The number of pipelaying support vessels (PLSV) to be operated in Brazil for Petrobras will see a decline in 2018 for the first time in five years. According to the Brazilian major, the company’s PLSV fleet might have 16 vessels by year-end, two less than what were under contract in 2017.

From 2013 to 2017, Petrobras had the world’s largest PLSV fleet, mainly because of the company’s high investments in offshore presalt activities. To some sources, this drop may not be reversed, considering the uncertain future of using flexible lines in future presalt projects.

Recently, SEN published an article about Petrobras’ evaluation of the use of flexible pipes in its presalt operations. Two accidents involving flexible risers supplied by TechnipFMC in the Lula and Sapinhoá presalt fields, two main producing fields of Brazil, helped to open the company’s eyes to this problem.

Subsea 7’s PLSV fleet, contracted by Petrobras, is expected to be cut by half in 2018, closing the year with four vessels for Petrobras.

Another PLSV from the company expected to leave Brazil this year is the Seven Phoenix, which has a contract with Petrobras that ends in July.

Dofcon, a joint venture (JV) that includes DOF and TechnipFMC, also had a contract expire in February.

But the JV was awarded a contract to build two new PLSVs that will come into operation for Petrobras by year-end 2018. The construction of Skandi Recife and Olinda is being completed at Vard Promar shipyard in the northeastern state of Pernambuco.

“In a scenario of lower demand by Petrobras, PLSV suppliers tend to look at other operators in order to find other opportunities in the South American country,” said Marcos Ortiz, an expert on Brazil’s oil and gas industry for MCZ Consulting Brazil. “Majors such as Chevron, which is working to contract a PLSV for the Frade Field, located in the Campos Basin as well as Statoil and Total, which respectively acquired the status of operators in the Carcará prospect and the Lapa Field, will also need to contract PLSVs in order to carry out subsea activities for their new phase of development.

“As for Petrobras, PLSV suppliers can offer their services to carry out alternative services,” he added.

Currently, Subsea 7 and Sapura continue to lead the market share of supplying PLSVs to Petrobras, operating six vessels. TechnipFMC has four contracted vessels; Subsea 7 and Dofcon will change positions. As for Sapura, the supplier will remain in the same place, since its contracts with Petrobras are expected to expire in 2019.

While the number of PLSVs to support Petrobras’ offshore activities is expected to drop in 2018, the number of FPSO contracts over the next five years is rising.

Petrobras is working to launch this year four tenders to acquire FPSOs to be operated in the Santos and Campos basins.

The tenders involve the:

  • Installation of a unit in the Sergipe-Alagoas Basin and the presalt Búzios located in the Campos Basin (the fifth FPSO to be installed in the area);
  • First production unit of the Marlim Field, located in the Campos basin, revitalization project;
  • Mero 2 FPSO for the Libra prospect, located in the Santo Basin presalt area; and
  • Installation of a new FPSO in the northern part of the Jubarte Field in Parque das Baleias, located in the Capixaba area of ​​the Campos Basin.