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18 Marine Structures (2005)251 263

Applicability rangesfor offshore oil and gas

productionfacilities
BeverleyF. Ronalds*'r
CSIRO Petroleum, Perth, Attstralia Received 29 November 2003; accepted 20 June 2005

Abstract In the early stages of the selection process for the hardware to exploit an offshore petroleum reservoir, it is important to be able to identily rapidly which production facility type(s) are likely to deliver the greatestvalue. This paper explores key features and constraints of the ten common fixed, floating and subseafacility options. Both shallow and deepwater are considered,along with regional variations. It is shown that facility applications may be categorised in a very simple matrix form, with the water depth and well count being particularly important drivers of facility choice. Crown Copyright €) 2005 Published by Elsevier Ltd. A11 rights reserved. tiebacks productionr Floatingplatforms;Subsea Facilityselection; Petroleum Keywortls:

1. Introduction The concept-screeningphase of an oil and gas'field development requires a working knowledge of the offshore facilities employed around the world. This paper outlines and compares the ten different production facilities in common use. Here a production facility is defined as the equipment and its supporting structure at which the well fluid is initially received.Surface facilities thus house the production risers while, for subseasatellites,the production facility comprises the seabedequipment clustered at the field site upstream of the export flowline(s).
* Tel. : + 61 864368700; : r 6l 86436 8 5 7 8 . f ax beverley.ronalds@csiro.auE-mail address: IAlso Distinguished The Universityof Western School of Oil and Gas Engineering, Visiting Professor, Australia. Ltd. All rightsreserved. by ftont 0951-8339/$-see matter Crown CopyrightO 2005Published Etsevier 1 doi:10. 6/j.marstruc.2005.06.00 101

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Characteristics of the various facility types are presented in summary form in Table 1. Table 1(a) gives selectedstatistics for the facilities. In Table l(b), key drivers for system selectionare listed, and relationships betweentheir properties and the various facilities are defined. Principal attributes of the different facilities that encourage or discourage their selection according to the key drivers are compared in Table l(c). These features and constraints, as well as the key drivers, are discussedin the following sections. is Note that the semi-submersible included twice in Table 1. This recognisesthat semi's fall into two categories those with and without direct vertical well access.Semi's differ from other facility types in that both permutations have been seenin significant numbers. It is also convenient to categoriseproduction facility types in another way "shallow water" and "deepwater" with the division at 300m. There are thousands of shallow water developments around the world. For the most part, a database of North Sea facilities is used in this study to demonstrate shallow water trends. The North Sea experience base is largely in shallow water and has the further benefits of being comprehensive (around 750 facilities) and well documented (e.g. [1]); many innovations have also occurred here. Deepwater facilities are much less prevalent and so a worldwide databasemay be utilised [2 4]. Although many factors interact in determining the optimal production system, the databasesindicate simple "rules-of-thumb" that greatly facilitate the pre-selectionprocess. These are developed in turn in the following sections.

2. Subseatiebacks Avoiding a surface-piercing production facility through the use of a subsea tieback to shore or to a remote host is an appealing field development option. Subsea technology has advanced extremely rapidly over the past decade, in particular. However,

Table 2 Comparison of minimum platform and subseasatellite functionality Feature Surface satellite (minimum platform) Subseasatellite Future Access Drilling Intervention Flow assurance Separation Boosting Water/gas injection Chemical injection Pigging Utilities Remote control Power Metering Past

MODU/Satellite Satellite+ boat

MODU vessel Specialist
Host/satellite Host/satellite Host/satellite H ost Host Host Umbilical Round-trip

Flowline/boat Satellite launcher

LOS/satellite/cable Diesel/cable Satellite MFM

Umbilical Umbilical Test line

B.F. Ronalds / Marine Structures1B (2005)251-263

2JJ

satellitesthat precludestheir use in many accessibilityremains a major challengefor subsea circumstances-accessibility for equipment operations, and also for delivery of utilities and (Table 2)-although all are receiving active attention by the industry. to aid flow assurance Flow assuranceis considered here, and the other aspectsin a later section.

