In attempting to consider the role of subsea control in the offshore oil & gas industry it is easy to forget that subsea production has had a rapid evolution, up to 1970 only 69 wells had been installed worldwide, the current number exceeds 550. Also that the technology we regard as common-place today was virtually unknown in the industry 20 years ago Massive advances have been made in the technology of control and data acquisition and many more that are in tram are being discussed in the next two days of this conference. These are technologies that are not only being employed in subsea production but in many different facets of the industry; downhole, emergency shut-down valves, ROV1s and many others. So any overview needs to be wide ranging.
My own background is in subsea electronics but I have spent the last few years investigating markets for offshore technology. Therefore mu aim in developing this personal view is to step back from the technical details and consider some of the issues that have to be faced by the industry, and illustrate my view by reference to material from the recent market studies I have been associated with.I believe the issues that will have a major impact on the market for subsea control and data acquisition systems over the next few years are:
smaller offshore fields
increasing flow distance
From a consideration of these factors we might be able to suggest scenarios for the future shape of the offshore industry and its requirements for subsea control. But firstly we must remember that many of these issues are related. The oil price crash of 1986 caused the North Sea oil companies to finally abandon many of their high cost (but tax compensated) approaches to field development and to focus on lower cost alternatives such as slimline platforms and subsea developments. The industry has gone through a period of irreversible change.
Looking to the future, by increasing flow distances using multi-phase pumping it might be possible, in a number of situations, to dispense with the platforms entirely. The use of remote control, subsea completions (SSC) and multi-phase pumping will combine to reduce the requirement for offshore manpower, which in turn has a major impact on safety. But implicit in all these technical developments is an increased need for data gathering and control systems. So a cursory examination suggests that the subsea control business has a sound future.
The North Sea supply companies were little affected by the decline in oil prices that decimated the US industry from 1981. That is until 1986. Then every engineer in the business suddenly became aware that $ 10 oil can do to his job.
It is important to understand that the commercial viability of an offshore oil or gas field development is a function of three parameters:-
Oil price - even in the case of gas fields as gas prices are related to oil.