Man has not only harnessed the seas for transportation but for industrial purposes also. The offshore industry owes all credit to the development of FPSO vessels which stand for Floating Production Storage and Offloading units.
Over the last 30 years, FPSO vessels have acquired a place of importance in the area of oil and gas production. They are an essential to exploit the reserves to the best of their potential. Oil has been exploited from off shore locations since 1950. The first oil FPSO was the Shell Castellon, which was built in Spain in the year 1977.
Why FPSO Vessel Over Pipelines?
In our post related to deep ocean engineering, we have studied how underwater pipes are laid in the sea. Yet laying of pipelines is always not a feasible option. The scale of economics always does not run in favor of this option. Oil and Natural Gas are an absolute essential for the industry. Even a small reserve cannot be ignored and for such a small reserve laying of pipeline may not an ideal option. FPSO vessels are the best alternative in such cases.
FPSO Vessel in Oil and Gas Sector
An FPSO is a floating vessel that has been designed in a manner that makes it conducive to receive, process and store oil or natural gas. These stages are necessary before the produce is offloaded onto a tanker or a pipeline. Oil tankers may be converted to function as a FPSO. Such vessels may be used for oil storage alone. Such units are termed as Floating Storage Units or FSU vessels instead of FPSO vessels.
Types of FPSO Vessels
FPSO vessels are broadly of two types:
- A Converted Oil Tanker
- A Custom Built FPSO
The FPSO’s can be permanently moored or diconnectable. It is the area in which the vessel has to be used that controls the basic design. In calm waters a simple design can serve the purpose but in case of volatile waters the structures will be designed accordingly. The basic difference is in the injection lines, which are external in case of calm waters and internal any other case.
The second factor that is kept in mind while designing an FPSO structure is the direction of the wind in that area. The effort is to reduce the effect of the environment.
With increasing environmental and safety concerns the functioning of FPSO vessels is continuously monitored by international agencies such as the IMO (International Maritime Organization). IMO has issued detailed guidelines for carrying out the various functions and handling of discharge which may be a by product of the processing done on the vessel. With the very nature of the product stored on these vessels being inflammable, safety provision and training acquire immense importance.
The World’s Largest FPSO Vessel
The Girassol FPSO, is one of the largest FPSO vessel functioning in the world today. It was constructed in Korea. It has been constructed as a joint venture between Bouygues Offshore and Stolt Offshore within a period of 21 months. The vessel has a production capacity of 200,000 barrels per day and a storage capacity of 2,000,000 barrel storage capacity.