2.1. Flow assurance The challengeof delivering multiphase reservoir fluids to the host with high availability Fig. 1 illustrates how maximum subseatieback is now commonly known as flow assurance. lengths have increasedover time. Gas- and oil-dominated tiebacks are reported separately, becauseof the considerabledifferencesbetweenthem. In particular, gas-dominatedsubsea tiebacks of up to 160km are under development,whereasmost oil-dominated tiebacks are less than 30km in length. Technical and economic considerationsinteract in determining a feasibletieback length. With low reservoir energy, the distance the fluid can flow at a practical pressure and production rate is limited without boosting. Enhanced oil recovery (EOR) mechanismsare also commonly employed to increase production-such as water or gas injection or gas lift-which require additional import flowlines to the satellite field. The temperature drop down a long multiphase export flowline encourages the formation of solids such as hydrates and paraffins. This may be managed through different combinations of insulation, pipe-in-pipe construction, active heating, chemical injection, pigging and free water removal. A corrosive fluid may require steel alloy pipe. These various complex configurations and exotic materials bring increasing difficulties and expenseover longer distances. As a result, it is often economic to choose a surface facility to perform the functions required at the field location. Recent record tieback lengths for oil-dominated satellitesin Fig. I have been achievedin part through the placement of additional equipment on the seabed. This has included pig-launchers, which subsea or downhole multiphase flow metering (MFM) and sub-sea enable a single export flowline rather than the dual flowpaths commonly employed for oil

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B.F. Ronalds I Marine Strudltres 18 (2005) 251-263

tiebacks. Subseamultiphase pumping, water-driven from the host, has also been adopted. Further technology advances of this type may be anticipated in future (Table 2). Gas satellitefields, in contrast, have simpler tiebacks for two reasons:they are generally exploited by natural depletion, and fluid export is lessproblematic. Longer tieback lengths are thus possible, although there are ongoing hardware challenges associatedwith the delivery of utilities to the subseawellheads.

3. Shallow water Fig.2(a) shows the distributions of jackets and remote subseatiebacks installed in the North Sea since 1980. A distinct demarcation is apparent, with subsea tiebacks being employed in deeper water and for lower well counts in comparison with platforms. Intuitively, jacket costs are expectedto increasestrongly with water depth, whereas subsea satellite costs are more transparent to water depth, but increase steadily with well count.

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B.F. Ronalds I Marine Structures IB (2005)251 263

257

3.L Access To A secondimportant factor here is easeof access. aid the discussion,the platform data are divided into two categoriesin Fig. 2(a); those that operate in a normally unattended mode are marked with a cross. In Fig. 2(b) the platforms are distinguished according to whether or not they support a drilling rig. The figures show that platforms with 20 or more wells are nearly always manned and have drilling and workover equipment. These facilities are also likely to have full production and processingcapabilities. Such features are more affordable with the larger production rate generally associatedwith a high well count and can bring substantial economic returns in greater reliability, productivity and ultimate recovery. North Sea platforms with less than 20 wells generally do not have drilling capability; unmanned operation is also common. A significant proportion of these production platforms perform first stage separation prior to export to a central processinghub or to shore. Even minimum platforms retain accessadvantages over subsea satellitesbecause they frequently support light intervention equipment such as wireline and coiled tubing, and periodic visits for inspection, maintenance and repair are relatively straightforward. Remote subseasatellites,in contrast, require a mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU) or specialist intervention vessel and subsea equipment for workover (Table 2). Subsea tiebacks are thus more suitable for low well counts where little drilling and intervention is anticipated and a lower recovery factor is acceptable. The largest jack-up MODUs can operate in cantilever mode over a fixed platform in water depths of up to around l20m in the North Sea; hence, the jack-up is the drilling system of choice within the lower left corner in Fig. 2. Jack-up drilling is often not suitable for high well counts becauseof the need to relocate the unit around the platform to reach all the wells. In deeper water, a platform with dry trees must support a derrick, which is expensive for a low well count. Thus the combination of few wells and a water depth d>120m is not conducive to a fixed platform solution, but favours a subseasatellite. Furthermore, the expenditure profile typical of subsea solutions suits the lower production rate, greater uncertainty and shorter field life that often accompaniesa low well count. Features include lower CAPEX and reduced cycle time, with a trade-off of greater OPEX in intervention activities after revenue has started to flow. Two dividing slopesk: dlw are included in Fig. 2(a), where ru is the well count. In the region above the upper line with k - 8 m, platforms are chosen,with subseatiebacks being the solution for k>20m. Subseatiebacks are also common between the two boundaries, especially for oil-dominated fields. However, there is also a number of jackets in this intermediate zone. It is interesting to note that the majority of these are recent developments, commonly being high pressureihigh temperature (HPHT) gas-dominated fields serviced by a minimum platform. Subseatrees bring challengesfor the control of HPHT wells. Platforms have also been preferred for gas sales contracts requiring high availability and when first stage processingis of benefit. 3.2. Utilities A final factor is that the adoption of a minimum platform rather than a subseatieback may simplify or even avoid the umbilical from the host, which is advantageousfor long gas tiebacks or when considerable satellite functionality is required. As indicated in

