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SPE 84045

An Assessment of Subsea Production Systems

D. Devegowda, SPE and S.L. Scott, SPE, Texas A&M U.

Copyright 2003, Society of Petroleum Engineers Inc.

wells/flowlines and the ocean environment make monitoring,
This paper was prepared for presentation at the SPE Annual Technical Conference and intervention and routine operation much more difficult. These
Exhibition held in Denver, Colorado, U.S.A., 5 -8 October 2003.
systems are now being deployed in ways rarely encountered in
This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE Program Committee following review of
information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper, as
previous development schemes.1,2,3 One of the forces driving
presented, have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to increased use of subsea production systems is the dramatic
correction by the author(s). The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect any
position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, its officers, or members. Papers presented at reduction in development costs when compared with
SPE meetings are subject to publication review by Editorial Committees of the Society of
Petroleum Engineers. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper
conventional methods.4 In many cases, the use of a subsea
for commercial purposes without the written consent of the Society of Petroleum Engineers is tieback is the only viable option to develop these resources.
prohibited. Permission to reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300
words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous In recent years, we have seen a rapid maturing of the
acknowledgment of where and by whom the paper was presented. Write Librarian, SPE, P.O.
Box 833836, Richardson, TX 75083-3836, U.S.A., fax 01-972-952-9435.
technology being developed for subsea use.5
However, a number of technical issues are associated with
subsea production.6,7,8,9 Industry and regulators are
Abstract increasingly becoming aware that, while reducing up-front
The rapidly accelerating shift to subsea production systems capital outlays, long, multiphase flowlines add additional
represents a significant departure from conventional backpressure, reducing flow rates and ultimate recoveries. For
operations. Historically, subsea wells have had a good track example, conventional production operations routinely
record. However, complex subsea systems are now being drawdown wellhead pressures to 100-200 psig. A subsea
deployed in ways rarely encountered in previous development completed well, however, may have abandonment wellhead
schemes. These increasingly complex systems present a pressures of 1,000-2,000 psig due to the backpressure added
number of technical challenges. This paper presents an by the long multiphase flowline. Consequently, there is a
assessment of subsea production systems, considering the growing interest in processing the produced fluids subsea.5,10,11
technical, operations and safety issues associated with this Strategic technologies that are believed to be essential for the
development modality. successful implementation of subsea production include
This assessment considers the following general areas: 1) multiphase pumping10,11,12,13, multiphase metering14,15,16and
subsea processing; 2) flow assurance; 3) long-term well compact separation. One of the challenges posed by subsea
monitoring and, 4) safety & environmental concerns. A production is how to reduce wellhead pressure to allow
review of the state-of-the-art in each of these areas is effective recovery of hydrocarbon resources. Multiphase
presented and several technical and operational gaps are pumping is one technology being considered to help remedy
identified. One of the most striking findings is the low this situation, as well as pressure boosting deployed in
ultimate recovery anticipated from many subsea wells. Two advanced subsea well systems.
new technologies that can have a positive impact on recoveries Other challenges in the subsea arena are in the areas of
are subsea multiphase pumping and subsea flow assurance and well monitoring and intervention.
separation/processing. This assessment found, however, that Sustained casing pressure has been identified as one of the key
the safety systems seem to be absent from current subsea areas requiring inexpensive and effective intervention
processing plans. Other concerns include the inability to options.9,17 Another key area is the area of blockage
monitor subsea wells for sustained casing pressure, a monitoring. For the past decade research has focused on
widespread problem in the GOM. With regard to flow developing design methodology, while relatively little
assurance, much work has been done to develop design tools attention has been paid to the long-term problem of
for flow assurance, little has been done in the area of monitoring subsea flowlines for the buildup of wax, scale,
monitoring subsea production systems to detect and locate hydrates, etc. There is a need for analysis techniques to help
these materials. As more subsea systems are placed in identify and locate partial pipeline blockages and new
operation, the monitoring and operation needs (rather than the development of sensors to monitor the flow.
design needs) will likely emerge as the top priority. This paper discusses some of the few fundamental issues
associated with subsea processing. The various options are
Introduction discussed and the advantages and disadvantages of each type
The subsea environment is perhaps the most remote and of technology are highlighted. Most importantly, technology
unexplored on earth. The remoteness of subsea wells, coupled gaps are identified that, if not properly address, may limit the
with a number of complex interactions between subsea application of subsea technology.
2 SPE 84045

