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Impact on Risers and Flowlines Design of the FPSO Mooring in Deepwater

and Ultra Deepwater
J. Saint-Marcoux, and J. Legras, Subsea 7

Copyright 2014, Offshore Technology Conference

This paper was prepared for presentation at the Offshore Technology Conference held in Houston, Texas, USA, 5– 8 May 2014.

This paper was selected for presentation by an OTC program committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents
of the paper have not been reviewed by the Offshore Technology Conference and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material does not necessarily reflect
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Ten years back the choice between turret-moored FPSO and spread-moored FPSOs was primarily dictated
by local met ocean conditions: spread moored FPSO in West Africa, soft-(DICAS) mooring FPSO in
Brazil, and turret-moored FPSO elsewhere. Over the recent years West Africa is turning to turret-moored
FPSOs (internal and external), and Brazil has installed spread-moored FPSOs. Whereas spread moored
FPSOs prevail in larger sizes (about 2MB), new built, turret-moored, FPSOs are usually smaller in size
(1MB) with external-turret offering cost and schedule benefits to the operators over internal-turrets. This
paper presents the impact of this new trend in FPSO mooring on the design of the flow lines and risers
and related impact to field layout. The orientation of a spread-mooring is governed by the local met ocean
conditions and may not be optimal for the routing of the flowlines; also compromises may have to be done
with regards to flow assurance constraints. Turret-moored FPSO allow possibly a better use of the seafloor
space especially in deeper water where the seafloor slope is gentler, and result in shorter flowlines. Risers
for spread-moored FPSOs are decoupled unless they can be a small number and limited to the central part
of the hull. For turret-moored FPSO, decoupled risers allow larger FPSO offset movements and are
compatible with both internal and external turret. In the case of SHR or HRT, safety rules impose a
significantly longer jumper lines to protect the FPSO from accidental buoyancy tank release. SCRs may
also be feasible but highly insulated risers are very light and prone to fatigue in-service. Examples are
being provided to evaluate the impact of the various FPSO mooring options.
Subsea 7 is a major engineering and construction company supplying a range of services and technologies
in particular for deep and ultradeep water. The range of services encompasses large EPIC (Engineering
Procurement, Installation, construction) contracts as well as bespoke highly specialized remote interven-
tions. The company operates a worldwide fleet of some 40 high specification subsea construction and
inspection vessels actively involved in SURF (Subsea Umbilicals, Risers and Flowlines). From hands on
experience it is possible to gather an overall view of the recent trends in field architecture.
Except in US GOM, FPSOs (Floating Production Storage and Offloading units) are taking the lion’s
share of field developments. The exception for the US-GOM can be traced to the maturity of the province
with a dense pattern of existing producing facilities with oil and gas export lines1 negating the use of
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onsite storage. In 2013 there were 147 FPSO in service worldwide (Mahoney, 2013) as opposed to 50
Semi-submersibles (Supan, 2011), 22 TLPs (Withoit, 2010) and 20 spars/DDCVs (Mahoney, 2012). The
attached Table 3 lists the FPSOs in water depth exceeding 700m (2300’), with some minor exclusion2.
Generally FPSO mooring in deep and ultradeepwater is either DICAS, spread moored or turret-moored.
The DICAS (Differentiated Compliance Anchoring System) mooring system (Kaster, 1997) was devel-
oped by Petrobras. It is a spread mooring system with different stiffness at the bow and at the stern of the
vessel. This mooring was designed to cope with particular circumstances in Brazil where the most
frequent inclement weather comes from the North-East direction but the most severe come from the South
West. The major benefit of the DICAS is to avoid a turret.
When prevailing met ocean conditions are mono-directional as in West Africa, a spread moored system
has been extensively used in deep water beyond 1000m. The mooring system consists of:
– Chain, wire, chain or
– Chain, polyester, chain
Taut mooring systems allow a reduced footprint of the mooring pattern and a better use of floor space.
A review of mooring chain failures was presented recently at OTC (Ma, 2013) with recommendation for
improving their reliability but without fundamentally questioning them. In particular the use of polyester
mooring was not considered detrimental or more risky than wire. Since 2009, all mooring lines in ultra
deepwater have been using chain, polyester, chain mooring (Bozorgmehrian, 2013).
Turret-moored systems have been required:
– When severe operating conditions are coming from a range of directions
– When extreme events3 (hurricane, typhoons, or icebergs) require evacuation of the field
Turret-moored FPSO’s come into two categories — internal or bow-mounted turrets -, either can be
Bow-mounted turrets appear to have advantages over internal turret. Because the hull size is imposed
by the standard size of the shipyards for VLCCs (Very Large Crude Carrier)4, the oil storage capacity is
reduced for FPSO with internal turret. Also the overall schedule of the FPSO with internal turret tends to
be longer than that of an FPSO with an external turret because the FPSO and the turret can be fabricated
in different specialized fabrication yards.
For deepwater fields shown in Table 1, it can be seen that:
– In Brazil the FPSO are based on mostly new VLCCs, with DICAS or turret-mooring (primarily
internal turrets)
– In West Africa, the FPSOs are also based on VLCC with spread-mooring
– In other areas the selection is again based on metocean conditions, and in particular the presence of
extreme events
However as the newer developments focus now on ultra-deepwater5 there appear new trends:
– Spread-moored FPSO appear in Brazil
– Turret-moored FPSOs are considered for some projects in West Africa projects
– One project in Ultradeepwater US-GOM (Cascade Chinook) is based on a disconnectible internal-
turret moored Suezmax crude carrier6