258

l8 Structures (2005)251-263 B.F.Ronald.s I Marine

Table 2, this is achievedby using line-of-sight (LOS) or spacesatellitecommunications and control, by generatingpower onboard, and by transporting injection chemicals by boat. In deeper water, a control buoy could perform these functions (e.g. East Spar offshore Australia). 3.3. Floaters In addition to fixed platforms and subseasatellites,Fig. 2(b) indicates floaters to be a viable solution in moderately shallow North Sea waters. These are clustered in the region of low-to-intermediate well counts, together with water depths where cantileveredjack-up MODUs are either infeasible or very expensive-hereit is an advantage for floaters to not have dry wells. For d>kw, floaters compete for selectionagainst subseatiebacks, with the former likely to be chosen for long oil-dominated tiebacks. The FPSO is particularly suitable here as it even allows the oil export line to be eliminated. In cases where d<kw, the choice is between a fixed platform and a floater. A short and an FPSO servicelife or a dispersedwell pattern favours a FPSO or semi-submersible, in-field storage and tanker is again likely to be chosenwhen a very long oil tieback suggests jacket may enable the facility to be unmanned, which brings export. Conversely, a considerable safety benefits; this option is currently not possible for floaters due to their operational complexity. Jackets are also preferable when frequent well intervention is anticipated. 3.4. Rellionul influences Several further observationsmay be made in connection with Fig. 2(b). First, there are very few platforms in the region with w>20 and d<70m. In shallow water depths it is often more cost-effectiveto develop a large field with multiple small production platforms rather than extended reach wells from a single drilling centre. This philosophy is demonstrated frequently in the Southern North Sea. It is noted that floaters are confined to d270m in Fig. 2(b). They cannot be employed in very shallow water in harsh environments as there is then insufficient compliance in the risers to accommodate the considerable motions. There is a tendency for concrete gravity structures (CGS$ to be employed rather than jackets in deeper waters and for higher numbers of wells. North Sea jackets have fatigue challengesin these conditions. Large CGSs also allow inshore mating and integration of the topside and substructure; the alternative of a sequenceof offshore lifts followed by extensivehook-up and commissioning is problematic for large topsides. Production jackups have a similar self-installing capability. CGS construction requires less specialised equipment and expertise than for jackets, and jack-ups may be readily converted from other duties or reused from another field. Both may thus be cost-effectiveshallow water solutions in regions with little construction infrastructure, with CGSs having the additional advantage of oil storage. As mentioned, the various boundaries of applicability in Fig. 2 relate to the North Sea, and might be expectedto differ for other petroleum provincesdue to the many natural and man-made regional variations that influence life-cycle economics.They may also vary over time. By way of example,data for Australasian facilities are presentedin Fig. 2(c). Although

