Norway: Lifting of FPSO embargo adds gloss to Gulf of Mexico

The recent approval by the US Minerals Management Service for the operation of FPSOs in the Gulf of Mexico signifi-cantly extends the range of technology which Norway can offer in this impor-tant offshore arena.

The recent approval by the US Minerals Management Service for the operation of FPSOs in the Gulf of Mexico signifi-cantly extends the range of technology which Norway can offer in this impor-tant offshore arena.

It was, after all, Norway which gave the world its first production ship back in the 1980s. Since then, the country has done much to develop the concept. Norwegian FPSO oper-ators are active both in the newbuild segment for harsh climates and the conversion segment for milder regions.

A representative view of what Norwegian technology has to offer can be seen at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston in early May, and at the Rio Oil & Gas Show in Rio de Janeiro in September. A record number of exhibitors will be at the Norwegian pavilion at OTC, reports German Nilsen, station manager for the Norwegian Trade Council (NTC) in Houston. In fact the number of Norwegian companies with a permanent presence in Houston now exceeds 70, a sure sign that they recognize the Gulf of Mexico as a key market for their products and services.

FPSO technology will face stiff competition from suppliers of alternative forms of production, which are already well established in the Gulf, but Nilsen does not doubt that the FPSO option will have its role to play in this area, where it has aroused a lot of interest among potential users. Norwegian contractors and suppliers can also offer a wide range of associated technology and expertise, not least in building and operating the shuttle tankers required to ship the produced crude from FPSOs to shore.

Norwegian companies have already made a name for themselves with their expertise in floating production technology, whether it be semisubmersibles, tension leg platforms, spar platforms or FPSOs. Their competence embraces supply and installation of mooring systems, tow-out and field installation of platforms, and supply and installation of subsea systems and equipment.

The Brazilian offshore market continues to open up following the ending of Petrobras's monopoly and has needs which Norwegian technology is well fitted to supply. According to César Bueno Garrubo, the NTC's station manager in Brazil, shipyards, which went under when the shipbuilding industry collapsed in the 1980s, now have a chance to resurrect themselves as offshore yards, but require upgrading and re-equipping. With their experience from the demanding North Sea market, Norwegian companies could do much to fulfill this need, says Garrubo.

The Brazilian supply industry, remains relatively undeveloped, to the surprise of foreign oil companies enter the sector expecting to find the same level of service as elsewhere. Here again there could be advantages in teaming up with specialized Norwegian companies with high-tech, quality products to offer, says Garrubo.

As activities in Brazil's offshore sector expand, so does participation in the Rio show, which provides a chance to meet Norwegian companies keen to position themselves in the country.

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