This paper proposes the new concept of a global energy

balance to evaluate energy usage in the production system. 5000
The energy losses encountered are shown to be largely
frictional losses in the flowline and acceleration losses across Inflow
chokes in addition to the gravitational losses due to high water Outflow
depths. The paper proposes the concept that energy losses 3500

occurring across a choke or in the flow system are a waste of 3000

Pwf, psia
reservoir energy energy that could be used to extract more 2500 wf

fluids from the reservoir and improve ultimate recoveries. It is 2000

also shown that the backpressure imposed on the wellhead 1500

Using a MPP
increases with pipeline length and longer flowlines are shown 1000
to decrease production rates from the reservoir. Finally, 500
Q 0

classical reservoir engineering methods combined with 0

numerical multiphase flow simulators are used to model the 0 5000 10000 15000 20000 25000 30000

interaction between the reservoir and the production facilities, Qo, STB/D

thereby helping to compare and contrast various subsea

processing strategies. Fig. 1-Nodal analysis plot showing increase in production rate
and decrease in bottomhole pressure with a multiphase pump
Subsea Processing
Subsea processing can comprise one of the Use of downhole ESPs has been limited due to high
following scenarios. intervention costs. Wellhead multiphase boosting has been the
Multiphase Boosting most popular means of subsea boosting and several have now
Subsea Gas/Liquid Separation/Re-injection and been installed and established an impressive track record18,19.
Pumping This technology has become classified as proven technology
Subsea Water Separation/Re-injection and Pumping as operator confidence has risen. Moreover multiphase
Downhole Water/Oil Separation pumps are now capable of handling GVFs as high as 97% and
The basic premise behind operating a subsea processing is up to a 100% GVF for a short period of time. The multiphase
to offload processing equipment to the seafloor, thereby pumping options negates the need for separators and two
reducing demands on the surface structure, whether a TLP, pipelines at the wellhead as all the produced fluids can be
Spar, FPSO, etc. These systems offer the added benefit of delivered through a single flowline.
moving these processes away from personnel and increase It is also crucial to time the installation of a multiphase
flow rates and maintain them for a longer period of time. It is pump. The impact in production acceleration and recovery
also seen that subsea processing aid in improving project will be different if the pump were to be installed in the early
economics by increasing ultimate recoveries from the stages of production than what it would be if it were installed
reservoir and reducing capital costs. late in the life of the field.10 The installation of a subsea
In this study, we have conducted numerical simulation multiphase pump as a retrofit latter in the life of the field is
studies to show the improvement of ultimate recoveries from expected to yield very strong economics.
subsea and deepwater reservoirs with the aid of some means However while there are obvious advantages to the use of
of subsea processing. The steady-state interaction of multiphase pumps, it still has not gathered as much attention
processing facilities with the reservoir and tubing are as expected. One of the primary reasons is that discoveries
considered to aid in an understanding of the response of the have exhibited high reservoir pressures and permeabilities.
reservoir. The improvement comes about by a reduction in the This has allowed fields to be developed economically without
backpressure imposed on the reservoir from long subsea the need for boosting. Some of the other issues with subsea
flowlines and greater water depths (Fig 1). The reservoir tends multiphase pumping include:
to waste energy trying to get fluids to the surface facility under Large multiphase pumps installed at great tie-back
the influence of backpressure. The effects of this backpressure distances require huge amounts of power and this
are mitigated with the use of separation and/or boosting. would entail the expense, space and maintenance of
additional power supply facilities at the topside.
Multiphase Boosting. Multiphase pumps can be deployed in Longer tieback distances also require long and
four primary locations within the production system at the expensive umbilicals and power losses over long
topsides facility, at the riser base, at the wellhead or subsea distances can be appreciable.
manifold or downhole. The mode of deployment depends on Also multiphase pumps have still not demonstrated a
the interaction of several factors: capability of handling high GVFs of 99-100% over
Cost of intervention extended periods of time, a capability that might be
Reliability (mean time to failure) deemed necessary for gas condensate reservoirs and
Gas Volume Fraction (GVF) at pump suction other black oil reservoirs late in their life.
Other options to be considered are those to be
employed in case of a failure. Would replacement or
a repair strategy be the most cost effective and timely
SPE 84045 3