B.F. Ronalds I Marine Structures 18 (2005) 251-263 Table 3 Influence of water depth and well count on facility selection
Water Depth d Shallow <120m Very High >36 High 20,16 Mod Shallow Mod Deep 300-500m Deep Vcry Deep I 500-1350m11350-l800ml>1800m I Ultm-deeP

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the subseatieback database,in particular, is very small, the generaltrends for jackets and FPSOs are in fact quite similar to those for the North Sea in Fig. 2(a) and (b). Several production jack-ups and CGSs and have also been employed recently in this region. In contrast, the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) exhibits different trends. FPSOs have not yet been deployed here. However, with severalthousand lightweight jackets and topsides,fixed platform construction is cheap. In addition, standardised equipment including portable drilling packages and process skids is commonplace. For these reasons, jackets are frequently used for low-to-intermediate well counts in moderate water depths, rather than floaters or subseatiebacks; this is indicated in Table 3. 4. Deepwater dry-tree platforms North Sea fixed platforms are combined with a worldwide database of deepwater platforms with dry trees in Fig. 3(a); the majority of the latter are located in the GOM and have full processing capability. It is apparent that the different platform types ale again clustered into distinct groups according to their water depth and well count. The various water depth and well count ranges are classifiedfurther in Table 3. As already discussed, for shallow water depths and k<20m, fixed platforms are adopted. Both fixed platforms and compliant towers are employed in moderate water depths and for very high or high well counts (w>20). With these platforms having a braced substructure extending through the water column, conventional well conductors may be used, supported laterally at points along their length. The conductors can then be set at a close spacing without risk of interference under extreme environmental loading. For deepwater(500 1350m) and high well counts (20(w{36), the dry-tree platform of choice is the "large" tension leg platform (TLP). The upper water depth is limited by the tendon mooring and the risers: the tension forces in these elements increase rapidly in deepwater, resulting in a large hull buoyancy requirement, and then greater tendon tensions.This design spiral becomesmore acute with larger numbers of wells and in more

B.F. Ronalds I Marine Structures lB (2005) 251-263 Table 3 Influence of water depth and well count on facility selection
Water Depth d Shallow <120m Very High >36 High 20-36
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the subsea tieback database, in particular, is very small, the general trends for jackets and FPSOs are in fact quite similar to those for the North Sea in Fig. 2(a) and (b). Several production jack-ups and CGSs and have also been employed recently in this region. In contrast, the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) exhibits different trends. FPSOs have not yet been deployed here. However, with severalthousand lightweight jackets and topsides,fixed platform construction is cheap. In addition, standardised equipment including portable drilling packages and process skids is commonplace. For these reasons, jackets are frequently used for low-to-intermediate well counts in moderate water depths, rather than floaters or subseatiebacks; this is indicated in Table 3. 4. Deepwater dry-tree platforms North Sea fixed platforms are combined with a worldwide database of deepwater platforms with dry trees in Fig. 3(a);the majority of the latter are located in the GOM and have full processingcapability. It is apparent that the different platform types are again clustered into distinct groups according to their water depth and well count. The various water depth and well count ranges are classifiedfurther in Table 3. As already discussed, for shallow water depths and k<20m, fixed platforms are adopted. Both fixed platforms and compliant towers are employed in moderate water depths and for very high or high well counts (w>20). With these platforms having a braced substructure extending through the water column, conventional well conductors may be used, supported laterally at points along their length. The conductors can then be set at a close spacing without risk of interferenceunder extreme environmental loading. For deepwater(500 1350m) and high well counts (20(u.,(36), the dry-tree platform of choice is the "large" tension leg platform (TLP). The upper water depth is limited by the tendon mooring and the risers; the tension forces in these elements increase rapidly in deepwater, resulting in a large hull buoyancy requirement, and then greater tendon tensions.This design spiral becomesmore acute with larger numbers of wells and in more

