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Transforming offshore oil production

Published:  24 January, 2024

The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) has pledged to increase its oil production capacity to five million barrels a day by 2030 to satisfy the soaring global demand for energy.

The Belbazem block, a massive $744 million development of three offshore oilfields, will be central to ADNOC’s goals — but this large output cannot be achieved without efficiently powered Electric Submersible Pumps (ESPs). That’s why WEG, a motors and drives specialist, was asked to supply its medium voltage variable speed drives (MV VSDs), to power Belbazem’s ESPs and fully-exploit local unused oil and gas resources.

The Belbazem offshore block field is being developed by Al Yasat Petroleum Operations Company, a joint venture between ADNOC and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC). The block is located approximately 120 km north-west of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and comprises three large oilfields — Belbazem, Umm Al Salsal and Umm Al Dholou. Each oilfield has its own offshore tower housing a wellhead, valves and controls needed to extract oil or gas from underwater reserves. Each facility is also equipped with ESPs, which are absolutely vital in offshore oil production.

The ESPs will be used for artificial lifting, a pivotal technique in the oil and gas industry. ESPs are electric submersible pumps driven by a special electrical motor, efficiently extracting hydrocarbons from deep wells. They enhance production rates, especially in high-yield reservoirs with low natural pressure. ESPs offer versatility and can be remotely controlled, which reduces the need for manual intervention. Their high efficiency and adaptability make them indispensable for maximising reservoir productivity.

However, ESPs are also difficult to power. They are placed remotely in deep sea environments where harsh conditions are the norm, and the power is typically transmitted over long distances through specialised, insulated cables. The failure of an ESP during offshore oil production can lead to halted oil extraction, revenue losses and potential equipment damage. Repairs are also costly, time-consuming and potentially dangerous — because ESPs are often installed in confined spaces, like wells, maintenance creates risks of falls, slips and exposure to electrical and mechanical hazards.

All of these factors can disrupt operations and affect production schedules. For Belbazem, they must be avoided at all costs in order that the offshore block can meet immediate output target of 45,000 barrels of light crude, every day, without fail — and, of course, support ADNOC’s goal of five million barrels a day by the end of the decade.

This is also why variable speed drives (VSDs) are essential for powering ESPs. VSDs allow precise control of the pump’s speed so it can be adapted to changing well conditions, which ensures efficient operation and extends the equipment’s lifespan.

Using MV drive technology in ESP applications

Given the high stakes of the Belbazem development project, it was clear that VSDs were needed to accurately control the ESPs’ speed based on the required operation conditions — and that these systems must be tailored specifically for the Belbazem field’s requirements.

That’s why WEG, a global leader in the supply of motors and drives, was asked to support the project. WEG was called upon during the Belbazem project’s Front-End Engineering Design (FEED) stage. Here, the project's engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) companies come together to plan and identify the proper operational design and technology, with input from global experts in the field. They also proactively assess potential challenges or risks upfront, preventing expensive changes in the later phases of development.

“WEG was delighted to support the Belbazem development project’s EPCs during the FEED stage,” explains Ahmed ElShayal, WEG Global O&G Regional Business Manager — Middle East. “This meant we were able to contribute to the development of the project from its earliest, conceptual stages with our expertise and crucial technology.

“Based on those early discussions, it was decided to transition away from the use of a conventional low voltage (LV) drives solution to operate and control the ESPs. Instead, it was decided that a better choice would be to use WEG’s MV VSDs to suit the project circumstances.”

While LV drives are more advantageous in certain settings, there were several advantages of using MV VSDs over LV drives systems at Belbazem. MV systems would prove more efficient, support a smaller footprint because they are compact and lighter —specially if MVW01 G2 drives with an integrated transformer, mentioned below, are used — and tend to produce fewer disruptive harmonics. Moreover, MV voltage systems experience lower voltage drop over long distances and can accommodate the longer cable runs that are so essential for powering ESPs — without experiencing excessive voltage drop or requiring additional compensation measures.

In the end, MV VSDs were recommended as the “crucial technology” for the Belbazem offshore block — 15 units in total. Specifically, WEG recommended its second-generation MVW01 G2 drives that feature advanced components, deliver higher power output, greater reliability and significant energy efficiency gains.

Highest available efficiency

The MVW01’s advanced components include Voltage Source Inverter (VSI) technology, which takes the energy from a power source and converts it into a form that can be used by different devices, with Neutral Point Clamp (NPC) multilevel power topology, which helps efficiently use and manage different voltage levels. These technologies combine with 6.5 kV High Voltage Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistors (HV IGBTs) that amplify, regulate, convert or turn high-voltage currents on or off rapidly.

The second generation MVW01 G2 — as recommended for use in the Belbazem project — offers enhanced power output and reliability while retaining the same footprint. This improvement in performance is attributed to the use of the latest HV IGBTs with a larger safe operating area and higher short circuit capability. The drive's power capacity ranges from 500 to 22,500 HP (400 to 16,000 kW), with voltage ratings from 2.3 kV to 6.9 kV and an output frequency of up to 120 Hz.

“The MVW01 G2 is versatile, finding applications in various industrial settings including compressors, pumps, fans, conveyors and grinding mills,” explains ElShayal. “The unit’s design, which combines the optimum number of power and control components, results in the highest efficiency design on the market.

“The operator interface is designed for familiarity and ease of use, mirroring that of WEG’s LV VSD product line. By coordinating with ESP suppliers, it was possible for WEG to ensure seamless integration of the entire system.”

Further collaborations

Coupled with special Permanent Magnet Motors (PMMs) manufactured by the pump original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), the 15 delivered MVW01 G2s have provided an integrated solution that not only meets the project's unique requirements but also offers significant cost-saving benefits. The successful implementation of WEG's MV VSD technology has significantly enhanced the Belbazem project's operational efficiency.

"Belbazem represents a breakthrough on several fronts,” says ElShayal. “It marks the first use of WEG's MV VSD for ESPs in both the UAE and the Middle East, and globally for ESP applications that use PMMs. The technology has not only met, but surpassed expectations.”

The Belbazem development has also opened doors to further collaborations for WEG. They include its current support of ESPs in a development project at Bu Haseer, an offshore oil and gas field located between the Das and Zirku Islands in Abu Dhabi that is also operated by Al Yasat Petroleum Operations Company. That project will use WEG’s LV drives technology.

For now, the Belbazem project stands as a testament to the transformative impact of WEG's innovative solutions on the oil and gas industry — and how VSDs can support ADNOC’s goal to produce five million barrels of crude oil per day by 2030.

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