DNV GL Oil & Gas: Joint industry project seeks to advance
Dec. 10, 2015 + + + Subsea production systems are an integral part of FPSO
and other floater-based field developments, as well as for new tie-ins to
old installations. Over the past 15 years, subsea technology has
moved from subsea wells, manifolds, flowlines, and templates, to include
subsea boosting, separation, and now compression. In the near
future, deepwater wells will require more complex subsea equipment.
Looking further ahead, the industry expects to see automated production
entirely located on the seabed, piping oil and gas directly to shore
through the “subsea factory” concept.
The recent downturn in the
oil and gas market has led to a greater focus on cost efficiency. Though
cost has always been an integral part of offshore field development,
falling oil prices have forced the subsea industry to reassess what counts
as best practice in the manufacturing and employment of subsea equipment.
To this end, the industry has begun a series of joint industry
projects (JIPs), led by DNV GL, to set guidelines and recommended
practices in five areas: re-engineering, workovers, component catalogues,
compliance with established standards, and standardized documentation. A
sixth JIP, dealing with specifications for forgings, has already resulted
in a new recommended practice.
The overall aim is to cut cost,
lead-time, and uncertainty, and thereby help the subsea industry stay
competitive. The need is obvious when a single project may have as many as
80,000 associated documents.
The standardization discussion began
three years ago, when it centered on making identical parts. It quickly
became clear that a unified tool box of products and equipment did not go
far enough to harmonize processes and procedures, and could even cause
more inefficiencies and fragmentation. The core challenge lies in the fact
that oil companies have different technical specification requirements,
and suppliers have tailored their subsea equipment according to what the
end customer specified. As a result, similar equipment, doing similar
jobs, may for example be made out of different steel depending on the end
This bespoke style of manufacturing makes for elevated costs and extended
lead times. Standardizing is about creating predictability throughout the
supply chain, not necessarily identical components. The automotive sector
is a clear example of standardization in practice. Though manufacturers
make different versions of a standard car, the factory line, materials,
processes, and procedures are essentially the same.
Documentation JIP aims to come up with a recommended practice which
provides a minimum set of documentation requirements for all major subsea
components. Increased predictability will improve industry practices, and
this will help operators, contractors, and suppliers better understand and
manage their subsea documentation. In turn, they will all benefit from
reduced lead-time; reduced documentation requirements and replications;
enhanced experience transfer; transparency; and improved quality. However,
what is really important is that various players in the industry are loyal
to the agreed guidelines.
A lack of trust
The oil and gas industry is
still struggling to grasp the principle of standardization, and at the
same time there is a lack of governance and a degree of distrust in the
industry that impedes the process of standardization.
innovation and smart standardization are critical to strip back complexity
and in turn, lower costs and enable rapid and efficient technology
implementation. The industry needs to get the balance right on when to
trust and when to interact. Trust needs to be built through improved
governance with all parties pulling together in the right direction.
When an operator orders a new piece of equipment, the level of
interaction required between the operator, the regulator, the
certifier/verifier, and the manufacturer adds to the scope and adds layers
of complexity to the process without adding value. The industry needs to
arrive at a new equilibrium where the scope is reduced, allowing the
industry to operate at a reasonable margin to be sustainable and have a
Costs have increased mainly due to inefficiencies
and scope creep. Unproductive activities come, as mentioned, from
unnecessarily complex specifications. At the same time, there is too much
scrutiny in design, engineering and testing, and not enough trust that
each party is doing their job properly.
As a result, operators have
become overly concerned with the basic components that make up the
equipment, rather than concentrating on more fruitful areas, such as
optimizing on a system level. This issue has now been partly tackled with
the publication of the Recommended Practice (RP) for Steel Forgings for
Subsea Applications, resulting from a two-year JIP.
Looking to the
Subsea processing is now a real alternative to conventional
technologies, but there are currently limits to its widespread adoption
and hence on its potentially transformative effect on the industry.
For brownfield projects, the various technologies may be used alone or
in combination with other technologies. In contrast, an all-subsea
solution has more limited applicability for greenfield projects. The most
likely near future all-subsea greenfield applications are oil and gas
field developments in mature geographies. Gas discoveries that only a few
years ago were assumed to be developed with subsea compression to onshore
LNG liquefaction are now instead moving in the direction of floating
liquefaction, FLNG. For deepwater applications, all-subsea solutions need
to overcome shortfalls related to power, complexity, and availability.
A DNV GL JIP is being initiated to work toward standardization of
subsea processing. The first step will be to define a functional
description and a specific plan for standardization for subsea pumping.
Phase 2 will continue with subsea separation and injection and subsea
compression. The outcome of the JIP will be a guideline and a DNV GL
Recommended Practice for industry use.
Major JIPs, such as DNV GL’s work
on subsea standardization, stand to shake up relationships at every level
of the offshore value chain. The growing complexity of subsea systems is
starting to have an ever-increasing impact on an operator’s ability to
effectively monitor, inspect, and repair affected systems. Moreover, the
challenges of designing and employing original equipment in even deeper
water will only further restrict an operator’s ability to respond to
fatigue and failure efficiently.
Having a clear focus on
collaboration and innovation gives the industry a neutral ground for
businesses, and will enable regulators and advisory professionals to come
together to develop solutions to complex subsea challenges quickly and
effectively. Standardization will be important to secure a strong and
coordinated mutual approach in order to achieve the goal of more
profitable subsea developments.
The key to achieving this is to
create predictability throughout the entire supply chain to allow
optimization at every step. Smarter standardization will still allow for
customization through configuration of standard modules, while also
streamlining work processes involved in designing, manufacturing, and
operating technology. This will enhance quality and drive a profitable and
reliable subsea future.
Source: Tore Irgens Kuhnle, Bjørn Søgård,
Bente Helen Leinum
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