ABB Showcases World-first Subsea Power System
Revolutionary technology proven to operate successfully in 3,000-hour shallow-water test
Swiss-Swedish multinational electrical engineering and global power systems technology specialist ABB has announced the commercial availability of its groundbreaking new subsea power distribution and conversion technology system designed to bring about cleaner, safer and more sustainable oil and gas production.
As part of a $100 million research, design and development joint industry project (JIP) between ABB and partners Equinor, Chevron and Total initiated in 2013, the company recently completed a 3,000-hour shallow-water test at a sheltered harbor in Vaasa, Finland demonstrating the validity of the technology, meaning that the majority of the world’s offshore hydrocarbon resources can be harvested through the use of subsea electrification.
Deep-ocean operation a reality
The results of the test also show that for the first time worldwide, energy companies will be able to access a reliable supply of up to 100 megawatts of power over distances of up to 600 kilometers and down to depths of 3,000 meters, where ambient pressures are in excess of 300 atmospheres. Power can be supplied through a single cable that can be used for up to 30 years, thereby making oil and gas production in distant and deep ocean environments a reality.
“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,” stated Dr Peter Terwiesch, President of the Industrial Automation business of ABB.
Cheaper, safer, greener production
Based on a specific development case, ABB estimates that the new subsea power distribution and conversion system could offer capital expenditure savings of more than $500 million by linking eight power-consuming units such as pumps and compressors through a single cable over a distance of 200 kilometers from other infrastructure. In addition, the supply of power to such units on the seabed can significantly reduce power consumption, resulting in substantial energy savings and much lower carbon emissions compared with using shore-based systems. The technology can be driven by any power source, including wind and hydro power. A further benefit of the subsea technology is reduced operational risk and increased safety, as fewer offshore staff are required for operations and the benefits of digitalization and autonomy can be exploited.
“Moving the entire oil and gas production facility to the seabed is no longer a dream,” said Dr 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.”
Before completion of the 3,000-hour shallow-water test of the whole system, only the transmission cable and the subsea step-down transformer had been proven to operate under water. Now, however, the complete subsea power distribution and conversion system includes a step-down transformer, medium-voltage variable (or adjustable) speed drives (VSDs or ASDs) and switchgear, and control and low-voltage power distribution, as well as power electronics and control systems.