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Storage fit for offshore exploration

28th January 2013

Global offshore moves into deeper waters are offering opportunities to the international tankage sector

Storage fit for offshore exploration
Efficiency and safety are high on the oil and gas agenda, and demand for new solutions is presenting fresh opportunities to the tankage technology sector

All over the world, growing energy demands and production goals are pushing oil and gas companies with deep pockets to defy harsher and increasingly challenging environments. In major resource hubs such as the Gulf of Mexico, Brazil’s promising subsalt on to the bountiful North Sea, the energy industry is digging deeper, exploring ultra-deep waters and moving further and further offshore.

Against this backdrop, both efficiency and safety are high on the agenda; demand for new solutions is presenting fresh opportunities to the tankage technology sector. OGT rounds up some of this year’s most significant developments in the area.

The world’s first floating oil terminal

Brazil’s state-led oil and gas giant Petrobras has announced it will deploy the world’s first floating oil terminal in less than two years, to be operated by its subsidiary Transpetro, Brazil’s largest oil and gas transportation company, as part of plans to further new solutions to export Brazilian oil.

The terminal, called Transfer and Storage Offshore Unit (Uote) will enable storage of offshore oil and its respective transfer to export vessels. Currently, crude oil is ferried from offshore rigs to the coast, where it is stored in export tankers, which the firm believes is a process which unnecessarily increases costs.

Uote will sit on a vessel stationed near drilling rigs in the Campos Basin, 70 km off Rio de Janeiro. It will be able to store 2 million barrels, equivalent to Brazil’s current daily production. Unlike land terminals, in Uote the entrance and exit areas will be 600 meters of flexible pipes connected to monobuoys and a set of valves and submarine connections spread over a 5 km area. The Floating Storage Unit (FSU) will receive and store oil from rigs carried by vessels. From the FSU, the oil will be transported through submarine pipes and pumped into two monobuoys, and then be carried to the export vessels.

The unit is currently under construction in China by Indian marine transportation provider Tanker Pacific and is set to cost USD 318m, not including the cost of chartering the vessel. Uote is expected to arrive in Brazil in October and be deployed by June 2014.

“The project was developed due to the need for new logistical solutions to export Brazilian oil,” Petrobras’ statement said. "The new technology will ensure lower costs by reducing the distance covered by oil transport vessels.”

Uote will bring together technologies which are already known, says head of pre-salt logistics development at Transpetro Paulo Penchiná, but which will be integrated for the very first time. “Every terminal has an entrance and an exit point, in addition to a storage area. In Uote, the storage area will be a vessel,” he said. Contacted by OGT, Petrobras was unable to disclose further information regarding the upcoming and innovative oil terminal.

ThermoVault – a new oil storage tank safety technology

A new oil storage tank technology, ThermoVault, was unveiled last year by Calgary-based tank design firm Enviro Vault Canada Ltd. The product is based on the Enviro Vault internal chamber concept whereby a recessed chamber is installed inside the tank with an access door through the tank wall. All valves, sample taps, electronic controls, and heater are mounted in the Enviro Vault, the Canadian firm says. The vaults can be fitted in any size or shape of new tank or in-service tank for, among other things, heavy oil and light oil production tanks.

The oil storage tank safety equipment uses multiple catalytic heaters to raise and maintain the temperature of the process fluid to replace fire tubes for lower heating requirements. It offers an alternative to fire tube/burner assemblies for heating above ground storage tanks and, according to the Canadian firm, has an overall efficiency comparable to a 250,000 British Thermal Units (BTU) per hour fire tube burner. It uses catalytic heaters mounted within a chamber recessed to the inside of the tank shell, and its systems are able to raise and maintain fluid temperatures in above ground storage tanks. According to Enviro Vault Canada Ltd, it is ideally suited for use in hazardous areas such as light oil applications when fire tubes may not be allowed.

A standard ThermoVault is 6' wide and 12' tall with three 24"x72" catalytic heaters, and an efficiency of 180,000 BTU per hour. It has a displacement of 28.5 barrels, which equals 7 per cent of tank volume, in a 400 barrels tank.

ThermoVault’s technical benefits include reduced accidents, injuries and operational costs by eliminating the possibility of fire tube failures; enhanced environmental stewardship; reduced transportation costs; and it lasts the entire life of the tank. Heater size and quantity can vary according to application.
ThermoVault was R&D tested using a 400 barrels tank and verified by Canadian research and innovation company Alberta Innovates Technology Futures.