Subsea pumping is an important technology in the oil & gas industry especially in the upstream activities. Global companies have been continuously investing in research and development over the years seeking to develop reliable and robust solutions for the subsea environment. With more than 19 years, since the first field application at the Draugen field (Shell), the helico-axial impellers are have become one of the most important and robust technologies for subsea multiphase pumping.
The ever increasing need to satisfy growing energy demand will enhance the growth prospects of the subsea pumps market. Since 2000, there have been several important deep and ultra-deep discoveries made and are still continuing. About 16% of the oil & gas fields discovered between 2008 and 2017 are likely to recline in such subsea environments including Pre-salt Brazil, the U.S. GOM (Gulf of Mexico), West Africa, and Malaysia. The lucrative and high investment areas of subsea regions such as the Gulf of Mexico, North Sea, and new discoveries in West Africa drive the exponential growth of the subsea pumps market.
Initially, the subsea processing is mainly used to boost satellite production from reservoirs 10 to 50km away from existing infrastructure, which enables some field developments feasible, allowing the same production unit to be used for remote well tie-backs. Another clear benefit of this technology is the possibility to increase the oil recovery and accelerate the production without interfering with the wells or the fluid characteristics.
The potential economic benefits of subsea processing increase with the increasing water depths in offshore fields down to 3,000 m or 10,000ft below the sub-surface. The development of deep and ultra deepwater fields, especially in marginal areas, always presents challenges related to profitability and/or flow assurance related issues for subsea equipment. The high (hydrostatic and friction) pressure losses in flow lines, associated with deeper water developments, tends to be a constraint in actual production rates and in the overall field recovery. Reducing the high back-pressure on the wells is the driver for seabed pumps, and other key elements such as multiphase meters, flow lines.
In 2007, the High Boost pump prototype was designed and built in Norway being first tested in February 2008. After conducting tests over more than two years the High Boost technology was qualified to operate in the subsea conditions. In 2012, the first High Boost pump was started up in the Barracuda field (PETROBRAS – Campos Basin) which has been in continuous operation for more than one year so far. However, the deeper the equipment the more critical is its reliability due to the high operating costs. The pumps associated with the subsea processing create strong prospects for the future of subsea oil & gas development.
The Helico-Axial pumps are the widely accepted subsea pumps among the subsea oil & gas operators with a high growth in near future. Other significant subsea pumps involve electrical submersible pumps, centrifugal pumps, twin-screw, and hybrid pumps. The subsea pumps being highly expensive, the equipment manufacturers are continuously engaged in improving technology for safe operations in high risk offshore. The golden triangle of West Africa, the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, and Brazil are the current potential markets, which are also expected to grow as future prospective markets.