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Benefits of Standardization of Subsea Equipment

Illustrated by a Case Study in Pre-Salt Pole

Conference Paper · March 2013


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3 authors, including:

Juliano Pimentel
Aker Solutions


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Fernando Popia
Product Engineer | Subsea Controls

William Bessa
Product Engineer | Subsea Controls
Juliano Pimentel
Engineering Manager | Subsea Controls

Aker Solutions
Francisco Sobania Street, 1300
Abstract – This paper aims on discuss the benefits of products and components
standardization from the perspective of subsea equipment suppliers and E&P companies,
covering economic and technological aspects, encompassing engineering, logistics and
operation. A real case study is presented to illustrate the applicability of the standardization
covering the actions taken in the development of the Control Systems' equipment for pre-salt
cluster, Guará Lula NE project, located at Santos Basin - Brazil.

Key-words – subsea equipment, subsea standardization, controls system standardization.


The subsea oil and gas industry has passed by huge expansion due to the new discoveries
around the world. These opportunities turned the technological advances the key to succeed
the new projects and the subsea equipment response time.
The subsea exploration systems are usually very particular and customized for specific oil
fields. The differences in water depths, well pressure, oil characteristics and soil types are the
main aspects that take the standardization of subsea equipment to a major challenge. With the
pre-salt fields findings and beginning of the development of these new landmark, the major
bottleneck and the risk in technological development is the inability of manufacturers to
provide equipment on time and at reasonable cost.
Standardization of subsea equipment reduces the time required for the implementation of an
oilfield, throughout tender to installation and aftermarket. Interchangeability between
manufacturers and response time improvement during offshore operations, raise product and
services quality levels and spread common knowledge. Therefore, the standardization
becomes a fundamental and strategic step to reduce the time for first-oil, considering that pre-
salt production perspectives are being very promising [1].


The development of subsea oilfields is a long and complicated procedure, which demands
lots of resources. Generally, to develop a submerged oilfield system consists of
reconnoitering the area that potentially has oil reservoirs, drill the wells and install the
equipment, which will extract and control the production in each well [2]. The main
equipment responsible to the upstream chain of oil production are defined as following:
1. Wet Christmas tree: Also known as Wet X-mas Tree, the device is, basically, a set of
valves assembled to control the production flow directly in the well head. It is usually
used to extract oil and gas from the well. Although, it is also applicable to inject water
or gas into well to rise up the oilfield pressure and, consequently, increase the
production from the field. The Wet X-mas Trees incorporate sensors to measure
relevant operation parameters such as temperature, pressure and flow. The valves may
be controlled via a hydraulic actuator, which allows remote control.

2. Manifold: The subsea Manifolds are an arrangement of piping, valves and control
systems. It is projected to combine, route, control and monitor the fluid flows on the
oilfield. This equipment is installed on the seabed, usually connected to X-mas Tree.
The Manifolds are able to gather oil production or inject water (or gas) into the
oilfield wells.

3. Subsea Umbilicals: There are two types of subsea umbilicals, which have different
functions. The first is the Production Umbilical (or Flowline), which is a duct
responsible to connect the production or injection lines between the X-mas Trees and
the topside or onshore facilities. The second type of umbilical is the electro-hydraulic
umbilical (or controls umbilical), which is a set of hoses, electrical and/or optical
cables. This type of subsea umbilicals has the function of sending electrical power and
communication signals to subsea electronic modules. The hoses transmit hydraulic
power to control the subsea valves, generally mounted on the X-Mas trees and

4. FPSO: A Floating Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO) is a float vessel

applied in oil and gas industry to extract, process, store and offload the production
from subsea oilfields. The FPSOs can be directly connected to subsea equipment, to
control them and to extract the production from the well. This type of vessel
temporally stores the oil and gas production, offloading it frequently to oil tankers.

The subsea equipment are connected from the well head to topside installations through
umbilicals and flowlines. The production from X-mas Tree can be directly sent to FPSO or
Oil platform. Depending on the field layout, the production can be gathered on a Manifold,
which interconnect other wells and send to topside installations.
A representation of subsea oilfield system is presented on figure 1. In the example, the
production x-mas trees (wells) are connected through a Manifold to the FPSO. There is also
one injection well which is directly connected to the FPSO, through an injection umbilical.
Also, each well is being accessed by controls umbilicals.