The US-GOM is also more progressively developed with relatively small leases (3x3 land miles, or 23km2) as opposed to much larger lease in other areas of the world. The
size of a lease in the North Sea is about 200 km2 - 10’ latitude by 12’ longitude - and leases are often even larger in frontier areas.
FDPSO are not considered in this paper as the only example of this concept was operating in Congo-Brazzaville for Murphy on the Azurite field and have had its contract
terminated due to poor reservoir performance. Also the circular FPSO Piranema Spirit has not been included in the list.
Under extreme events FPSOs have demonstrated their ability to disconnect and return to operation quickly.
VLCC are from 200 000 to 320 000 dwt and may carry up to 2MB; Suezmax are from 80 000 to 160 000 dwt and may carry up to 1MB, a typical oil parcel.
According to API 17A, ultra deepwater is defined as larger than 6000’ (1828.8 m).
Shell is also planning a Suezmax based FPSO with a disconnectible turret for the Stones development in GOM, WR508, in 9500’ (2896m) WD. The risers are Steel Lazy
Wave catenary.
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Table 1—Comparison of risers for Spread-moored FPSOs

The previous evolution of FPSO concept in deep-

water Brazil has been summarized (Henriques
2007) in three phases:
– Phase I: in 1979, a 60 000 BOPD (barrel of oil
per day) unit was installed on a 54 000 Dwt
tanker on the Garoupa field in 120m water depth
and then on the Albacora Leste field in 220m Figure 1—Transition from the Continental Shelf to Continental slope
water depth (Deepwater) the Abyssal Plain (ultradeepwater)
– Phase II: in 1990, four 100 000 BOPD units
were installed on VLCC in water depth ranging from 900m to 1400m with turret-mooring system
– Phase III: in 2002 to 2006, three 180 000 BOPD units are installed on VLCC with DICAS
Petrobras decision to eliminate the subsea manifolds aimed at reducing the production losses associated
with co-mingling and removing the manifold supply out of the critical path of the project (Henriques,

Spread-moored FPSO
Developments in deepwater (less than 1830m - 6000’) have generally taken place on the Continental
Slope. The general slope in the area (in the range of 1 to 2%) limits the free-board use of a spread-moored
FPSO to the side facing the deeper water. This is in order to have favorable flow assurance conditions:
avoiding terrain slugging.
For field developed in ultradeep water, generally in the abyssal plain, there is no more general slope7
and the best use of floor space is when the FPSO is centrally located. Then the mooring lines of a
spread-moored FPSO obstruct the direct access to some of the drill areas and longer flowlines are required
as compared to turret-moored (see Figure 2). A single line is shown but there are usually several
connections between the FPSO and each drill area (production/service lines, injections lines, umbilicals):
they are all similarly affected.

The general slope in the abyssal plain is usually less than 0.25%. Local features of the seafloor such as furrows or pockmarks) can largely exceed this average value.
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Figure 2—Comparison of overall layout for Spread and Turret-moored FPSO

Figure 3—ExxonMobil Ehra in Nigeria, with SCRs

Spread-moored FPSO have been traditionally used in the relatively mild metocean conditions of West
Africa but are now designed for the demanding conditions of Brazil (11m significant wave height, 34 m/s
wind velocity and 1.7m/s current) by use of a larger number of mooring lines. The following choice has
to be made for spread-moored FPSO:
– For a small number of risers coupled risers (Flexibles or SCRs — Steel Catenary Risers–) can be
attached to the center section of the FPSO, as was done on the Erha project (Figure 3) or the Bonga
project (Figure 4)
– For a large number of risers use de-coupled risers (SHR – Single Hybrid Risers, HRT — Hybrid Riser
Tower, or BSR – Riser Sustaining Buoy), can be attached all along the Freeboard of the FPSR, as on
Kizomba A&B (Figure 5), Girassol (Figure 6) or, more recently, Guara Sapinhoa in Brazil (Figure 7).
When flow assurance requirements are stringent, coupled risers have inherent limitations (typically a
minimum OHTC – Overall Heat Transfer Coefficient of about 3 W/m2.K), and lower U-values can well
be achieved with such uncoupled risers as SHRs and HRTs.
The conventional hydrate mitigation strategy8 in deep and ultra deepwater is:

Electrical heated flowlines (ETHPIP or DEH) are being designed and built, and will have an impact in ultra deepwater when field proven in operation. This will typically
reduce the number of risers for a drill-center from three (two production and one injection) to two (one production and one injection). This also impacts the hydrate mitigation
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Figure 4 —Shell Nigeria Bonga, with SCRs

