MCEDD 2024: Experts define next-generation solutions for deepwater challenges

World Oil staff April 11, 2024

(WO) - The opening session of the MCEDD 2024 conference (Marine, Construction & Engineering/Deepwater Development) and its exhibition in Amsterdam got off to a fast start on Tuesday, April 9. MCEDD 2024 is hosted by Gulf Energy Information and its business lines, World Oil and Petroleum Economist. The conference’s overall theme this year is Deepwater Synergy: Next-Generation Solutions for a Sustainable Future.

Fig. 1. The first panel of MCEDD 2024 included, from left to right, Christophe Sarri, Doris Engineering; Alvaro Romero, Repsol; Amitabha Nath McDermott; Robert Large, OneSubsea; Alan Beere, Wood; and Kurt Abraham, World Oil Editor-in-Chief and moderator.

No less than five expert speakers (Fig. 1) headlined the opening session, entitled “Navigating the Future: Innovations and Challenges in Deepwater Oil and Gas Production and Contracting.” This panel discussion, moderated by World Oil Editor-in-Chief Kurt Abraham, was somewhat of an umbrella effort, that aimed to explore the dynamic landscape of deepwater oil and gas production, and focus on the latest innovations, technical advancements, and challenges faced by industry leaders.

Urgent vs. Important. First up was Wood Vice President for Oil & Gas Consulting, Alan Beere. He focused on the need for engineering services companies to sort out what is “urgent” versus what is “important” for their operator customers.

“Our industry and customers are tasked with providing affordable, sustainable, and secure energy,” said Beere, “but they are workforce-constrained. As an industry, we have lost experience as a result of oil price fluctuations; O&G industry public and political sentiment; the lure of energy transition and clean energy projects, environmental pressures, etc.”

Beere said his firm’s clients still have OPEX challenges and are barely able to keep up with their base business, which is O&G production, inspection and maintenance. These activities represent the “Urgent,” he noted.

As a result, continued Beere, these firms are unable to allocate time, people and resources to business transformational items—which he called the “Important”—and the continuous need for business improvement, optimization and transformation. In his estimation, engineering service companies need to help, therefore, with both the Urgent and Important. He also said that digital, and use of vast volumes of available data, is a key element. 

Beere outlined five areas that he thinks really summarize the keys issues facing our operator clients, and, therefore, service providers. These include aging assets, the need to reduced costs and maximize revenue; environmental focus; increased reliability and efficiency; and workforce constraints. He said the key is to tailor solutions to each client’s needs, delivering in three stages: advise, implement and realize.

The role of three goals. Next up was Robert Large, Subsea System Product & Technology Manager at OneSubsea. He spoke to the three goals of deepwater operations—secure, affordable and sustainable, and their components. He said it will be a challenge to achieve these goals against a backdrop of continued, strong need for oil and gas production to at least 2050.

Nevertheless, Large declared that the industry is up to the challenge, particularly the deepwater portion of the offshore sector. He pointed to a chart that showed deepwater assets, on average, producer noticeably lower CO2 emissions per boe produced than onshore fields and even other offshore properties.

Furthermore, noted Large, the trick will be to enable demand while accelerating decarbonization. And this is where he said that four industry components need to come together to meet the challenges. These include technology, people, culture and partnerships, not necessarily in that exact order. And these components, in turn, will form the basis for far greater collaboration in the industry. While companies have made some strides in fostering collaboration for the industry’s greater good, Large said that a wider effort will be needed in the coming years.

Addressing specific challenges. The third speaker was McDermott’s Senior Director of Offshore & Floating Engineering, Amitabha Nath. He spoke to specific challenges that his company is addressing. These include Subsea Automation and Digitalization; Decarbonization; an integrated solution for SPS and SURF; and HTHP and Sour Service Pipeline challenges.

For automation and digitalization, Nath said his firm is offering the SubseaXD collaborative tool, which accelerates field optimization/”optioneering” and generation of deliverables, along with enhancing progress reviews and serving as a single source of truth for “as-built data.” Meanwhile, ArborXD is a web-based platform that provides a consistent, detailed approach to carbon footprint calculations for a project’s lifecycle emissions, explained Nath. Through utilization of ArborXD at the concept stage, he said customers are informed and empowered to make decisions  that can reduce the ultimate operating facility emissions by up to 85%.

Regarding SURF (subsea umbilicals, risers and flowlines) and SPS (subsea production systems) considerations, Nath said his company has devised an integrated solution. Among the benefits of this solution, it makes optimized/compact subsea structures easier to lift and install; it realizes schedule optimization; and its imposition of a unified design philosophy across SPS and SURF results in standardized equipment configurations while minimizing interfaces.

Finally, as applies to HTHP and sour service pipelines, Nath said that McDermott has an integrated design that enhances pipeline safety, as risks are identified earlier. Accordingly, this generates cost savings, due to reduced repair rates. It also results in an extended pipeline lifespan by identifying potential issues much earlier.

An operator perspective. As the sole operator on the panel, Repsol’s Global Projects Director, Alvaro Ranero, discussed his company’s deepwater strategy, its portfolio of projects, project delivery in the current context, and specific deepwater efforts in Mexico.

He confirmed that Repsol’s strategy is split into three distinct lines of effort: conventionals, unconventionals and low-carbon solutions. And to “enable” this strategy, Ranero said there are five characteristics that support it. These include capital discipline, digital, talent, decarbonization and “license to operate.”

As regards Repsol’s portfolio of projects, Ranero said the company has spread out and diversified its deepwater effort over a half-dozen countries that include the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, Trinidad & Tobago, Colombia and Indonesia.

On the subject of project delivery in the current context, the director said that qualified resources, scarcity and supply chain limitations are being exacerbated by energy transition pressures. Regarding qualified resources, “attracting young talent to work in oil and gas projects is proving very challenging,” noted Ranero. “There is a lack of availability of experienced people to manage complex/large capital projects.” On the supply chain front, he said delivery times are longer, “with limited stock available on the shelf.” The increasing cost of materials and services is putting pressure on project economics. Complicating the situation, investment levels on energy transition projects are competing for qualified resources and supply chain services.

Finally, in Mexico, Respol is working on its B-29 deepwater development, where first oil (FO) is scheduled for 2028. Ranero said that there will be three horizontal producers at FO, plus one infill well two years after FO. In addition, the project will feature two horizontal water injectors two years after FO. The site will utilize a leased FPSO for 60,000 bopd. There also will be spare capacity for tie-backs.

Finishing off the panel was Christophe Sarri, Chief Commercial Officer at Doris Engineering, who discussed Oil & Gas Design Trends. He said there are three distinct market trends affection designs, including operators keeping up the production they already have; reducing GHG emissions at existing assets; and “minimalism.”

Regarding the up-keep of production, Sarri said this encompasses “Re-engineering of 20-to-30 year-old assets; re-assessment of an asset to full field life extension; working on brownfields; and providing 25 years of life extension.” He said he expects a ramp-up in brownfield spending through 2028.

When it comes to reducing GHG emissions on deepwater assets, Sarri said there are four main components to that effort. These include closing off/eliminating flares while implementing utilization of CCGTs (combined cycle gas turbines); CCS (carbon capture and storage); and electrification of offshore facilities.

Finally, Sarri said that minimalism will involve a fit-for-purpose approach, where there is increasing demand to design the leanest facilities possible, utilize less equipment as allowed, and keep things as light (less weight) as possible In addition, this approach should result in greater safety while generating less OPEX and fewer GHG emissions. It also will employ more drones, robots and digital twins.


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