Figure 1 - Representation of a subsea oilfield system

At most of the equipment presented above the control systems make an important role and
therefore its application has increased during the latest years. The control philosophy of a
subsea oilfield system is usually choose between the hydraulic direct or the multiplexed
The hydraulic direct system connects each subsea equipment via a dedicated electro-
hydraulic controls umbilical. All the commands are issued from the topside and a significant
amount of panels are required in order to provide full system control, which increases the
quantity and the size of umbilicals.
The multiplexed system a more efficient solution in terms of umbilicals costs, topside
equipment and response time. In general, it requires an unique controls umbilical, which the
hydraulic and eletrical lines are spread to all equipment in subsea.
In the presented case study, the sensors' data acquisition and the valve controlling philosophy
will be the electrical-hydraulic multiplexed, which includes the use of a Subsea Control
Module, called SCM. The control systems equipment is presented hereafter.

In case of adopting a multiplexed soluttion for a subsea oilfield system, a package of controls
equipment is required, as per detailed below.

1. Master Control Station: Also known as MCS, it is a set of controls cabinet located
topside, which allows the operator to view and command the subsea equipment. It is
responsible for retrieving subsea data and interface with higher levels supervisory
systems and third party devices.
2. Subsea Control Module: Also abbreviated as SCM, the device is an electronic-
hydraulic unit which gathers sensors' data and control the Wet X-mas Tree and
Manifold valves. It has the capability of store hydraulic energy and use it to improve
the response time while controlling subsea valves. The SCM is, basically, composed
by DCVs (Directional Control Valves), sensors, hydraulic components and the Subsea
Electronic Module (SEM), which houses the electronic circuits.
3. Downhole Interface Unit: Also known as DIU, it is an electronic module used to
house the third party downhole sensor card for aquisition of well's temperature and
pressure data.
4. Electrical Monitoring Systems: Abbreviated as EMS, the most common application
comprises pressure and temperature sensors connected through an electrical harness,
which is routed via electrical jumpers to the SCM or DIU.
5. Electrical and Hydraulic Distribution: It is made through electrical and hydraulic
jumpers and respective connectors. The connectors establish the interface between
mechanical and controls equipment, by using jumpers to interconnect the system. The
subsea jumpers are not applicable to connect long distances, when the controls
umbilical, then, become substantial.

a) b) c) d)

Figure 2 - a) SCM. b) DIU. c) Hydraulic Jumper. d) Electrical Jumper.


The demand for subsea systems drives the industry to establish ways to reduce costs, delivery
time and to increase quality and reliability. Materials standardization processes consist on the
technical consolidation of good practices and previous experiences during their application
lifecycle. The standard illustrated in this paper was adopted in Guara Lula NE project
(GLNE) based on the large field experience at the Brazilian depth water systems and on its
first pilot project for pre-salt development, the Tupi field.
One of the main objectives was to enable control systems equipment from one manufacturer
be fitted into other manufacturer mechanical subsea equipment, as well as transfer
components from one type of equipment to another, without the need of adjusts. For example,
a SCM set on a X-mas Tree can be moved to a Manifold with no interferences, independently
of manufacturers. Thus, the mechanical, electrical and logical interfaces were defined
considering actual subsea equipment suppliers' capabilities and limitations.
Flexibility and interchangeability allowed Petrobras to establish a global purchase process for
future demands of standard equipment, without the knowledge of all wells to be drilled. It
also improved the ability on perform a benchmarket for the offers from the commercial and
technical aspects, reduced the asset storage and response time on providing spare parts. The
quality of the delivered equipment is being noticed to be a major gain.
Standard products provide best services and support during operations and widely spread
knowledge among the whole supply chain, from the service to the material point of view.
Project and development steps are reduced, and therefore, related risks. Engineering
improvements are shared through different projects, and, subsequently enhances the
equipment reliability. The standardization is being a good option for fast-track projects,
offering a conservative way of exploration and cost-effective subsea solutions [1].


The interchangeability, which was the major driver for this standardization, is basically a
work on the interfaces definitions. All the interfaces should allow different suppliers to install
its controls equipment, taking into account their mechanical and/or electrical aspects. The
subsea system layout is composed by topside and subsea equipment.
Topside equipment consists of control and monitoring devices for the oilfield system. They
are responsible of providing communication and power supply to subsea modules through the
controls umbilical. The PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) and the HMI (Human-
Machine Interface) interpret and display subsea conditions for the operator. The HPU
(Hydraulic Power Unit) and the EPU (Electrical Power Unit) deliver the necessary amount of
power for the system. Both topside and subsea systems are redundant through channels A and
B. A common topside layout is presented in the block diagram in figure 3.