is a question that has to be answered for each developments. Some of the reasons for this hesitance on the
subsea project. part of all operators to embrace this concept are:
Sand production and mitigation remains a problem The use of multiphase pumps and the U.S Minerals
when it comes to multiphase boosting. Management Services approval of the use of FPSOs
Some of the options that could be a possibility in the on an application specific basis have reduced the
future are: need for complex solutions like separation at
The use of alternate power sources like salt water the seafloor.
cells for power supply at the seafloor. The requirement of complex equipment on the
Use of mini TLPs or bouys provides power and seafloor, which may not be accessible easily, and cost
chemicals to the pump as opposed to use of a effectively in case of a failure.
long umbilical. Normal sand and solids production has a way of
Development of multiphase pumps that can reducing residence time in separators and this
handle high GVFs for a very large period requires frequent intervention.
of time. While cyclone based compact separation has been
proved in surface applications, they are yet to make a
Subsea Gas/Liquid Separation. As opposed to mark in the deepwater arena.
Oil/Water separation, gas/water separation has been The liquid pumping station requires huge amounts of
developed only for operation on the seafloor and power for which a supply may or may not exist on
downhole units are still to be deployed. However, subsea a platform.
gas/liquid separation holds great promise for the future of The complexity of subsea architecture increases with
subsea field development and the exploitation of the use of separators. Manifolds, valves, control
marginal fields. systems, instrumentation all add to the costs and the
Subsea gas/liquid separation would involve the complexity of the system while the industry tends
pumping of the liquid phase through one line while the towards less expensive and simple alternatives.
gas would flow without boosting through a separate line. Reliability is still an issue as this is not yet a
Some of the benefits of subsea gas/liquid separation are: proven technology.
A reduction of backpressure imposed on the sand There are some challenges to be overcome for this
face of the reservoir allowing for greater technology to be adopted for newer field developments and
production rates and improved ultimate recovery. some of the solutions could be:
The possibility that the gas be re-compressed and The use of mini-TLPs, mini-FPSOs or buoys to act as
re-injected to provide reservoir pressure support. power stations for a field.
The possibility of using centrifugal pumps to lift Increasing the reliability of subsea separation
the liquid. equipment and developing innovative methods to
The gas line suffers from a lower pressure drop mitigate sands and solid production.
reducing the need for recompression of Some of the separated gas could be recoupled with
gas topsides. the liquid at the riser base to reduce slugging effects
Helps in flow assurance issues as a large and to provide a gas lift effect. Some fields of this
percentage of the lighter hydrocarbon is diverted nature are already in existence and being operated.
through the gas line helping avoid hydrate Tieback of separated gas/liquid streams to existing
formation problems or reducing the quantity of fields where the flow is multiphase proves to be
methane to be injected. a problem.
Depressurizing the separator and the liquid While this technology has more than a few benefits, it remains
flowline through the gas line may eliminate to be seen whether it will become as popular an option as
hydrate formation during shutdowns. subsea multiphase pumping.
Separator pressure can be lowered to allow for
easier re-start of wells. VASPS (Vertical Annular Separation and Pumping
The gas/liquid separation scheme also allows for System). This technology offers more benefits than the
a reduction in the diameter of the risers standard subsea gas-liquid separation technique. The VASPS
and flowlines. uses a smaller well drilled close to the riser base within which
It allows for a reduced footprint on the topsides is a compact separator and an ESP. The produced fluids from
or surface facility. the manifold are delivered to the VASPS system and the gas
Processing of fluids right at the seabed also and liquid streams are separated within the secondary
allows for smaller process stations on host wellbore. The gas flows to the surface under its own energy
platforms. This would prove useful for smaller while the liquid is pumped to the surface with an ESP.
operators to tie in to platforms operated by the The benefits a VASPS system offers over the standard
major oil companies when there is a dearth gas-liquid separation scheme are:
of capacity. Easy accessibility to the separation and boosting
Even with all the benefits of subsea gas/liquid separation, equipment in case of a failure.
there is a reluctance to adopt this scheme for most new
4 SPE 84045

