In the early years of the offshore industry, Early Production Systems or EPSs were extensively utilized to develop marginal and/or complex reservoirs in progressively deeper and more remote waters. Their signature attributes were low capital and operating costs, simple designs and accelerated schedules to first oil. Today, Operators are emphasizing capital efficiency, design simplicity, compressed discovery to first oil cycle times and de-risking subsurface uncertainty as deepwater projects compete for capital allocation with onshore shale projects.

Discussing history and applications, the authors show, how an EPS can enable an Operator to sanction developments of marginal reservoirs, mid-size reservoirs with expansion capabilities to capture reservoir upsides and phased developments of giant reservoirs.

This paper addresses major subsurface uncertainties impacting development decisions and strategies to gather relevant dynamic information to mitigate risk. It provides a brief history of EPSs deployed in the North Sea, Brazil and GoM including a database of EPS platforms based on an extensive literature review. A case history in each region to demonstrate the utility of an EPS to de-risk and enable commercial production of marginal, mid-size and large fields.

A discussion is presented for EPS platform selection based on the research of platforms deployed in the three major deepwater regions. This discussion will facilitate to develop a roadmap for the Operators and Development Planners with tools to rapidly deselect or retain options in the early development planning stage while there is a high degree of reservoir uncertainty and pressure to compress cycle time to first oil following a discovery.

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