The Kimberlite Report: Part 2 – greater reliability and fewer failures from subsea control systems are vital

The Kimberlite Report: Part 2 – greater reliability and fewer failures from subsea control systems are vital

Posted: August 5, 2020

In the second part of our analysis of the industry trends and future strategy emerging from the Subsea Equipment & Services Supplier Performance Report, recently published by Kimberlite Oilfield Research, we turn our attention to technology.

The core message put across by the 50 subsea oil and gas operating companies interviewed as part of the recently published 2020 Kimberlite Subsea Equipment & Services Supplier Performance Report is that control systems have clear room for improvement when it comes to reliability standards, and invariably the problematic components tend to be either the subsea control modules (SCM) or the subsea electronics modules (SEM).

Many producers are making investment commitments to key equipment, only to experience concerns around its reliability and efficiency soon after deployment. At a time of reduced oil prices when many new developments have been frozen and moderate brownfield extensions, where much future expenditure is directed, are offering marginal gains, this issue constitutes a major threat to the viability of operations and strategy.

Reliability standards must improve

When Kimberlite asked operators what key technology, service or development approaches have had the biggest impact on improving their subsea operations, 21 per cent of global respondents cite greater reliability of equipment. This is reflected in the fact 22 per cent presently state their subsea control systems are not meeting their reliability expectations, a modest reduction from the 28 per cent recorded in 2018’s report.

Reliability is valued when almost one in four operators believe their subsea controls are not delivering required standards.

Nevertheless, Tore Erntsen, Proserv’s Chief Technology Officer, observes that Kimberlite’s findings show how much of an issue reliability is day-to-day, “Clearly when operators can trust that their equipment won’t let them down, it makes a huge difference to their performance. Providing reliable systems and solutions must be a fundamental building block for suppliers.

“It is not acceptable that such a proportion of operators still do not think their subsea controls are meeting their reliability requirements. This equipment is integral to efficient production and, considering it is installed on the seabed in inaccessible and challenging environments, the fact Kimberlite also estimates the average mean time between failures to be less than two years has to give operators pause for thought and to reassess if they are working with the right provider.”

Further Kimberlite research establishes the scale of the problem operators have with their subsea controls, as 30 per cent of all purchases are to either replace or retrofit an existing system. It is notable the number of subsea controls providers that operators are using is starting to increase – as a global average, an operator will use 1.75 suppliers to meet their requirements, while in the Gulf of Mexico the number is 2.00, a potential indication of a firm seeking alternative and more effective solutions.

Reliability seen as main Proserv strength

Feedback provided by the operators interviewed by Kimberlite reveals the main strength that differentiates Proserv from its competitors is the reliability and quality of its equipment, with 42 per cent of respondents referencing it, while a further 33 per cent highlight the firm’s capabilities in engineering and technical support.

Kimberlite graph showing Proserv's perceived strengths
At a time when equipment reliability is regarded as having the biggest impact on improving operations, Proserv is identified as delivering this requirement as its strongest attribute.

Referring to Proserv’s specific positioning to the subsea market, Kimberlite’s analysts remark:

“Proserv customers cite using Proserv due to their technology offerings along with good quality and competitive pricing. Proserv in particular specialises in being able to retrofit outdated control systems with updated electronics and reliability at very competitive pricing resulting in Proserv being recognised as a strong value in the market.”

The Kimberlite Report states that a third of all subsea operating firms wants to see the reliability of subsea control systems improve, while almost half of those questioned, 46 per cent, pinpoint subsea controls as the main supplier offering where “additional advancements and innovations in technology are needed to meet their future operational requirements.”

Obsolete SEMs a critical factor

Delving further into Kimberlite’s feedback shows that when failures occur to subsea control systems, the most likely components to malfunction are SCMs and SEMs. 49 per cent of those surveyed flag up problems with SCMs, while 24 per cent cite issues with SEMs. However, as the SEM is installed directly within the SCM, it is likely these findings point to a much higher incidence of faults with SEMs than is suggested.

SCMs and SEMS generate 73 per cent of all failures in subsea controls systems.

Tore Erntsen believes Kimberlite’s detailed analysis not only underlines a major industry concern but reinforces the essential qualities of Proserv’s technology offerings:

“This detailed research validates our entire strategy towards subsea control systems and technology development. We know that much of the equipment out in the market suffers from acute issues around reliability and electronics becoming obsolete when original equipment manufacturers (OEM) fail to continue supporting older control systems, often after just a few years.

“The subsea operators we work with know that our Artemis 2G SEM technology can be configured to coexist with any legacy OEM system, effectively eliminating the problem of obsolete equipment. This means we can retrofit our SEM into the existing SCMs, immediately boosting reliability, and, due to the faster bit rates our technology generates, extending the functionality available.

“Kimberlite’s report ultimately shows that, moving forwards, operators need to focus and prioritise their infrastructure spending around procuring reliable, high-quality subsea controls, as this is where potential problems and failures could arise.

“Too many operators typically base their expenditure around their choice of subsea tree, yet subsequently suffer issues with their controls just a short while later.”

Tore Erntsen
Tore Erntsen, Chief Technology Officer

Further reading

Part 1 of the Kimberlite Report: reduced spending and caution point to further brownfield opportunities

Part 3: Proserv’s footprint expands as it outstrips competition across key performance benchmarks

Part 4: the key takeaways

Get updated from anywhere

Subscribe to us and get more information