Back to the drawing board

OE Staff

September 1, 2016

SBM Offshore’s Fast4Ward project aims to cut costs for FPSOs by standardizing as much as possible. The Dutch firm sets out the details.

Modules under construction at the BRASA shipyard in Niterói, Brazil. Images from SBM Offshore.

The downturn in oil prices is affecting all industries including the floating production market. Over two years ago, Amsterdam, Netherlands-based SBM Offshore reached out to clients to better understand their concerns, such as unpredictability, schedule delays, cost overruns, safety, local content restraints. SBM Offshore aims to answer these issues with the Fast4Ward project, which it presented at this year’s Offshore Technology Conference. Fast4Ward aims to fast track and standardize FPSOs, to lower costs and achieve first oil faster. The new, fast-track execution model shaves 6-12 months off the average delivery schedule, according to SBM Offshore.

The starting line

“As a technology development project, the engineers working on Fast4Ward were given the freedom to re-examine the FPSO concept, and draw on the extensive experience of their colleagues across the SBM Offshore group,” says Mike Wyllie, SBM Offshore’s group technology director. “From initial concept to detailed design, the development followed SBM’s stage gate process, ensuring the innovative ideas in Fast4Ward have reached the required level of maturity for inclusion in projects.  We are confident that Fast4Ward is now set to be an industry game changer.”

The company first benchmarked past, present and planned FPSOs across the industry, to create a design basis that would cover a wide market envelope, yet with flexibility to meet specific project needs. The next step was to design the Fast4Ward FPSO according to the SBM Group Technical Standards and operations codes of practice.

“I make the analogy of a recipe – you know what you want to come out of the oven, but it’s a question of how you first prepare the ingredients, where you source them and how you mix them,” says Jean-Michel Felderhoff, Fast4Ward project director. “Your experience and high-tech oven means the cooking time and cost of your cake are already reduced, but it depends on what extras you want to add in that will dictate if you get the full benefit from Fast4Ward. One of the key success factors of the program is the extra fat in the hull, which allows flexibility when needed by the client.”

Felderhoff adds that Fast4Ward factors in for markets where local content and the need to manage costs and capacity in-country are part of the equation. Standardization of the hull can offer local development, since topsides integration activities can be performed in any location offering quayside access.

Inherent safety in design has always been a feature of the company’s technological developments. This is principally achieved by locating hydrocarbon processing modules away from the living quarters, control rooms and equipment rooms. This design premise drives the overall FPSO layout. The Fast4Ward program leverages this safety feature of SBM’s FPSOs and expands on it.

An SBM proprietary technology, the Fast4Ward hull is a multipurpose  floater and has the versatility to receive various large topsides with spread or turret mooring configurations.  It comes fully outfitted with all the necessary marine, utility and cargo systems and with an accommodation block and bridge. 

Standardization is key

While acknowledging that a fully standardized FPSO is not possible due to the different needs of every field development, there are many opportunities to create a FPSO with standardized layouts, components, and equipment whilst accommodating bespoke features.

The key to an optimal layout is modularization, and through standardization SBM Offshore can accelerate not only the design process, but also the supply chain and construction phases. To maximize the time and cost-saving opportunities, the company is able to capitalize on standardization due to many years of design, construction and operation of FPSOs. Standardization does not mean simple. The engineers came up with the solutions by tapping into the unique knowledge of the company.

The Fast4Ward FPSO employs a new build hull with a 30-year design life and is suitable for internal turret, external turret or spread moored configurations – effectively covering all potential choices that an operator may want. The hull is a multipurpose floater allowing for improved architecture; all opportunities for standardization stem from this base plate. Basic design approval for the generic hull has been obtained from both the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) and Bureau Veritas (BV). Water depth suitability – between 300m and 3000m is also extensive – avoiding the need for any change to the hull. The result is a generic design that can be installed in most geographic areas but that is optimized for deployment in a wide area from South America to West Africa.

The company can offer the Fast4Ward FPSO either on a lease and operate basis or on a turnkey EPCI basis. However, the big enticement is likely to be the lease and operate business model, which removes the capex burden from the operators. SBM Offshore says that clients can pick and choose the necessary topsides from a catalog for inclusion on the hull, without need for structural modifications; this is a key element to the fast-track nature of the Fast4Ward project.

Behind each module is a detailed ID card featuring its main characteristics, which represents years of expertise and lessons learned from SBM Offshore’s previous FPSO projects.

The module design is derived from modules already in use on SBM’s operating FPSOs, and gives flexibility to be scaled up or down to suit the production requirements. Fast4Ward can embrace new topsides technologies, although it is not reliant on them. Using a standard modular concept, SBM’s approach is to split the topsides into two main module categories:

All modules are standardized in structural design and footprint, with bespoke modules standardized conceptually in terms of equipment and piping layout, thus avoiding “reinventing the wheel” on each project. This approach offers maximum module interchangeability, but without disrupting the overall functionality. The Fast4Ward hull has been designed to accommodate a topside weight of up to 35,000-ton, depending on the project crude oil processing and storage requirements. Could Fast4Ward be the solution to equip players for today’s tough conditions and reboot the FPSO market at lower oil prices?