Subsea innovation focuses on cost, operational efficiency

April 1, 2021
One constant in the offshore industry, during good and bad times, is technical innovation.

One constant in the offshore industry, during good and bad times, is technical innovation. It enables the industry to adapt and bounce back from downturns and other disruptions. The COVID pandemic and precipitous oil decline last year forced the industry into new ways of working – remote environments for company staffs and fewer offshore personnel on board – and into capital reduction mode. Some of these changes will be adopted permanently, while others will be phased out over time. One that is expected to hold in the near term is the focus on managing costs. This bodes well for subsea tiebacks, which have comparatively low capex requirements and short cycle times. New and ongoing innovation, described inside this issue, are improving subsea project economics and operational efficiency, and enabling more developments to move forward.

To enhance feasibility, several operators have been studying ways of reducing capex with new and existing technologies, and simpler field architecture designs. Early estimates suggest that by implementing some or all these concepts, developers can reduce the capex on subsea tieback projects by more than 30%. Bruce Beaubouef, Offshore magazine editor, reviews the new technologies and a selection of subsea projects that are moving ahead. His report begins on page 18.

The ONS Foundation recently held a conference that featured presentations of subsea innovations. The solutions presented were a response to challenges identified last year by the ONS Technical Committee following the cancellation of ONS 2020 in Stavanger. Topics included the use of new equipment and “smart”’ IMR to cut subsea opex, and technologies to help make marginal field tie-ins more profitable, with a reduced offshore installation scope. Read the full report by Jeremy Beckman, Offshore Editor-Europe, beginning on page 20.

To support the growth in subsea tiebacks, and ongoing shift to remote operations, the industry has been advancing the development of robotics. The technology is expected to improve IMR operations and lower the environment footprint. Other potential benefits include improved equipment reliability and personnel safety. Jessica Stump, Offshore assistant editor, highlights some of the notable developments in ROVs and AUVs. Her report begins on page 25.

Innovators are also seeking ways to use subsea equipment to advance carbon capture and storage. There are established projects off Norway, and the UK has plans under review. The North Sea is expected to become a major area for carbon storage, due to its wealth of mature basins that have been comprehensively explored and appraised. Jeremy Beckman has the full story beginning on page 23.