Can engineering progress still solve new offshore technological challenges? The offshore oil and gas sector has traditionally relied on current technology to solve issues and improve outcomes.
Change is inevitable. For decades, our sector has followed the basic principles of evolution: adapting to changes in the environment to flourish. And we’ve been changing since we started drilling, from managing oil price swings to dealing with a worldwide epidemic.
And in contemporary business, to remain still is to move backwards. So, like many in the service business, we are always looking for innovative methods to adapt our goods to changing market demands.
The Importance of Innovation
The state of nature, the physical environment, is not the usual setting for evolution. The North Sea hasn’t altered much in that regard in the past 50 years. The industrial environment — economic and safety imperatives, and more recently, decarbonization objectives – drives the demand for innovation. The search for technological breakthroughs that may provide a competitive and efficient advantage in an uncertain operating environment is required. In an increasingly complex and mature industry, such breakthroughs are uncommon. They are often the outcome of rethinking current goods and services. Relatively small tweaks may unlock significant new possibilities to address today’s industrial problems.
From the beginnings of offshore exploration and production, the concepts of land-based wells were initially used in coastal regions, then moved deeper, from platforms to subsea infrastructure. Related practices like floating hose repair in Malaysia do provide valuable examples of industry development in action. Early subsea wells were often tiny and prone to overloading (the first step in the evolution of surface wellheads and trees). The semisubmersibles that installed them were likewise tiny, as were the BOP systems intended for shallow water operations. These early semisubmersibles and BOP systems coexisted well. Today, some of the early wells must be abandoned, while new undersea wells must be constructed. Excess offset and BOP weight may cause severe structural and/or fatigue damage to both new and ancient subsea wellheads and trees.
Luckily, jack-up rigs have developed. They are bigger and can work in deeper water. With jack-ups working in difficult environments up to 150 m deep, about 34% of the world’s subsea wells are reachable. As a result of its ability to solve loading and fatigue problems while lowering operator costs, jack-up rigs with subsea HP risers and surface BOP have gained popularity in subsea well drilling and abandonment operations. Today, this trend continues, and utilizing jack-ups may help solve numerous industry issues, including operator decarbonization objectives.
To keep up with changing offshore economics, the company’s strategy continually evaluates its current technology solutions to see how they may offer value in new and subtle ways. Our industry has always been a leader in technological advancement, and the finest of those innovations remain. They can always adapt to new difficulties and get greater results. Our industry should continue to embrace change, particularly as we seek to assist and eventually achieve the energy transition. Those that continue to appreciate new ideas will develop and survive in our new energy environment.