Bringing the full potential to Surface Technologies

Richard Alabaster

Richard Alabaster, President of Surface Technologies, discusses how technological advances – both engineered and digital – are shaping the evolution of Surface Technologies’ solutions and the quest to fulfill demand for energy in a changing market.

Q: What innovative technologies are you working on in Surface?

Richard Alabaster (RA): In the short run, our vision is to offer our customers more compact, standardized and reliable technologies that cost less and require less intervention and maintenance. We also work closely with our customers to truly integrate and apply new technology to our suites of products and services to eliminate steps, interfaces and redundancies and make the “orchestration” of site activities much more efficient and less costly. Digitalizing our equipment is one key enabler that allows us to offer these advantages on a global basis.

Q: How is TechnipFMC helping meet the main oil and gas challenges?

RA: We are transforming our customers’ project economics by lowering costs and accelerating time to first oil. We do so by significantly reducing our footprint, lead times and installation requirements and by digitalizing our equipment and services. Our low-cost and fast-to-deploy approach, complemented by open and interoperable digital systems, improves asset productivity and cash flow, and we offer innovative commercial models to help customers realize these benefits.

TechnipFMC is also developing solutions to reduce emissions through low-emission production facilities and, more generally, by taking a lead in helping our industry provide solutions to the world’s energy needs. This includes a strong focus on extracting natural gas in our Surface and Subsea businesses and bringing it to market by way of our leadership in liquified natural gas, gas-to-liquids and ethylene in our Onshore-Offshore business unit. We are also leading in developing floating wind power, carbon capture and storage and bio fuels.

Q: How is digitalization changing the oil and gas landscape?

RA: Digitalization has attracted new players, such as IT consulting companies, that traditionally have not been very involved in the oil and gas industry. This has created high expectations around transformative solutions and influenced our customers and equipment and services companies to rapidly develop digital applications and solutions. A lot is happening. Considerable potential has been identified and some positive practical results are beginning to be achieved. 
However, there remains much to be tried and tested to identify the benefits, quantify them and learn how to share them. This emerging frontier has spawned many new operational and business model possibilities. The race is on and TechnipFMC is at the forefront in developing practical digital solutions that help transform our customers’ project economics.

Q: How has surface technology in the oil and gas sector evolved?

RA: In North America onshore unconventional fields, we are focused on agility and responsiveness, with efficient and fast deployment. Our wellhead technology has shifted to speed systems and techniques, such as drill-time optimization systems and uniheads, offline cementing, and internal-latch systems rather than traditional lockdown-screw systems. We have been driving towards standardized, low-cost solutions with short lead times and prompt availability. 

The same applies to our completions and hydraulic fracturing technologies, where we are experiencing a strong drive to speed, efficiency and throughput capacity as well as a streamlining of our mobilization and demobilization services. There has been a trend toward higher frac pressures and flowrates, so we have focused on design robustness and we now offer larger diameter iron in optimized configurations for higher frac flowrates and zipper fracing that provides higher speeds between stages, exceptional equipment reliability and faster mob/demob. 

In addition, we have developed leading-edge, remotely monitored well flowback and testing technology that enables rapid post-frac cleanup and early production and monetization to our customers, with significantly reduced manpower needs. 

Whilst efficiency and cost have also been to the fore in international and offshore conventional fields, they have been experiencing some differences, perhaps the most important of which has been the greater preponderance of natural gas and the resulting need for technologies to deal safely, reliably and cost-effectively with high-pressure, high-temperature and/or aggressive-sour well fluids at large-bore gas. Our drilling and completions systems offer high functionality for these challenging environments with inbuilt sensing, controls and actuation.    

As far as production systems go, we are moving away from traditional gravity and residence-time based, “stick-built” processing facilities towards compact, modularized and efficient systems that are faster to deploy and hook up. These systems have a smaller footprint and lower fugitive emissions that make them less costly, more environmentally friendly and result in faster and higher paybacks for our customers’ field developments.
We also have evolved by incorporating the most advanced digitalization across our drilling, completions, pressure control and production equipment and services.

Q: What markets are you focused on when it comes to your Surface Technologies?

RA: We are truly a global player in Surface Technologies. Our equipment and services are available in all fields and basins, both onshore and offshore, throughout the world, from North America onshore, Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico to Latin America, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Q: How important is the Middle East market?

RA: The Middle East will continue to be an important market for TechnipFMC and the industry as a whole. It is certainly one of the most active markets and is expected to remain so for the foreseeable future. At TechnipFMC, we have invested significantly in new infrastructure, such as field bases and manufacturing facilities in the past few years as we anticipate and respond to increased demand from our Middle East customers.

Our goals in the Middle East emphasize increasing our local content, supplying integrated solutions from wellhead through takeaway pipeline and introducing breakthrough technologies such as those in our integrated fracing services. Our substantial investment in our Middle East facilities is a key enabler to enhancing our strong commitment to local manpower, sourcing and manufacturing and more generally serving the entire region. We are working hard to be our Middle East customers’ preferred partner from wellhead through export pipeline. 

Our offering goes beyond drilling and completions to include pressure control and production systems that, when integrated into a single solution, speed time to first oil and lower costs. We also want to lead the way in providing fracing services in the Middle East as the region starts to turn to unconventional plays. Our experience and leadership North America, Argentina and elsewhere makes us an ideal partner to introduce these technologies and techniques in the Middle East.      

Q: R&D must be a big reason why TechnipFMC is leading the way?  

RA: TechnipFMC has always been a technology leader, and this can only be achieved by an ongoing and robust commitment to well-directed research and development. Our commitment to R&D through the business cycle is why we have achieved so many industry firsts and will continue to do so across our global operations.

A version of this interview originally appeared in the August 2019 edition of the Pipeline oil and gas magazine.

 

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