August 2015 - Marine Technology Reporter

MTR100: Venture into the Norwegian Subsea Valley

Posted by Irina Tabakina

All matters maritime and subsea are seemingly intertwined into the Norwegian DNA. For the tenth anniversary of the “MTR100,” our Oslo-based contributor William Stoichevski ventures into Norway’s “Subsea Valley” for a look at the emerging tech and trends.

Worldwide classification society and technology advisor DNV GL says its Joint Industry Projects, or JIPs, with operators, contractors and manufacturers will bring about three DNV GL Best Practices that targeting subsea safety and cost-cutting.
“Years from now, these will be the standards. There will be no discussion,” said Jarl Magnussson, a documentation expert for DNV GL.
The 16,000-strong outfit formed by the merger between Norwegian DNV and Germany’s Germanischer Lloyd (GL) Noble Denton says the focus on achieving standard methodologies for subsea documentation, at least, has been “talked about for 20 years but needed now.” Recommended practices for subsea documents, forged subsea parts and wellhead fatigue target interchangeability, safe operations and shorter lead times. Also sought are a lower document count and knowledge of wellhead loads due to today’s larger and more complicated well designs. Operators in Oslo and Houston are understood to have submitted well histories for fatigue analysis.
He says 200 types of documents were collected during the JIP. “We have reduced that number to 46,” Magnussson tells MTR. The documents guidelines are due out in December 2016.

Swiss-Swedish ABB has grown its Norway oil gas and chemicals business twentyfold since 1989, and its Oslo office, lab and remote-operations center is ready for more business.
Oslo overseas contributions to “100 projects at any given time.” The lab is busy testing communications, automation and electrical parts and systems, and the remote operations center — which from the Norwegian capital controls for Shell the giant Ormen Lange gas field in the Norwegian Sea — might soon have another customer.
“Discussions” appear to be underway with Italian major ENI to run the Barents Sea Goliat oilfield from Oslo. Repeating the feat of controlling production from Ormen Lange would be a large feather in the hat of the ABB Norwegian operation.
Meanwhile, the business earns on field decline rates and subsea processing, “the next big thing.” Company R&D worldwide now includes 8,500 staff and a $1.5 billion budget. A subsea electrical power JIP with Statoil (akin to GE Oil & Gas’s and Nexans’s) is understood to be costing $100 million. A 100 MW seabed power supply for large pumps and gas compressors is the goal. Prototype production is underway of a 100 MW transformer and variable speed drive capable of changing loads and able to power a seabed compressor from 100 km. Deliveries are seen by 2019. Operators see $500 million in OPEX savings for the CAPEX, plus greater recovery rates.
Merging the subsea divisions of Cameron and Schlumberger into “a real company, and not just a marketing arrangement,” has created a powerhouse supplier of electric submersible pumps, or ESPs, in OneSubsea, where better business is being anticipated. Process systems VP Jon Arne Svaeren said the 2015 installation by offshore service vessels of a 65-ton subsea compression system for Statoil’s Gulfax field is “so important” as the high-water mark of an industry doing more with shipping and with subsea compressors. While crane lifts are bigger, so too is has the lift power in ESPs grown from 100 kWs in the 1990’s to today’s 5 MW.
A multiphase compressor for wet gas is an envisaged part of Statoil’s “subsea factory” vision.
The company’s multiphase compressors merge legacy Cameron and Framo controls and link them via satellite so operators and a OneSubsea man on a floating producer can remotely decide which life-of-field date is right to turn on “the extra energy in a reservoir”. Gulf of Mexico and Angolan FPSOs helped by subsea compression have seen maximum recovery “six years quicker.” Svaeren sees GoM contracts coming and no deep water slowdown.

Marine Cybernetics

The NASA shuttle disaster of 2003 prompted four NTNU professors that year to create university spin-off Marine Cybernetics, said Tom Pedersen, company drilling systems manager.
In disaster’s wake, it was learned that a tiny bit of 32 bit code was overlooked by the heavily 64 bit Discovery launch system. Tests prior to launch, said Pedersen, would have provided “safety” of the kind Marine Cybernetics hardware simulations and software tests offer for blowout preventers, or BOPs, dynamic positioning computers, lift controls and topsides.
“You’ll find no difference in using the real BOP or testing the BOP with our system,” Pedersen said, admitting that sometimes customers “don’t know what they’ve bought.”
The system uses hardware-in-the-loop, or HIL, to test critical operational functionality. Already, the big BOP and sheer ram makers are buyers of this software that IDs risk “quite early.”
Marine Cybernetics is focused on new-builds at yards, where manual testing can be combined with HIL. Testing for DP systems, too, can be remote. The DP vendor need not be on the vessel. Control software, too, is tested, and tests of third party emergency shutdowns have found “a lot of different things without alarms”. DNV GL owns shares in the company.

