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All part of the process
The recent acquisition of Fjords Processing, the Norwegian wellstream production specialist, expands NOV’s technology offerings in a critical business area.
Fjords Processing operated independently under that name for only a little more than two years.
But the company’s roots go back to the 1970s, when it was a small business known as E Plan.
The company later joined the Kvaerner family of businesses and became known as Aker Process Systems after the 2001 merger of Kvaerner and Aker Solutions.
Over the years, the company built a reputation for topside process engineering expertise along with a portfolio of technologies for both greenfield and brownfield projects.
Rune Fantoft joined Aker Process Systems in 2013 and became chief executive of Fjords Processing in 2014, when Aker spun it off along with several other business units.
He stayed on after National Oilwell Varco (NOV) purchased the company in December 2016, and was appointed senior vice president of the newly created Wellstream Processing group within NOV’s Process & Flow Technologies business unit early this year.
"We have worked quite hard over the past few years to strengthen our position in separation and produced water."
The company’s new place under the NOV umbrella offers “exciting opportunities for both parties, I think”, Fantoft says.
“At Fjords, we had a strategy to become a leader in the topside processing market.”
NOV, through a series of investments, had extended its product line well beyond its traditional drilling focus to include more production equipment and life-of-field services.
“We had a strategy and NOV had a strategy, and when we put those two strategies together it was a perfect fit.”
Fjords Processing’s relatively brief stint as an independent company coincided with one of the worst oil and gas industry downturns on record.
Yet the company racked up some impressive numbers during that time, Fantoft says.
“Prior to the acquisition, we were very successful even in a tough market,” he says.
“In 2016, we had higher revenue than we had in prior years, so even in the downturn we have been able to maintain quite good momentum. We increased our market share quite a bit.”
Fjords’ high-profile deliveries last year included a mono-ethylene glycol (MEG) regeneration package for a major project off Malaysia and a produced water and seawater treatment module for a floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) unit in the UK North Sea.
The module, which includes technologies such as hydroclycones and compact flotation, was built at NOV’s Profab yard in Batam, Indonesia.
More recently, the company, operating under the Wellstream Processing banner, completed a MEG module, which will be installed on a floating LNG vessel deployed off Malaysia.
Additionally, in March this year, Fjords delivered an oil separation package and a gas dehydration system, including a triethylene glycol (TEG) regeneration facility, for a major project on the Norwegian continental shelf.
The NOV acquisition will allow Fjords to make good on some long-held and ambitious goals, Fantoft says.
“We wanted to establish a leading topside processing unit that could offer any solution that an operator or (engineering, procurement and construction) company would need when they build topside process systems, whether onshore or offshore,” he says.
“We want to have a strong position in everything related to upstream processing, and I think we have quite a complete product portfolio in that area.
“At the same time, what we are seeing in the market now is an extreme focus to enable oil and gas production at a lower cost per barrel.”
To help operators accomplish that, he says, engineers need to adopt a more comprehensive approach to process system design.
“One of the advantages we have is a very in-depth, detailed chemistry and fluid understanding and, at the same time, we have the products and execution capabilities.
"We can start combining how these production systems are made so that the overall process can be more efficient.
"So instead of putting together a traditional process where you have certain stages to treat oil and gas, water and sand, we can look at it from a more high-level perspective and use our own products to come up with solutions that are more efficient. That will put us in a very strong position,” he says.
Fjords’ ambitions were greater than its relatively modest market position, however.
“That’s where it’s a perfect fit to get into NOV, which has extensive experience in taking that kind of integrated approach, especially in the drilling market," says Fantoft.
"And I’m very confident that we can take these kinds of positions more and more in the production market.”
NOV had similar ambitions, Fantoft says. “The interesting thing is that they actually had the same strategy — they wanted to do in production what they are doing in drilling.
"So I think we have a good fit. NOV will help us get out into the market and give us more credibility to take on more important responsibilities, and we will provide the technology.”
That strategic alignment has made it easier to merge the businesses, he says.
“We will be quite integrated. NOV already had a processing business that was similar to Fjords’, but smaller.
They have fabrication capabilities that we used prior to the acquisition. What we’re looking at now is how to put these things together into one stronger team.”
Fantoft expects the combined businesses to maintain a strong emphasis on research and development.
“We have worked quite hard over the past few years to strengthen our position in separation and produced water,” he says.
“We have some produced water and advanced compact flotation technologies that we have quite quickly taken from development into commercial application.
"There are technologies, especially in oil treatment, separation and produced water, that we have been successfully developing and getting into the market.”
In the last few years, the focus has been on creating systems that help customers meet their processing requirements at a lower cost, he says.
“That’s been an important part of development. The focus now is getting more barrels per dollar. We have put quite a lot of effort into systems that reduce size and weight.
"But it’s not only about having compact products that reduce the size and weight. It’s how you put the system together.”
Fjords engineers have worked on recent projects that combine into a single system processes that previously were treated as separate, Fantoft says, citing the FPSO module project as one example.
“Historically, at that field the produced water and seawater injection module were two different packages.
"We combined it into one and achieved a much leaner and more compact system in the end.”
The module uses membranes for seawater treatment and Fjords Processing’s own produced water technology - de-oiling hydrocyclone liners, degassing vessel internals and a compact flotation unit.
The system was designed to inject produced water, sea water or some combination of both.
“We have done that on a few other projects where we tell the customer, since we are dealing with this package, we can take onboard that package and combine some units, combine some structures, and at the end of the day you have a much more compact and lower-cost system,” he says.
“I think now with NOV we will have the opportunity to do more of that.”
Integration of the new Wellstream Processing unit has been harmonious, Fantoft adds.
“Fjords Processing people have a lot of important roles in making this happen,” he says.
“I think that demonstrates that NOV has the capability to make sure that when they get companies like us, they rely on people coming from the acquired company along with their own people to make units that are stronger.
“We consider ourselves NOV people now, and I think that’s a good development,” Fantoft says.
“We will be able to do what we were doing before. At the same time, we will get some more technologies. That gives us much more momentum to achieve what we originally wanted to achieve with Fjords.”