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UTC Day 2: Focusing on the challenges of today and tomorrow

The Underwater Technology Conference (UTC) 2022 is now complete. It has been a ride, covering a wide range of topics, reflecting to state of flux we find ourselves in. The subsea industry was still not fully recovered from the 2014 downturn and then Covid hit. Then we have tightening energy markets and on top of that the war in Ukraine. Tina Bru summarised these events so well yesterday, while Tim Gould helped underpin the situation and outlook with IEA data and analysis.

Today, we’ve heard more from the operators about what we should expect both on the Norwegian Continental Shelf and globally. We’ve heard about rising subsea activity in Norway, but also a glimpse of what the future could hold in terms of new energies, especially carbon capture and storage and hydrogen. Key themes are lowering emissions, but also cost. It’s a challenging picture for us all to navigate.

Our first keynote speaker of the day, Petoro VP Licence and technology Kjell Morisbak Lund, sees that the industry has many difficult challenges, from financial and environmental sustainability down to data-driven drilling and drainage.

Most future developments will be subsea and the volumes we’re chasing will be much smaller and we’re depending on existing infrastructure to a large extend and it’s getting older, he told UTC. New technology needs to be implemented, like all electric and subsea boosting. “We need our field developments low cost, zero emissions and concept flexibility,” he says. 

Increasing activity, but keeping cost low is key

Kjell Morisbak Lund

Gunnar Nakken, SVP Global OTE and subsea operations says he sees “a large increase in subsea tieback developments on the Norwegian Continental Shelf over coming years”. “We believe there’s great potential going forward on NCS with solid margins for many decades. That’s why our ambition is to keep the activity level for many years to go. We see 250-350 million equity barrels in the next decade. Equinor is targeting 80% of its exploration around existing infrastructure. We see a large number of subsea tiebacks and see this will dominate the project portfolio going froward.”

“But, he says, we need a step up to ensure profitability. The cost needs to be reduced 50%.

“There are several ways to get there. We need to utilise and further develop this world class subsea competence to develop leaner, standardised and more efficient ways of working. For example, by bundling projects, standardisation and factory thinking. We should try to avoid complex and tailor-made solutions.

“The cost creep, the situation we are now in, is a great threat and we need to work together to avoid that and handle the constrains in the supply chain. It’s also about implementing technology developments, such as subsea drones.”

Gunnar also discussed offshore wind and CCS and how subsea can support these projects, to establish a new chapter for the NCS. Hydrogen, he says, will also play a strong role. “There’s great potential here going forward. But we need to keep control of the cost and this will be even more important for CCS. How can you together with us contribute to make things simplified, cost-efficient and standardised?”

Gunnar Nakken

Natural gas today, CCS and hydrogen tomorrow?

Next we heard from Wintershall Dea CTO Hugo Dijkgraaf. “In Norway our focus is efficient, low-carbon gas production and here and there oil as well. Europe needs Norway’s gas. That’s today. For tomorrow, we’re increasingly focusing on carbon management (e.g. CCS) and hydrogen,” he said. “We have set a 2030 net zero target for scope 1 and 2 emissions. This is a major challenge.”

Today, Wintershall Dea has a significant offshore footprint. “Since 2019, we have spent close to NOK 30 billion in Norway, which is a significant part of our global exploration spend,” he says. “We plan to drill 10 wells this year alone,” with a large focus on natural gas – a key pillar as part of energy security in Europe.

“Norway is Europe’s reliable partner for natural gas today, but in the future expect it to be the reliable partner for emissions management and hydrogen,” says Hugo, adding that, in 2040, Wintershall Dea sees a CCS market of at least NOK 200 billion and hydrogen NOK 400 billion.

Wintershall is working on BlueHyNow project producing blue hydrogen in Germany and shipping the CO2 produced to Norway or Denmark for storage. This will produce 5.6 TWhr hydrogen per year. It also has the Greens and pilots CCS injection project in the Nini West subsea reservoir in the Danish North Sea.

“Subsea has a crucial role to play,” says Hugo. “Net Zero also has a significant role on the NCS. Subsea expertise will enable cost-efficient implementation of SURF and SPS infrastructure for CCS injection. We’re engaging already with suppliers on fit for purpose subsea trees.”

But, he adds, this is a waste disposal business. “We have to have the right cost structures or we are dead before we start.”

Hugo Dijkgraaf

A supply chain perspective

We then heard from Claudine Champavere – Vice-President Product Marketing & Strategy, Controls & Automation, TechnipFMC. She focused on a supply chain perspective and how her company is developing new energy solutions and services. TechnipFMC’s Deep Purple floating offshore wind-hydrogen project, for example, includes up to 12 tonne of hydrogen storage, says Claudine. That’s 200 MW hours, or 4,000 electric car batteries!

But the company also has a new business segment, New Energy Ventures. This was set up to develop solutions outside of oil and gas. It has three pillars. First, greenhouse gas removal using existing transportation and storage technologies including Xmas trees and flexible composite pipes (e.g. from Magma Global). This will likely be the first to make revenues for the business, she says. TechnipFMC has an alliance with Talos Energy in this area. 