Figure 5—ExxonMobil Kizomba A in Angola, with SHRs

Figure 6 —Total Angola Girassol, with HRTs

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– Either to have two thermally insulated flowlines arranged in a loop; in production mode both
flowlines flow to the FPSO; in hydrate prevention mode dead oil is circulated from the FPSO through
one line in reverse and back from the other flowline.
– Or to have one thermally insulated flowline and an un-insulated service line; in production mode the
insulated flowline flows to the FPSO; in hydrate prevention mode dead oil, already in place in the
service line is circulated back from the insulated flowline. This is applicable in particular to longer
step-outs with less production.
Turret-moored FPSO Non-
Turret-moored FPSO may be external or internal:
– External turret have advantage as they can be
fabricated in parallel to the hull conversion, pos-
sibly in different yards
– Because the overall dimension of FPSO are
usually dictated by the shipyard, an internal tur-
ret moored FPSO has usually a smaller storage
capacity; load applied to the risers is smaller than
for an external turret.
The PSVM FPSO is the first non-disconnectible
turret-moored FPSO in ultra deepwater West Af-
rica. It is also based on a VLCC. The turret is
Figure 7—Petrobras Guara Sapinhoa, with BSRs

Figure 8 —PSVM FPSO serves BP in Angola

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Figure 9 —Espirito Santo FPSO serves Shell BC10 field in Brazil

Figure 10 —Examples of disconnectible turrets

externally mounted and the risers are de-coupled and consist of SHRs. The flowlines are conventional.
In Brazil the BC–10 FPSO is VLCC based with an Internal–turret equipped with coupled SCRs in lazy
wave configuration.
In both cases, PSVM and BC–10, flowlines are conventional.

Turret-moored Disconnectible FPSO

Disconnectible FPSO are strictly restrained to areas where predictable extreme events can regularly
interfere with production (Figure 10). Both coupled and un-coupled risers are feasible in shallow water
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Figure 11—Petrobras US-GOM Cascade Chinook (courtesy of Petrobras)

Figure 12—Difficulty of having a large number of SCRs, with a

spread-moored FPSO
Figure 13—Possible HRT with a turret-moored external FPSO
but in deep and ultradeep water the load of the
coupled risers restrain their use9.
Petrobras Cascade Chinook Project in ultradeepwater is based on a Suezmax 135 000 BOPD FPSO. To
accommodate the disconnection of the risers, it is necessary to use decoupled risers.
There are only three risers during the first phase.

Impact on Risers
The tables below illustrate the respective merits of the various risers designs for spread-moored FPSO
(Table 1) and turret-moored FPSOs (Table 2).

Impact on Flowlines
Shorter flowlines as shown in Figure 2 for turret-moored FPSO mean lower cost but also possibly a
reduction of flow assurance constraints.

Over the recent years spread-moored VLCC-FPSO with a typical capacity of about 200 000 BOPD and
a storage capacity of 2MB are becoming the norm for ultra deepwater, except in areas where disconnec-

Nevertheless SCRs, albeit in lazy wave configuration, are planned to be used for the Shell Stones project in GOM.
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Table 2—Comparison of risers for turret-moored FPSO

tion is required for extreme predictable events such as hurricane. Taut mooring with polyester rope
appears to be the mooring of choice.
The selection between spread-moored and turret-moored involves the design of the risers (coupled or
un-coupled) and the flowlines, whose length can be significantly affected. It is important to include the
impact of all these components at the concept selection. For medium to low flow assurance requirements,
coupled risers have an advantage whereas decoupled risers meet more demanding ones. For contractors
it is important to maintain a wide selection of riser concepts.

The authors acknowledge Subsea 7 for allowing them to prepare this paper. It is emphasized that the
conclusions put forth reflect the views of the authors alone, and not necessarily those of Subsea 7.

Bozorgmehrain, M., et alet al., Mooring Systems for Offshore Floating Installations, Oct 2013,
Offshore Magazine
Henriques, C., C., D., Brandao, F., N., From P-34 to P-50 FPSO Evolution, OTC 18681, Houston, TX,
May 2007
Kaster, F., Barros, M., Rossi, R., Masetti, I., Falkenberg, E., Karlsen, S., Waclawek, I., DICAS — A
new mooring concept for FPSO, OTC 8439, Houston, TX, May 1997
Ma, K., Duggal, A., Smedley, P., L’Hostis, D., Shu, H., A Historical Review on Integrity Issues of
Permanent Mooring Systems, OTC 24025, Houston, TX, May 2013
Mahoney, C., et alet al., 2012 Worldwide Survey of Spar, DDCV, and MinDOC, Oct 2012, Offshore
Mahoney, C., et alet al., 2013 Worldwide Survey of Floating Production; Storage and Offloading, Aug
2013, Offshore Magazine
Supan, C., et alet al., 2011 Worldwide Survey of Semi-FPSs, and FPUs, Jan 2011, Offshore Magazine
Withoit, L., et alet al., 2010 Worldwide Survey of TLPs, TLWPs, Feb 2010, Offshore Magazine
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Table 3—Main Characteristics of FPSOs in service10 for water depth larger than 700m (2300’)

Significant changes were made to the original spreadsheet (Mahoney 2013) because often, the early production systems were listed instead of the full plateau production

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