Increasingly complex machinery is being installed on the seafloor for applications such as subsea separation, gas compression and boost pumping. The oil and gas industry faces a significant challenge to ensure that this higher complexity equipment achieves the required operational efficiency and availability. Control systems are a key element in addressing this challenge. The next generation of control systems must provide superior availability, lower lifecycle costs and superior performance.
Other industries faced with similar increases in complexity and the demand for very high reliability have evolved solutions to manage the challenge. Several evolutionary themes recur across these industries, and they include:
Significantly more sensing and control technology embedded in these control systems
Software enabling many operation and maintenance functions to be automated rather than manual
Information from operation and maintenance processes being transported to decision-makers independent of their location.
Some solutions created in other industries to achieve these objectives can also be applied to the subsea environment; these solutions can be adopted rather than reinvented. (Examples include smaller, lower cost electronics, networkbased architecture and configurable hardware.) Challenges unique to subsea control systems include packaging technologies and subsea connection techniques, and these elements require invention rather than adoption.
Successful designs will yield lightweight modules that are suitable for subsea exchange by remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). Such modules will be less expensive to manufacture than conventional subsea control components. The combination of adopted and invented technologies will make the next generation of subsea control systems connected, configurable, modular and serviceable.
Increasingly complex machinery is being installed on the seafloor (Figure 1). Compared to production systems with their infrequently actuated valves, the large, high-powered, rotating machines currently being installed for applications such as subsea separation, gas compression and boost pumping require much more monitoring, maintenance and care. The oil and gas industry faces a significant challenge to ensure that this higher complexity equipment achieves the required operational efficiency and reliability.
In a parallel trend, production operations are moving to very remote and challenging environments, such as the Arctic. Oil companies anticipate that conventional logistics, maintenance and intervention techniques in these regions will be very costly, driving operators to reduce costs and manage the risks inherent in bringing vessels, equipment and personnel into these regions.
Control systems for offshore oil and gas production systems must accommodate the transition to increasingly complex equipment while simultaneously achieving high reliability. Other industries faced with similar increases in complexity and demand for very high reliability have evolved to manage the challenge. They have embedded significantly more sensing and actuation technology in controls for complex electromechanical systems. Advances in fabrication, functionality and scale of microelectronics have made this change possible.
In addition, many system operation and maintenance functions are automated rather than manual. Information from operation and maintenance processes is also transported to decision-makers, independent of their location, who then send high-level commands and action plans back to the system being controlled.