OneSubsea wants to shrink its footprint — and recover more oil

HOUSTON – OneSubsea is adding a twist to its two-decade old subsea pumps that may save operators from spending billions to build surface facilities many miles offshore.

Next year, the young Houston-based joint venture will deploy the world’s first multiphase gas compressor to a Norwegian oil field operated by Statoil, a move that could prove to oil producers in East Africa and Australia – where oil companies operate in extremely remote spots offshore – that they could bypass the massive cost of building topside gas compressor units.

“It gives you a much smaller footprint,” said Justin Rounce, vice president of marketing and technology for OneSubsea, during the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston.

Oil field service giant Schlumberger Ltd. And subsea equipment manufacturer Cameron formed OneSubsea last July in a bid to join reservoir engineering and subsea equipment expertise. Specifically, OneSubsea’s mission is to develop technologies that increase oil production and boost ultimate recovery rates from slippery deep-water reservoirs.

“It’s much easier to build a business case around a field where you can recover 50 to 60 percent of the oil in the ground, versus a deep-water reservoir where we typically produce only 10 to 12 percent of the oil,” Rounce said.

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Leaving 85 percent of the oil thousands of feet below the sea doesn’t make oil companies or their investors happy when they’re spending billions to develop those assets – the reason why OneSubsea’s customers are interested in cutting costs with subsea gas compressors and the like, Rounce said.

“We really think about the hydrocarbon molecule in the pore space all the way to the production facility,” he said. “We have geoscientists who work together with our subsea engineers. That’s never really been done before.”

Schlumberger’s first subsea multiphase pump was deployed in 1994. They were designed to boost the natural pressure in a deep-water reservoir to push oil up to production facilities thousands of feet above the sea floor. The company has deployed about 80 of the subsea pumps around the world, its biggest units ignited by 3.8 megawatts of power.

OneSubsea’s multiphase pump sitting on the floor at Reliant Center during OTC is one of the company’s smaller models, able to operate in more than 9,800 feet of water.