Oil & Gas

Submerged treasure

Posted on 30 March 2012 by Mike Principato, Images by MTU Archive

MTU supplies drive and propulsion systems for oil platform operations around the globe.
Ocean- and larger lake-based offshore platforms and drilling rigs are some of the largest portable engineered structures in the world and work in depths up to 10,000 feet.

Riding the wave


Given the drilling challenges and current and projected global demand for fossil fuels, leading international energy companies like Petrobras, Chevron, BP, ExxonMobil and others are spending heavily on offshore platforms, pipelines and floating storage vessels. It’s a wave of investment in specialized capital equipment that’s driving offshore oil and gas output to unprecedented levels. David Oliphant, MTU Global Director of Oil & Gas Sales and Sales Engineering, says the wave reflects significant changes in offshore energy production techniques over the last few years. “Traditional deepwater platforms are being joined offshore by new methods and equipment to drill, process and store oil and gas, such as semi-submersible platforms, drill ships and FPSOs (floating, productions, storage and offloading units). Contractors are now working in deeper water more frequently, and we have powerful engines that meet their needs. It’s a whole new game,” he adds.

Conventional drilling platforms are gigantic floating rigs that are partially constructed on land, towed far out to sea and eventually secured in place over a deepwater oil or gas field. But as demand for energy has grown, new offshore drilling and processing technologies have been developed to keep pace. MTU has kept stride with that evolution, according to Robert Wagner, Senior Manager Oil & Gas, MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH. “Customers rely on our high quality, reliable equipment. We work very closely with our customers and their contractors at the early stage of each project, and provide technical and commercial information for effective project planning,” Wagner explains. The benefits of this approach are clear. The earlier that MTU is involved in the planning process for an offshore energy project, the better the results will be for the contractors who build and operate the equipment utilized, and for the energy company funding the projects.

Breakthrough in Brazil


Engevix (Florianopolis, Brazil), a major shipyard, purchased sixteen generators powered by MTU 16V 4000 P83 diesel engines last May. Two generators each will be installed aboard eight FPSO vessels operated by Petrobras, Brazil’s multinational energy corporation and the largest company in Latin America by market capitalization. “Thanks to a successful collaboration among MTU, Engevix, and our wholly-owned subsidiary MTU do Brasil, we will be providing a complete generator set package, including the design, component sourcing and assembly,” Oliphant explains.

“A special aspect of this project is that Petrobras and the Brazilian government have mandated that at least 60 percent of the components in the generator sets be manufactured in Brazil,” says Keith Wiedersheim, Managing Director of MTU do Brasil. “By partnering with local suppliers, we are able to utilize the highly reliable MTU 16V 4000 P83 engines that were manufactured in Germany and then locally add Brazilian-made components to build complete generator sets that meet the local-content mandate.” Each generator set can produce 1,800 kW. The first will serve as an emergency standby generator set and the second as an auxiliary generator set, operating in parallel with the ship’s 100 megawatt gas-turbine generating system.

Safety at sea: powering fire extinguisher pumps


The North Sea is very different in both temperament and climate from the Atlantic Ocean off Brazil’s coast, but equally famous for its huge reserves of deepwater oil and natural gas. It’s also home to the Gjoa oil and gas field and a semi-submersible platform of the same name. Connected to five well heads tapping into a reserve containing over a trillion cubic feet of natural gas, the Gjoa platform was built by Norway’s Statoil Hydro and installed in late 2010.

The platform is equipped with the world’s largest and most powerful fire extinguisher pumps. Manufactured by FRAMO (Bergen, Norway) and powered by four MTU 20-cylinder Series 4000 engines each delivering 2,800 kW at 1,800 rpm, the four-pump system can apply over 1,000 gallons of seawater per second to an onboard fire. Erik Bergesen, a buyer at FRAMO says, “MTU is one of the few diesel engine builders in the world whose products meet the criteria for our fire extinguisher pumps.” Bergesen adds that he values the way that MTU adapted to the very specific engineering needs of the Gjoa platform fire extinguisher pump project. The platform also features an “essential generator” driven by an MTU Series 4000 type 20V 956 TB33 engine with an output rating of 6,250 kW to provide power to critical electrical systems if the main power supply fails. A second emergency backup generator uses a Series 4000 type 16V 4000 P61 engine capable of 1,760 kW.