B.F. Ronakls / Marine Structures 18 (2005) 251 263

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severemet-oceanconditions. Although a large TLP has a roomy moonpool, the riser count may also be limited by the substantial spacing required to accommodate their toptensioning equipment and to avoid harmful clashing in deepwater.Unlike other deepwater dry-tree platforms, the large TLP has the benefit of enabling inshore topside integration. Moderately low to intermediate well counts (5<u'{20) and deep to very deepwater (500-1800m) is the domain of the spar. The spar's taut catenary mooring is relatively insensitiveto water depth, and the risers are generally self-supportedwith large air cans so their tension loads are not transferred to the hull. However, theseair cans become large in very deepwater, which limits the number that may be accommodated within the spar's single column. Finally, a secondcategory of "small" TLPs has proved to be economic for 5-9 well slots. These may have a lighter hull than the spar, although sometimesat the expenseof inshore integration. 4.1. Drilling The platforms in Fig. 3(a) are further distinguished according to their drilling philosophy. In the same way as for shallow water platforms in Fig. 2(b), deepwater platforms with 20 or more well slots support a drilling rig, whereas drilling capability is much more unusual for w<20.

B.F. Ronalds / Marine Stntctures 18 (2005 ) 251 263 Table 4 Drilling options lor dry-tree wells Well counl Water depth Platform Jacket Spar Small TLP Any dry-tree Drilling

261

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Jack-up rig through platform platlbnn Floating ri g-trar.rslate Floating ri g-pre-drilling Platform-mounted rig

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The various ways in which surface wells may be drilled are summarisedin Table 4. A for MODU may be employed after the platform is in-placein just two circumstances: jackets earlier, and for spars in deep or very deepwater;the latter is in shallow water, as discussed achievedby translating the spar hull on the catenarymooring. This again helpsto explain the few dry-tree platforms in moderate water depths with intermediatewell counts in Fig. 3(a). The only remaining alternative to a platform drilling rig is to pre-drill all wells by MODU prior to platform installation. The adoption of small TLPs shows pre-drilling to be cost-effectivefor moderately low well counts. However, for a higher well count, this approach would generate considerable up-front cost and delay in first oil not only in development drilling, but also because of the additional appraisal effort required to commit to a final well plan prior to gaining any reservoir production data. In comparison to moderate water depths, deepwater dry-tree platforms are seento be costeffective for rather small numbers of well slots. In part, this is due to the rrlative transparency of buoyant hulls to water depth. However, a very important feature here is that deepwater platforms remote from other infrastructure become production hubs, with their life extended by tying back subseasatellite wells that would not otherwise have been developed. 5. Wet trees 5.1. FPSOs and semi-submersibles The worldwide database of floaters is plotted in Fig. 3(b) to the same scale as Fig. 3(a). Unlike deepwater dry-tree platforms, floaters are deployed in many petroleum provinces and across a very wide range of water depths and well counts. In particular, production semi's and FPSOs are utilised in deep to ultra-deepwater and for very high well counts-a combination for which no dry-tree platform is currently suitable. These recent and ongoing developments are labelled in Fig. 3(b). Floaters are suited to ultra-deepwater with their catenary mooring system. Semi'smay support a very high well count as the risers hang off the deck edge or pontoon in catenarieswithout the requirement for tensioning. Furthermore, manifolding the wells at the seabedmay reduce the number of risers considerably. For FPSOs, the riser count may be constrained by the turret. However, in benign environments, FPSOs may be spread-moored, making very high riser counts possible. The spread-mooredFPSO is the processingplatform of choice for the large fields in deep to very deepwatercurrently coming on-stream in West Africa, and has also been adopted offshore Brazil. In addition to these major developments, Fig. 3(b) indicates that floaters are very commonly employed in moderate water depths and for low-to-intermediate well counts.

