FMC Technologies boosting Brazil's subsea installations

May 1, 2014

Peter Wertheim discusses subsea technology woth Nelson Leite, president of FMC Technologies Brazil.

Subsea processing and boosting are fundamental for developing challenging fields. Benefits increase with water depths, flow rates and stepout. New technologies maximize profit and reduce operational risks.

FMC began in operating in Brazil in 1956. Nelson Leite, president of FMC Technologies Brazil speaks about subsea technologies, how FMC do Brasil is promoting advanced oil recovery and gives his opinion on what Brazil could do to be more attractive to international oil companies. He affirms that “Brazil must create the commercial support systemthat ensures Brazilian opportunities are appetizing, not just palatable for these international players.”

“Subsea systems were born in Brazil,” he says. “There was a great deal of technology developed here in the 1970s and FMC Technologies seeks to demonstrate that this legacy of excellence continues. With the opportunities offshore, there are significant openings for mounting a greater deal of equipment on the seabed, which should make operations more efficient and cost effective.”

Image: Typical subsea tree used offshore Brazil. Source: FMC Technologies Brazil

OE: How important is technology facilitating advanced oil recovery to FMC Technologies’ ambitions?

Leite: There are greenfield and brownfield sites and the latter are far more difficult to produce oil from, frequently involving filtering a great deal of water from the oil reserves. The future of the fields depends on producing more oil in fields containing an ever-larger store of water. It is one reason why producing cost-efficient separation technology, parting water from oil, is so important. FMC Technologies is developing such technology together with Petrobras. Along with FMC Technologies boosting Brazil’s subsea installations boosting extraction of oil, a number of technologies are central to subsea works. Pumping and subsea construction techniques are very important to advanced oil recovery, They should be seen as key areas for investment in this respect.

OE: Would you agree with the statement that local industries do not compete with international businesses in terms of quality?

Leite: I do not agree. It is frequently difficult to find a good supplier, not just in Brazil. I would also point out that Brazil now excels in several industries, such as in the automotive and aeronautical industries. Bringing skills and talents like those developed in these enterprises to the oil and gas industry is a notable, but not insurmountable, challenge for developing Brazil’s industrial capacities. There are many small suppliers in Brazil, and their contribution to the diversity and availability of parts is to be welcomed in this market. One further positive development, however, would be if they were prepared to deliver in high scale, as well as more complete unit final products. This would reduce the number of operations required to receive a desired final unit, ready for integration into a production chain. Having more advanced production and financing schemes for goods would be a great boon for Brazilian industry.

OE: Please cite which subsea technologies, FMC Technologies in Brazil is promoting for advanced oil recovery.

Leite: FMC Technologies has developed solutions to increase oil recovery such as subsea separation, subsea boosting and subsea intervention tools that allow well access without the need of a rig. In Brazil, FMC Technologies developed and delivered to Petrobras many subsea boosting modules for ESP (either vertical and horizontal configuration) and the oil/ water separation and water injection for the Marlin field. For Shell, at Parque das Conchas, a subsea artificial lift manifold was developed with retrievable processing modules, capable of performing the gas liquid separation and boosting which enhances the ESP efficiency. We believe the positive results achieved with such technologies provide field-proven alternative solutions to be considered by the operators to improve production either in green or brown fields.

OE: FMC Technologies has a contract with Petrobras to develop specific technologies. Please give some examples of some specific technologies and their purposes?

Leite: FMC Technologies do Brasil has a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Petrobras that defines and shares common vision of future technologies need. Basically, that agreement was intended to develop or to expand subsea processing technologies to allow field development solutions to increase oil recovery and, in the future, consider production from subsea to shallow or to the shore. The most significant technology example is the Marlim SSAO. The heavy oil water subsea separation system (SSAO) for the Petrobras Marlim field was the first fullscale prototype tested in the Technology Center (located in the Rio de Janeiro’s Federal University (UFRJ), which was later installed in the field during 2012. The main purpose of this prototype project was to develop a subsea technology solution to reduce the amount of produced water that reaches the topside processing facility, by doing this, oil production is increased and the topside process plant efficiency is enhanced. The subsea system combines multiple separation technologies to deal with gas, heavy oil, water and sand. Basically, after the gas is separated, the water is also separated from the heavy oil by using the pipe separation design and then cyclone separation modules, further cleaning the water before having it pumped and injected back in the reservoir. The separated oil, gas and sand are recombined to flow to the surface facility. The subsea test confirmed performance expected from the design and qualification program which further support the trend to apply such solution in a near future.

OE: Regarding new operators, what Brazil could do to be more attractive for international oil companies?

Leite: Brazil has very large potential areas for oil and gas production and Petrobras has been playing an important role demonstrating that, but there are also many challenges. Different from Petrobras, with more than 50 year experience in Brazil, the new players will have the challenge to build its own local staff, infrastructure, logistics, supply chain and meet the local content. Taking such premises scenario, Brazil should be more attractive by creating local conditions to reduce risk and provide long term opportunities. This a complex issue as there are many opportunities improvement areas under the government decisions and in the industry, such as keep or improve frequency the concessions bid rounds, tax regimes, supply chain and logistics just to mention some.

OE: FMC Technologies signed a $1.5 billion contract with Petrobras. What is the status of the work?

Leite: In 2012, FMC Technologies do Brasil inked with Petrobras a US$1.5 billion contract to supply up to 130 subsea trees to be installed in the pre-salt fields. The scope of supply also consider subsea multiplex control module for each tree and installations tools. Along with that contract, we received the first call-off for 78 trees, then, in 2013, we received the final call-off for 49 trees, achieving a total of 127 trees. The project has been designed at our technology center and it is currently under manufacturing in our plant, both located in Rio de Janeiro. We expect delivery to start this year. The company made significant investments in operations in Brazil to enable large scale manufacturing and development of new technologies. In the last three years, the technology center was built, plus plant capacity and subsea services expanded.

Peter Howard Wertheim is a veteran oil/gas journalist based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: You may contact him at: [email protected]


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