Just west of the Shetland Islands, another North Sea oil field operation will benefit from MTU power generation systems. The Clair Ridge project, a joint venture of BP, Shell, ConocoPhillips and Chevron, is about to enter its second phase of production. The project will feature two new bridge-linked drilling platforms expected to produce three billion barrels of oil from North Sea deepwater wells. MTU will provide power generation systems to that system, incorporating both 16-cylinder and 20-cylinder versions of MTU Series 4000 diesel engines for emergency and standby power.

MTU engines will also play a role in the fire extinguishing systems incorporated into the Clair Ridge drilling process, thanks to longtime customer Eureka AS (Lysaker, Norway). Eureka will use three MTU Series 4000 12-cylinder engines to drive the diesel-electric fire extinguisher pumps at BP’s drilling platform at Clair Ridge. “We choose MTU because their diesel engines are suitable for our applications in terms of power range, size and weight, and because they offer very good support and quality,” explains Svein Erik Heiebråten, Eureka’s Manager of Package Engineering.

Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessels like this store and process oil until tankers arrive to receive it and transport it to land.

Two major energy projects under construction off the coast of Australia are expected to produce energy in about two years, and are massive in scope and expectations. The Gorgon area gas fields are located approximately 60km from Barrow Island and approximately 200km west of Dampier. Up to 13.8 trillion cubic feet of hydrocarbon reserves have been certified as proven in the Greater Gorgon area, including 9.6 trillion cubic feet of proven hydrocarbon reserves in the Gorgon field itself. Gorgon is considered large enough to justify the construction of at least two LNG “trains” — the liquefaction and purification facilities in a liquefied natural gas plant. “With MTU Australia, we’re supplying five essential diesel generator sets to the Barrow Island LNG processing facilities. They’ll be used to provide emergency power to important systems if the main power fails,” explains Oliphant. Each generator will be able to produce 3,125 kVA at 1,500 rpm and will be driven by an MTU Series 4000 20-cylinder diesel engine. According to Chevron, the project has a life cycle of at least forty years from the time of start-up and will provide “a cleaner burning energy source for Australia and the Asia Pacific region.”

On the other side of the continent, a joint venture of Origin, ConocoPhillips and Sinopec is taking shape. The $35 billion Australia Pacific Liquified Natural Gas fields (APLNG) development consists of three phases, including drilling in the Surat and Bowen Basins near Queensland, construction of a gas transmission pipeline from the drilling sites to Curtis Island, and the construction of up to five LNG trains on that island. MTU will supply two containerized generator sets for standby power for the trains. Each genset will produce 2,500 kVA at 1,500 rpm, thanks to MTU Series 4000 16-cylinder engines.

Single source, thoroughly engineered


These examples and others around the world demonstrate MTU’s growing momentum in the offshore energy business, particularly in highly efficient diesel-driven power generation systems. Robert Wagner says, “We can offer our offshore customers many significant advantages and a complete package solution from a single supplier. That means we can provide a powerful, compact, lightweight design ideal for offshore applications, with all the components are integrated, thoroughly tested and supported,” he explains.

There’s nothing easy or inexpensive about offshore oil and gas production. But as the world clamors for more energy, it’s clear that there’s a bright future in the darkest water.

The content of the stories reflects the status as of the respective date of publication. They are not updated. Further developments are therefore not taken into account.

Point of Contact

David Oliphant
Tel.:
+1 248 560 8054
+1 313 592 5708
E-mail:

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