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Platforms of the future

Release date: 3 September 2019

Robots, renewables and remote powering are all part of BP’s plans for the oil and gas platforms of the future. Read more about energy saving offshore

Cleaner, greener and leaner oil and gas platforms are on the way.?

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Smaller in scale and powered remotely or by the wind and the sun, these production platforms will use less energy and boast a lower carbon footprint.

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“We are looking at how we can modernize our traditional hydrocarbon concepts, looking at ways where we can integrate solar, wind and batteries to provide power instead of burning gas or diesel,” says John Kennedy, engineering director, global concept development. “It is about being much more efficient with the energy we use at our sites.”

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It’s all part of BP’s efforts to reduce emissions from operations and help advance the transition to a lower carbon energy future.

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“We are looking at how we can modernize our traditional hydrocarbon concepts, looking at ways where we can integrate solar, wind and batteries to provide power instead of burning gas or diesel. It is about being much more efficient with the energy we use at our sites.”

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?John Kennedy, engineering director, global concept development

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Power plays

BP engineers are looking into the possibility of providing power to the Clair South development in the North Sea region from shore.

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“So, we would remove the power-generation equipment from the platform and provide power by electric cable, which has the potential for reduced greenhouse gas emissions,” he says. “You also reduce the maintenance burden on the facility and that means fewer people on it, so it becomes safer and more streamlined.”

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Another offshore project that has the potential for lower emissions is Cypre, a new unmanned offshore production facility proposed for Trinidad.

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“We are studying the idea of powering that platform from a nearby existing facility that has excess power and can provide that excess to the new one. Again, it reduces greenhouse gases,” says Kennedy.

Clair Ridge platform in the UK North Sea. Engineers are looking into powering the next phase of the project, Clair South, from shore.

Renewables

Engineers are exploring other possible energy sources, such as renewables.

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“It is in a more embryonic state than the others, but we are looking at how we integrate things like solar into our facilities,” he says. “In the West Nile Delta in Egypt, we are working with Lightsource BP to see if we can build a solar array and reduce emissions.”

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And, for future facilities in deeper water far out to sea, BP is also exploring alternative power solutions. Kennedy adds that BP is looking to the Norwegian sector, where floating wind facilities are being considered to power some existing platforms as a replacement for older power generation equipment.

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“There are technical and commercial limits in terms of distance regarding taking power from shore to platform, so we are looking at a number of alternatives,” he says. “No single solution is going to fit all situations.”

All-electrical subsea control systems will reduce complexity and cut emissions

Fewer people and more robotics

In the future, many offshore facilities will need fewer people and, in some cases, none at all. By reducing the number of people on the platform, engineers can also reduce the size of the facility, the accommodation and other supporting assets.


All that means that they consume less energy. Smaller crews also reduce transportation demands, which means less fuel consumed and fewer emissions.


Kennedy also says some of the work done by humans could now be performed by machines, which also enhances safety.?“We have a lot of automation now in our subsea developments,” he explains.

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“In the future, we can see robots carrying out remote inspections, painting and other repairs,” Kennedy says. “We are looking at how we design our facilities to be more amenable to robots.”

A graphic showing gas turbine generators on a platform

Future platforms could, potentially, have no gas turbine generators, dramatically reducing emissions

Designing for the future

While it is feasible to update or retrofit existing assets, carbon reduction can be achieved more efficiently by designing new facilities to have fewer emissions and use less energy, says Russell Smith, vice president, global concept development.

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“Anything built from now on will generally incorporate low carbon and environmentally friendlier features,” he says. “We will always have a bias to consider alternatives that have an impact on reducing the footprint. This includes moving towards all-electric subsea control systems, which use electrical cables rather than pipes filled with hydraulic oil.”

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The planned Cypre facility offshore Trinidad provides a good example of what can be achieved when trying to reduce emissions.

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“We have been able to achieve zero manning, minimal annual visitation, no helideck, no accommodation module and, basically, taken that asset from 1,300 tons of CO2 equivalent per year to a current estimate of 72 tons,” says Smith.

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“Anything built from now on will generally incorporate low carbon and environmentally friendlier features. We will always have a bias to consider alternatives that have an impact on reducing the footprint.”

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Russell Smith, vice president, global concept development

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Different thinking

At the heart of all this modernization work is a very human element.

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“We want to change the way human beings think about the problem we are trying to solve, which is fundamentally about the energy transition,” he says. “We need more energy and it needs to be competitive in two dimensions? ?? financial value and carbon footprint.”

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Smith says designers will take every opportunity to think differently to create projects that are inherently safe, highly efficient and low emission.

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“Engineers are very good at solving global problems and this is a problem we can solve, we just have to put our minds to it.”

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Watch this video showing how BP plans to save energy and cut emissions from its offshore platforms
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