Eurogif's thematic network on floating technology for the oil and gas sector (TN3) has completed reports on areas of interest and has moved into a second phase under which it will draw up pro-posals for a research program and also apply for funding under the European Union's Sixth Framework Program.
The coordinator of the network is Aker Kværner. The company also has the chairman of the board of the steering committee to which the network reports – Severin Lindseth, vice president, corporate technology function – and is represented on the Eurogif board by Ingebrigt Moum, executive vice president with responsibility for technology and improvement projects.
The floating technology network is one of eight initiated by Eurogif, the European oil and gas innovation forum. The idea of the networks is to bring together quite a large consortia of European companies that assess the state of technology in their specific area and identify research and development needs, says Moum. Involvement in the networks also makes it easier for the companies to set up specific R&D projects and seek funding for them.
Additionally, the work of the networks provides a useful source of advice for the European Commission on which areas of technology development need funding. The idea of the thematic networks originally came from the commission, which saw them as both a trigger for research and a means of involving small and medium-size companies across Europe in joint development activities.
The floating technology network received €1.5 million funding under the EU's Fifth Frame Program a year and a half ago. Its four-year program is due to be completed in 2005. The network has proved a popular one, attracting the participation of 37 companies from 11 European countries, including main contractors, suppliers, research institutes and classification societies. Its project leader is Magne Nygård from Aker Kværner.
The seven main partners in the network are Institut Français du Pétrole (IFP), Bouygues Offshore, Coflexip Stena Offshore (CSO – all France), Amec (UK), MCS International (Ireland), Det Norske Veritas, and Aker Kværner (both Norway). Prior to their merger earlier this year, both Aker Maritime and Kværner were main partners, and the coordinator role was held by Aker Maritime. Both companies have been deeply involved in the development of floating technology in the last 30 years, and the merger can be said to have considerably strengthened their expertise in this field.
TN3 is divided into seven thematic areas, each with one of the main partners acting as leader, as follows:
- Tools for hydrodynamic and structural analysis (MCS)
- Station-keeping systems, mooring, and dynamic positioning (DNV)
- Riser technology (IFP)
- Marine operations (CSO)
- Efficient topside facilities (Amec)
- Ultra-deepwater floaters (Bouygues Offshore)
- Cost-efficient floating production systems (Aker Kværner).
About half a dozen companies participate in each area, according to the specific expertise they have to offer.
The first phase of work concentrated on defining the current state of technology in each area – which technologies are currently available and which will become so as the result of current research. An overview of industry needs was also drawn up, enabling the technology gaps to be identified through comparing what is available with what is required. State-of-the-art reports for each thematic area were submitted to the commission and all the network participants in July. It is also the intention to publish most of the results on the network's website, www.floattech.net, says Lindseth.
The next task for the network is to implement research programs designed to tackle the technology gaps. Funding for this will be sought under the EU's Sixth Framework Program. As this program will probably not contain any specific provision for hydrocarbon activities, the application will have to be made under related areas such as sustainable development, global change and eco-systems.
The first step in applying for funding was taken in June, with the submission of an expression of interest in a larger integrated project. The document, titled Deep-Water Floating Structures Tech-nology, outlines the research needs that have been identified as follows:
•Integration of the floater platform with the mooring and risers to achieve the most effective and safest solution. Improvements in floater design to overcome unexpected behavior displayed by solutions like the Spar concept. More effective riser solutions, such as lightweight systems. Solutions for the very demanding flow assurance requirements that the riser system needs to meet
•Improved analysis tools for predicting the behavior of risers, moorings, and platforms in deep waters. Improvements in the understanding and prediction of hydro-elastic effects such as vortex induced vibrations
•Solutions for the stranded gas problem, such as the development of large floating LNG plants and other offshore gas conversion solutions.
The objective of the project is to develop and qualify safe, environmentally friendly, and cost-efficient floater technology for exploration and production in water depths reaching 3,500 m, including harsh environments, the document says.
More specifically, it aims to enhance technology in the following areas:
- Computer simulation tools for predicting of be- havior of the entire integrated floater system
- Development of new floater solutions and improvement of current solutions
- Qualification of riser systems for 3,500 m water depth
- Development of more compact process equipment for weight reduction of floaters and as a basis for subsea processing
- Application of more advanced materials with a better strength-to-weight ratio than traditional materials
- Effective distributed process solutions between topside and subsea
- New, improved, and safer offloading systems for deep waters
- Floating LNG or gas conversion industrial plant systems
- Technical solutions for flow assurance issues.
The required budget is estimated to be on the order of €20 million from the EC and the same again from industry. If all aspects described above are to be covered, however, a number of projects will be needed, with an even larger funding requirement. A selection of the most important projects for EC funding will therefore have to be made, the document says.
In addition to the proposed large integrated project, the thematic network is also in the process of defining smaller and more targeted R&D projects. Detailed funding proposals are planned to be submitted when the first call for proposals for the Sixth Framework Program is launched, probably later this year.