When used under the right circumstances, subsea processing technologies have clear and obvious benefits as an enabler for increased oil recovery and even as a more environmentally friendly alternative to conventional processing equipment.
In many instances, however, operators have found these solutions to be too expensive to implement. The number of projects with subsea processing that have been sanctioned to date are far fewer than what operators would like, because of the cost level, said Kristin Nergaard Berg, a principal engineer at DNV GL.
With this in mind, DNV GL, working alongside suppliers Aker Solutions, Baker Hughes GE, OneSubsea and TechnipFMC and operators Petrobras, Shell, Equinor and Woodside, kicked off a joint industry project (JIP) in 2015 aiming to use standardization as a means to reduce the lifetime cost of subsea processing equipment for use globally.
Berg, the JIP project manager, said the partners initially looked at the “big scope” of subsea processing technologies, including pumping, compression, seabed separation and injection, but decided to focus on pumping because it’s the one technology most operators were interested in and it’s by far the most mature of the group – meaning more experience to draw from.
The JIP’s first phase outlined the plan for standardization, and now, after several years, the partners have completed phase two, resulting in guidelines converted to DNV GL recommended practice (RP) and shared with the broader industry outside of the JIP group for comments ahead of publication in early autumn 2019.
The goal is to make subsea pumping a more competitive option through standardization and alignment of technical requirements, definitions, work processes and documentation. The RP examines standards, functional requirements and specifications; system design; pump modules and pressure containing equipment; control system and instrumentation; power systems; materials and welding; and qualification work processes and test requirements. “The key is that we have looked into the whole subsea pumping system, including several disciplines trying to find ways to lower the cost in each and every discipline,” said DNV GL’s Sofia Wilhelmsson.
What kind of cost and time savings can be achieved? It’s still a hard question to answer. “The real benefits will first be seen when the document is taken into use. There’s no benefits or cost savings in a piece of paper,” Wilhelmsson said. The hard numbers will come through implementation and experience after the RP guidelines are put to use.