JIP Explores Arctic Subsea Processing Solutions

Houston-based INTECSEA is leading a joint industry project (JIP) to develop next generation subsea technology for use in remote and hostile environments, particularly in the offshore Arctic and cold climate regions, said INTECSEA President Uri Nooteboom.

"The prize is enhanced confidence in deeper waters and ice-prone regions worldwide while improving the availability of valuable hydrocarbons," Nooteboom said.

Frontier developments in cold climates, where ice floes and icebergs are prominent much of the year and in remote offshore Arctic areas -- require robust subsea systems that effectively manage the extraction of produced fluids and transportation to the end user, Nooteboom said.

The JIP will encourage the use of proven and evolving technologies from deepwater Gulf of Mexico, offshore Brazil and northern North Sea to enhance production in Arctic and sub-Arctic waters, including offshore eastern Canada.

The JIP started in December 2010 in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada; completion is scheduled for the end of this year. The participants include three oil companies participating in Arctic development offshore Eastern Canada; Petroleum Research Atlantic Canada administers the contractual entity. The JIP committee is considering additional participants for the JIP.

The current study will incorporate information from a 2007 study that focused on identifying active production solutions for deepwater and long offset tiebacks to host facilities or to shore. The new study will have additional updated information on conventional and emerging subsea technologies and relate them specifically to the participant interest offshore Newfoundland, Labrador and arctic environments worldwide.

Oil and gas developments offshore Newfoundland include Hibernia, Terra Nova and White Rose, with Hebron expected to begin in the near term. Additionally, frontier and deepwater prospects offshore eastern Canada that would benefit from the JIP include the Orphan Basin, Laurentian Basin, Central Ridge/Flemish Pass and the Labrador Shelf, the latter which is a very harsh environment and will need innovative solutions to overcome challenges.

The Labrador shelf includes water depths up to 9,900 feet and waves up to 43 feet high. The shelf also has pack ice up to 23 feet thick, with icebergs a serious threat from July through October. This week, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) announced the 2011 Calls for Bids for the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore area, opening the door to exploration and development in the area in the future.

One objective of the JIP is to create a database with an interface tool that allows operators and developers to screen and select from a broad array of active production technologies, including separation, boosting, compression and direct electric heating systems suitable for stranded and existing field developments.

The JIP's efforts may result in new strides in field development, such as extending present Arctic oil tie-back limits of below 6.2 miles to a goal of around 30 miles, and the tie-back of subsea wells in potentially 10,000 feet of Arctic water to a floating production facility in shallower, more protected waters.

"Our joint efforts will facilities the next-generation subsea solutions and improve confidence in the economic appraisal of offshore cold-climate developments while creating an open platform for industry collaboration," said Garry Mahoney, INTECSEA senior vice president of business development and Chief Technology Officer.

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