Successfully exploiting the untapped potential of small pools is fundamental to achieving MER UK and to securing the long-term future of the North Sea industry. Without them, we simply become an industry focused on inspection, repair and maintenance and eventually decommissioning. To keep our industry alive, we need to kick-start these developments.
Solving the small pools challenge could yield a reward potentially greater than predicted with regards to the domestic market. It would enable the already capable UK supply chain to export its knowledge, products and services to international markets, thus safeguarding jobs and revenues, as well as maximising economic recovery.
NSRI was tasked with helping to find the new, disruptive subsea technologies that could unlock these small discoveries and help prolong the life of the North Sea. A series of “hackathons”, which brought industry, technology developers, universities and research institutes together was organised to brainstorm possible technological solutions.
Technical solutions were put forward at these, some of which could have widespread application but, before progressing these, the industry wanted to see a Geographic Information System (GIS) map detailing the size, location and fluid complexity of the small pools superimposed upon a North Sea map showing the ownership of and type of existing infrastructure.
The OGA has responded to that industry demand and delivered on this with today’s announcement.
Using the tool developed by the OGA, it will become apparent what type of technical solutions need to be progressed, for example tie-backs, subsea hot tapping, clustering arrangements and stand-alone facilities. It represents a unique insight for operators and the supply chain to cluster and campaign in order to benefit from economies of scale across the operatorships when looking at small pools.
Without some form of intervention, small pools will remain locked in and MER (maximising economic recovery) will not be realised. Only by recognising their national strategic importance and taking them together as an industry asset, will we be able to exploit them in an environment where conventional market dynamics have failed.
There must be a willingness for all involved to work more collaboratively on multi-field applications to explore and speed up the development of near to market technologies to extend the life of the UKCS and maximise economic recovery.
Dr Gordon Drummond is the project director of the National Subsea Research Initiative (NSRI), the focal point for research and development in the UK subsea sector, which is estimated to worth £9billion to the economy