Subsea Connect: lower costs, improve productivity, increase yield

By Michael Rogers

From the earliest stage, Subsea Connect takes the most comprehensive approach to configure projects to meet customer priorities (illustration: Baker Hughes)

When it comes to oilfield development expertise and products, Baker Hughes, which offers both services and equipment, spans the entire life of a field – from concept to commissioning and production.

The Baker Hughes’ Subsea Connect applies this expertise to save costs across a subsea field’s life, and Energy Northern Perspective met with the company’s European Director, Oilfield Equipment, Romain Chambault to discuss the philosophy of the concept.

Romain Chambault, European Director, Oilfield Equipment at Baker Hughes
Romain Chambault, European Director, Oilfield Equipment at Baker Hughes

“I work from the Aberdeen office and I cover the whole of Europe from the oilfield equipment standpoint – all the subsea equipment, all surface equipment, all flexibles as well. It’s a big territory, but 80% of the activity for our subsea systems is from the UKCS in the North Sea, ” says Romain Chambault.

He continues, explaining that Baker Hughes’ work in the region has a global reach. “We made a huge investment about a year ago, investing more than GBP 31 million in our subsea tree series centre of excellence in Montrose, Scotland, not far from Aberdeen. This centre provides trees globally – mostly for European projects but also for other parts the world.”

“We are Baker Hughes, so it’s not just the equipment side – we also have the services side,” he continues, describing how the two halves work together. “So, this is all about understanding the fields, understanding the layout and what would be the most optimal design. That goes for the infrastructure, that goes for the equipment, all the way to the platform – and all the way to the refinery.”

And this broad expertise has given rise to the new life of field approach, Chambault asserts, “The idea behind Subsea Connect is to truly optimise the production, the productivity of a field – to be able to have the operator sanction a project that might not have been sanctioned in the past. The main goal of Subsea Connect is productivity, to create a better outcome for our customer. And the way we are doing it is built on four pillars, which are all complementary – they work with one another.”

Four pillars
“The first pillar is called ‘Project Connect’, which is works with very early engagement, before a project has been sanctioned – and, in some cases, even before planning has begun,” he says. “We are engaging with operators to help them understand their field and optimise the layout, as well as determining the right equipment for the field. We are doing this because with early engagement early, we can actually drive total cost down – reduce the CAPEX.”

Once the life of field design is in place, the focus is on the technology, Chambault continues. “The second pillar is our fit-for-purpose technology. We just released the new Aptara™ subsea system, and the new Aptara Christmas tree is all about reducing weight, reducing lead time – and, in the end, reducing cost. So, we can now reduce technology costs by 30 to 50%.”

Aptara™ TOTEX-lite subsea system sprang from the life-of-field approach (photo: Baker Hughes)
Aptara™ TOTEX-lite subsea system sprang from the life-of-field approach (photo: Baker Hughes)

Chambault, continues, “The third pillar of Subsea Connect, where we’ve actually had a lot of success in Europe, is applying new, outcome-based commercial models. So again, if we really engage early with our partners, we can start defining risk and reward commercial models. It means that we take some risks, and we can share the rewards.” Describing the appeal to operators, Chambault says, “Historically, if a development is not favourable from a financial standpoint and the operators must take all the risk themselves, they might not sanction the project. But by Baker Hughes taking some of the risks, and associated rewards, the project can go forward. It’s more of a collaboration and partnership.”

“And in the fourth pillar we have the concept of digital,” Chambault continues. “You hear that from everybody now – but for us, it’s not just a buzzword, because there’s actually a lot of data we already use. The idea for us is to apply it from the early engagement, through the project execution, and through life of field. And we can optimise the field while it’s in production.”

Machine learning and AI to help interpret the resulting data, he says. “We’re working in partnership with C3.ai, a leading artificial intelligence provider. We have all the sensors, and we have all the data, and C3.ai has the capabilities to work with that data.”

Life of field
“It can be applied to what we call life of field, where we work to optimise an existing field,” Chambault explains. “We have light well intervention capacities as well, which is production enhancement. We also provide P&A and decommissioning, so we provide these options across the value chain.”

Describing the scope of the Subsea Connect approach, Chambault says, “At first, our customers were much more focused on the exploration and development phase, which is particularly where the big CAPEX is, but more and more we are working from the TOTEX standpoint – that’s CAPEX plus OPEX – so the OPEX aspect is growing, especially in older assets that we have in Europe.”

Positive response
When asked how the industry has responded to Subsea Connect, “the reception has been very good,” he replies.

“One of the key datapoints is that through the whole scope of what Baker Hughes has, we touch 80% of the cost of the development of the field – from oil field service to oil field equipment to our turbomachinery solution – it’s a very significant amount. By applying Subsea Connect, the operator can save 30% of the costs, and the response from our clients has been very good,” adds Chambault.

Subsea Connect – lower costs, improve productivity, and increase yield (illustration: Baker Hughes)
Subsea Connect – lower costs, improve productivity, and increase yield (illustration: Baker Hughes)

“Our clients range from the supermajors all the way to the very tiny independents, with two or three people. They have different types of needs and different types of behaviour,” explains Chambault. “Supermajors usually have a more cautious approach, because they have the infrastructure, and they have knowledge and know-how in their teams – so for them it’s about us proving our value. When we work with the smaller independents, they actually understand a lot of our value because we can provide support, and they are usually not afraid of sharing more of the early information as well.”

Scalable solution for the future
“From a European market standpoint the concept of tiebacks is important. Now, with fewer large discoveries, operators are thinking about tiebacks as a quick, profitable option. And Subsea Connect can be applied perfectly to this concept,” says Chambault, explaining that the concept easily scales down to the smallest field. “Actually, right now, with one of the supermajors, we’ve been working to determine a standardised piece of kit that can actually help to reduce the time it takes to get a tieback online by 12 months, which for them is a very significant savings – so that’s Subsea Connect.”

“Fields are depleting, so we have to renew the reserves – and applying Subsea Connect is probably one of the fastest ways to do that.”