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Why subsea technology is vital to the future of the UKCS

This collaborative approach is evident in the work currently being done by the MER UK Technology Leadership Board, headed by GE’s oil and gas director of subsea, Paul White. The leadership board’s strategy is to promote a co-operative approach in the subsea industry to encourage contributors to develop technologies and techniques – and from their recent study alongside Oil & Gas Authority (The Asset Integrity Theme Landscaping Study), the board is helping the industry develop.

NEW TECHNIQUES AND TECHNOLOGIES

Speaking on the launch of the study, Oil and Gas Authority’s Angela Seeney said, “This study illustrates in a very tangible way the breadth of opportunity for the UK oil and gas industry to benefit from innovative technologies and achieve the sustainable cost efficiencies needed.”

Such technologies that are being researched and developed, which were featured in the comprehensive 140-page report, included the use of ultrasonic and electromagnetic techniques. Both have the potential to assist operators in the biggest challenges on the UKCS, as well as help the supply chain focus their innovation on products and services that support these techniques and will be in demand.

The ‘low-frequency electromagnetic technique’, for example, is being assessed for use in detecting defects by passing a low-frequency magnetic field through a metal plate or pipe. The technique is used to inspect storage tanks and other offshore assets for damage, oxygen pitting, corrosion and erosion during regular vessel inspections.

For offshore operators, this is very welcome news. Studies by The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on the offshore industry in Europe found that 50% of fixed platforms on the UKCS have already exceeded their 25-year design life, exposing assets to long-term corrosion and damage. With offshore operators stalling on new platforms and relying on existing assets, for now, electromagnetic techniques to assess damage is a must to ensure integrity.

HONE SKILL AND SELL GLOBALLY

Alongside new damage inspection and detection procedures, there is an array of other techniques and technologies in the report designed to reduce costs and time in the industry too. And with UKCS operators wanting to spend little but get maximum returns despite the stumbling oil prices, the subsea industry is in the perfect place to exploit these methodologies.

Support from UK industry organisations is helping to give companies the platform to secure a safe, productive and enduring future for the UKCS. The positive by-product of this support, however, is that the innovation taking shape in the UK will soon be available for the rest of the market.

In the Subsea UK’s questionnaire, 80% of respondents also said they hope to drive growth by increasing overseas sales and exploring new markets with a focus on the Asia, Middle East, North America and Africa markets.

Chief Executive Neil Gordon said, “Subsea companies are increasing their export efforts, exploring new geographic markets where their services and technology are in demand. The industry is more receptive to new ways of working and new technologies and we are starting to see the benefits of real collaboration towards reducing costs and driving efficiencies. It is encouraging that, against this backdrop, subsea companies are continuing to invest in the development of new technology.”

With maturing assets now becoming more of a problem in the aforementioned regions, the UK, through collaboration and its own investment, has kept itself as the number one place for new subsea technology innovation. The task for the subsea industry now is very clear – implement these new technologies at affordable prices.

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