Increasing Efficiency, Safer Operations Key Themes at OTC

Topics: Subsea systems Topsides/floating production systems
Don Underwood, director of subsea processing for FMC Technologies, speaking at a panel session in Houston.

Despite the downturn in the oil and gas industry, more than 68,000 experts and leaders gathered from across the world in Houston for the 2016 Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in May. The number of attendees, from 120 countries, put this year’s OTC among the top 15 in attendance in its 48-year history.

“As it has since 1969, the world came to OTC to make critical decisions, share ideas, and develop business partnerships to meet global energy demands,” said Joe Fowler, 2016 OTC chairman. The conference included 11 panel sessions, 24 executive keynote presentations, and more than 325 technical paper presentations.

Increasing efficiency while ensuring safe operations was a key theme at this year’s conference. Sessions covered new technologies that not only reduce costs to the operator but enhance the overall safety of the operations; cost-­effective advances in well cementing technologies; and use of RFID to precisely track drillpipe.

Subsea Processing

Panel sessions covered a variety of industry issues, including the value of subsea operations. Moving oil/water separation equipment from platforms to the seabed looks inevitable, but based on the current rate of adoption, it may require a long-term outlook. Out of the 5,000 wells with subsea completions, only five have used some variety of separation, whether it is separating water from oil, gas from liquids, or treating seawater before it is injected into a reservoir.

Jeff Jones, senior subsea systems consultant at ExxonMobil, talks about the company’s effort to incorporate subsea separation to make it easier to lift oil from the seafloor.


A panel made the case for why separators are a better option in deep water than lifting water a mile or more, processing it, and pumping it back down to the bottom for injection into the ground.  “It is going to happen,” said Jeff Jones, senior subsea systems consultant for ExxonMobil. “We will get back to it.” Jones referred to subsea separation in the past tense because it has been a while since the five projects, eight if you include some smaller units used for pilots, have gone into service.

“It is not as dead as you think,” said Don Underwood, director of subsea processing for FMC Technologies. “We are in a world where, perhaps, operators cannot go forward with greenfield projects,” but still need to find ways to add production to make up for declines in older wells.

As for what will turn the inevitable technology into a practical option, the one-word answer is cost. Statoil, which has been a major supporter of moving operations subsea, has said that a 50% cost cut is needed, while Petrobras has put that number at 30%.

This article is reserved for SPE members and JPT subscribers.
If you would like to continue reading,
please Sign In, JOIN SPE or Subscribe to JPT

Increasing Efficiency, Safer Operations Key Themes at OTC

15 June 2016

Volume: 68 | Issue: 7