ABB subsea system opens new offshore opportunities

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A new subsea power distribution and conversion system could help transform offshore energy production, according to its owner, ABB.

The subsea power unit has just completed a 3,000-hour shallow water test at a sheltered harbour in Vaasa, Finland

In development since 2013, the new unit will allow offshore operators to access up to 100MW of power, over distances of 600km and at depths of 3,000m. This is all facilitated via a single cable from the shore, with the entire system requiring little or no maintenance for up to 30 years. Based on a specific field development case, the new technology could offer CAPEX savings of over $500m, if eight consumers, such as pumps or compressors, are linked through a single cable over a distance of 200km from other infrastructure.

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Energy companies Equinor, Total and Chevron have been working on the system with ABB under what’s been called the Joint Industry Project (JIP), and the subsea power unit has just completed a 3,000-hour shallow water test at a sheltered harbour in Vaasa, Finland. According to ABB, the technology puts the majority of the world’s offshore fossil fuel reserves in reach of electrification.

“This milestone marks an outstanding achievement and is the culmination point of an inspirational technology development achieved through tremendous dedication, expertise and perseverance,” said Dr Peter Terwiesch, president of ABB’s Industrial Automation business. “It is the result of intensive collaboration by over 200 scientists and engineers from ABB, Equinor, Total and Chevron in a multi-year, joint effort.”

The subsea power distribution and conversion system includes a step-down transformer, medium voltage variable speed drives and switchgear, control and low voltage power distribution, and power electronics and control systems. As well as allowing offshore hydrocarbons to be harvested more efficiently, ABB claims that reduced topside infrastructure will also make production safer.

“Moving the entire oil and gas production facility to the seabed is no longer a dream,” said Terwiesch. “Remotely operated, increasingly autonomous, subsea facilities powered by lower carbon energy are more likely to become a reality as we transition towards a new energy future.”