Reduced capital outlay since only one multiphase developed. Still, for the above reasons, operators are not
pipeline is required to transport produced fluids to the adopting the oil/water separation technology.
VASPS system as opposed to having two flowlines
with conventional subsea separation. Wellbore Artificial Lift. Artificial gas lift has also been
Reduced operating expenses due to a reduced power evaluated as one of the options of improving reservoir
requirement, since the electrical umbilical need not performance. Usually, gas lift options come into operation
extend all the way to the marginal subsea field. when the reservoir pressure is not able to sustain the flow rates
The VASPS system has been tested and is currently in use due to increased water cut. In such cases, gas lift is brought
by Petrobras in offshore Brazil. into operation.
There are two options for gas lift.
Subsea Oil/Water Separation. Oil/Water separation at the Conventional gas lift using separated gas from the
subsea level is another facet of subsea processing that has yet production facility.
to prove itself as a mature technology. At this time, only the In-situ gas injection This method uses the
Troll C Pilot project in the North Sea has adopted an overpressured gas cap as a source of gas to inject into
Oil/Water separation scheme with the water re-injected to the wellbore to provide artificial lift.
provide pressure support for the reservoir. With both options, the gas rate has to be controlled to
Oil/Water separation at the subsea level can be designed meet changing reservoir conditions and gas
to be handled at two places, either downhole or at the seafloor. processing capacity.
A downhole unit would separate the water from the oil Artificial gas lift is a proven technology and has seen
using a hydrocylone and the separated water would be re- applications in many fields worldwide, notably the Yme
injected in to a lower zone for reservoir pressure support using Subsea field2 in the North Sea in 100m water depth and the
a submersible pump, either electric or hydraulic. Norne Subsea field in the North Sea.
A seafloor unit would comprise of a separator gravity or Other applications of gas injection are injection at the
cyclone based and two separate lines, one for the oil and the riser base to prevent slugging. This also reduces the
other for the gas. The produced water may be re-injected after hydrostatic head in the riser thereby reducing backpressure on
treatment at a facility installed at the seafloor. In both the the reservoir.
scenarios, the oil may be pumped to the surface However, gas injection options require long pipelines
process facility. installed for gas injection unless it is an in-situ gas injection
The benefits of oil/water separation are the same as those process. This raises many issues especially in the areas of flow
achieved with gas/liquid separation. Some of the other assurance since hydrate formation is possible at low seafloor
advantages are: temperatures. Other challenges are in providing adequate
A reduction in space requirements topsides for a compressor power to send gas many miles from the process
separation and water handling facility. facility to inject downhole. This would require large
A reduction in the possibility of hydrate formation on compressors and huge power requirements, which might be a
account of the lower volumes of water moving in the limitation on most process facilities.
oil line.
The use of a boosting mechanism to pump the oil Ultimate Recovery from Subsea Wells
reduces well backpressure and hence improves Conventional production operations routinely drawdown
reservoir ultimate recovery and provides for higher wellhead pressures to about 100-200 psig. In the case of
production rates. subsea wells in marginal fields located at the end of long
The same challenges as with gas/liquid separation exist flowlines, these abandonment pressures may be as high as
with oil/water separation. 1000-2000 psig due to the backpressure added by the long
Reliability still remains an issue and the operational flowline. These wells also operate under a constant
efficiency of the Troll C Pilot will dictate further backpressure for the life of the field and this has been shown
investments in this area. to reduce ultimate recovery.
Also hydrate prevention might be another problem in Consider the energy balance in a gas pipeline. Some
spite or rather due to the lower volumes of water assumptions made are:
transported as this reduces the heat capacity of the Isothermal flow, that is the temperature changes in
flow downstream of the separator. the fluid are negligible.
Another challenge is the need to dispose of the The change in kinetic energy of the gas is negligible.
produced water if it is not being used for re-injection. The friction factor, f is a constant over the flow rates
It cannot be dumped on the seafloor unless the water encountered.
is rid of all solids and hydrocarbon and processing The pipeline is horizontal.
water to acceptable quality levels at the seafloor is The energy balance can be written as:
expensive and not fully a mature area. dp fv dl 2
However some new developments are being introduced in + vdv + gdh + =0
the subsea processing area. An integrated process unit 2d
complete with sand disposal, metering units, gas compression
units, water injection pumps and separators has been
SPE 84045 5

