Bergen, Norway 11 – 13 June, 2019

Alliances, digitisation, subsea-as-service and robotics


There is operator positivity towards activity, new technology and new relationships with suppliers in the subsea oil and gas industry. But there are also still pinch points, this morning’s Underwater Technology Conference (UTC) plenary session heard.

Over the last three years, costs have been reduced to make projects competitive and new operator-contractor relationships formed, through alliances, new contracting strategies and collaboration. But, there’s still some way to go to a full adoption of digital technologies and there’s still scope to significantly change supplier-operator relationships, including the potential to move to what was described as “subsea as a service”. A robotic-driven unmanned future is also starting to appear on the horizon, with product delivery by drones, the event in Bergen heard.

Keynote speaker Aker BP CEO Karl Johnny Hersvik said that: “The thing we have learned most the over the last few couple of years it that interaction with suppliers is the key.” A problem in the past has been that alliances have been one offs, which lead to lessons not being learned. This is changing, but new models could also be introduced. “The alliance model is old stuff that we copied from automotive manufacturing, from Toyota. How do you take the next step, product as a service? I don’t want to buy those products, I want subsea as a service, paying for uptime. The value chain competency is within the supply chain.”

Lundin COO Erik Sverre Jenssen agreed. “Our core business is not owning equipment, it’s finding oil and producing it. We don’t to own turbines. Can the supplier own it and we just pay for capacity? This is one (potential) model.”

There’s also a huge opportunity to take digital further, says Hersvik. Adopting digital technologies has been painful at times. “The subsea business is not really cutting edge when it comes to digital,” he says. In some cases, companies have adopted Apps without properly understanding the data they have: its topology, architecture and data acquisition strategies. These need to be understood, as well as the context of the data and how it’s visualised, before companies should move into using digital applications, says Hersvik. “We started with APMs and failed badly because we didn’t understand the data context and flow of data. Sharing data is key to get this done. If you don’t share data this will happen in silos. Without sufficient data you cannot do fast learning, simulation, modelling, and you’re going to fail. This is not scary, it’s a complete change of attitude from secrecy is the norm to openness is the norm.”

Robotic unmanned futures

A vision into an unmanned future was presented by Bjørn Kåre Viken, VP of Process Technology and Collaboration at Equinor. “We believe replacing manned with remote operations will have a positive impact, not least on safety,” he said. As examples, Viken cited subsea “snake” robot company Eelume and Equinor’s Remote Offshore Facility (ROF) and Unmanned Production Platform (UPP) concepts. The ROF concept includes use of topside robotics, as well as drones for TEG delivery to the facility. Equinor has already installed and is operating from shore UPP at Valemon, supported by nearby infrastructure, and a stand-alone floating version, with tanker offload, is being considered. A ROF, meanwhile, could be considered for the Peon stand-alone gas condensate project. “The ultimate” would be to have a standalone deepwater UPP, particularly for Brazilian projects, Viken said. A UPP could offer 30% less capex cost and 50% less opex cost, compared to a traditional concept, he said.

Digitalisation will also play its role for Equinor, he said. “We would like computers to see the optimum placement of wells in the reservoir.” Equinor has been mining well data to find “missed pay” opportunities, which has already lead to new prospects and “we are just scratching the surface,” he said.

In other areas, technology that has been developed for subsea fields, such as subsea gas compression, could be used for offshore topsides, such as in the Bay du Nord project, he said. “Subsea to sand is something to look for in the future,” he said, i.e. where technology developed for subsea is used onshore because of its compactness and robustness.

Technology was also high on the agenda for Lundin, including all-electric subsea systems. “We all have trouble with hydraulic control systems and I don’t get any good answers when I ask why we haven’t done all-electric yet,” said Jenssen.  “Why don’t we just go and do it?”

While there are still challenges, UTC Program Committee Chairman Jon Arve Sværen, from OneSubsea, reflected on how far the industry has come in a relatively short period of time. Deepwater has gone from being 300m to 3000m, he says. High-pressure has gone from 300psi to 20,000 psi and subsea tiebacks are more than 100km for oil and 200km for gas. “Technology has been the driver for past growth in the industry and remarkable activity over a short period of time,” he says.

Over the rest of today and tomorrow, we will hear more about the technologies available to the industry in the UTC Bergen conference parallel sessions.

UTC 2018 is the 24th Underwater Technology Conference, with 700 professionals and 40 exhibitors expected to attend at Bergen’s Grieghallen from 12-14 June 2018.

Follow the proceedings on the conference app or Twitter: @UTC_Bergen.