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Photo: SBM Atlantia, Inc. 2009 All rights reserved

INDUSTRIAL SERVICES | FPSO

Oil platform

“FSOs and FPSOs are an excellent option for remote or deep-sea oil fields. Installing pipelines to connect wells to the mainland increases costs immensely, mainly because of the large quantities of steel required. This is why an FSO or FPSO is an ideal solution,” explains Raza Amin, Manag- ing Director of Trident Consultants, a consulting firm based in Malaysia that joined the Germanischer Lloyd Group in 2008.

But cost efficiency is not the only benefit of using sta- tionary storage vessels, says Amin: “FSOs and FPSOs are also an ideal choice for fields with limited oil reserves. It does not make sense to invest huge sums of money to extract oil out of these fields. An FPSO is more econom- ical than installing a pipeline. For smaller oil companies and for newly industrializing or developing countries, FPSOs are a natural choice.”

Manageable Risk

Trident has been in business for 27 years and has over- seen more than 30 FSO and FPSO projects. Trident’s ex- pert consulting services focus on HSE risk management, making sure the equipment will operate safely without endangering Health, Safety or the Environment (HSE). Both equipment installed on the “floaters” and opera- tional procedures used must be designed for both eco- nomical feasibility and safety. “The FPSO business is full of challenges,” says Amin. “To give an example, it is ex- tremely weather-dependent.”

Rough weather conditions make loading a very compli- cated process because the shuttle tanker must manoeuvre very closely to the FPSO. While there are sophisticated rules for these offshore operations, implementing them is nearly impossible without expert advice, Amin adds. “So our job is to analyse technical risks and do our best to minimize them. To accomplish this we cooperate closely with gov-

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FSO/FPSO

Tanker

ernment and private-sector supervisory bodies. We try to lower risks as much as reasonably possible.”

Cost-Effective Alternative

The most important component of an FPSO system is the ship as such. To find the best solution for a given applica- tion, you need to consider the size of the oil reservoir, says Amin. “If the reservoir is substantial, it may make sense to custom-build an FPSO vessel, or floater, including a double hull and special features to suite the operating environment. That is the expensive option. And apart from the cost, ship- yards around the world have long waiting lists. Time is a big factor in this business.” In the western African Bonga field, for example, Shell deployed large, custom-built floaters, says Amin. Another field in Indonesia was likewise exploited us- ing newly-built floaters several years ago. But those are ex-

HEAVY LIFTING. FPSO vessels must be anchored reliably. The technology preferred today is a single-point mooring (SPM) system.

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