Untapped opportunity: More than 200 oil projects can hike output and profits from subsea boosting

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Untapped opportunity: More than 200 oil projects can hike output and profits from subsea boosting

A report by Rystad Energy highlighted the potential for subsea boosting, identifying more than 200 projects globally where the technology could make an immediate impact by increasing production profitably.

Rystad Energy’s Subsea Processing Screening Tool – a dashboard that analyses the different components of subsea processing – evaluated offshore projects worldwide and identified the best candidates for subsea boosting. They quantified costs, profits and the potential extent of increased output that are related to applying this sparsely-used technology.

The increase in recoverable reserves for the top 100 projects, out of more than 200 projects identified where subsea boosting would be profitable, averaged 61 million barrels of oil per project, with the amount varying widely depending on the size and location of each project. For every extra barrel of oil produced due to subsea boosting, operators can expect a profit of $11.30 on average.

The average investment cost to apply the subsea boosting solution for the above projects is at about $475 million, again varying widely depending on project characteristics.

Most of the identified candidate projects, nearly 50, are located in the US. The other countries rounding out the top 10 list are Brazil, Angola, Norway, the United Kingdom, Guyana, Nigeria, Ghana, Malaysia and Suriname.

The 10 companies that operate most of these projects identified by Rystad Energy are Petrobras, ExxonMobil, Shell, Equinor, BP, Chevron, Eni, LLOG, Murphy Oil and Apache.

Subsea boosting is the most mature technology within the subsea processing toolbox, and yet, much like the other subsea processing technologies, it is not widely adopted. Framo Engineering (now OneSubsea) installed the first subsea booster pump on Shell’s Draugen platform off Norway in 1993 but since then only another 50 projects have installed boosting equipment worldwide.

“Subsea boosting offers significant value creation, both for brownfield and greenfield developments, by reducing the wellhead backpressure at the seabed, which in turn accelerates production and increases total recoverable resources,” says Erik Vinje, analyst with Rystad Energy’s energy service team.

The project candidates deemed suitable in this analysis were identified by studying field characteristics and calculating the net present value from installing a subsea boosting system. This process considered the impact to the production profile, any increase in recoverable reserves and costs related to equipment, installation, power investments and topside modification. About 50% of the candidate projects are brownfield initiatives, where the quicker subsea boosting is applied, the larger the positive impact.

One of the main reasons for the low adoption rate seen thus far for boosting equipment relates to the reliability of these units. The operational downtime ratio of the pumps was a critical issue in the early days of subsea boosting, as any need for intervention involved expensive specialized vessels or drilling rigs to repair the unit. However, with advancing technology, the reliability of subsea units has increased in recent years.

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