that is, the sum of the changes of kinetic energy and potential As the pipeline length increases, for a given friction
energy and the pressure work done and the loss of energy due factor, the frictional losses increase. This energy loss to
to friction is zero. friction is a waste of reservoir energy that could be used to
Due to the assumptions made above, the equation improve production rates and ultimate recovery from
reduces to the reservoir.
dp fv 2 dl Other losses are incurred in fittings, chokes and valves
= .(2) and this can be represented by the equation, which sums up all
2d the losses on all such obstacles.
and using the relations 1
lw2 = i =1 ( v 2 ev ) i ..(10)
pM 2
= ..(3)
zRT where ev is the friction loss factor for each fitting. The value of
and the friction loss factor varies from 0.2 for open gate valves to
Pb QbTz 0.45(1-) for sudden contractions, where is ratio of the
v= . ..(4) smaller cross sectional area to the larger cross sectional area.22
Tb / 4 D 2 p There are further gravitational losses suffered by the fluid in
we get the riser. The energy loss per unit mass is gh, where g is the
Pb Qb2 fT 2 z 2 dl gravitational acceleration and h is the height of the riser.
dp + sin.dl + = 0 Energy losses to the environment also include heat losses
Tb / 4 2d
Mp p2 in the pipeline and riser system.23 The amount of heat loss is a
..(5) function of the flow rates, insulation and/or heating strategy,
Solving this equation, we get pipeline length and pipeline and riser diameter.
The heat loss can be represented by the equation
Pb21 Tzf Q = UAT (11)
P =P +
2 2
LMQb2 5 .(6)
( / 4) R Tb
2 2 2
D where U is the overall heat transfer coefficient, A the area
Equation (6) relates pipeline outlet pressure to the inlet available to transfer heat which is in the case of a pipeline
pressure based on flow parameters like the gas flow rate, proportional to the pipeline length and pipeline diameter and
friction factor, pipeline length and mean temperature. This T is the temperature difference between the surroundings and
equation illustrates the well-known fact that the pipeline inlet the fluid.
pressure increases with pipeline length. This increase in inlet The net energy loss from the fluid can be estimated using
pressure is known as backpressure and this backpressure the equation
influences the reservoir performance. fv 2 L 1
+ i =1 ( v 2 ev ) i
Assuming the gravitational drop and frictional drop in the lwT =
wellbore are negligible, the wellhead pressure, which is the 2D 2 (12)
pipeline inlet pressure, is the bottom hole flowing pressure. + gh + DLUT
The reservoir deliverability equation for gases is20,21 This equation shows that energy losses from the fluid are
Q = J ( P 2 P 2 wf ) n ...(7)
directly proportional to the pipeline length and water depth
and (riser length) and the number of fittings on the pipeline.
So it is necessary, in the case of marginal fields tied back to
P = P .....(8)
wf 1 existing production facilities to have some form of subsea
processing to improve ultimate recoveries. Subsea separation
This means that any increase in the bottom hole flowing and boosting and multiphase pumping and artificial gas lift are
pressure reduces the flow rate from the reservoir. Since the some of the means by which energy can be added to the well
reservoir is under this continual backpressure for the life of the stream or by which the energy loss can be mitigated.
field, the production rates are lower than what they would be
without any backpressure. Impact of Production Acceleration and Recovery by
With this application of the continual backpressure on the the use of Subsea Processing
reservoir, the economic limit for production is also reached One of the strongest drivers of using some form of subsea
sooner. The combination of reduced production rates and processing is to reduce bottom hole pressure, by reducing the
shorter life of field, in effect, reduce the ultimate recovery backpressure on the wellhead. This helps to accelerate
from the reservoir. production and increase ultimate recovery.
The same energy equation can be used to illustrate the Appendix A tabulates reservoir properties and production
same effect of long pipelines on liquid flowrates. facility design parameters. Fig. 2 shows the cumulative oil vs.
From equation (1), assuming the kinetic energy changes time for three different production scenarios. The first case is
of the gas in the pipeline are negligible, then the net energy the base case. In another scenario, a generic multiphase pump
loss to friction in the pipeline per unit mass can be represented was installed at the manifold. The third case is the separation
by the equation and liquid boosting case, with the separators and pumps
fv 2 L installed after the manifolds and the separated liquid and gas
lw1 = ...(9) sent through two different pipelines.
6 SPE 84045

Cumulative Oil
the operator based on operating and capital expense analysis
and experience and comfort level with the technology.
60 Another application of installing multiphase or liquid
boosters is in liquid loaded wells. As well flow rates decrease
50 Separation and Boosting with depletion, the velocity of the fluids in the wellbore
decreases to a point where the velocity of the gas phase may
Cumulative Oil, mmSTB

not be sufficient to drag the liquids out of the wellbore. This
results in accumulation of the liquid phase around the
perforations and may eventually kill the well. Turner et al24
Multiphase Pumping
predicted the flow rate below which liquid loading will occur.
The minimum lift velocity for gas condensate wells is
given by
Base Case
4.02(45 0.0031 ptf ) 0.25
0 v min = ....(13)
0 120 240 360 480 600 720 840 960 1080 (0.0031 ptf ) 0.5
This velocity is converted to a flow rate using the area of
Fig. 2-Comparison of ultimate recoveries using a) a multiphase the tubing, A and the real gas law:
pump and b) subsea separation and boosting with the base case
3.06v min Aptf
q= ......(14)
It can be seen that the use of some means of subsea TZ
processing, either the use of a multiphase pump or by subsea Once the flow rates have fallen below this minimum lift
separation and boosting, the recoveries at the end of the 3 flow rate, some means must be used to restore production.
years are higher than that in the base case. This is due to the These schemes can be either artificial lift or wellhead
energy input into the system and directly translates to an compression. Wellhead compression by the use of multiphase
improved ultimate recovery from the reservoir. or liquid boosters help unload liquid loaded wells since there
A comparison of the oil rates in Fig. 3 shows that accelerated is a reduction in bottomhole pressure thereby increasing
rates are possible by the use of multiphase pumping or subsea reservoir flow. Due to the installation of these boosters, there
separation and boosting. is a wellhead pressure reduction which results in increased gas
However, all these benefits from subsea processing are expansion near the surface allowing for increased gas
observed only when the wells are not tubing limited and the velocities. This helps extend the life of a field in cases where
pipeline has adequate flow capacity. If the well is tubing boosters were not installed during the initial phase
limited or the pipeline does not have adequate flow capacity, of production.
then the frictional losses dominate and the ability of the pump The timing of the installation is also an important issue
to directly reduce bottomhole pressure is reduced, since only a with subsea processing technology. While it may be deemed
small percentage of the wellhead pressure drop is translated to unnecessary for over pressured reservoirs as an initial capital
bottomhole pressure drop. outlay, for reservoirs that have a low initial pressure, the
installation of some subsea processing scheme aids in
Oil Rates improving net present values.10
Flow Assurance
Multiphase Pumping
Unrestricted flow of oil and gas streams is crucial to the
60000 Separation and Boosting petroleum industry. The use of multiphase systems to produce
and transport fluids long distances is becoming increasingly
Oil Rate, STB/Day