Second is floating renewables: wave, tidal and wind. These are closely aligned to TechnipFMC’s skills, she says, especially project integration. TechnipFMC has a partnership with Orbital Marine Power, a tidal energy technology firm, in this space, helping them to scale up and reduce cost. It’s also working with Norwegian developer Magnora on a joint offshore wind company. This was a winner in the ScotWind round in the UK with a 500 MW farm plan.  

The third pillar is hydrogen. “It’s key to hard to abate sectors,” she says, and supporting intermittent technologies. It could be up to a quarter of energy demand in Europe by 2050, she says. “We’re going to need large scale hydrogen producing energy system. That’s why offshore solutions able to take advantage of renewables resources are gaining more interest.” Here, TechnipFMC is working on the BeHyond project, an offshore wind to hydrogen project.

It’s also involved in the Hardanger Hydrogen Hub, which is working towards large scale hydrogen storage with Statkraft using excess hydro power. It’s also partnered with Floating Power Plant, a wind and wave technology that they’re working to integrate hydrogen production into when there’s excess wind and wave energy. It can store up to 16 tonnes of hydrogen, equivalent to 280 MWh.

Subsea compression focus

For our second keynote session, we focused on subsea compression. It’s been some years since the first subsea compression projects were implemented. The next two are now being delivered.

Alberto Montesi – Chevron Australia and Øystein Haukvik SVP, Aker Solutions Project Director took a deep dive into the Jansz-Io Compression project in Australia, an important project for supplying LNG to Asia. Gas supply from Jansz-Io is piped to the Gorgon facility, onshore Australia. The project includes modifications on Barrow Island for power supply, a high voltage subsea power cable to a new floating field control station, which is connected to the subsea compression station. A manifold connects the new compression station to the existing trunk line. In future, Chevron sees the possibility to accommodate future tie ins into this solution. It’s an efficient solution, says Alberto. Floating compression would need 20% more energy, for example.

Jansz-Io will build on the Asgard project, says Øystein, which now has 6.5 years operation with 99% up time, he says. In fact, Aker Solutions was approached as early as 2016 to start feasibility studies for Jansz-Io, he said. Then, topside compression was still in the race. But this was eliminated in 2018, says Øystein. A technology qualification project was then started to fill technology gaps for the water depth (1,400 m compared with 260 m at Asgard) and other areas. FEED started in 2019 and FID was in 2021, with execution starting the same year. Key component manufacturing is underway and fabrication has also started, says Øystein.

The focus was to make the facilities as efficient as possible, says Øystein. So, the design is a single separation train with three compressor modules and two times liquid pumps for flexibility and redundancy, says Øystein. The system is scalable, it can be deployed from marginal to giant gas fields and wellstreams without separation facilities, he adds.

Alberto Montesi and Øystein Haukvik

Then we had an in depth look at Ormen Lange Phase 3, led by Mads Hjelmeland – Managing Director, OneSubsea Processing and Richard Crichton – Shell Project Director Ormen Lange Phase 3.

“The major opportunities are fewer today and we’re having to tackle and increasing number of mature assets that have certain challenges,” says Mads. “We’re also having to tackle low energy reservoirs, which have complexities in business cases. We also have an increasing need for energy.” Net zero is another goal.  

Ormen Lange ticks many of those boxes. It came on stream in 2007, as a subsea to shore (120 km) project, with gas taken subsea to Nyhamna before being piped 1,200 km to the UK, where is provides about 20% of UK gas.

“This project was doing the energy transition almost two decades ago. It enabled the UK to move to gas from coal,” says Richard. Now, with subsea compression, the existing facilities are maximised and the subsea to shore ethos is kept, he says. In addition, hydroelectric energy is used to power the station, making it low carbon density gas.

The project, in 900 m water depth, will use OneSubsea’s multiphase compression technology, leveraging the design used on Gullfaks, and it will operate from 2025 to 2040, says Mads. Four compressors will be used, totalling 32MW capacity.

These machines are compact and independent of processing of upstream fluids, with 0-100% GVF, says Mads, helping reduce the number of modules needed on the seafloor. “This is a world class development, increasing recovery from 75% to 85%, equivalent 300 MMboe additional production,” says Richard. “It’s also 78% Norwegian content. This is a poster child for the sort of developments we need to do as an industry in the energy transition.”

Mads Hjelmeland and Richard Crichton

Following the morning plenary session, we then moved into the parallel technical session, covering another wide range of topics, from floating and subsea substations for offshore wind to all electric control systems.

Finally, we presented the student paper award and our moderators, Solveig Tornås and Arne Skeie, summed up.

“We had two days packed with good presentations, debate and excellent technical sessions,” says Solveig. “We thank you all for being here and making the conference a success. A special thank you to Apriil, Harald Riisnes and his team. Without you we would not be able to pull this off. We would also like to thank the exhibitors, the sponsors and partners.”

“We are looking forward to seeing you next year,” adds Arne. “Subsea is leading the way in the energy transition.”