Why FPSOs are such an important piece of the energy jigsaw

An article by Tom Salmon, Senior Sales Manager at SMS and Alderley

26 October 2021

We recently caught up with Tom Salmon, Senior Sales Manager at SMS and Alderley to ask him about the challenges of his role and his thoughts on the prospects for the global FPSO market.

Tom – what does your role entail?

I joined Alderley Group in 2018 to develop the Alderley and SMS range of metering, process and hydraulics packages in the oil & gas and wider energy sector. 

We offer new and existing clients tailored packages to support their needs across global markets.  We cover the Americas (North and South, including the key market of Brazil), much of Europe as well as the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

One of my areas of focus is supporting our clients in the FPSO (Floating Production, Storage and Offloading) sector. 

What is an FPSO and why are they important?

An FPSO facilitates the processing and storage of oil and gas at sea.  In deep water territories such as Brazil or Guyana and Suriname, FPSOs are essential for the industry’s operation and survival as it enables us to tap vast amounts of resource.  

In fact, South America leads the way in terms of planned FPSO additions contributing about 45% of the total FPSO additions or 25 new FPSOs by 2026 according to GlobalData’s latest report – see ‘Global FPSO Industry Outlook, 2021-2026’

Within this, Brazil is dominant with 21 planned FPSOs between 2021-2026 meaning that it is a key target market for us in a buoyant global FPSO sector.

FPSOs can operate in relatively calm or harsh environments meaning that they are very flexible, and they are relatively quick to deploy.  They might take only two to three years to deploy rather than five years plus for other offshore developments.  This makes them an attractive proposition for operators and investors.  There is also a circular economy element to FPSOs as they can be refurbished and redeployed thereby increasing their longevity. 

But FPSOs do not come cheap, they demand unique solutions and there are additional maintenance and operational requirements that one might expect with such a complex production asset operating in harsh environmental conditions. 

This gives companies like Alderley the opportunity to support FPSO developers and operators to reduce costs with intelligent solutions such as modularised equipment, energy efficient process design, online condition monitoring, remote monitoring through Alderley ConnectTM or other smart solutions.

Indeed, the cost of building an FPSO ranges from $200 million to $3 billion, depending on production plant capacity, design life, local content requirement, operating environment, and other factors according to Offshore Engineer.

What exactly does Alderley and sister-company SMS do in FPSO projects?

All FSO, FPSO, FLNG and similar vessels require custody metering systems and hydraulic controls systems.  Many FPSOs require produced water treatment (PWT) solutions that enable companies to operate in deep-water conditions with high levels of process efficiency but contained within a small, lightweight, and often modularised package. 

What’s more, the operating environment on an FPSO is unlike other offshore structures.  Solutions need to consider aspects such as the pitch and roll of the vessel in technology selection and design of the process system. 

Alderley has long specialised in bespoke metering and PWT solutions that enable our FPSO clients to recover energy resources as efficiently as possible. 

For this reason, we’ve been able to service the global FPSO market for around 30 years and are constantly developing solutions that might help clients work better and more effectively. 

Recently, we’ve been working on solutions that help our clients recover energy from the produced water on an FPSO.  We can capture and utilise the energy in the warm water, which offers the operator cost and energy savings.

Essentially, we can do PWT, metering, chemical injection, safety instrumented systems such as HIPPS and hydraulic controls.  This is as close to an integrated offer that exists in the market – Alderley is a one-stop-shop for FPSO topside solutions.

Have you got any notable case studies that you can mention?

A terrific example is the work Alderley did to support a client on an FPSO redeployment in Singapore.  The challenge was to convert and extend the life of an existing vessel under strict deadlines by refurbishing the cargo valve hydraulic control system. 

With the vessel’s systems dating to 1991, Alderley’s engineers were tasked with upgrading them to meet current requirements such as enhanced performance while ensuring fit with space and weight limitations.

Through a local team deployed in Singapore, supported by global technical experts in Great Yarmouth (UK), we were able to mobilise very quickly.  This contributed to the world’s fastest brownfield FPSO modification and redeployment project – something we’re rightly proud of.

The Singapore example is instructive of the need to bring cutting edge innovation to clients that urgently need it. 

That sounds very positive – what are you working on now?

We recently celebrated significant wins in the FPSO world.  One win included designing and developing a metering skid for renowned FPSO specialist Bluewater energy solutions.  Furthermore, we’ve been engaged in supplying PWT technology for Yinson’s Anna Nery FPSO – currently in Singapore but destined for Brazil – where the end user is Petrobras. 

A considerable amount of effort goes into winning a client’s confidence and in developing a new solution.  However, it is rewarding when you know that going the extra mile has been recognised and ends in a great result. 

How would you describe Alderley and SMS in a couple of words?

Solutions-focused.  Global and great to work with.

If you would like to learn more about the work that Alderley and SMS are doing in FPSO technology and innovation, please contact Tom Salmon on: Tom.salmon@alderley.com or Rain Crowson on: Rain.crowson@alderley.com.

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