 Celebrating 100 years of “cable solutions,” the Norwegian business of this Belgian-headquartered firm has won the job of supplying Norway’s flagship offshore megaproject, Johan Svedrup, with 44 kilometers of copper pipeline-heating cable.
The company’s production plants at Halden and Rognan in southern Norway have been weaving wire, fiber optic and liquids-delivering steel-tube umbilical since the early 70’s, and the offshore boom is kept alive by recent orders for Chevron at St. Malo and from Shaw Deniz in the Caspian Sea, where Subsea 7 are customers at the huge BP project, and Nexans has now delivered direct heating cables and umbilical for installations down to 2,700 meters and spans of 145 km. 
On platforms, topsides cables and fiber optic distribution frames as well as cable end modules are the new rave, but Nexans is looking to the success of R&D on downhole cables.
“We have worked with BP and Statoil to increase the life of (downhole cables) from months to years,” says Ragnvald Graff, sales and marketing director for hybrid subsea cable. Though “early stages,” a long-life, downhole prototype is anticipated in 2016.

Rystad Energy
Summer 2015 saw this Norway-based numbers cruncher open a new office in oil town Stavanger, where operators and oilfield services already consume the company’s reports.
Founder Jarad Rystad, a mathematician, has grown his business exponentially in a decade. Analysis is now broken down into modules for custom offshore market breakdowns. Much of it appears in the Norwegian government’s budget deliberations.
Rystad forecasts have become a soothing read for suppliers anxious about demand: “A clear reduction in shale (oil)” production and refined products to 2016, yet “constant shale” to 2018, when an industry-wide upturn will nevertheless be underway for all but subsea services (equipment bought recently will be installed later). By 2019, Rystad sees a surge in subsea revenues.
By 2020, the influence of U.S. shale — widely blamed for the death of European refineries and lower oil prices — will have waned, as production is halved from today’s levels. By 2016, when “demand catches up with supply.” oilfield investments will begin a four-year spike to 2020 and reach $400 billion worldwide. Importantly, it’ll be largely “back to normal” in 2017 after a year of “marginal new committed capex.” 

With most of its procurement sourced in Norway, streamlining subsea logistics has been a tempting but elusive target for Norway’s stately deep-water operator. Lower oil prices, however, may be the impetus needed to get suppliers and other operators involved in “simplified” equipment supplies. Company clerks in Scotland and Norway are charting and securing equipment supplies via an “x-vendor interface,” part of a new “spares” organization that could “lower rig modification costs,” an expense Statoil “will map.”
“The idea is to put project pricing back into the system,” a spokesman says of the commodity-like equipment distribution envisioned for “known” rather than “tailor-made” tech. 
A billion kroner have been earmarked to build warehouses, in at least Norway, and $1 billion in ready subsea systems are understood to already be sitting in storage. Statoil has bought and put away equipment while securing from suppliers a measure of interchangeability (notably from Aker Solutions and FMC) in work-over systems, trees and templates. The company says it has enough work-over systems, at least, and, since 2010, has paid deposits on other equipment. 


Quietly, Oslo-based graphics outfit Xvision has since 1999 helped engineers design a 3D vision for 300 of the world’s more complex offshore projects. In the summer of 2015 they’re offering in the 2D field app of “personal” scale what customer’s like Aker Solutions have purchased for large-scale design simulations. Other clients include Lundin Norway and GE Oil & Gas, which reportedly cut a bid process down from three weeks to one hour using the app.
Dubbed a “field activity planner.” or FieldApp, by CEO Stein Kjartan Vik, the app is a “decision tool” that lets engineers drag, drop and move known oilfield equipment into a childishly easy-to-change field layout.
The software takes not-so-visual planning documents — including spreadsheet schedules in MS Excel, which the app replaces — and breaks them down into visuals. The app is a Web-based cloud solution that’s “secure and encrypted” for staff working simultaneously on the same document.

The MTR100 is Marine Technology Reporter's Annual report on 100 leading companies in the subsea industry, published in the July/August 2015 edition of MTR -

Other stories from August 2015 issue


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