Harnessing disruptive innovation: paving the way for sustainable offshore oil and gas

April 12, 2024
A key disruptive technology of the future, the unparalleled energy efficiency and recovery factor from subsea processing is powering an exciting offshore oil and gas evolution.

Editor's note: This Beyond the Horizon column first appeared in the March-April 2024 issue of Offshore magazine. Click here to view the full issue.

By Wallace Pescarini, President Offshore Atlantic, SLB 


The world is facing its greatest balancing act: how to provide reliable, accessible and affordable energy while rapidly decarbonizing for a sustainable future. Disruptive new technologies are emerging as the cornerstone to achieving this delicate balance. Through innovative solutions, such as bringing digital to scale, infrastructure electrification, subsea processing, and novel partnership models, the industry is poised to revolutionize its operations, driving capital efficiency, sustainability, and resilience.

At the forefront is bringing digital to scale through digital automation and AI, at a time when the world is only beginning to see the immense capability of generative AI. Our industry generates massive amounts of data; a single well can yield more than 10 terabytes of data per day. Studies have shown that bringing digital to scale on a project with seamless integrated workflows can enable a 10% reduction of costs, a 70% reduction in decision making time and over 50% less carbon emissions. From automation to autonomous operations—across both well construction and production—we are clearly seeing an inflection in the deployment of digital operations with significant impacts. Highlighting this, is the recent Equinor fully autonomous drilling operation  of a 2.6 kilometer section offshore. This is a critical moment for our industry, and integrated digital operations are gaining in maturity, transforming the way operators develop and utilize assets, clearly setting the path for a higher value–lower carbon and capital outlook.

Another pivotal component in this paradigm shift is offshore infrastructure electrification. Most of today’s drilling rigs and production infrastructure use diesel or natural gas-fueled turbines—resulting in high direct fuel costs, greenhouse gas emissions, and frequent and costly preventative maintenance. Simply put, these hydraulic systems don’t have the reach, control, or smart capabilities of an electric system. Electrified systems distribute power and data efficiently across long distances, require limited to zero maintenance, actuate with instant high-precision control, and are inherently digital and automation ready. In offshore fields specifically, electrification expands the feasible subsea tieback radius around host facilities. It allows operators to extend the productive life of existing assets and, in some cases, avoid building offshore facilities entirely by targeting commercial accumulations from land with extreme reach wells. For more complex subsurface systems, fully intelligent completions electrification enables maximum production control across more zones with an electrohydraulic system, potentially requiring fewer wells to meet a field’s production targets. One example is in Brazil where SLB partnered with Petrobras who successfully introduced intelligent completions to simplify field development, streamline well construction, and maximize production. The electrification of offshore infrastructure represents a significant leap towards a more sustainable energy future, one that is economically viable, capital efficient, and environmentally responsible.

In tandem with bringing digital to scale and offshore infrastructure electrification, advancements in subsea processing technology are reshaping the offshore landscape. Seabed pumping, compression, and separation represent the core of this modern technology. Subsea processing adds energy directly onto the well stream or removes resistance in the system, handling challenges of water depth and long tieback distances, thereby driving the opportunity for significant cost reductions in infrastructure-led development. It has been demonstrated that the application of subsea multiphase boosting can significantly increase production rates along with a substantial increase in total recovery as backpressure on the reservoir is offloaded by a seabed processing system. These large increases in production and recovery, seen against the incremental investment in this technology, are typically less than $10 per barrel. To maximize recovery from Norway’s Ormen Lange field, a subsea multiphase compressor was installed with a 120-kilometer tieback to an onshore facility resulting in enhanced production rates and increased field recovery rate while avoiding a costly conventional topside solution. In addition to maximizing production, subsea processing can offload constrained production facilities such as FPSOs, allowing further optimization of invested capital. A key disruptive technology of the future, the unparalleled energy efficiency and recovery factor from subsea processing is powering an exciting offshore oil and gas evolution. Collectively, these innovative solutions combined with novel partnership models, such as the global partnership between BP and the Subsea Integration Alliance, an SLB OneSubsea and Subsea7 alliance, are revolutionizing the offshore oil and gas industry, propelling it towards a more sustainable and resilient future.


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