Modem Modem


Modulated Signal Link LP + HP

Figure 3 - Topside equipments interconnections block diagram for a subsea system

In the topside system, the operators are able to access the information on three different ways,
which are: Engineering Workstations (EWS), Operators Workstations (OWS) and the Central
Control Room (CCR) of the FPSO. Those information are not restricted to the wells
conditions, but also offers data from topside related devices, to ensure overall system
Safety and control routines are within the topside system, which is connected to the whole
production vessel. The CCR is the top supervisor system, where to all sub-system are
The scope of work of subsea equipment suppliers is usually restricted to the controls cabinets
that interface with the subsea modules, which is, in this case, the Master Control Station. The
MCS interfaces are generally electrical, connecting the subsea system with other suppliers
such as the downhole intelligent completion systems and the CCR. In the controls cabinets is
where the first standard interface appears: the communication protocols.
At subsea, the interfaces are more diversified based on the principle that the controls
equipment shall interface with different mechanical equipment.
The most important equipment subsea is the SCM, which controls most of the X-mas Tree's
valves and retrieve data from all sensors, including downhole. It is a mountable device with
hydraulic and electrical interfaces. The electrical jumpers connect the X-mas Tree electrical
system and the hydraulic jumpers take the energy from the SCM to actuate the valves on the
X-mas Tree. A common subsea layout is presented in the block diagram in figure 4.


Hydraulic Lines
Electrical Cables

CH. A CH. B PDG Cable



HP Retrievable
XMT Valves
X-mas Tree
Downhole DHSV

Figure 4 - Subsea equipment interconnections block diagram.


a. Topside network communications protocol and softwares

Communication language might be a key issue during commissioning. The standardization

defined a common way to interface with the different well controlling and sensing suppliers
and higher level supervisors, such as the CCR. The adopted protocol for the topside
equipment was OPC (OLE for Process Control) over Ethernet, which is a tag-based protocol
over one of the most common interfaces: Ethernet.
Not only the protocol was defined, but also the data map (OPC map), which was built to
allow differently third part companies to access their devices' data using the same OPC map
structure through the MCS as a patch. Same philosophy was considered for the
communication with CCR.
PLC and HMI software were designed with facilities to interface with different third party
equipment and adjust the humam-machine interface as well the control logic for it. Popup
boxes and menus are available to configure the interface according to the appropriate field
characteriscits. It includes the possibility to enable multiple zone wells, configure well names
and set different suppliers at a specific well.

b. Retrievable Subsea Modules

At subsea, the SCM mounting base has been removed from the X-mas Tree and installed into
a retrievable module, called as Retrievable SCM Mounting Base. This module houses the
SCM and its mounting base, as well as the Downhole Interface Unit (DIU) module, which
contains the third party electronic boards for well sensing interface.
DIU is also a key component. It is a replaceable subsea interface which allows the well
sensing supplier to be changed with no harm to the system. Its electrical interface with the
SCM has been standardized according IWIS (Intelligent Well Interface Standardisation).
The Retrievable SCM Mounting Base installation principle was kept as simple as possible. It
basically sits into two funnels on the X-mas Tree and locks through a ROV (Remote
Operated Vehicle) handle mechanism. But, the simplicity of the installation method has been
overcome by the dimensions and weight restrictions.
Restricted by the X-mas Tree size, the envelope dimensions was a major issue during the
module design. The SCM, DIU and all electrical and hydraulic connectors should fit into a
pre-defined space and, at same time, allow access for intervention and operation of all
retrievable components and interfaces. The weight had similar efforts. In order to leave it as
minimum as possible, the module structure passed by analysis for material reduction,
respecting the safety conditions. Both challenges were important for installation feasibility at
more rigs. Figure 5 illustrates the Retrievable SCM Mounting Base, including it mounted in
the X-mas Tree.



a) b)

Figure 5 - a) The Retrievable SCM Mounting Base with subsea modules. b) The Retrievable SCM
mounting base fixed in the X-mas Tree.

