Like explorers of old, the offshore industry today is striving to find out what’s behind the next corner. The push into deeper and more remote waters is driving a surge in new technologies and environmental research, while companies are on the lookout for the necessary skills to pull off such ambitious projects.
From rethinking risk analysis to unlocking methane hydrates and from subsea compression to rough-water FLNG processing, our award honours companies and organisations for their contributions to exploration and innovation at the cutting edge of offshore oil and gas production.
The candidates have been carefully selected by our editorial team, with help from our network of regular contributors and industry professionals.
Statoil and Aker
Subsea compression technology
In 2015 a project led by Statoil, to be delivered by Aker solutions, will see the world’s first subsea gas compression station installed in the Åsgard field in offshore Norway. The project will become the first to host compressors on the seabed, using two 11.5MW subsea compressors, avoiding the need to install a new large semisubmersible or overhead platform.
The subsea station will be operated remotely and require no onboard crew. Maintenance will be carried out by ROVs controlled from the surface. The environmental footprint is also impressive; a much sleeker subsea station will reduce energy use dramatically and provide no atmospheric emissions, saving an estimated 90,000 tonnes of CO2.
By boosting falling gas pressures from the Midgard and Mikkel satellite reservoirs, stable production can continue, potentially allowing an additional 280 million barrels of oil equivalent to be recovered.
Det Norske Veritas
Quantitative risk analysis
Risk in offshore oil and gas production is inevitable, but it can be managed well. Det Norske Veritas, through subsidiary DNV Software, is working to realise the potential of quantitative risk analysis (QRA) tools as a means of identifying and evaluating hazards associated with dangerous offshore environments.
In May 2013, DNV Software launched Safeti Offshore, which uses computational fluid dynamics to provide insight into specific risk areas on offshore platforms and addresses issues such as design layout, fire tracking and evacuation measures.
A month later DNV expanded its portfolio with Sesam Marine, a software package designed to enhance 3D simulation allowing users to visualise risks as they play out. By helping to paint a holistic nature of risk, DNV is a leading light when it comes to the immensely difficult task of ‘future-proofing’ the industry.
Oil and gas skills survey
While everyone is aware of the skills shortage in the UK offshore industry, reporting of actual figures has become severely fragmented, with anything from 10,000 to 125,000 vacancies regularly reported in the media. At present no-one knows what to believe or where to turn, but this is about to change thanks to a recently launched national skills survey and strategy by sector skills body OPITO.
OPITO hopes to deliver one definitive set of market intelligence which accurately reflects future needs and the predicted skills shortfall. Taking that a step further, the information will be used to support government investment strategies and provide direction in terms of training for critically needed skill sets.
Results of the survey will be published in January 2014 and used to form the basis for a new national skills strategy. For an industry suffering from ‘survey fatigue’ a dependable system of reporting will come as a welcome boost to solving the skills puzzle.
Unlocking methane hydrates
In March Japan became the first country in the world to successfully extract methane gas from hydrate deposits off its central coast. Notoriously difficult to extract, ‘fire ice’ is often referred to as the world’s largest untapped source of fossil energy, holding up to 15 times the amount of gas held in global shale deposits.
A research team from the methane hydrates research consortium MH21 at the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) managed to safely achieve the difficult task for the first time using an electric submersible pump to bring water taken from drill holes to the surface, in order to drop the water level and then use hydro-static pressure to create gas hydrate dissociation.
JOGMEC is currently monitoring the reservoir and conducting analysis of data. If all goes well the company will begin designs for longer-term extraction early next year. While it is difficult to assess the value of a hitherto unextractable resource, the pervasive feeling is that we may be on the cusp of revolution similar to that of shale gas twenty years ago.
Autonomous ocean monitoring
Drilling is a costly business which demands constant monitoring, both above and below the sea. Any device that can seamlessly monitor and collect sub-sea data autonomously, for up to year at a time without a battery, should therefore prove very popular with the industry.
Enter Wave Glider, the world’s first wave powered autonomous ocean robot. The device manufactured by Liquid Robotics has reached the record for the longest distance travelled by an autonomous vehicle – 9,000 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean.
In March 2013, Liquid Robotics formed a joint venture with oil field technology firm Schlumberger, called Liquid Robotics Oil and Gas, to market the device to assist with various seismic and drilling activities including survey support and operational monitoring.
Water treatment technology
Water is a significant by-product of oil and gas extraction and its treatment can become a major expense, in some cases limiting total production at a well. To improve water handling UK-based Cambridge Consultants has developed a new particle analysis technology that can measure droplets of oil or particles of sand and wax in produced fluids at offshore and remote production sites in real-time.
Operators can then make a snap decision whether or not produced water can be safely reinjected into a well or disposed of overboard.
The technology can measure the size distribution of droplets, ranging from sub-micron to tens of microns in diameter at typical production flow velocities, all done using a hardware tough enough to be deployed anywhere from within a hurricane to below an ice sheet.
Trelleborg and Saipem
The ability to process natural gas on-site presents numerous financial and environmental benefits but to date this technology has been only available for calmer waters, a problem considering the current trend towards production in deeper, altogether more dangerous conditions.
To address this issue, Swedish engineering group Trelleborg has been working with Saipem to develop a new tandem LNG offloading system using Trelleborg’s Cryoline flexible cryogenic hoses. The company also acquired SBM Offshore’s COOL hose system in September 2013 to bolster its technology.
According to Trelleborg the major advantage is safety, as operators will be able to increase the distance between the carrier and the floating LNG unit. Built with hardiness in mind, the technology will also bring greater reliability and reduce downtime. The company hopes to have the hose qualified in mid-2014, with a final product ready by the end of 2014, snatching an early lead in the nascent FLNG technology market.
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