common. These fluids, a combination of gas,
crude/condensate and water together with solids such as a sand
Base Case
30000 and scale have the potential to cause many
20000 problems including:
10000 Hydrate formation
Wax/Asphaltene deposition
0 120 240 360 480 600 720 840 960 1080 Scale deposition
Time, Days Corrosion of facilities due to the movement of
Fig. 3-Comparison of oil rates with a) a multiphase pump and b)
particles like sand.
subsea separation and boosting with the base case. The requirement for an effective flow assurance policy is
to identify the potential for and quantify the magnitude of any
The use of multiphase pumping or subsea separation and of these anywhere in the system. Difficulties are posed due to
boosting thus improves project economics by increasing changing pressure, temperature and production profiles over
production rates and improving ultimate recovery. The option the life of the field. Apart from this, it is necessary to control
of selecting any one of these two techniques is a decision of and predict potential problems during transient periods, which
SPE 84045 7

means that the system should be able to shutdown and startup offshore GOM.9 Sustained casing pressure (SCP) is any
in a controlled manner. measurable casing pressure that will rebuild to the original
While new subsea tiebacks have benefited from advances pressure after being bled off and is attributable to causes other
in technology in terms of assuring continual flow, little has than artificially applied annular pressure that remains isolated
been done to detect and locate blockages in pipelines and from all other annuli.
risers. However, there do exist a few techniques25,25,27,28 based SCP can be caused by poor or damaged primary
on the basic backpressure plot to detect and locate blockages cementing, inadequate cement coverage, gas/water influx
caused by hydrate formation or wax and during or after cementing, mud cake shrinkage and micro
asphaltene deposition. fractures and micro annuli caused by in-situ stresses in
the cement.29
Long-Term Well Monitoring The dangers of SCP are apparent and can lead to:
With increasingly long tieback distances, there is a necessity Inoperable subsurface safety valves
to be able to monitor and control wells remotely. This has Damaged cement integrity due to the casing pressure
become possible with the use of intelligent well systems and Environmental pollution
subsea multiphase meters. Loss of production
Intelligent well systems are required to be able to provide: In extreme cases, a blowout.
Surveillance in real time: This means that they should The MMS requires that each casing annuli be fitted with a
be able to provide downhole measurements of flow pressure gauge of the appropriate range. Subsea trees currently
conditions and/or provide measurements of do not allow for this monitoring. For conventional well
reservoir conditions. identified with SCP remedial treatments are usually difficult
Control in real time: This includes remotely and often ineffective. However there are two techniques that
controlling production parameters and involves are currently available for wells affected by SCP.
opening and shutting down of zones and choking
of wells. Using a rig. This method involves moving in a drilling rig or a
Intelligent well systems have been installed in the workover rig or even a coiled tubing unit to perform some
offshore GOM and have been operating for a few years now. kind of a cut and squeeze operation in the well or to do a
The need for intelligent well systems has been felt now that cement bridging operation. This is most effective when SCP
marginal fields are being discovered many miles away from affects the production string only. When outer annuli are
existing surface process facilities. These systems are currently affected, then the operation involves squeezing cement into
being used to monitor and control water cuts, GORs and flow the affected area.
rates from a well. They are capable of shutting off a zone in However, all of these techniques have a low success rate
case of a higher water cut from that zone or in case of gas or due to the lack of access to the affected casing string and the
water coning. difficulty in establishing circulation. Also, these methods
While the benefits of the use of these systems are entail high expenditure since a rig has to be moved to
obvious, intelligent well systems are often complex and the location.
require huge investments in terms of equipment, like
umbilicals and power supplies to control and operate the Rigless methods. These methods are currently not very
various parts. Also if there is a failure in the remotely popular offshore due to the challenges with using these
controlled well system, this often entails a huge intervention techniques in higher water depths. These methods mostly
plan with a rig since most of the equipment is downhole. Most involve some injection of a high-density fluid followed by a
operators are also reluctant to use this technology since these bleed off from the annulus. This method of SCP remediation
systems often find an application not in the initial stages of a usually takes a few months or years to perform and may not be
field, but towards the later stages in the life of a field, when suited for subsea wells.
water cuts and gas coning problems arise in the reservoir. Other techniques have been developed to cure wells of
Multiphase metering is a technology that has gained SCP and involve the use of pressure-activated sealants8 at the
acceptance and is generating significant interest. These meters source of the casing leak. These methods have met with fair
play a special role for subsea developments where they can be success in the GOM but they require accurate data about the
utilized for: location of the leak. Also while these sealants are effective
Production allocation between different operators and with smaller leak sites, larger circular holes are more difficult
royalty interest blocks to seal.
Routine well testing for reservoir
management purposes Conclusions
Monitoring overall well and field performance and The results of this study indicate that:
operation decision-making. 1. Recoveries from subsea completed well are lower than
There are other issues involved with long term well typical for the industry. Subsea processing, either in the
monitoring and these have to do with the prevalence of use of multiphase pumps or with separation and liquid
sustained casing pressure in offshore wells. The Minerals boosting, is needed to improve ultimate recoveries.
Management Service (MMS) estimates there are 11,000
sources of sustained casing pressure in over 8000 wells in the
8 SPE 84045

