Norway’s Aker Solutions has agreed to create a new subsea multiphase boosting company with subsea technology specialist FSubsea.
The companies, through new 50/50 owned business FASTSubsea (FAST standing for Fuglesangs Aker Solutions Technology), are set to combine two of their technologies to create a new 2MW barrier fluid-less subsea boosting system, targeting market readiness within two years.
The technology, which the companies say will cut capex costs by half and increase recovery rates by 10-30%, will combine Aker Solutions’ multiphase hydraulic pump technology and FSubsea’s Hydromag magnetic coupling technology. Hydromag is a subsea, hermetically sealed variable speed technology to drive boosting systems. It doesn’t need barrier fluid, or topside hydraulic or electric power supply systems support, including variable speed drives, which would significantly unlock brownfield and subsea tieback boosting opportunities where topside or services are unavailable, say the two companies.
This should reverse a trend where, cost, topside space limitations and sometimes complex solutions means multiphase pumps have only so far been used in fewer than 30 of the world’s more than 1500 offshore subsea fields.
Offshore Engineer met with key players at both companies as the announcement was made this morning (April 10), during the energy:connected’19 conference (previously known as Subsea Valley) in Oslo; Alexander Fuglesang, CEO of FSubsea, who will be managing director of the new company, and Marco Gabelloni, Global Pump Leader, at Aker Solutions.
Fuglesang says: “There have historically only been one or two subsea multiphase boosting projects a year. In the past, boosting has been applied where operators saw they could unlock the most value, such as in deep water, because boosting was expensive. Vendors focused on those problems with big systems and that’s still an interesting market. But, these big systems are not easily applied to smaller brownfield projects and distributed fields because of the complexity, the topside systems required and the cost. Now, we’re looking to add technology people can more simply plug and play into brown fields without modifying as much topside.”
FSubsea commissioned research by consultancy Rystad to look at flow rates and pressures in the current well stock, then applying hurdle rates, assessing which wells would really benefit from investment this technology. “Of 8500 wells will be active over the next two decades, removing those that will come on stream and go off stream, that leaves 5000,” says Fuglesang. “Then, we narrowed that down to 1424 that would really benefit from this technology; that could achieve 10-30% increased recovery.”
“One of the biggest benefits is minimizing the infrastructure needed, which means that, where you have constraints in topside space, this technology is the solution for brownfield increased oil recovery (IOR),” says Gabelloni. “This could be on a single well, small clusters or a distributed solution, using multiple smaller scale pumps to cover a more distributed field. This technology will allow you to develop distributed fields in different ways, with simpler, more cost-effective power distribution, because of the integrated variable speed drive (VSD) in the pump itself, which means you don’t need single cables to each unit from a topside VSD.”
The two companies' new project has been discussed for over a year. FSubsea has developed its Hydromag technology as part of its Omnirise single phase boosting technology, which it will still provide. Just last year, Aker Solutions’ qualified its own 6MW subsea motor integrated with its new MultiBooster subsea multiphase boosting technology, which is targeted at bigger projects than the FASTSubsea technology will.
The new company (formation of which is subject to Norwegian competition authority approval) will be looking for oil company partners to work with as it works to integrate Hydromag and Aker Solutions’ multiphase pump technologies into a single solution over the next two years, after which time it hopes to have the technology ready for the market.
“We are not developing technology from scratch. These are technologies that are already qualified,” says Gabelloni. “At FSubsea, we are already very capable in single phase pumps; mud pumps, trenching pumps and single phase pumps,” adds Fuglesangs. “It’s a big leap for us to do multiphase boosting, which has the biggest potential in the market. Aker Solutions’ technology provides the perfect complement to us."
“In terms of topside-less technology, we are furthest ahead in what we are doing,” he adds. “Others have different ways of solving it, running fluid through bearings. We have another way to do it. It’s simpler and less radical and using what already works in combination. There’s no change in philosophy in how we pump fluids.”
Gabelloni says the new company is a great opportunity to expand Aker Solutions’ multiphase boosting portfolio. "We have demonstrated great performance in our multiphase pump technology," he says. "This is a great chance to open up the smaller scale multiphase market. Combining FSusbea’s technology with our system integration, testing, manufacturing capability, really is a good combination, bringing together their entrepreneurial approach with our global service provider expertise and experience. We believe this is the best way this technology could be integrated for the industry. We can leverage everything we have done or MultiBooster through this partnership.” This includes, in future, using proximity probes for better condition monitoring and optimization of these systems.”
The first applications are likely to be in the North Sea, says Fuglesang. “We see light-footed, well-funded oil companies that want to embrace new technology benefiting from this,” he says. “The North Sea, Norway and the UK, where we see independents and larger oil companies, that’s a good combination for the near-term. Longer term, deeper water, especially in south America, is a good fit,” he says, “and mid-water, central Gulf of Mexico.”
The two companies say setting up a new company is a signal to integrators and oil companies that they’re serious about the long term. “It’s important that we have a long-term view,” says Gabbelloni, being able to leverage the skills and assets – eg. testing facilities – of its parent companies, but being independent from them. It’s also important to increase competition in the market, adds Fuglesang. “The market needs competition,” he says. “We’re increasing this space with a new company within the field.”