How can we ensure that equipment from the 80s functions at an optimum level when integrated with the subsea technology of today and the future? The theme for UTC 2013 has now been decided.
Although the subsea industry is at the forefront of new technology, a large proportion of the production equipment still in use was developed in the 80s.
– One of the major challenges facing the industry is to ensure inter-compatibility of old and new equipment, says the Head of the Program Committee for the Underwater Technology Conference, Trond Olsen, from NCE Subsea.
Opportunities and challenges
The key topic for next year’s Underwater Technology Conference is Global Subsea Challenges – Managing the old and the new. This is an important area of focus in an industry currently experiencing immense growth, but in which there are also a number of challenges to overcome.
– The difference between the current growth and the upswing experienced during the period 2004 to 2008 is that this time around it comes on top of an already high level of activity. This presents a range of opportunities, but also numerous challenges, says Olsen.
One of these challenges is managing several generations of technology in the same production system. The first subsea installations date back to the 80s, and they are still in operation. This equipment is expected to ensure steady and reliable production – both at present and for the future.
– Technology and systems used today are completely different from those installed 30 years ago. The challenge is to ensure that these systems, which often are perceived as stone-age technology by newly qualified engineers, are compatible with technology from 2012 as well as 2020, says Olsen.
To deal with this, the industry is developing a new operating philosophy known as Real Time Risk Management, and this will also be a topic during next year’s conference.
Another global challenge to be addressed is access to qualified personnel. This is the one factor that will cause major limitations in the industry in years to come.Personnel are available, but qualified personnel are a completely different matter.
– In an industry where neither safety nor quality can be compromised, personnel without the proper qualification level will pose a risk to safety as well as quality. This is why access to skilled workers with experience is of utmost importance, says Olsen.
The lack of qualified personnel has led to several companies opening branches in countries that have no oil or gas production of their own.
– Personnel are often available in countries struggling as a result of the economic downturn. The problem is to get them to move. This is why an increasing number of oil technology companies establish themselves abroad, says Olsen.
One of the countries he draws attention to is Poland. It has a large pool of proficient engineers, and this easy access to personnel has attracted number of companies. However, this approach is not entirely without drawbacks.
– Expertise is being exported, and you risk creating your own competitor. The danger of this is far higher than if personnel are brought here, but it is a risk that a rising number of companies are happy to take, says Olsen.
Other topics that will be discussed during next year’s conference are the subsea fields of the future, new technology, use of material technology and environmental issues.
The Program Committee has sent invitations directly to their preferred speakers on the various topics, but there is also an open invitation to anyone who feels they can contribute to the conference and would like to submit papers. Such papers will, in the main, be presented during the various parallel sessions.
– All contributors will be subject to stringent assessment procedure, and the best will be invited as speakers, says Olsen.
Last year, the Program Committee received over 100 papers. Only 30 were accepted.
– The bar is high. UTC is renowned for its highly proficient and competent speakers, and this level of quality will be upheld in 2013, says Olsen, but adds that this should not deter anyone from submitting their proposals.
– All those who feel they have a contribution to make should submit their papers. Everyone will be assessed in a professional manner. If we receive papers of exceptional interest, we will consider adding these to the plenary talks, says Olsen.
Deadline for submission of papers is 1 December 2012.