a suite of seabed equipment and flowline interconnects that can be installed utilizing lower cost vessels. This will involve changing our thinking on field architecture to eliminate extraneous subsea structures, and simplify essential equipment. Developments in materials technology will be necessary to produce light-weight structures that can be handled by non-specialized vessels or rig cranes. It will also involve the development of technologies that will remove equipment from the decks of floating production vessels and place it on the seabed. Over the next 10 years, we will be relocating separation equipment, water injection systems, power distribution and drive systems, and many other modules to the seabed, minimizing the size and cost of floating structures and eliminating topside conversion costs for brownfield developments.

To maximize the flow of hydrocarbons and extract the most from the reservoir, technologies in flow assurance, thermal management of flowlines, multi-phase boosting, subsea produced water purification and monitoring, subsea separation and re-injection of CO2, and low-cost well workover technologies must be developed.

To ensure that all the above technologies work in harmony to produce the optimum results, there will be a major focus on developing software platforms and automation technologies that will enable the control and monitoring of these complex subsea systems, and provide the field operations personnel the ability to control and adjust the field parameters, analyze data, and determine maintenance requirements from anywhere on earth.

We’ve come a long way from the days of divers and handwheel valves. The next 10 years will see a shift in how we view subsea systems and the incredible range of technologies we’ll apply to keep the subsea industry viable and competitive.

Bradley D. Beitler
is the vice president, technology, at FMC Technologies. He held the previous position of director of technology for FMC Technologies since 2006. In 2001, Beitler was appointed director of business development. Before joining FMC in 1994, Beitler earned his MBA in marketing and strategy from Pepperdine University in 1983, and received a B.S. in engineering from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo in 1976.

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