Offshore oil and gas platforms have traditionally relied on local gas or diesel turbines. This is to provide the electricity needed to power operations. However, transmitting renewable energy to platforms through subsea cables in the oil and gas industry presents a promising opportunity. It reduces the carbon footprint of offshore production. Moreover, electrifying operations with power from shore could be vital in decarbonizing the oil and gas sector. So, let us go deeper into subsea cables in oil and gas industry in this article. 

The Potential of Platform Electrification

Most offshore platforms use onsite gas turbines for electricity generation. These systems burn fossil fuels and generate substantial CO2 and NOx emissions. So, as the oil and gas industry works to align with global net zero commitments, platform electrification is rising as a key enabler. 

Now you must be wondering what is the purpose of subsea cables. By transmitting renewable energy from shore through subsea cables in the oil and gas industry, offshore platforms could tap into cleaner power grids. It can also phase out carbon-intensive electricity production. As a result, this shift could achieve significant emissions reductions. Moreover, one estimate suggests converting Europe’s offshore production to shore power could slash CO2 emissions by 90%. This is when compared to localized gas turbine use.

Beyond environmental benefits, power from shore offers potential cost savings and reliability improvements. Furthermore, it reduces offshore fuel supply needs and maintenance costs for generators. Centralized renewable energy also provides a consistent, uninterrupted supply of electricity to offshore assets. Som as aging platforms require upgrading, incorporating subsea cables in the oil and gas industry in redevelopment enables future-ready, sustainable design.

Subsea Cable Technology and Installation Methods

High-voltage subsea cables in the oil and gas industry transmit electricity underwater over long distances. Moreover, alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC) cable systems are the main technological options. This is for electrifying offshore assets up to around 100km from shore. 

AC Cable Systems

Three-core AC cable systems are well established in offshore wind farms and regional grid networks. Furthermore, they use alternating current at various standard voltage levels like 66kV or 132kV. So, higher voltages reduce power losses over longer distances. 

AC cable installation leverages proven techniques like simultaneous lay and burial via plowing. Moreover, these continuous installation methods provide efficiency and reliability. Additionally, branching units enable connecting multiple offshore assets through a single seabed cable.

DC Cable Systems 

High-voltage direct current (HVDC) cable systems unlock power transmission over longer distances of 100km or more. Moreover, HVDC converts AC to DC for efficient long-distance subsea transfer, then back to AC offshore. It also allows connecting asynchronous AC networks.

Cable installation relies on similar plowing or trenching methods. However, HVDC cables are laid in sections rather than continuously. HVDC also requires converter stations at either end to transform between AC and DC power.  

Subsea Cables in the Oil and Gas Industry: Key Design Considerations

Several factors must be evaluated when designing subsea cable connections to electrify offshore platforms:

Distance to shore – Within around 60-80km, AC systems offer a cost-effective solution. So, beyond that range, HVDC is preferable to avoid power losses.

Seabed conditions – Rugged or rocky terrain may require cables to be laid. This is on the seafloor and protected, while soft sediment allows direct burial.

Power needs- The scale of power transmission depends on the number, size, and operating requirements of offshore assets.

Existing infrastructure – Integrating with onshore grids and leveraging pipeline right-of-ways can optimize infrastructure. 

Modularity – Built-in redundancy and expansion capacity enable connecting future assets.

Selecting the appropriate cable system design involves balancing these interdependent factors.

Subsea Cables in the Oil and Gas Industry: Realizing Project Value 

Shore power connections unlock value through both emissions reductions and cost optimization.

Electrifying a typical offshore platform can eliminate over 200,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. This is by replacing gas turbine use. So, for assets with 3-5 platforms, total savings can exceed 1 million tonnes of CO2 annually. Moreover, these substantial reductions support corporate decarbonization goals.

The economics are also compelling. While subsea cables in the oil and gas industry require high upfront capital expenditure, reduced operating costs over the life of a project create a fast payback of under 5 years in many cases. So, decommissioning turbines and associated infrastructure further lowers lifetime costs.

Ultimately, shore power connectivity allows offshore platforms to tap into clean, reliable grids and optimize the cost of energy supply.

Subsea Cables: Navigating the Transition to Shore Power

While the advantages are clear, actually transitioning existing offshore assets to use shore power involves surmounting some challenges:

Regulatory Framework

No unified regulatory framework currently exists to facilitate subsea grid connections across different jurisdictions. Moreover, obtaining approvals can be complex when projects span coastal waters and international maritime boundaries. So, streamlining permitting processes will be critical.

System Integration 

Integrating AC shore connections with existing offshore AC networks requires careful technical planning. Moreover, converter stations help overcome differences in frequency between shoreside and offshore grids.

New Operational Models

Procuring shore power requires new commercial relationships. This is with onshore grid operators and establishing pricing models. Furthermore, this transition will likely happen gradually as existing turbine maintenance cycles expire.

Infrastructure Investment

Despite favorable economics, high upfront capital costs for subsea cables in the oil and gas industry and onshore connections still represent a barrier. So, it will require collaborative investment models between oil companies and grid operators.

The Future of Shore Power for Platforms   

Electrifying offshore oil and gas assets with renewable shore power has tremendous potential. It can drive down operational emissions when we talk about what is the purpose of subsea cables. However, it remains in the early stages. 

More demonstration projects must prove the concept at scale, establish best practices, and provide learnings that can optimize the next generation of installations. Moreover, stakeholders across the offshore energy sector must work together to enable a smooth transition to shore power.

So, with the right collaboration and policy frameworks, subsea cables grid connections can become a centerpiece of efforts. This is to decarbonize offshore operations. Unlocking this technology is key to aligning offshore oil and gas with global net zero ambitions and securing the sector’s long-term sustainability.

Attend the Global Summit on Net Zero Energy Production

The Global Summit on Net Zero Energy Production taking place January 30-31, 2024 in Amsterdam, Netherlands offers an exceptional opportunity to engage with stakeholders and experts at the forefront of efforts to decarbonize the oil and gas sector. 

With high-impact sessions dedicated to electrification, renewable integration, and subsea cabling, the summit provides an ideal forum. This is to explore the latest solutions and business models powering offshore assets’ transition to shore power. 

Attendees will hear directly from operators, technology innovators, regulators, and financiers leading this transformation. They can also build strategic relationships to deploy shore power infrastructure at scale. 

The summit also facilitates knowledge sharing on key considerations. This is around system design, project development, regulatory approvals, and commercial frameworks. So, this insight equips attendees to evaluate and pursue subsea electrification opportunities.

As the oil and gas industry embraces cleaner power to reduce offshore emissions, the Global Summit on Net Zero Energy Production offers the perfect venue. It also positions your organization at the cutting edge. The expertise and partnerships gained at the event will prove invaluable for advancing shore power connectivity projects from concept to reality. So, make sure you register at the earliest!