Subsea UK

From Russia to Europe and beyond

The challenging economic conditions have not deterred Subsea UK from carrying out its role in promoting the UK’s subsea oil and gas sector around the world and creating opportunities for companies to grow their businesses.

The industry body, which champions UK subsea expertise and experience at home and abroad, has already run and participated in five major international trade events this year with a further three planned for the next five months.

This year Subsea UK exhibited at Deep Offshore Technology (DOT) in Monaco where member companies showcased technologies to meet the challenges of production in deeper waters. Subsea UK’s delegation included BPPTECH, Exsto, First Subsea, Optical Metrology Services, Rotech Subsea and UTEC.

First Subsea launched its ‘Next Generation’ range of deepwater mooring connectors at the event. The subsea mooring specialist, in joint developments with Offspring International Ltd, has developed new connectors to replace traditional H-link and plate links, making installation simpler and quicker as well as improving the engineering integrity of the fibre rope connections.

Traditional fibre-fibre, fibre-chain and fibrewire connections have been made with H-links and plate links. These thimble-based, fabricated metal modules are made up on the surface ship as the mooring line is installed. They are large, heavy and difficult to handle modules that can take many hours to complete, and are prone to damage as the link is deployed over the installation ship’s stern roller.

“This type of innovation, which will simplify and speed up the deployment of deepwater moorings, demonstrates the capabilities in the UK,” says Alistair Birnie, chief executive of Subsea UK, who has just returned from Murmansk where he was spear-heading a trade mission to explore opportunities for UK companies in the Arctic waters of northern Russia.

The northern waters of Russia promise to be the next global energy frontier and Subsea UK is making sure that British subsea oil and gas companies can capitalise on the opportunities.

“The unrivalled experience and expertise of the UK’s subsea supply chain could hold the key to unlocking the potential in the Russian Arctic shelf,” explains Alistair. “The technical challenges, lack of infrastructure and labour shortages in the region provide major opportunities for UK companies to work alongside Russian partners. Subsea UK is pushing hard to get a foot-hold in Russia and other territories where there are major opportunities for subsea companies.”

Subsea UK, along with six subsea companies, Scottish Development International and UKT&I, held a series of meetings and workshops in Moscow in October, followed by attendance at SevTEK in Murmansk where Alistair presented on why the UK subsea sector is ideally placed to assist Russian organisations overcome the challenges of producing oil and gas from the waters of Northern Russia.

“Through collaboration with the Russian government and industry, we can help build the necessary capability and capacity to deliver projects that are at the frontier of subsea field development,” Alistair comments. “Our success of collaboration within the UK and other oil and gas provinces around the world is demonstrated by our instrumental involvement in so many major global developments, and this proven track-record stands us in good stead for capitalising on the multi-billion dollar market in the Russian Arctic shelf.”

At the heart of the opportunities in this area is the giant Shtokman gas field. Located at a depth of over 300 metres and nearly 600 kilometres from the mainland, this field is estimated to hold about one per cent of total global gas reserves. Investment in Shtokman alone is estimated at $50 billion with investment decisions scheduled for 2010.

“The timing is absolutely right for making in-roads into Russia,” explains Alistair. “Subsea UK was able to promote the UK’s ground-breaking capability throughout the supply chain, including field development engineering, pre-construction survey, fabrication, instrumentation, subsea electro-hydraulic controls, pipelines and umbilicals, mooring and connection systems, ROV technologies and subsea well intervention.

“Murmansk will play a critical role in the development of this field and become the centre of onshore production. The region has infrastructure developments totalling $8 billion planned, which will transform this region of Russia and make it a hotspot for our member companies.”

As if all this was not enough, Subsea UK is gearing up for its flagship event Subsea 2010, which will take place in February 2010. Recognised as Europe’s largest event focused on the subsea industry, Subsea 2010 will feature an information-packed conference and exhibition.

Attracting over 2000 delegates on the 10th and 11th of February to the Aberdeen Exhibition & Conference Centre, the event will look at international opportunities.

“Over half the UK’s subsea output is now exported and this has enabled many in the sector to get through the downturn, creating stability as well as sustaining revenues in the last twelve months,” Alistair says. “Now accustomed to dealing in global markets, the sector is increasingly relying on international growth to fulfil our business and technology ambitions.

“More than ever, we are seeing the influence of the UK subsea industry, delivering products and services to the main subsea producing regions of the world. The question for us now is how much emphasis we should continue to place on the international market as opposed to the diverging needs of the mature UKCS market.

“In order to see how the international projects compare with the North Sea, on which we have relied for many years, we need to know when projected opportunities will become reality, how they can be accessed and how stable the business environment will be.”

Sponsored by Shell UK, the conference will attempt to answer these questions with a close examination of the most pressing issues facing the sector. Industry leaders from the major operators, contractors and suppliers will give their views on regional projects, contracting strategies, cost and value, finance and investment in a changing market, the role of technology and the need for investment in people and skills.

Subsea UK