Shell has been at the forefront of deep water since the 1970s, delivering more than 20 revolutionary projects to help meet energy demand. Around the world, we use advanced technologies and innovative approaches to overcome deep-sea challenges and produce much-needed resources of oil and gas safely and efficiently.
Around 120km (75 miles) off the coast of Norway, the Ormen Lange deep-water project operates in sub-zero temperatures, a powerful sea swell and frequent storms. Yet almost three kilometres (over a mile) below the surface of the North Sea, engineers have found a safe way to unlock oil and gas.
Ormen Lange operates without a platform. High pressure in the reservoir pushes natural gas produced there up a steep incline on the seabed to the processing facility on shore. But challenges exist.
Low sea temperatures combined with high pressure in the pipes could cause blockages to form. To overcome this, a glycol-based liquid is injected into the pipes. This dilutes any water in the pipes and prevents it from turning into ice-like hydrates and blocking the flow. When the well stream reaches shore, the anti-freeze is separated and recycled back into the system.
Thousands of kilometres away, the Parque das Conchas deep-water project off Brazil’s coast faced its own challenges. The reservoir pressure is not strong enough to push oil to the platform above. Remote-controlled submarines helped to install six 1,500-horsepower electric pumps on the seabed. Each pump has the power of a Formula One racing car engine. In an industry first, machines separate gas from oil before the pumps drive the oil to the surface. The Perdido project in the Gulf of Mexico – the world’s deepest offshore oil and gas production platform – uses the same approach.
The Gumusut-Kakap platform off the coast of Sabah, Malaysia produces oil from 19 deep-water wells. Tropical storms are common in this region. To anchor the platform securely, engineers used a remote-controlled robot to attach it to four giant mooring lines, each weighing 150 tonnes. The lines secure the platform against waves of up to eight metres (25 feet) and winds that can gust at hundreds of kilometres an hour.
Strong storms also pose challenges in the Gulf of Mexico. Perdido’s nine mooring lines are designed to withstand the type of storm likely to occur once in 1,000 years.
The Perdido spar — a buoyant platform nearly twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty and as heavy as around 10,000 large cars — is designed to stay upright even if it disconnects from its moorings. Even during storms it moves up and down only a few metres with the ocean’s swell. Only about 10% of it is visible above the waterline. The heavy bulk below the waterline gives it the stability to keep it straight; it is designed to tilt no more than 14 degrees even in the heaviest storms.
Stones is our newest development in the Gulf of Mexico and will host the deepest production facility in the world, at around 2,900 metres (9,500 feet) of water. The floating production facility will include a rotating turret that allows the facility to turn with the force of the wind and sea during normal weather conditions. If a heavy storm or hurricane approaches, the facility can disconnect its mooring lines and oil transport lines from the well system and sail to safe areas until the storm passes.