Petrobras Highlights FPSO Usage at OTC


Acknowledged for its technological excellence in the deepwater exploration area, Petrobras will demonstrate its experience in FPSO-type platform use during the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston. Petrobras was the first company the US government authorized to operate this type of platform in the Gulf of Mexico. The company achieved this feat thanks to the investments it made in technology and it its professionals. Another highlight is the investment made in the Espirito Santo Basin, where Petrobras has been innovating with heavy oil production in deep waters. Cristina Pinho, Petrobras exploration and production area's general manager for exploration and production installation, production and inspection will talk about this process to the Noticias Petrobras website.

In 2007, among the technical work Petrobras presented at the OTC, which project would you highlight? Why?

Cristina Pinho - This year, we submitted 14 papers to the OTC. And we will have two special Petrobras sessions. One of the highlights is the Espirito Santo development. We will present an overview of that province's development and, more specifically, the technologies used in projects that are already in operation and in future projects. This special session will be held Thursday and is expected to attract the public's attention precisely for being a province that has been of interest to distributors and other operators. The reason for this is that it is in this Basin that we are innovating with heavy oil production in deep waters. Another highlight includes a few of our technological projects. The other session that is certain to attract a lot of attention is our performance among American regulators to get approval for the first FPSO installation in the Gulf of Mexico. Last, but not least, I'd like to emphasize a technological aspect which is our search for integrity, to maintain our flexible riser integrity. Petrobras is the company that uses flexible risers the most in the world. It has invested heavily in this technology to make FPSO use viable in deep waters. Through the years, we have gained a lot of experience in operating, designing and maintaining flexible risers.

Cristina, one of Petrobras' highlights at the OTC is the company's experience with FPSO. Tell us a little more about its track record in this.

Petrobras' background with FPSOs is very interesting. Firstly, Petrobras is currently the world's main FPSO operator. We are operating 12 of our own FPSOs. And we have to more to arrive until 2001. One is the P-54, the other the P-57. That will total 14 FPSOs. In other words, we have a lot of experience operating this type of platform. Our history with FPSOs started back in 1939, with the old Prudente the Morais, the first in Brazil and the world's second. We basically pioneered the FPSO movement. And as soon as this movement started in the world, using vessels that were going to leave their routes, that could no longer be used because they didn't have double hulls, we joined. We had vessels like this in our fleet at Transpetro, previously known as Flonap. We had a few FPSOs that couldn't be operated. We then immediately started using them, and the field that pioneered them was Marlin. We took the ships that could no longer be used and put them to work at this field. So, the first use FPSO use was as floating, production, Storage and offloading. We started using the first FPSOs in the Marlin field, as an actual production unit. Since then, we have used FPSOs for different purposes. They are being used for long-term testing, such as the Seillean, the Pipa 2 and, in the near future, the Pipa 3. We are using FPSOs, which we call opportunities, to anticipate manufacturing before we have all of the reservoir's data. This way, you have FPSOs than can have a bigger use range than normal, but you anticipate production because you gain as many as 12 months in FPSO construction.

Petrobras was the first company the US government authorized to operate this type of platform in the Gulf of Mexico. Why Petrobras?

Petrobras was the world's first operator to be approved by the American agencies to use an FPSO, precisely due to its major experience operating such vessels. Our technicians, engineers, consultants, both those currently working at Petrobras America and CENPES' and Engineering support, in all Petrobras segments here in Brazil, were able, by providing a large amount of documents, to prove to the American environmental and regulation agencies that we are technically able to operate safely, so, therefore we could have a public servant in the Gulf.

You mentioned safety. What are the advantages of using this type of unit in the Gulf of Mexico?

No matter where you are, the advantage of using an FPSO is that it is capable of storing. Because of this, you can offload the oil into the FPSO. We use what we call shuttle tankers, another vessel that receives this production. But why? Because in certain places you don't have oil pipeline infrastructure available. Other times you have limitations installing pipelines because of canyons in the bottom of the sea, rendering it impossible to install the pipes, or simply because the process would be too expensive. Making a project economically viable is easier. Technically, it is possible to use this FPSO solution. Thus, both in the Gulf and here, using FPSOs must take all issues into account. In principle, the impossibility or difficulty placing pipelines in the bottom of the sea.

Will this FPSO have a device that can be disconnected in the event of a hurricane? How does the system work?

A company called ATL develops this device. At least it is one of the companies I know does it. There are several of them installed in several places. It looks like a bell and, in the case of our FPSO in the Gulf, it receives the production risers.

Will this public servant have a device that can be disconnected in the event of a hurricane? How does it work?

This FPSO will be installed in the gulf with a device that can be disconnected in the event of a hurricane. That was a condition the American agencies demanded in order for the FPSO to be installed. This is not a innovation. Petrobras never used it because we have an extremely peaceful environment to use FPSOs, or any other type of unit for that matter, here. But in other places in the world, this device, developed by a Norwegian company, is already in use. It is a type of bell-shaped float. It then receives production from a few radiuses, but not many. Our FPSO will have received production from eight risers. The device is connected to an FPSO through a rigid tube. If it is necessary to remove the FPSO because of a hurricane, you simply disconnect the pipe, and the float will sink a few meters below water surface and anchor. The flexible risers then go down together with this float and, after the hurricane, you take the FPSO back, reconnect the risers and reconnect the float to the rigid tube.

When is this unit expected to go online?

The Gulf's FPSO is expected to kick operations off in 2009.

What is the significance of the award engineer Assayag received to Petrobras' exploration & production area?

The prize Assayag, currently the general manager for basic engineering, received was a great honor for Petrobras. It is an individual prize given by the OTC. It is recognition, but the global offshore community, of Assayag's great contribution to the oil industry. He was hired by the company early on in his career and gained all of this admiration. The community's respect is a reason for pride among all of us.

Petrobras has been considering the Espirito Santo Basin as very promising. What does the company already have in terms of exploration & production, and what will the next steps be there?

The Espirito Santo Basin has been considered one of Brazil's most promising provinces. It is a rich basin to us and, because of its variety, it is very interesting because we have gas and light and heavy oil there. We currently have four FPSOs in operation there: Seillean, FPSO Capixaba, FPSO Cidade Vitoria, and the P-34.

What technical or strategic innovations will Petrobras adopt at the Espirito Santo Basin?

The innovations we are adopting at the Espirito Santo basin are aimed at heavy oil processing. The P-34 is a lab in high sea. No company in the world currently explores oil at 14 degrees API in deep waters. It is a major flow and flow guarantee challenge. It is also a processing challenge when one attempts to separate water, oil and gas. In partnership with a few technology developers, added to the knowledge our research center has, several technologies, and we have assembled a small processing lab on the P-35 to provide technical support to developing the next heavy oil reserves in Espirito Santo itself and in the Campos Basin as well, where we have billions of barrels of heavy oil in place and offshore as well.