Don’t blow your top – 20K is here, again

After 40 years in the UK, I have to admit that no one can do cliches like the Brits. One of my favourites is you wait for a bus and then three come along one after another referring to something long awaited. Then again, a friend of mine and I formulated a theorem in university known as Wallace’s Phenomenon. To wit, something you never heard of then appears a number of times in quick succession. Who was Wallace? Don’t known. By anyway, take your pick.

So it is with 20K subsea production systems. It was only just about two months ago that talk about high pressure subsea production equipment hit the news with the planned development of the Shenandoah field in the Gulf of Mexico by LLOG with an expected order for TechnipFMC for the subsea hardware. Now we have Chevron (63%) and partner Total sanctioning the long talked-about Anchor field, another high pressure reservoir in the deep waters (1,524m) of the Gulf of Mexico with a floater and subsea wells. Then before we could take a breath, Total again, this time with Equinor (40%), jumped in with its other foot announcing the beginning of FEED work at North Platte, which will see yet another floater (in 1,200m) with a 20K system.

Chevron which has already ordered the subsea hardware from OneSubsea under a recently announced 20-year frame agreement has proclaimed that it has knocked 33% off the cost of this project since whenever it was first looked at. We will have to wait to see where the N Platte order goes, but Total has had a proclivity towards TFMC in the past for many, but not all, of its West African projects.

These three projects are seen as a part of two trends. Firstly, subsea into the HPHT market and secondly, but more significantly, a deepwater revival based in the GoM, despite a slowing of a shale activity in the USA.

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One of the favourite current buzzwords is collaboration. I have always thought this means suppliers cut their margins and operators ‘collaboratively’ clap their hands. Is this cynical or what, you might well ask.

A recent survey conducted by Oil & Gas UK and Deloitte suggested there might well be some truth here. There has been a marginal decrease in the Collaboration Index this year with a 20% fall (to 26%) in those saying cost reduction was the main reason for collaboration, while knowledge and sharing of experiences come a close second (24%). Some concern is expressed that barriers remain to achieving the best outcome from collaboration and there is a threat of a return to the bad old days. And just when companies thought it was safe to go back in the water…

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Which brings me to the final point – the current UK licensing round. Lots of interest and a big drive for energy integration. The recent announcement of plans for finding new ways to both generate power offshore, ie using renewables, and the re-use of old platforms could be a gamechanger here. If the industry showed real moves to reduce emissions and embrace renewables, the climate change movement might see some value in collaboration. There is that word again.

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With great sadness I have to mention the passing of the esteemed pipeline engineer – and a friend of mine – Andrew Palmer. It is easy to focus on the technical achievements of folk in the industry and AP’s were lengthy. Upheaval buckling, pipeline movement on the seabed and arctic pipelines were just some of his areas of expertise. But he was also a man of great erudition – befitting someone with degrees from Cambridge and Brown in the USA – with a comparably wicked sense of humour.

I first met him when he worked for Bob Brown and was always mystified by his departure from RJBA. He then set up AP & Associates which he sold before embarking on his academic career back at Cambridge (until 2005) and later the National University of Singapore from which he retired in 2015. He remained in Singapore until his recent death.

I have to mention two personal items relating to AP. Firstly, he once told me, with some glee on his part and pride on mine, that SEN was the only offshore newsletter where he would find the word ‘eponymous’. And one of my career highlights was when he asked me to give a lecture on the subsea production systems to his Cambridge mechanical engineering students. Goodbye Andrew, it was great to have known you.

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Eight months into this blog and I am still enjoying doing it and I hope all of the readers, now into the multiple thousands, are finding it useful and entertaining as well. Pass it on to anyone and everyone in your circles and companies. Happy holidays and New Year’s to you all. Back in January.

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