Oil and gas exploration is pushing out into deeper waters further offshore – up to 3000m deep and over 100km away from the coast. In these cases, operations are challenging and building a floating oil platform is a very expensive undertaking. That is why, for over a decade, GE’s researchers have been looking at developing technologies that could revolutionize offshore oil and gas production, by creating a seafloor unit that processes wellstream fluid right on the seabed. This unit could deliver not only a smarter and more cost efficient solution, but also one which is more environmentally friendly.
Subsea represents a harsh, extreme environment. The processing equipment required to perform the work, such as subsea separators, pumps and compressors which transport oil and gas back to the shore, all need power at the sea floor. Creating the high-power electronics for use on the seabed comes with its own set of unique challenges. This electrical part of GE’s broader subsea processing research program is globally led out of the European Research Center in Munich. It is comprised of a diverse team of scientists not only from Munich, but also from our research centers located in upstate New York, Brazil and Shanghai, with expertise in subsea packaging, high-voltage engineering, and other related fields.
Inventing the next generation subsea technology can only be done in close collaboration with GE’s Oil and Gas and Power Conversion businesses, which have deep expertise in subsea solutions. We combine new technology with proven and qualified technical solutions that have been developed by the business teams. As a result, from 2011 until 2013, at the Ormen Lange field, a compression pilot system, including GE’s Blue -C compressor, high-speed motor and a 12 MW variable speed drive has been tested under water in a huge basin, passing all qualification tests.
Subsea qualification of new technology and complex systems can take many years, so having technology ready for market is a long process. Even so, R&D collaborations between GE’s Global Research Center and its business teams has led to commercial applications in adjacent fields of oil and gas applications in less than three years. More specifically, last December GE’s Power Conversion business in Shanghai launched the MV6 series medium-voltage drives that is now being sold to global customers. The new drive technology originates from a successful collaboration of Power Conversion and Global Research that started in 2012.
Developing the technologies that will successfully enable our customers to capture oil and gas resources in some of the most challenging environments on Earth is truly a team effort. I hope you enjoyed reading about our work and invite you to follow our progress here on the blog.