Subsea expansion for 1999
Almost USD 5 billion will be spent on subsea equipment in the North and Norwegian Seas next year, according to a consultant's report.
This investment will put the region in first place for using such installations, says Norland Consultants. At USD 4.7 billion, the figure for this year is almost as high.
The Gulf of Mexico comes second for subsea spending, with west Africa as another petroleum province where such solutions are becoming increasingly common.
Statoil leads the way with subsea installations on the Norwegian continental shelf.
"We've helped to cut prices by awarding frame agreements and standardising the equipment," says adviser Eric Ulland in the subsea technology unit. "That makes it attractive to adopt subsea solutions."
He depicts a future in which a growing proportion of oil and gas processing takes place on the seabed, rather than on fixed or floating installations.
Today, only the wellheads and template are placed on the seabed, with wellstreams piped through flowlines to the surface for treatment. But the world's first subsea separation facility is due to be installed in 340 metres of water next year as part of Norsk Hydro's Troll Oil development, where Statoil is a partner.
"The pilot project on Troll involves separating water from the wellstream on the seabed and pumping it back into the reservoir," explains Mr Ulland.
"If this proves successful, it'll reduce the need for water separation on the surface and allow us to make topside processing facilities simpler and cheaper."
He reports that the concept of separating water from the wellstream is particularly suitable for deep water, because it does away with the need to lift the water column the many metres up to the surface.
The Troll Oil pilot plant will be tested in a covered dock at Framo outside Bergen in the New Year.