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Deepwater Production Advances

Industry needs are advancing, and topsides size and weight are increasing. This 3-D rendering illustrates the past, present and future (top to bottom) using the F4W hull, showing second-generation topsides (past), third-generation topsides similar to those on Brazil presalt FPSO units in operation now by SBM (present) and heavier fourth-generation topsides anticipated in the coming years (future).

A low oil- and gas-price environment encourages efficiencies. Spurred by the need to deliver more value at a lower cost, designers of deepwater production systems are examining ways to modify current designs and existing assets. The goal is to create systems with a broader range of capabilities and applications in a bid to provide units that offer unique value.

Increased activity in the fixed and floating systems sector has given operators enough confidence to move forward with programs that have been tabled for the last couple of years. January 2017 saw the first signs of resurgence, with the oil price hitting $55 for the first time in 18 months. The price stayed above $50 for the first quarter, and as the industry turned the page to 2018, things still appeared to be improving. Brent crude futures held above $70/bbl and West Texas Intermediate crude futures were at $66.24/bbl at the end of January, achieving a level analysts say has resulted in the strongest oil price in five years.

Across the board, analysts and investors are predicting a resurgence in deep water. And that means the time is ripe for reevaluating some of the novel concepts designed for deepwater production and examining some new ideas that are in development.

Something old, something new

Several of the production units that are preparing to go to work now are moving out of the inactive fleet. One of these is the BW Adolo FPSO vessel, which will work on the BW Energy-operated Dussafu project offshore Gabon following modifications at the Keppel FELS shipyard.

The interesting thing about the BW Adolo is that it began life as a very large crude carrier (VLCC) called Fina Europe, which was built in the Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) yard in South Korea in 1988. The VLCC went through several names over the ensuing years, eventually being converted and renamed yet again in 2009 to become the Azurite, the first floating, drilling, production, storage and offloading (FDPSO) unit in the world.

The vessel made history when it began production on the Murphy West Africa Ltd. Azurite deepwater field in the Mer Profonde Sud Block offshore Republic of Congo. With a storage capacity of 1.3 MMbbl of oil and processing capacity of 40 Mbbl/d, its unique design allowed it to be used for drilling and completing production and injection wells. Unfortunately, Murphy shut down the Azurite Field in fourth-quarter 2013 and abandoned it the following year, which left the FDPSO unit without a contract. It has not had a contract since that time.

Source: E&P

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