Subsea Hardware and Technology

Change. Look around. It is happening faster than most of us have seen in our entire careers. The market is driving change with a desperate insistence. The old ways of doing business are no longer sustainable. Change is therefore inevitable. New technologies as well as new business models are evolving. We have learned in our leadership training that we can follow change, we can get out of the way of change, or we can lead change. The astute business leader will always chose the latter, while recognizing and avoiding the temptations of falling into the behaviors of the former. So what does it mean to lead change?

The market is seeking two seemingly conflicting goals:

  • Costs for capital equipment, installation, and operations of subsea developments will be reduced predominantly through global standardization of products and processes.
  • Technical innovations that boost efficiencies, increase capacities, enhance safety, and reduce costs are expected and will be rewarded significantly.

The market will determine how these two mandates balance out.  Future industry leaders will be determined by the companies and organizations that best achieve both of these goals simultaneously. Finding and developing synergies between these goals will be recognized.  The challenges before us are clear, but they will require significant changes to our existing business models and our inertia as an industry.

Our featured papers illustrate some ideas and methods to promote change in the ways we have conducted business, thus achieving positive results. The first paper illustrates an operator’s experience using standard equipment for the expansion of an existing subsea field in Brazil. Our industry tends to focus on locally developed solutions, but this was a case of finding the right answer in the global tool box. The authors explain the organizational resistance to this change, with the end results providing a very positive outcome. The second paper proposes a scientific method of efficiently establishing qualification requirements to increase safety and reliability of offshore operations—integrity assurance. This is a good example of recognizing a standardized way of focusing on the important issues facing technology qualifications. Our third paper is a contribution from academia describing concerns about fatigue strength evaluations of subsea wellheads, suggesting an analytical treatment that will actually reduce the calculated fatigue-­damage rates from thermal effects of operations, thus reducing risks (costs) of the system.

I also invite readers to consider reading the suggested additional papers describing some enabling technologies involving large-load-deployment systems, subsea in-line oil/water pipe separators, and operational experiences in subsea gas compression in the North Sea. All of these papers promote new approaches to executing offshore developments that involve change but promise to deliver positive outcomes in the appropriate applications.

Recommended Additional Reading

OTC 26138 Simplified Hydraulic Design Methodology for a Subsea Inline Oil/Water Pipe Separator by M. Stanko, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, et al.

OTC 26904 A New Subsea Large-Load-Deployment System by T. Krasin, Canyon Offshore, et al.

OTC 27159 Gullfaks Subsea Compression—Subsea Commissioning, Startup, and Operational Experiences by Bjørn Birkeland, Statoil, et al.


Tom Kelly, SPE, is a technical manager for the Western Region Systems Engineering group at FMC Technologies in Houston. He has been with FMC for 12 years and has worked 42 years in the subsea-equipment industry, designing subsea trees and subsea systems. Kelly holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Texas A&M University. He has been an active member of SPE since 2003 and of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) since 1977. Kelly has served on the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC)/ASME Program Subcommittee, which he chaired before accepting a 1-year term as chairperson for the OTC Program Committee in 2005. He holds four patents relating to subsea-equipment designs and has authored or coauthored several OTC papers relating to subsea technology. Kelly remains active in the industry, with continued service to the OTC/ASME Program Subcommittee, and he serves on the JPT Editorial Committee. Kelly has been a registered professional engineer in Texas since 1982. He can be reached at tom.kelly@fmcti.com.

Subsea Hardware and Technology

Tom Kelly, SPE, Technical Manager, FMC Technologies

20 July 2016

Volume: 68 | Issue: 8

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