ABB has been a leading player in the subsea oil industry since 1986, when it helped Statoil to develop the Tommeliten field. Among our products are the process controls for subsea equipment and the topside control systems that communicate with and automate the equipment on the sea bed.
Over the past 20 years, ABB has designed, manufactured and commissioned topside systems for most of the subsea contractors and their clients around the world, from Norway to Australia, Africa and North America. This experience is important because subsea automation is a complex business, partly because machines with different functions from different vendors have to be integrated into a single system, partly because more and more functions are being relocated to the bottom of sea. The culmination of this process will be something called “subsea to market” where the entire processing plant – production, separation and storage – is relocated to the sea bed and the oil and gas is piped from there directly to onshore tanks. ABB expects to see the first examples of this around 2020.
To keep pace with these developments, ABB is continuously refining its technology. For example, in the past, the trend was to separate DCS and MCS (that is, the distributed and master control systems). As the industry matures, operators are moving to a more cost-efficient integrated version, and although ABB still delivers DCS, MCS and standalone systems, we are increasingly developing our products to meet that need. And, to solve the interoperability problem posed by different IT protocols, we are active in the MDIS group that is working towards standardised and streamlined interfaces.