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Bringing the full potential of surface technology

Aug 20, 2019
7 min read
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Richard Alabaster, president of TechnipFMC Surface business speaks about its surface technology offering and why the Middle East is an important market…


How has surface technology in the oil and gas sector evolved?

In North America onshore unconventional fields, we are focused on agility and responsiveness, with efficient and fast deployment. Our wellhead technology has shifted to speed systems and techniques, such as drill-time optimisation systems and uni-heads, offline cementing, and internal-latch systems rather than traditional lockdown-screw systems. We have been driving towards standardised, low-cost solutions with short lead times and prompt availability. The same applies to our completions and hydraulic fracturing technologies where we are experiencing a strong drive to speed, efficiency and throughput capacity as well as a streamlining of our mobilisation and demobilisation services. There has been a trend toward higher frac pressures and flow rates, so we have focused on design robustness and we now offer larger diameter iron in optimised configurations for higher frac flow rates and zipper fracking that provides higher speeds between stages, exceptional equipment reliability and faster mob/demob. In addition, we have developed leading edge, remotely monitored well flowback and testing technology that enables rapid post-frac cleanup and early production and monetisation to our customers, with significantly reduced manpower needs.

Whilst efficiency and cost have also been to the fore in international and offshore conventional fields, they have been experiencing some different, perhaps the most important of which has been the greater preponderance of natural gas and the resulting need for technologies to deal safely, reliably and cost-effectively with high-pressure, high-temperature and/ or aggressive-sour well fluids at large-bore gas. Our drilling and completions systems offer high functionality for these challenging environments with inbuilt sensing, controls and actuation.

 As far as production systems go, we are moving away from traditional gravity and residence-time based, “stick-built” processing facilities towards compact, modularised and efficient systems that are faster to deploy and hook up. These systems have a smaller footprint and lower fugitive emissions that make them less costly, more environmentally friendly and result in faster and higher paybacks for our customers’ field developments. We also have evolved by incorporating the most advanced digitalisation across our drilling, completions, pressure control and production equipment and services.


What innovative technologies are you working on?

 In the short run, our vision is to offer our customers more compact, standardised and reliable technologies that cost less and require less intervention and maintenance. We also work closely with our customers to truly integrate and apply new technology to our suites of products and services to eliminate steps, interfaces and redundancies and make the “orchestration” of site activities much more efficient and less costly. Digitalising our equipment is one key enabler that allows us to offer these advantages on a global basis.


How is TechnipFMC helping meet the main oil and gas challenges?

We are transforming our customers’ project economics by lowering costs and accelerating time to first oil. We do so by significantly reducing our footprint, lead times and installation requirements and by digitalising our equipment and services. Our low-cost and fast-to-deploy approach, complemented by open and interoperable digital systems, improves asset productivity and cash flow, and we offer innovative commercial models to help customers realise these benefits. TechnipFMC also is developing solutions to reduce emissions through low-emission production facilities and, more generally, by taking a lead in helping our industry provide solutions to the world’s energy needs. This includes a strong focus on extracting natural gas in our Surface and Subsea businesses and bringing it to market by way of our leadership in liquefied natural gas, gas-to-liquids and ethylene in our Onshore/Offshore business unit. We are also leading in developing floating wind power, carbon capture and storage and bio fuels.


What markets are you focused on when it comes to your Surface Technologies?

We are truly a global player in Surface Technologies. Our equipment and services are available in all fi elds and basins, both onshore and offshore, throughout the world, from North America onshore, Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico to Latin America, Asia- Pacific, the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States.


How important is the Middle East market?

The Middle East will continue to be an important market for TechnipFMC and the industry as a whole. It is certainly one of the most active markets and is expected to remain so for the foreseeable future. At TechnipFMC, we have invested signifi cantly in new infrastructure, such as fi eld bases and manufacturing facilities in the past few years as we anticipate and respond to increased demand from our Middle East customers. Our goals in the Middle East emphasise increasing our local content, supplying integrated solutions from wellhead through takeaway pipeline and introducing breakthrough technologies such as those in our integrated fracking services. Our substantial investment in our Middle East facilities is a key enabler to enhancing our strong commitment to local manpower, sourcing and manufacturing and more generally serving the entire region. We are working hard to be our Middle East customers’ preferred partner from wellhead through export pipeline. Our offering goes beyond drilling and completions to include pressure control and production systems that, when integrated into a single solution, speed time to fi rst oil and lower costs. We also want to lead the way in providing fracking services in the Middle East as the region starts to turn to unconventional plays. Our experience and leadership in North America, Argentina and elsewhere makes us an ideal partner to introduce these technologies and techniques in the Middle East.


How is digitalisation changing the oil and gas landscape?

Digitalisation has attracted new players, such as IT consulting companies that traditionally have not been very involved in the oil and gas industry. This has created high expectations around transformative solutions and influenced our customers and equipment and services companies to rapidly develop digital applications and solutions. A lot is happening. Considerable potential has been identified and some positive practical results are beginning to be achieved. However, there remains much to be tried and tested to identify the benefits, quantify them and learn how to share them. This emerging frontier has spawned many new operational and business model possibilities. The race is on and TechnipFMC is at the forefront in developing practical digital solutions that help transform our customers’ project economics.


R&D must be a big reason why TechnipFMC is leading the way?

TechnipFMC has always been a technology leader, and this can only be achieved by an ongoing and robust commitment to well-directed research and development. Our commitment to R&D through the business cycle is why we have achieved so many industry firsts and will continue to do so across our global operations.



Richard Alabaster is president of TechnipFMC’s Surface business. He previously served FMC Technologies as general manager of Surface Integrated Services, general Manager of Fluid Control, president and general manager of Loading Systems, and general manager of Measurement Systems. Prior to joining FMC Technologies in 1992, Alabaster was a manager at Hydrox Corporation in New Zealand, a wireline engineer for Schlumberger in Indonesia and Australia, and a scientist at the New Zealand Department of Scientifi c and Industrial Research.