Tropical Storm Arthur Threatens North Carolina's Outer BanksWhen you consider how much of the globe is covered by water it’s easy to see why some say the future of oil & gas production lies offshore in ultra-deep water. But while hydrocarbons are likely to be found in these locations, projects built to extract them can be more challenging than some space missions – and command larger budgets.

With this in mind, GE today announced its launching a major Brazilian R&D facility that will optimize deepwater oil & gas production technology. One of the key innovations will be to move much of the surface equipment to the sea floor.


Credit: GE. Left to right: Luis Fernando Pezão, Governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro Eduardo; Paes, Mayor of the city of Rio de Janeiro; Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE; Mauro Borges, Minister of Development, Industry & Trade.

“Our new research center in Brazil will allow GE to innovate locally for our customers in Latin America and then export those innovations to the world,” said GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt in a statement.

Today’s floating production, storage and offloading (FPSOs) vessels are enormous, capital-intensive behemoths located great distances from wellheads.

“Advanced subsea processing takes the floating platforms that would usually float on the surface of the sea and bolts them to seabed. Plus, new wellhead technologies that use subsea pumps and compressors will increase recovery and offer more economical oil field development with lower emissions. This reduces the capital and operating costs of running a drilling platform and greatly reduces the risks of having a manned platform out at sea. This is the latest in a long line of innovations that prove sometimes machines are better suited to working in dirty, dangerous or even dull environments,” GE said in a statement.

The company is currently working with Petrobras and BG Group on technology that will facilitate oil and gas development in Brazil’s challenging deepwater subsalt environment:

  • Offshore Drilling with BG Group – Offshore drilling increases in complexity and cost as exploration and production activity goes deeper. In Brazil’s thick pre-salt layer, extremely hard rock formations contain hydrocarbons at high pressures and temperatures. These conditions demand drilling equipment that is adaptable to changing conditions and as reliable as possible. BG Group and GE are exploring ways to make drilling systems smarter, increasing the amount of data they provide and helping operators utilize the data in real-time. By creating an instant view of system performance, and the tools to put the data to work, BG Group and GE are making deepwater offshore exploration more productive, more efficient, and most importantly, safer.
  • Separation Solutions with Petrobras – Researchers at the Brazil Technology Solutions Center and Petrobras are discussing more effective and efficient ways to separate oil, water and gas on the seabed. GE’s separation solutions offer various configurations, such as gas/liquid, oil/water (liquid/liquid) and three-phase (oil, water, gas). The separation systems are all designed for supporting increased oil and gas production. Benefits are space saving topside and energy saving due to less need for moving fluids from seabed to topside. Eliminating the water subsea frees up capacity for producing oil in the pipeline and topside facility.