Equinor seeks Brazil's biggest FPSO for Carcara

Written by
Fabio Palmigiani and Gareth Chetwynd

Published
20 Jun 2019

20 Jun 2019 • by Fabio Palmigiani and Gareth Chetwynd

Collaboration: Equinor Brazil's vice president of supply chain Mauro Andrade Photo: ILJA C HENDEL/NOR-SHIPPING

Pre-FEED under way for newbuild unit with much more flexible parameters than the traditional Petrobras model of contracting

Norway’s Equinor is preparing to take a giant leap forward on its operations in Brazil with a groundbreaking project to contract what will become the country’s largest floating production, storage and offloading vessel for its Carcara pre-salt development in the Santos basin.

The FPSO being sought will be deployed in water depths of approximately 1990 metres and designed to produce 220,000 barrels per day of oil and process 15 million cubic metres per day of natural gas. It will have storage capacity of 2 million barrels of oil.

The Carcara FPSO is expected to be a newbuild and industry leaders Modec and SBM Offshore are working on pre-front-end engineering and design studies focusing on the concept model for the FPSO.

The floater is the first of several production units that are expected to be ordered by international oil companies in the next few years to exploit pre-salt reservoirs in Brazil.

A diversity of operators is always welcome news to contractors, but many are clearly thrilled with the prospect of doing business in Brazil in a different manner.

“Petrobras is very rigid when it comes to contract requirements for FPSOs, drilling rigs and supply boats, so it is really a good thing to have international oil companies participating in the pre-salt development, as they tend to be more flexible and pragmatic,” a source comments.

Equinor is pursuing field-proven solutions for Carcara-1, but instead of setting strict design parameters, the company is keen to take advantage of the capabilities and proven solutions of both Modec and SBM through the pre-FEED process.

Equinor has been engaging in "gap" meetings in which the company takes its general specifications to contractors and allows industry specialists to show their capabilities and bring their proposals to the table — the idea being that the best solutions will emerge.

“We want to use their expertise and knowledge in the Brazilian pre-salt to come up with the best possible project for Carcara. It is a very collaborative work,” says Equinor Brazil vice president of supply chain Mauro Andrade.

Equinor is targeting first oil from Carcara in Block BM-S-8 in either late 2023 or early the following year, but documents obtained by Upstream show the company is eyeing a slightly longer timeline to have the FPSO on stream — July 2024.

The floater will be linked to 20 development wells, comprising 12 oil producers, four gas injectors and four water injectors. It will be owned and operated by Equinor following a short transition period after first oil, with some saying that period will last just one year.

The Carcara field is nearly free of the carbon dioxide content that dogs other projects, but all natural gas will initially be re-injected. Equinor will seek a way to potentially monetise the commodity at a later stage of development if changes are implemented in the current regulatory framework.

“Equinor decided to re-inject natural gas at Carcara primarily to fast-track first oil, because some of the decisions we had to make to try to have gas exports, from a field development concept point of view, could not be taken given the uncertainties we have in the gas market in Brazil right now,” Andrade says.

“However, re-injecting natural gas will allow us to improve oil recovery, so there is a compensating factor.”

For the sub-surface, Equinor has invited TechnipFMC and a pairing between Subsea 7 and OneSubsea to carry out concept screening studies for the subsea layout for Carcara-1.

As with contracting of the FPSO, suppliers have been given considerable freedom to come up with their own design proposals covering the whole subsea umbilicals, risers and flowlines package. Proposals should be ready before the end of the third quarter of 2019, Upstream understands.

Integration

Equinor is also expected to go to the market for well construction order by the end of the year, probably in an integrated format, Upstream understands.

A final investment decision, which would lead to the award of multi-billion dollar contracts for Carcara, is earmarked for mid-2020.

Equinor and partners ExxonMobil of the US and Galp Energia of Portugal are also working on a second phase development that would involve another large floater to produce from reservoirs in the adjacent North of Carcara area.

“The consortium has already approved a phased development for Carcara. The idea is to use the same concept to be applied in phase one to have greater synergies,” explains Andrade.

The company is still performing appraisal work on the North of Carcara area, drilling two wells with the Seadrill drillship West Saturn. With completion of the Carcara East probe, the rig is be used to run drill-stem tests.

The combined carbonate structures of Carcara in BM-S-8 and North of Carcara hold estimated recoverable resources of about 2 billion barrels of oil equivalent, a figure that has not changed since drilling began on North of Carcara.

Equinor has yet to decide on the size of the second Carcara FPSO, but it appears it could be as large as the first, with output eyed for between 2026 and 2028.

“We are still at a concept screening phase for Carcara-2. We have to further mature our studies. It is still early days,” Andrade adds.

Third unit possible

Upstream understands longer term planning for Carcara-2 and a potential third FPSO would probably include infrastructure for transporting natural gas to shore, though no decision on this has been taken yet.

Equinor also has the Guanxuma pre-salt discovery in BM-S-8 in development and is eyeing a drill-stem test for June 2020.

The company has an extra mapped prospect, Urtiga, potentially on the same trend as Carcara, but has not confirmed drilling plans yet.