2. Multiphase pumping has moved into the category of SPE 71682 presented at the 2001 Annual Technical
proven technology. In general, multiphase pumping Conference and Exhibition, New Orleans, 30
leads other subsea processing technologies by 5- 10 years. September-3 October.
3. Multiphase metering is emerging as a strategic technology 4. Christie, A. et al.: Subsea Solutions Schlumberger,
for subsea developments, providing the only cost effective www.slb.com
means of allocating production between operators and 5. Fjosne, E.: Subsea Processing-Maximising Value in
different royalty blocks. Areas With Existing Infrastructure,": paper OTC
4. A global energy balance has been proposed to examine 14008 presented at the 2002 Offshore Technology
energy losses within the subsea production systems. It is Conference, Houston, May 6-9.
postulated that energy wasted at the choke could be better 6. Havre, K. and Dalsmo, M.: Active Feedback
used to move oil in the reservoir. Control as the Solution to Severe Slugging, SPE
5. SCP monitoring is lacking for subsea wells and new cost paper 71540 presented at the 2001 Annual Technical
effective techniques are required. Conference and Exhibition, New Orleans, Louisiana,
6. Flow assurance research in the area of monitoring is 30 September-3 October.
likely to take priority as more development move from 7. Jayawardena, S., Dykhno, L. and Hudson, J.:
design to operation Challenges in Pigging of Subsea Flowlines, paper
SPE 77576 presented at the 2002 Annual Technical
Nomenclature Conference and Exhibition, San Antonio, 29
A =flow area of the tubing, ft2 September-2 October.
=inclination angle 8. Rusch, D.W. and Ellis, B.C: Use of Pressure
D,d =diameter of the flowline, m Activated Sealants to Cure Sources of Casing
ev =friction loss coefficient Pressure, paper SPE 55996 presented at the 1999
f =friction factor Western Regional Meeting, Anchorage, Alaska, 26-
h =height of the riser, m 28 May.
J =productivity Index, STB/D/psi 9. Wojtanowicz, A.K., Nishikawa, S. and Rong X.:
L =length of flowline, m Diagnosis and Remediation of Sustained Casing
Lw1 =frictional losses in pipeline, joules Pressure in Wells, final report, US MMS
Lw2 =frictional losses in pipeline, joules (July 2001).
LwT =total energy loss, joules 10. Martin, A.M. and Scott, S.L.: Modeling
n =Backpressure coefficient Reservor/Tubing/Pump Interaction Identifies Best
M =average molecular weight of gas Candidates for Multiphase Pumping, paper SPE
P =pressure, psig 77500 presented at the 2002 Annual Technical
Pb =base pressure, psig Conference and Exhibition, San Antonio, 29
P1 =pipeline outlet pressure, psig September-2 October.
P2 =pipeline inlet pressure, psig 11. Shippen, M.E. and Scott, S.L.: "Multiphase Pumping
Ptf =wellhead/tubing flowing pressure, psig as an Alternative to Conventional Separation,
Q =heat loss, joules Pumping and Compression," paper PSIG 0210
Qb =flow rate at Tb and Pb, STB/D accepted for presentation at the 2002 PSIG
Q =oil flowrate, STB/D Conference, Portland, Oregon, Oct.
R =real gas constant 12. Scott, S.L. and Martin, A.M.: Multiphase-The Final
T =avg temperature, deg. K Pumping Frontier, Pumps & Systems (July 2001)
Tb =base temperature, deg K 8-32.
U =overall heat loss coefficient 13. Scott, S.L.: Multiphase Production Flows into
V =velocity of fluid, m/s Industry Mainstream, The American Oil &
Vmin =minimum lift velocity for liquids, ft/sec Gas Reporter (June 2001) 68-73
Z =real gas compressibility factor 14. Mehdizedeh, P.: "Multiphase Meter Advances," Oil
& Gas J. (July 9, 2001).
References 15. Hekimian, N., J.M. Jumonville and S.L. Scott:
1. Vu, V.K., Hurtevent, C. and Davis, R.A.: "Experimental Investigation of the Influence of Trace
Eliminating the Need for Scale Inhibition Amounts of Gas on Coriolis Liquid Metering," paper
Treatments for Elf Exploration Angolas Girassol presented at the ASME-ETCE 2000 Production
Field, paper SPE 60220 presented at the 2000 Technology Symposium, New Orleans, Louisiana
Second International Symposium on Oilfield Scale, (Feb. 14-17, 2000).
Aberdeen, UK, 26-27 January. 16. Falcone, et. al.: "Multiphase Flow Metering: Current
2. Overland, A.M.: Yme Marginal Field, 12 km Subsea Trends and Future Developments," SPE 71474
Gas Lift Experience, paper SPE 71539 presented at presented at the 2001 SPE ATCE, New Orleans
the 2001 Annual Technical Conference and (Sept. 30 - Oct. 3, 2001).
Exhibition, New Orleans, 30 September-3 October. 17. Bourgoyne, A.T., Jr., S.L. Scott and J. Regg: Scott,
3. Grant, D. et al.: Challenges in Designing the S.L.: "Technology Allows Metering Multiphase
Worlds First 15,000 PSI Subsea Completion, paper
SPE 84045 9

