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Floating production units

Solutions for safe, reliable and efficient operations

For more than 50 years, ABB has worked closely with oil and gas companies, ship owners and marine engineers around the world to provide innovative solutions and services that meet the strictest requirements of safety, risk management, operational excellence and sustainability.

During that time we have fitted hundreds of specialised vessels with their power, automation and telecom systems. We design, manufacture and install most of the hardware, add the sophisticated software that runs it, that then we ensure that it works as efficiently as possible for as long as possible. This comprehensive set of services makes ABB the ideal partner for owners and operators throughout the life of an offshore vessel.

 

 

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Floating liquified natural gas

FLNG vessels resemble container ships, but are fitted with all the equipment necessary to receive, liquefy, store and offload natural gas after it is extracted from offshore fields. Once full, an FLNG plant transfers its cargo to the double-hulled tankers that will deliver it directly to the refinery.

These vessels have just been added to oil and gas companies’ toolbox, but are set to become increasingly common. Among their attraction is their agility, which allows them to exploit fields that would otherwise be uneconomical, and their minimal environmental impact compared with conventional production platforms.

A particular challenge when designing systems for FLNG facilities is to fit all the equipment needed to turn a gas into a –160°C liquid in a tightly confined area. Floating platforms must include every process element of an onshore plant, including the means to generate the powerful electrical loads necessary to refrigerate the gas while meeting demanding performance targets.  

 

Floating production storage and offloading

The main advantage of FPSOs is that they are standalone structures that do not need external infrastructure such as pipelines or storage tanks. Instead, they store the crude oil inboard and transfer it to a shuttle tanker at regular intervals. FPSOs come in different sizes depending on what kind of fields they’re developing, with the largest producing 200,000 barrels a day.

Most FPSOs are ship-shaped, with a high storage capacity and stability. One particular advantage of this stability is that it allows the wellhead to be located on the deck, rather than the seabed, which makes it easier to manage flow assurance and wellbore integrity.  The wellhead is located on a turret, so that the ship can rotate freely to point into wind, waves or current. One variant of FPSO design has a circular hull, which shows the same profile regardless of direction.

 

Floating regasification unit

This part of the gas production stream turns gas that has been liquefied for ease of transportation back into its gaseous form so that it can be processed to meet the desired specifications and fed into distribution grids. As with all floating production systems, it offers a flexible, low-cost alternative to fixed plants. In particular, it is useful for customers who are not ready to make the capital investment necessary to set up onshore regasification infrastructure, or have limited or fluctuating demand.

ABB supplies and installs the power and automation systems for these units. The principal challenge here is to ensure that the fuel is warmed from –160°C without endangering the vessel or its crew. This is a particular issue for floating units, which are a recent addition to the oil and gas industry’s toolbox, and so are not generally understood as well as onshore plants. ABB’s integrated control and safety system that ensures the process can be undertaken with minimal risk of leaks.

 

Floating storage and offloading

These vessels offer storage facilities to offshore oil fields, thereby avoiding the need to make a connection to onshore facilities. They take on oil through a pipeline from a processing platform, then hold it until it can be offloaded to a shuttle tanker, perhaps every month or so, and taken to a refinery.

Often, these vessels are former tankers that have been converted to act as floating storage units, and this involves some reconfiguration of the ship’s power systems and the installation of new systems, such as enhanced ventilation. ABB undertakes the installation and renovation of the ships power generation and distribution systems, and enhances them to take account of the clients special requirements, such as improved ventilation. We also install all the necessary control systems to control and measure the transfer of the crude oil. 

 

Tension leg wellhead platform

This platform is particularly useful for developing oil reservoirs in water depths as great as 1.5 kilometers. It gets its name from the tethers attached to each of its four corners, which are moored to the sea bed in such a way that the platform doesn’t move up or down in the swell. This vertical rigidity then allows the platform to have a drilling capability, if that is required. It also allows the production wellhead to be located on deck, rather than at the bottom of the sea, which in turn makes it easier to build up a picture of what’s happening in the wellbore, and to make whatever interventions are needed to get the best possible flow assurance.

ABB has the capacity to design, build and commission these platforms. For example, it has produced the Kizomba tension leg platform that was used to exploit the 1.2 kilometer deep Pazflor field off the coast of Angola. The platforms are fabricated and commissioned onshore and then towed to the location where it is to operate. 

 

Semi-submersible floating production unit

Increasingly, the oil industry needs to carry out operations at depths greater than 500 meters, where it is impractical to erect fixed structures. The obvious problem with floating platforms, however, is that they move up and down with the waves, whereas drilling can only take place on a stable platform. A solution to this problem was devised in the 1960s: the semi-submersible floating production unit, which is fitted with underwater ballast tanks to hold it steady. Since then, the concept has been applied to many types of service and support vessel, and semi-submersibles have become the workhorses of the offshore oil and gas industry.

ABB supplies a range of services for these units, including our usual power generation, distribution and automation hardware and software which promote the optimal operation of the drives. We also supply electric propulsion systems, such as the one we installed on China’s largest heavy lifting vessel back in 2008, and advanced digital systems such as our  Octopus Advisory Suite, which offers a comprehensive motion-monitoring, forecasting and decision-support toolkit to allow sea-going vessels to work safely in when stability has to be maintained. 

Image : © 2014 Aker Solutions

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