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Petronas eyes unmanned floating platform for deep-water subsea tiebacks

Malaysian operator and UK engineering company BPT team up for technology qualification programme, seek other participants

Crondall Energy subsidiary Buoyant Production Technologies (BPT) has formed a joint industry project with the research arm of Malaysia’s Petronas to qualify a technology that could power and control subsea oil and gas installations without the need for long-distance umbilicals.

The technology qualification process will look at the feasibility of deploying unmanned floaters — based on BPT’s Floating NUI, or “normally unattended installation” design — to reduce the costs and greenhouse gas emissions of long subsea tiebacks.

UK-based BPT said the two companies started engineering work last summer and expect to commence fabrication of a small demonstrator unit in the first quarter of this year.

Unmanned: A rendering shows a subsea installation using Buoyant Production Technologies' Floating NUI equipped with a wind turbine and solar panels.

The unit will be installed at the Falmouth Bay Test Site, known as FaBTest, off the south-west coast of England late in 2024, followed by 12 months of tests to demonstrate the floater’s performance and its ability to be monitored and controlled remotely in a “representative ocean environment”, BPT said. “BPT and Petronas are now keen to invite other interested parties to join the [joint industry project],” the company said.

BPT has been pushing the Floating NUI concept since it was founded in 2018 as a wholly owned subsidiary of floating production and offshore technology consultant Crondall Energy, and in 2021 signed collaboration agreements with Siemens Energy and Subsea 7 to advance the technology.

The system is built on a single-column hull permanently moored to the seabed that can be pre-installed and ballasted to await float-over installation of the deck box and topsides. The design can be scaled to accommodate the weight of the topsides.

Initially designed as a production platform, BPT says the Floating NUI could also be used to support floating wind substations or, as in the upcoming trial, an unmanned platform to provide power and controls for subsea developments.

The platform could include a dedicated wind turbine to generate power, solar panels, or both.

BPT quoted a Petronas representative as saying, “We look forward for joint development and qualification of this technology to unlock our domestic and international deepwater tiebacks.”

BPT managing director Duncan Peace added: “The combined expertise and resources of Petronas and BPT will ensure that this technology will deliver significant improvements in the economics of long-distance tieback projects both for current hydrocarbon developments and future CO2 sequestration projects. We hope that this JIP will mark the start of a long and fruitful collaboration between Petronas and BPT as we work together to deliver the benefits of this technology.”

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