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ABB unveils world-first, commercially viable subsea power system

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Oilfield Technology,

ABB has announced that its subsea power distribution and conversion technology system is now commercially viable, following the successful completion of a 3000-hour shallow water test conducted in Vaasa, Finland (Figure 1).

Figure 1. 3000-hour shallow water test of the subsea power system in Vaasa, Finland. Image courtesy of ABB.

The tests are the culmination of a US$100 million R&D Joint Industry Project (JIP) between ABB, Equinor, Total and Chevron that was initiated in December 2013. Energy companies using the system will be able to access a reliable supply of up to 100 MW of power over distances of up to 600 km and at a depth of 3000 m, via a single cable. Consequently, the majority of the world's offshore hydrocarbon resources are now in reach for electrification. "This milestone marks an outstanding achievement and is the culmination point of an inspirational technology development achieved through tremendous dedication, expertise and perseverance. It is the result of intensive collaboration by over 200 scientists from ABB, Equinor, Total and Chevron in a multi-year joint effort,” said Dr Peter Terwiesch, President of the Industrial Automation business of ABB.

Figure 2. Infographic of the subsea power system. Image courtesy of ABB. 

Reduced power usage

By powering pumps and gas compressors on the seabed closer to the reservoir, the company's technology can significantly reduce power consumption. There is also potential for substantial energy savings, achieved through reduced carbon emissions by using power from the shore. The technology can connect to any power source, facilitating potential integrations with renewable sources of energy, such as wind and hydropower.

On the basis of a specific field development case, ABB believes that the subsea power system could deliver CAPEX savings of over US$500 million, if eight consumers, such as pumps or compressors, are linked through a single cable over 200 km from other infrastructure.

Subsea factory "no longer a dream"

By reducing the number of personnel required offshore, the technology will reduce risks and improve overall safety.

“Moving the entire oil and gas production facility to the seabed is no longer a dream,” added Terwiesch. “Remotely operated, increasingly autonomous subsea facilities powered by lower-carbon energy are more likely to become a reality as we transition towards a new energy future.”

Figure 3. Subsea substation. Image courtesy of ABB.

Prior to the shallow water tests, only the transmission cable and subsea step-down transformer had been proven to be capable of operating underwater. The subsea power system now includes a step-down transformer, medium voltage variable speed drives (VSDs) and switchgear, control and low voltage power distribution, and power electronics and control systems. The company's cloud AbilityTM System 800xA was responsible for controlling the testing.

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