The downturn of the global oil and gas market has challenged every professional within the industry to look at the way they work and look to where costs can be reduced or removed.
Design engineers could be forgiven for thinking that their calling would be optimise their analyses as far as possible therefore saving steel and fabrication costs with the knock on effect of improving installability / offshore construction costs.
Is this the future?
The few oil & gas projects, however, which have been sanctioned over the past few years have been driven forward at a relentless pace putting what would have previously been seen as ‘fast track’ to shame. The obvious way to accommodate this change has been to squeeze the engineering schedule whilst accelerating fabrication. The results is commencement of fabrication (and upon occasion, completion of fabrication) before the design has been completed. Rather than optimise, engineers are forced to design with margin attempting to allow for uncertain input data and potential for unforeseen (but inevitable) changes. Within this framework there is limited opportunity for optimisation.
Stand-alone/single company FEED studies and interfacing with 3rd parties are two of the main obstacles to this type of engineering/scheduling. To this end we have seen a number of mergers or alliances of large companies with historically different specialisms (technipfmc, Subsea7 and OSS, KG7). These link-ups should facilitate the flow of critical design data which in theory, should assist earlier commencement of detailed design. How this fits in with the traditional project delivery approach remains to be fully realised. However the way that offshore oil & gas projects are delivered has changed and will continue to change significantly over the coming years.
Over the past few years however, it has been common for operators to engage site investigation contractors at an extremely early PRE-FEED phase on complex developments. It would not be uncommon for years of investigation and geohazard assessment to ensue in an effort to understand the project ground risk prior to final investment decisions.
With the changes we have seen to the how end users of the geotechnical, geophysical and geohazard data will execute projects. Will or how will the role of SI contractors be impacted by the changing nature of the offshore oil & gas industry? Can this be accommodated as the industry moves into ever more challenging field development?