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Marlim - Making History, Again

FMC Technologies develops the first subsea separation system for heavy oil in a mature, deepwater field.

FMC was selected to supply a subsea separation and pumping system for the Marlim field, which has been in operation since 1991. The main purpose of the system is to debottleneck the floating production facility and increase production by removing unwanted water from the production stream, at the seabed. This system will also be the first to use water re-injection to increase reservoir pressure and boost production.

Revitalizing the Marlim field

Marlim is Petrobras’ largest field in the Campos Basin, located 70 miles (110 km) offshore from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, at water depths ranging from 2,100 to 8,500 feet (650 to 2,600 meters). It was once considered the world’s largest subsea development, with 129 wells and eight (8) floating production units (FPU), devoted to the extraction of oil and gas. Today, as this mature field approaches 20 years in operation, the field is producing an increasing amount of water, which is limiting the oil handling capacity of the surface facilities, and sand, which has the potential for damaging the overall system.

The subsea separation, pumping and water re-injection system, developed by Petrobras and FMC, will be installed at a water depth of 2,950 feet (900 meters) and answers the challenges of maturing fields. The system will receive the production stream, which contains a mixture of oil, gas, water and sand, and will first separate the gas from the liquids. Then, the heavy oil will be separated from the water, using a novel pipe separation design that was licensed and developed in cooperation with StatoilHydro. The system also integrates FMC’s proprietary water treatment and sand handling technologies as part of the subsea separation system. The separated gas will be added back to the oil stream to aid its lifting to the FPU, while the separated water will be pumped back into the reservoir to further increase production.

Multiple industry firsts

Marlim is the fifth project awarded to FMC Technologies that will utilize subsea separation technologies. Other projects include StatoilHydro’s Tordis field, Shell’s Perdido and BC-10 developments, along with Total’s Pazflor field. These awards reflect the company’s technological expertise and leadership in the vital effort to increase oil recovery and push the limits of hydrocarbon production.

The unique design of the Marlim subsea separation system will accomplish a number of firsts in the industry, specifically:

  • The use of subsea separation in a deepwater,  mature field environment
  • Reinjection of water into a production reservoir, and
  • Separation of heavy oil in a subsea environment

The Marlim system also enables a broader application of FMC’s separation technologies for future subsea processing opportunities, as customers search for proven systems and designs for other deepwater projects.

The equipment will be jointly engineered between FMC’s operations in Brazil, Norway and The Netherlands. Final manufacturing and integration activities will be performed at the company’s Rio de Janeiro facility, with deliveries projected to begin in 2011. The contract is valued at approximately $90 million in revenue for FMC Technologies.