Common Platform Reduces Complex Project Risk

March 25, 2009
How Do You Coordinate a Project with International Partners When You’re Providing Electrical, Instrumentation and Telecommunication (EI&T) Systems for Multiple Projects and Sites?

The Peregrino oil field, located in the Campos Basin area of offshore Brazil, is estimated to have a recoverable volume of 300 million to 600 million barrels of heavy crude oil. An initial development project, comprising two wellhead platforms (WHPs) and a floating production, storage and offloading vessel (FPSO) was intricate from the start, and a variety of factors only made it more so.

“This project was complex in its execution, combining ABB offices in the U.S. and Norway with fabrication in Texas and Singapore, and final commissioning in Brazil,” said John Oyen, ABB’s business development manager for oil and gas in North America, in his presentation this week at ABB Automation and Power World 2009 in Orlando.

“EI&T represents only 3% to 4% of the capital spend, but 30% to 40% of the project risk.” ABB’s John Oyen discussed the on-schedule deployment—despite international complications—of wellhead platforms and floating production/storage/offloading projects for Brazil’s Peregrino oilfield. 

The project, which began in 2007, is scheduled for startup in 2010, and the international challenges have proven formidable.

The concept was to have a leased FPSO and a contractor operator. “With the wells, we’re looking at artificial lift with electronic submersible pumps,” explained Oyen. “There’s water handling involved. There’s about three times as much water produced as there is heavy oil, but they’re beginning to find so much oil in this area, they’re already talking about a third and fourth WHP and a second FPSO, so there’s the excitement of many more projects to come.”

For the WHPs, Kiewit Constructors was contracted by South Atlantic Holdings (SAH) and hired Mustang Engineering. Since ABB already was providing the EI&T for the FPSO, Kiewit invited ABB US to coordinate the WHP communications as well.

“One thing we’ve noticed,” explained Oyen, “is when you look at the total capital expenditures on these projects, the EI&T scope represents 3% to 4% of the expense, but 30% to 40% of the project risk. The automation and electric is at the end. All of that stuff has to work together. It’s good to be able to put that risk in one bucket and manage that risk.”

Once Kiewit had ABB onboard, it still had to win over Mustang, explained Oyen. “We were already in the FPSO, so how were the WHPs going to talk with the FPSO?” he asked. Since the power for the WHPs was coming from the FPSO, ABB put an electrical engineer into Mustang to develop the electrical scope and help with design of the electrical system. It also put a control systems engineer into Mustang to develop the ICSS scope.

Maersk, the energy, shipbuilding, retail and manufacturing giant, was lead on the FPSO project, with orders to attempt to reproduce the Vincent FPSO, a similar Maersk project in the Australia/Singapore area. Maersk, in turn, selected a variety of international players from the U.S., Indonesia, Singapore and Norway. But because the WHPs already were further along in their development, ABB’s WHP EI&T was now influencing the FPSOs.

“Functionality had to be planned that would translate to harmonization between WHPs and the FPSO,” said Oyen. “Communication with the WHPs is via cables to a turret on FPSO.”

Despite numerous changes in ownership at the holding-company level and delays or errors in global delivery, the project is on schedule. “The current status is everything’s shipped,” said Oyen. “All systems are in the yard at Kiewit Constructors in Ingleside, Texas, and system checkout will commence in April before being shipped to Brazil in August.”

Once the project is implemented, ABB’s Brazil organization will be there for support. “ABB could do all of this, but how would we support it in Brazil?” asked Oyen. “We have to make sure we stock the spare parts and have the people trained.”

The ability to bring one common platform to the operation and a multidisciplinary team of electrical and telecommunications people was key for ABB—not to mention its international abilities. “We leveraged the Norwegians, and they leveraged us,” said Oyen.

“The standardization we have within our process libraries and the harmonization of common execution makes it key when you have this type of project.”