Power Generation for Offshore Environments
Like any other endeavor, offshore production platforms and vessels require energy to operate. Unlike your average home or business, however, it’s generally not as simple as connecting an electrical power line. Power generation systems are largely integrated into a platform or vessel, and they certainly have to be more durable than many of their land-based counterparts.
In 2013, the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA) estimated that offshore drilling rigs utilizing diesel turbines — typically two or more of them — used from 20 to 30 m3 of fuel per day. IPIECA found that fuel consumption varied based on several factors, including what operations are being performed and whether the offshore structure is moored or dynamically positioned.
However, turbines fueled by something other than diesel are being used on offshore oil and gas platforms and vessels. Gas, steam, or even heavy oil turbines are being produced and distributed for offshore use by companies like GE, Ormat, Siemens, and Stewart & Stevenson. Some of those turbines are even able to run off of several types of fuel to ensure flexibility and uptime. Waste heat recovery systems are also beginning to be used to help recover energy lost from exhaust gases of turbines and generators, providing further energy savings.
Whatever the fuel, power generation systems must be reliable, efficient, and highly available. Conditions are often harsh and variable, requiring systems that are able to provide stable operation and, by design, reduce the need for frequent maintenance and overhaul. Materials and coatings must be thoughtfully chosen to reduce the effects of windy, saline, temperature-extreme environments. Designs are often modular to ease the process of installation and change outs. And certain levels of redundancy must be built into the system, including multiple engine control modules, compressors, transformers, and turbines. When designed and implemented properly, power generation systems keep offshore production continuous, effective, and safe over the long term.