262

B.F. Ronalds I Marine Structures 18 (2005) 251-263

6 FPSO . Se m i

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This reinforces the trend shown in Fig. 2(b) that floaters fill an important niche in this zone where dry-tree platforms have limitations. Fig. 3(b) further illustrates that FPSOs (but not semi's) have been adopted in very shallow water; this is only feasible where met-ocean conditions are benign. Floaters thus demonstrate versatility across the complete spectrum of field sizes and service lives. Both FPSOs and semi's have a large deck area and support inshore integration, making them very suitable for large topsides.This is aided for FPSOs by their large displacement.However, conversionsand reuse of the facilities is also very common, and the reduced CAPEX and developmentschedulein such casesis advantageousfor small fields and early production systems. This versatility is indicated in Table l(b) for the relevant key drivers using the term " Various". FPSOs cannot yet support drilling. Around one-third of semi's have drilling capability (Fig. 3(b)), which makes the semi a competitor to deepwaterdry-tree platforms when direct is vertical well access desired.However, systemswith subseawells but without drilling offer an advantage over dry-tree platforms in their well versatility: the wells may be distributed optimally around the field(s) with all through-life drilling, completion and workover operations performed by MODU. For floaters without drilling capability, the choice between FPSOs and semi's may be influenced by the field's gas-to-oil ratio (GOR). The oil and gas export rates for deepwater FPSOs and semi's are compared in Fig. 4. It is seen that semi's have achieved large gas export rates whereasFPSOs are commonly used for oil-dominated fields. This is a function of both the latter's oil storage, and also gas processingand export/disposal challengesfor FPSOs located in harsh environments. Hull availability is also a very important aspect of facility choice for conversions. 5.2. Subseatiebacks The combined databaseof North Seaand deepwaterremote subseatiebacks is presented fill in Fig. 3(c). Subseasatellitessuccessfully the gaps left by dry-tree platforms in Fig. 3(a) at low well counts over the complete water depth range. A very recent trend is for subsea

B.F. Ronakls I Marine Strltctures IB (2005) 251 263

263

tiebacks to also be selectedfor several developmentswith intermediate well counts; these are labelled in the figure. 5.3. Mini-floaters Finally, Fig. 3(b) also includesdata points for four mini-floaters.The mini-floater category comprisescell spars,mono-column TLPs and other proposed hull forms that support only a low number of subsea wells and a small topside (Table 1(a)). They thus have a very lightweight hull, making them a cost-effectivealternative to the subseatieback for small, deepwater fields with flow assurancechallengesor where it is advantageousto develop a hub. and conclusions 6. Discussion The key drivers for facility selectionoutlined in the foregoing discussionare summarised in Table 1(b). However, the specifictrends in water depth and well count demonstrated in Figs.2 and 3 may be formulated with more clarity in the format of Table 3. This table is sub-divided into six water depths and five well count ranges. The shading indicates that FPSOs and semi's are found in most combinations of well count and water depth. Other production systems have much more specific applications, as itemised in the table, and there is a number of zones where no dry-tree platform is suitable. Some recognition of regional variations is made in the table using italics. By virtue of how Tables 74 are derived, they are largely a reflection of current practice forthcoming technology innovations are not incorporated. Nonetheless, the tables and the background discussion should be of use in the preliminary stages of the facility selection process for a particular field, in rapidly pin-pointing the likely optimal production system(s)or highlighting any challengeswhere the limits of current experience are being approached. They also indicate gaps in the current suite of options where future innovation might be of particular benefit; several of these are explored elsewhere[5]. The water depth and the well count are seen to be very important drivers of concept selection. Both are variables: the well count is an output of the chosen production plan, while in some situations the water depth may be adjusted by moving the platform location. This suggests value of integrating facilities and subsurfaceconsiderationsin the system the selectionprocess.For example, overlaying plausible well count and water depth ranges on Table 3 may point to a different solution than stipulating a particular number of dry well slots, which will contain in-built (and perhaps unquantified) conservatism. Acknowledgement This work was supported by BHP Billiton Petroleum. References
[] [2] [3] [4] [5] T h e No r th Se a F ie ld De ve lo p m e n t Gu ide,8th ed. Oi l fi el d P ubl i cati ons;2001. Proc. OTC, Houston, various years. O ffsh o r e . Pe n n We ll.va r io u s jssu e s. Offshore Engineer, Atlantic Communications, various issues. . Ronalds BF. Deepwater lacility selection O-lC 14259,Proceedingsof OTC 2002.

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