Integrating Systems in Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) Applications

I’ve known Emerson’s Patrick Deruytter for many years. He’s now the general manager for the Emerson Process Management office in South Korea. As his career has advanced, he’s lived in many places–Minnesota and Texas in the U.S., Belgium and the U.K. in Europe, Australia, Singapore, and China. His experiences have included projects, project management, product marketing, lifecycle support, and general management.

He was in Austin last week and we had a chance to catch up. I found out he recently spoke at the Asia Pacific FPSO Summit with a presentation, Enabling Operational Excellence in FPSO. For those not versed in FPSOs, the acronym stands for Floating Production Storage and Offloading. When I worked in the offshore oil and gas industry in the mid-to-late 1980s, the overwhelming majority of offshore production came from fixed-leg platforms that set on the ocean floor.

Patrick highlighted some of the challenges and global trends for FPSOs. The first is the ever-increasing sophistication and complexity of the vessels and the onboard processing facilities. Oil and gas producers are building and modernizing FPSOs to meet the global needs for hydrocarbon-based energy.

Increasingly, FPSO owners want all of their systems integrated–navigation and propulsion systems, integrated automation systems (IAS), custody transfer systems (CTS), etc. Given the fast track nature of FPSO projects, equipment deliveries and skilled project engineers are critical for on time, on-budget performance. Once commissioned, the systems need to be highly reliable and easy to maintain, given the marine environment in which they operate.

Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) Vessel
Integrated systems provide a single window into the oil & gas production processes, subsea control processes, management of onboard assets, safety instrumented systems, and vessel automation processes (ballast control, offloading, power management, tank washing, etc.)

The design of the processing facilities on FPSOs is becoming extremely modular. This helps with the construction phase while the vessel is in the shipyard, and makes engineering, installation, and commissioning more manageable. The major processes like separation, gas dehydration, gas injection, oil metering, seawater treatment, power generation and distribution, custody transfer, etc. are pre-built, instrumented, and set on the deck of the vessel for integration with the automation and safety systems.

The modular trend extends to the wiring. FPSOs are moving away from large central control rooms toward remote I/O and control stations distributed among the production modules. This reduces the size of the total control room footprint, which is quite expensive on these ships. It also reduces cable runs, which reduces overall weight. And the modular design lends itself to modular pre-assembly and pre-testing which reduces overall commissioning time. Typically, the earlier you find problems, the easier and less expensive they are to resolve.

Patrick listed products across Emerson Process Management and alliance partners used in large marine projects like FPSOs and FLNG (floating liquefied natural gas) vessels. The list included DeltaV automation systems, DeltaV SIS safety systems, AMS suite software, Scanjet tank cleaning, Wärtsilä power distribution / engines / drives / vessel automation / propulsion systems, Rosemount tank radar level gauging and measurement, Fisher valves and regulators, Daniel metering and custody transfer, Micro Motion flow meters, and Valve Automation offshore valve systems.

These technologies have been applied in some of the world’s largest FPSOs including ExxonMobil Kizomba A & B, BP Angola, Pemex, and Total, to name a few.

Patrick closed his presentation on WirelessHART wireless devices and how they are being incorporated in applications like wellhead annular pressure and heat exchanger pressure monitoring. This additional monitoring helps more quickly spot abnormal situations and reduces the manual clipboard and keyboard entry work processes.

The level of sophistication and technologies applied to these marine applications has come a long way from my days back in offshore oil production two decades ago!

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Posted Thursday, November 13th, 2008 under Oil & Gas, Project Services, Wireless.

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