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Enabling oil production without the need for pipelines, FSO and FPSO units for temporary storage make exploring and exploiting even small or remote offshore oilfields lucrative. The risks, while requiring thorough analysis, are manageable
G olden Lion” is the meaning of the Vietnamese term “Su Tu Vang”. It is the name of the largest oil field in Vietnamese waters. Exploration was completed in the autumn of 2008. “The field is expected to produce up to 100,000 bbl per day,” says Nguyen Dang Lieu, Vice Presi- dent of the national oil company Petrovietnam, the main shareholder of Su Tu Vang. Production began at around 10,000 bbl per day and rapidly increased to two-thirds the planned maximum production rate.
What sets this oil well apart from other offshore wells: it does not use a pipeline to pump its oil to the mainland. Rather, the oil produced by the well has been flowing to the FSO unit “Queensway” since 25 November 2008 via a Cen- tral Processing Platform (CPP). Queensway had arrived at her moorings in the oil field in late October and soon be- gan loading oil. The oil will be off-loaded onto the shuttle tanker at regular intervals.
By the time the first shuttle came alongside, Queens- way had already stored roughly 350,000 bbl, about one- third of her capacity. FSO, or Floating Storage and Of-
floading units such as Queensway, are essentially huge floating oil tanks. They store the produced oil before ex- porting it via shuttle tankers for further processing on land. The shuttles arrive at scheduled intervals that de- pend on the production rate of the well and the FSO’s storage capacity.
FPSO ships – with an added “P” for “Production” – can do even more. They not only receive crude oil from a nearby production platform but also process oil, gas and water us- ing their own, on-board production plants. After all, what comes out of the ground is by no means pure oil. Rather, it is a mixture of oil, gas and water. FPSO units separate oil, gas and water. The water is cleaned and dumped back into the sea. The gas is dried, compressed and exported to shore via a pipeline pumped through a pipeline, while the oil is stored on board the vessel. An FPSO or FSO can usually store the production of two weeks. The pipeline running to the mainland is exclusively used for gas.
FLOATING STORAGE. FSO vessel “Queensway” receives oil from the Viet- namese Su Tu Vang field.