An FPSO is a Floating Production, Storage and Offloading vessel. The offshore oil and Gas industry use FPSO’s for processing and storage of oil and gas prior to either offloading it to a tanker, or being transported through a pipeline. An FPSO unit works in tandem with an oil/gas platform or a subsea template. It then processes and stores the oil/gas for offloading whenever it is required.
The main advantages come about when an FPSO is used in deep water locations or in remote places. In these situations laying a pipeline is usually not cost effective, desirable, or even practical. Using an FPSO offshore is, therefore, a more convenient and practical solution than the more traditional methods, and it’s cost effective too.
In short life oil fields, where installing expensive infrastructure is not a cost effective measure, FPSOs can offer an alternative. In situations like this the FPSO offshore is often the only real answer, especially if the location is remote and in deep water where the installation of a rigid platform can not be justified.
FPSOs used in smaller oil or gas fields have the added advantage of being able to be recycled. Once they are no longer needed in one location, they can simply lift their moorings and move off to another location to be used again. This has obvious advantages over fixed installations, which can be used again, but not as easily, or as cost effectively either.
Oil and gas are often found in areas that are not always peaceful or benign. For example, an area to the north of Australia is subject to the occasional violent cyclone that could easily cause immense damage to a vessel. When there is ample warning the FPSO can release its moorings and riser turret and be towed away, or steam under its own power. When the danger is over, the FPSO can simply return and connect its riser turret again to once more receive oil or gas for production and storage.
Another area where danger lurks is offshore Canada where the danger isn’t cyclones but icebergs. Icebergs float according to currents and wind and are unpredictable, often large, and can cause a great deal of damage. An FPSO vessel sitting offshore would stand little chance of surviving a collision with one, but it can move away whenever an iceberg threatens. Rigid platform installations cannot do this and are, therefore, potentially more vulnerable.
An FPSO vessel has another advantage over fixed installations in that it doesn’t have to be a purpose built structure. It can easily be a converted tanker that has served its useful life as a transport vessel; again reducing costs and recycling an existing structure.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Offshore assets will last a long time if they are maintained properly – tanks can be effectively cleaned and maintenance programmes carried out using water jetting/water cutting to clean away sludge and other contaminants. A good programme of tank cleaning and maintenance will ensure the FPSO has a long and useful life.