The traditional belief in the oil and gas industry that reliability needs to come first where technology is concerned is well placed.
Remote and often offshore working in dangerous conditions increases the emphasis on the need for the avoidance of downtime whenever possible.
Such a cautious approach need not be contrary to a spirit of innovation and may in some circumstances enhance it even. So it has proved in the case of pumps employed in the sector, where some interesting and pioneering work is under way.
Our main pumps feature takes a look at two developments that have been or promise to be of significant benefit.
One is additive manufacturing, which has enabled products to be produced faster, more cheaply and more consistently. It has also cut the cost in time and money for design testing and product delivery.
Oil sector-based 3D now has a presence on Lloyd’s Register - a sign that the City senses these developments are likely to be lucrative
Modelling allows a degree of experimentation that simply would not have been plausible even a few years previously.
Shell’s construction of a 3D model of a buoy for its Stones oilfield two years ago enabled highly accurate prototyping that also provided useful evidence for government approval. The same applies to manifolds, impellers and the like.
US pumps companies such as ExOne have been prime movers there. Likewise, it has been a Norwegian firm that has pioneered the first barrier fluid-free and seal-less pump intended for permanent subsea applications.
Fuglesangs Subsea has offered a way around the greatest source of offshore pump failure – barrier fluid systems with fragile mechanical shaft seals. It offers, says the company the advantage of savings on cost, weight – and most important, reliability.
It is noteworthy too that oil sector-based 3D now has a presence on Lloyd’s Register too and has done since last year. A sign, perhaps, that smart money in the City senses these developments are both noteworthy and likely to be lucrative.
Cautious the sector may be but its considered approach and insistence on proper testing before adoption has worked to the advantage of itself and the pumps industry.