TechnipFMC is aiming to take subsea oil and gas production to the next level by reducing the weight and size of equipment on the seafloor while also simplifying configuration for flowlines and installation.

Called Subsea 2.0, the company formed nearly a year ago by the merger of Paris’ Technip and Houston’s FMC Technologies shrinks the average size, weight and part count of the subsea tree, manifold and other subsea infrastructure by about 50%. The company said the change also is capable of cutting lead times, shrinking the manufacturing footprint and reducing manual activities in production.

The subsea system with a streamlined design can be installed in one run, TechnipFMC CEO Doug Pferdehirt said recently during the company’s analyst day in Houston. The system integrates the installation of subsea production system (SPS) and subsea umbilicals, risers and flowlines (SURF), while eliminating the need for equipment such as pipeline end terminations and umbilical termination heads that sit between the SPS provider and the SURF provider.

“They don’t accelerate production. They don’t accelerate first oil. They don’t improve the performance of the reservoir. They don’t improve the flow rate,” Pferdehirt said of the eliminated equipment. “It’s the exact opposite. It’s greater risk, greater uncertainty and greater challenges over the life of the asset. We are simply removing those.”

The Subsea 2.0 design is simpler with the same functionality, explained Paulo Couto, senior vice president of integrated sub-systems for TechnipFMC.

The technology, which TechnipFMC said will be released Dec. 31, could lead to cost savings for part of the industry that has been hit hard by the downturn. Oil and gas companies, which reeled in less profit due to lower commodity prices, slowed offshore activity and cut spending.

“Our strategy is to make things cheaper, faster, accelerate production, resolve integrity issues and make it more serviceable,” Couto said. “The goal is to lower the breakeven of the economics, enabling many more subsea fields, making more subsea fields viable.”

Despite the potential savings for companies, TechnipFMC may still have some hurdles to overcome as analysts noted.

“Beyond qualification, the greatest hurdle is likely to be cultural,” Barclays said in a note. “New concepts take time for acceptance within big organizations, particularly technologically disruptive ones. Despite the cost savings, the oil and gas industry is notoriously slow to adopt a new concept. But another selling point is a reduction in risk: eliminating interface risk, creating more schedule certainty, dealing with only one team and a single warranty across the entire system.”

The Journey

Subsea 2.0 is set to emerge after about three years of R&D work as crews worked to eliminate waste and incorporate more of a manufacturing mind-set. Subsea 2.0 builds upon the company’s compact pipeline end manifold and horizontal connection system offering, taking the same concept to subsea trees.

Couto spoke about how the company deconstructed a large manifold down to each of its components, aiming to improve the design by getting rid of unnecessary parts without sacrificing quality or function. The manifold was reconstructed in a way that made it one-quarter of its original size and half the weight with 70% fewer parts.

“A big enabler for this was the use of subsea robotics. With subsea robotics we are following the trend in other industries to replace hardware with software,” Couto said, using the transition from tube TVs to flatscreen TVs as an example. “This replacement of hardware to software was to eliminate hundreds of electromechanical components from the hardware, simplifying the product.”

Robotics also had a hand in improving the fabrication process with automated production, taking on cladding and handling more equipment with less human intervention.

The smaller subsea tree, which Couto called the “workhorse of the industry,” is about 40% smaller, 50% lighter and has 60% fewer parts. The design process was similar in that the tree’s components, which numbered about 10,000 total, was deconstructed and then designed and assembled for functionality.

“But we did not stop there,” Couto said.

Using data from subsea wells from across the world TechnipFMC created pre-engineered project architecture, which enabled different configurations of the subsea equipment at the assembly line.

“Engineering will no longer be required after contract award,” he said, noting the shift from “engineer-to-order” to “make-to-order.”

“We are leveraging the full potential of the integration between flowlines and subsea hardware. … We are writing the future of this industry now,” Couto said.

The Response

In an analysts note Barclays described the Subsea 2.0 technology as “an enabler to lower costs.”

Pointing out how two-thirds of subsea development costs are related to installation, Barclays singled out the design’s reliance on all electric trees and control systems, which eliminates traditional umbilical without the need for hydraulic power. The analysts also noted the system’s electric trace heated flexible pipes replace traditional rigid jumpers that connect trees to the manifold and that two, instead of four, lighter construction vessels will be required.

TechnipFMC has carried out test cases with some of its clients. One involved a small field that comprises three wells with a manifold in the middle and a connection system. Couto said the operator was facing difficult economics with the stranded reservoir and struggled to reach a final investment decision. So TechnipFMC took a crack at the challenge with Subsea 2.0, he said.

“We managed to have a reduction of 70% of the weight to be deployed on the seabed from three heavy lifts to one heavy lift,” Couto said. “The delivery time of the conventional system was 18 to 20 months.”

He said Subsea 2.0 was delivered within 10 months, “so reduction of the delivery time by 50%—from sketch to delivery in 10 months with no previous inventory.

“If you extrapolate this test case to the entire water column you can envisage the magnitude of transformation that you’re going to impose to the entire water column,” he added.

The first application of the compact manifold and horizontal system connection system with flexible jumpers was part of plans for Phase 1 of Shell Offshore Inc.’s Kaikias deepwater project in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

So far, TechnipFMC has sold nine of the new subsea manifolds for developments in various parts of the world, including Brazil, the Gulf of Mexico and Guyana, Pferdehirt said. The first Subsea 2.0 tree sold will be installed in early 2018, he said, adding more will follow. “Our first new generation of control systems will be installed in the North Sea in 2018.”