From the Retrievable SCM Mounting Base, three hydraulic jumpers and five electrical
jumpers are responsible to connect the SCM to the X-mas Tree. The whole X-mas Tree stack-
up layout was developed considering the main operations throughout the equipment would be
subjected, from installation to operation. The ROV operations with the Retrievable SCM.
The electrical connectors on the top of the SCM were also standardized. There is 6 electrical
connectors on the SCM to interface with the electrical jumpers, as per shown in figure 6. The
CANOPEN connector enables the communications with subsea instrumentation, this
connector is not used today, but it is ready for future applications. ELT A and ELT B
connectors provide the interface with PT and PTT sensors through a junction box. P/S A and
P/S B enable the interface with the subsea umbilical electrical cables via EHDM, which
brings the power and signal from topside. The DIU connector provides the interface of the
SCM and the downhole interface card.



Figure 6 - Electrical connectors on the top of the SCM.

c. Hydraulic and Electrical Jumpers

Hydraulic jumpers are located at the side of the stack-up, while electrical jumpers populate
the rear, nearest to the electrical hydraulic umbilical termination unit, also known as EHDM
(Electric-Hydraulic Distribution Manifold) . Therefore, interferences during jumpers handling
were reduced as much as possible and all the ROV operations were simulated by software in
order to prove the feasibility. Figure 7 and 8 show screenshots of the simulations evaluating
the ROV operations with the DIU and the electrical jumpers, respectively.

Figure 7 - The ROV removing the DIU from the Retrievable SCM Mounting Base.

Figure 8 - The ROV parking one end of the electrcial jumper.

Electrical jumpers had its number of conductors in the internal wiring and its length
standardized. Apart of the 12-way electrical jumper from the DIU (and CANOPEN) to SCM,
all other electrical jumpers are 7-way male to female, which allows a reduced amount of
spares and field interchangeability.
Hydraulic jumpers had the number of lines defined to thirteen and the hose end connections
to 6JIC standard, which allows the easy change of its connector for a another supplier
connector. The hydraulic lines' working pressures were split in two level, the high pressure
(HP) and the low pressure (LP), which were allocated at the same position in all jumpers.

Table 1 - Hydraulic lines of the system relating with design pressure and valve.
Design Pressure Function
Line Number
(bar / psi) (example)

1 690 / 10008 DHSV 1

2 690 / 10008 DHSV 2

3 345 / 5004 Master Valve 1

4 345 / 5004 Master Valve 2

5 345 / 5004 Wing Valve 1

6 345 / 5004 Wing Valve 2

7 345 / 5004 Pig-Xover Valve

8 345 / 5004 Xover Valve

9 690 / 10008 Reserve

10 345 / 5004 Intelligent Completion 1

11 345 / 5004 Intelligent Completion 2

12 345 / 5004 Intelligent Completion 3

13 345 / 5004 Intelligent Completion 4

Electrical connectors' panel and hole mounted interfaces were standardized, which allows any
electrical connector supplier to assembly its product on the X-mas Tree stack-up equipment.
Figure 9 shows an example of the electrical connectors interface.

Figure 9 - Electrical connector’s panel and the standard interface.

d. CANOPEN Interface

The increase of CANOPEN applications required the subsea equipment to make available a
dedicated electrical connector on top of the SCM. The maximum quantity of slaves and other
relevant characteristics were defined in order to allow the ability to connect a wide range of
devices with such protocol [3]. The CANOPEN gives the following main features:
 To allow the expansion of effective control of the subsea instrumentation;
 To Increase the number os subsea sensors without more wiring;
 Fault tolerance during data transmission;
The CANOPEN architecture uses only one bus to provide the communication between the
instrumentation, which enables the increase of subsea devices. Figure 10 shows a block
diagram indicating the topology of subsea instrumentaion by using CANOPEN protocol.
CANOPEN applications are foreasted for use in Manifolds and have not been requested on
X-mas Trees, where the sensors are still analog protocol: 4 - 20mA.