Flow," Pumps & Systems Magazine, Randall Appendix A

Publishing (May 2002).
18. Stinessen, K.O.: Norsk-Hydro Multiphase Subsea Table 1. Reservoir Properties
Test, presentation given at the Texas A&M 4th Fluid Black Oil
Annual Multiphase Pump User Roundtable (MPUR), API gravity 35
Houston (May 9, 2002). Saturated GOR 500 scf/STB
19. Pickard, B.: Subsea Multiphase Pumps in the Ceiba Reservoir depth, subsea 3500 feet
Field - W. Africa, presentation given at the Texas Porosity 20%
A&M 5th Annual Multiphase Pump User Roundtable Rock compressibility 1e-06
(MPUR), Houston (May 7-8, 2003). Connate water 3e-06
20. Muskat, M.: Physical Principles of Oil Production. compressibility
McGraw-Hill (1949). Initial OOIP 140 MMSTB
21. Thrasher, T.S., E.J. Fetkovich, and S.L. Scott: "Well Initial GIP 0 MMSTB
Deliverability: A Case History," SPE Reservoir Initial reservoir pressure 5000 psi
Engineering, 293-300 (Nov. 1995). Reservoir temperature 200 F
22. Bird, R.B., Stewart, W.E. and Lightfoot, E.N.:
Transport Phenomena, John Wiley & Sons Inc., New Table 2. Facilities Design
York City (1960) Pipeline length 20000 feet
23. Golczynski, T.S. and Niesen, V.G.: A Tale of Two Pipeline ID 6 inches
Trees: Flow Assurance Challenges for Wet Tree and No of wells 3
Dry Tree Systems in Ultradeepwater, paper 71545 Water depth 1400 feet
presented at the 2001 Annual Technical Conference Separator Pressure 200 psig
and Exhibition, New Orleans,
30 September-3 October.
24. Turner, R.G., Hubbard M.G. and Dukler, A.E.:
Analysis and Prediction of Minimum Flow rate for
Continuous Removal of Liquids From Gas Wells,
JPT (November 1969) 1475; Trans., AIME, 246
25. Scott, S.L. and J. Yi: "Flow Testing Methods to
Detect and Characterize Partial Blockages in Looped
Subsea Flowlines," proceedings of the ASME
Energy-Sources Technology Conference and
Exhibition, Houston, Texas (Feb. 1-3, 1999); ASME
J. of Energy Resources Tech., Vol. 121
(September 1999).
26. Scott, S.L. and L.A. Satterwhite: "Evaluation of the
Backpressure Technique for Blockage Detection in
Gas Flowlines," ASME J. of Energy Resources
Tech., Vol. 120, 27-31 (March 1998).
27. Scott, S.L., L. Liu and J. Yi: "Modeling the Effects of
a Deepwater Leak on Behavior of a Multiphase
Production Flowline," SPE paper 52760 presented at
the 1999 SPE/EPA Exploration and Production
Environmental Conference, Austin, Texas (Feb. 28 -
March 3, 1999).
28. Liu, L.J. and Scott, S.L.: "A New Method to Locate
Partial Blockages in Subsea Flowlines," paper SPE
63187 presented at the 2001 SPE Annual Technical
Meeting & Exhibition, New Orleans,
30 September-3 October.
29. Bourgoyne, A.T., Jr., S.L. Scott and J. Regg:
"Sustained Casing Pressure in Producing Wells,"
OTC paper 11029 presented at the Offshore
Technology Conference (OTC), Houston, Texas
(May 1999).