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While researching and developing technology for deepwater, one offshore contractor has been narrowing in on subsea technology.
Within a broad research and development effort ABB, now in the process of a takeover, is concentrating not just on surface facilities such as floating production systems, but also subsea and downhole equipment. It is believed that these environments will offer the most opportunities for the offshore market.
Compactness and lightweight facilities are sought in all new technologies being developed by the company, ranging from subsea processing systems to topsides facilities.
Looking at customers needs, ABB Vetco Gray has identified market requirements for safe access to deepwater, increased reservoir recovery, alongside more production, more reliability and equipment availability. Coupled with this, the company sees clients asking for effective inspection maintenance and repair and industry-wide qualification standards for equipment.
To answer these needs, suggested solutions from Vetco Gray range from new floating production concepts, new generation topsides, new deepwater drilling technology and subsea systems. Those systems will incorporate subsea processing, reservoir monitoring and control technologies, and there is a vision for what it calls "the automated oilfield" and reliability-based engineering.
During 2003, Vetco Gray identified some of its most important technology projects that included development of equipment for the Statoil-operated Snøhvit gas and condensate field. Long distance remote control systems are a key part of the strategy, "Because the world is watching and Statoil is dependent on us," Vetco Gray stated.
Part of the answer is the NuDeep suite of lightweight subsea systems targeted for 5,000 ft to10,000 ft (1,500 m to 3,000 m) water depths, previously outlined (see E&P February 2004), which encompasses a range of products intended for commercialization by the third quarter 2004. Primarily NuDeep technology is geared toward West African and Brazilian applications with ultradeep water and shallow reservoirs.
NuComp, ultra light subsea trees; NuTrols, high flexibility control systems, and low life cycle costs; NuFlow, flow control and transport lines; and NuProc, lightweight subsea processing equipment.
Consequently the drivers behind most of Vetco Gray's research and development work are deepwater applications, more complex reservoirs, more subsea facilities and improved reservoir recovery technologies. The design philosophy is, "Design from the inside - the single most important issues in modern oil and gas production is to understand and manage the behavior of the well fluid under all relevant conditions."
Not all this can be achieved alone. Vetco Gray is one member of a seafloor processing collaboration with Aker Kværner, BP and Chevron. The Troll C pilot project with Framo was just the start of the technology development process. There are plans for two further pilots, then full commercialization of subsea processing technology developed from there.
"Seafloor Process Systems (SPS) [will be] making a material impact on the cost, timing and life-value of deepwater developments by 2004, with enhanced capability following by 2006," said Vetco, spelling out its vision and objectives for SPS in a corporate presentation.
The ethos behind the SPS approach is a system designed for target fields coupled with plans to close any technology gaps, also a building block approach to equipment and stepwise pilot testing of integrated systems.
This leads on to the goal of the automated oilfield. ABB Vetco Gray has a vision for an oilfield of the future in which reservoir facilities and surveillance and control are integrated into one single industrial process, optimizing oil and gas production from the reservoir to the wells to the surface requiring integrated process control technology with the benefit of enhanced productivity. De-manning of platform assets and remote control of facilities are key objectives.