Abstract

This paper presents an analysis of the rapidly growing FPSO worldwide fleet, showing the industry trends over recent years. The trends analyzed include processing capacity, process complexity and water depth, both for vessels leased from FPSO Contractors, and Oil Company owned and operated units. The trends are extrapolated to forecast where the FPSO market may head in the future, especially for leased vessels, thereby showing the challenges that FPSO Contractors must be ready to meet.

FPSO Contractors face the dual challenge of developing their vessel designs to meet increasingly complex requirements, whilst achieving fast track project schedules that have become the expected norm. Moreover, the market is increasingly competitive, putting pressure on business margins. The paper discusses and analyzes some of the major technology changes being applied by FPSO Contractors to meet these new challenges, especially focusing on larger and more complex units being installed on ultra deepwater fields.

It also compares typical project execution strategies between conventional Oil Company owned vessels and leased vessels in an attempt to explain why leased FPSOs can usually be delivered significantly faster and cheaper than Oil Company owned and operated projects.

This analysis covers hulls, topsides, mooring systems and risers, drawing on experience from a large fleet of leased vessels, plus recent and ongoing projects. The paper also presents some of the latest technical and project execution strategies applied on recent major FPSO projects, as well as some key lessons learned from operation of a fleet of 15 vessels.

Introduction

The oil industry can be slow to accept new ideas, and this was certainly the case with Floating Production, Storage and Offloading System (FPSO) vessels. The first FPSO was installed on the Castellon field in 1977, but it took another 15 years until this technology gained wide industry acceptance. FPSOs have now become a base case solution for development of remote offshore oil fields in most areas of the world, and especially for deepwater and ultra-deepwater applications.

FPSOs typically perform the same functions as an offshore production platform, including separation and treatment of produced hydrocarbons into commercial products, treatment of produced water to permit overboard disposal or reinjection, and injection of treated seawater into the reservoir for pressure maintenance. However, whereas a platform generally pumps produced oil into a pipeline or to a remote loading terminal, the FPSO stores oil onboard the unit, and periodically offloads this directly to a shuttle tanker either moored in tandem or moored to an adjacent loading terminal.

At the end of the 1980's the total worldwide FPSO fleet comprised only 10 FPSOs. In the 1990's a further 55 units were added, and in the first half of this decade a further 70 units have either started operation or are currently under development. The FPSO business is clearly now in a period of very rapid growth.

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