Abstract

This paper describes a study to compare the risks of Floating Production Storage and Offloading Systems (FPSO's), which have never been used in the Gulf of Mexico, with the risks for existing deepwater production systems in the Gulf of Mexico. The major conclusion is that the expected risks for fatalities and oil spills associated with FPSO's are comparable to those for already accepted alternatives for deepwater production. In addition, the oil spill risks are dominated by spills that occur during transportation of oil from the production facility to the shore with either pipelines or shuttle tankers. The major recommendation is to periodically update these results so that they serve as a baseline for future analyses of risk in the Gulf of Mexico. This study was undertaken for the Minerals Management Service to provide information for their use in developing a policy for FPSO's in the Gulf of Mexico.

Introduction

To date, deepwater (more than 3,000-foot water depth) reserves in the Gulf of Mexico have been developed primarily with the following types of production systems: Spars; Tension Leg Platforms (TLP's); and Subsea Well Systems tied back to these floating systems or to shallow water jackets that may also serve as hubs for other deepwater production systems (Hub/Host Jacket). All three of these types of systems rely on pipelines to transport oil to shore. A potentially attractive alternative to these systems is a tankerbased Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) system with oil transportation to shore via shuttle tankers. Floating Production Storage and Offloading systems have been used in many areas of the world, but not the Gulf of Mexico.

The Minerals Management Service (MMS) funded the Offshore Technology Research Center (a National Science Foundation engineering research center located at Texas A&M University and The University of Texas at Austin), with EQE International, Inc. as a subcontractor, to conduct a Comparative Risk Analysis (CRA). The purpose of this study was to assess and compare the system risks for FPSO's with those for existing deepwater production systems, specifically TLP's, Spars and Hub/Host Jackets. This study was conducted concurrently with an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) study for FPSO's in the Gulf of Mexico1. Information from both the Comparative Risk Analysis and the EIS will be used by the MMS in developing policies concerning the use of FPSO's in the Gulf of Mexico.

The primary objectives of the Comparative Risk Analysis were the following:

  1. Assess and compare the system risks for FPSO's with those for existing deepwater production systems, specifically Spars, TLP's, and Hub/Host Jackets; and

  2. Understand the contributions to system risk by subsystems and phases of operation.

Approach

The approach used to conduct the Comparative Risk Analysis was developed with the following goals in mind:

  1. Provide the MMS with information that can be used for a consistent and objective comparison of the risks associated with the four production systems;

  2. Provide the MMS with a level of detail necessary to compare and understand overall system risks for typical production systems

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