Figure 10 - Subsea Instrumentation connected to the SCM using CANOPEN concept. [3]
e. Pressure and Temperature Transducers

Pressure Transducers (PT) and Pressure and Temperature Transducers (PTT) are the most
common sensor on a X-mas Tree. It mechanical interface with the main block is an API
flange (API 6A – 1 13/16 - 10,000 psi – BX 151). The probe length has a maximum of 190
mm and fits into a 200 mm length bore.
The communication protocol is the 4 - 20mA and the calibration parameters are the
- Calibrated Range, Pressure: 0 – 15,000 psi
- Calibrated Range, Temperature: -10 to +150 ºC

f. Downhole Gauges

Downhole gauges are essential for well analysis since they are located into the well, below
the DHSV (Downhole Safety Valves) valves and at the productions zones, when intelligent
completion systems are applied, representing the well behavior with regard to pressure and
temperature. The downhole system is not part of the X-mas Tree supplier scope of work, and,
therefore, the flexibility on interface with different suppliers became important.
DIU houses the downhole vendor interface card, which reads the sensors and provide data to
the SCM. The DIU is located at the Retrievable SCM Mounting Base. The electrical
connection between the DIU and SCM is a 12 way male-female jumper. All the DIU units
use the same electrical 12 way connector and the change of downhole supplier is a matter of
replacement the DIU.
The MCS software was developed in order to allow the downhole supplier change easily. The
different vendors' parameters are pre-loaded into the PLC and HMI and a popup box gives
the option to choose among pre-loaded vendors.

g. X-mas Tree Operation Modes

A Global X-mas Tree contract requires flexibility and it is what about this standardization is.
The presented case study has the ability to operate in two different modes: Multiplexed or
Hydraulic Direct.
The multiplexed mode is a SCM-based, with fast response time, friendly interface and higher
subsea information and control. It requires the use of the Retrievable SCM Mounting Base
and the topside equipment, as described during on the whole paper.
Hydraulic direct mode is the conventional operation mode where no SCM is presented, and
therefore, the Retrievable SCM Mounting Base and the topside equipment are not necessary.
This operation mode needs a complex umbilical with more hydraulic lines and electrical
pairs. In addition, topside hydraulic control panels for subsea controlling and electrical panel
for sensors interface are needed. The hydraulic direct solution is considered a slow reponse
system with less subsea information, but still in use due its simplicity.
The papers focused on the multiplexed mode for been considered the most required solutions
for the next major subsea projects.


Standardization is about review and evaluate long term project and field lessons learnt. Create
the standard is a matter of processing the knowledge gathered around the equipment routines
during its life cycle and apply it in the product design.
Standardize the subsea equipment enable the companies to invest more time on research and
development of new technologies and in the improvements of the current ones, which add
reliability and quality for the products. The project risks from tender to delivery phases are
reduced and the manufacturing results improved, once the fabrication process becomes better
known. Therefore, establish a common knowledge base, shared between all the oil and gas
industry supply chain, is the key to succeed the standardization.
From the E&P companies’ point of view, standard products enable the advantages of reduced
stored spare parts and enables the development of the supply chain, which includes better
specialized services. As a result, it provides higher quality, more reliable and short delivery
time solutions, which enables fast track projects.
Thereby, the regional standardization process is an important step to start a global process.
The current local experience with the presented standard is now becoming a consolidated
technology and operational philosophy. It is the first step for global process of
standardization, which would certainly contribute to increase the technology and the deliver
of subsea oilfield systems.

[1] SIMON, D.. Standardisation or New Technology?. FFU Seminar, Statoil IB Centre,
Jan, 2010. (Presentation)

[2] BAI, Q.; BAI,Y. Subsea Structural Engineering – Handbook. Burlington, USA: Gulf
Professional Publishing, 2010. 919 p.

[3] SCHWAB, M.; PIMENTEL, J.; AWANE, M. Case of Study of Applying the
CANOPEN Communication Protocol in Subsea Equpments for Oil and Gas Industry. IV
PCIC BR, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, Aug. 2012.


Fernando Popia has a Bachelors of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the
UTFPR (Technical Federal University of Parana - Brazil). Since 2007, he has been working
at AkerSolutions as a subsea control systems engineer. Before his current position in the oil
and gas industry, he acted in the agriculture industry designing electrical systems for tractors
and harvesters for 1 year.

William Bessa has a Bachelors of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from UFPR
(Federal University of Parana – Brazil). Since 2011, he has been working at AkerSolutions as
a subsea control systems engineer. Actually, he has also studying to obtain the Masters of
Science degree in Electrical Engineering at Electronic System from UFPR.

Juliano Pimentel has a Master of Science in Electronic Engineering from ITA

(Technological Institute of Aeronautics – Brazil). He has been in the Subsea Engineering for
nearly 10 years, currently working at AkerSolutions and previously for FMC Technologies.

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