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Helping Brazil triple oil production by 2020

1 October 2014

The world is not running out of oil; rather, it’s running out of easily found and easily extracted oil. What’s left is in places that are hard to get to, and even harder to work in, such as off the coast of Brazil where one of the largest oil reserves in the world is buried in a pre-salt geological layer beneath miles of water and rock.

The Brazilian government had set an aggressive goal of tripling its oil production, from approximately 2 million barrels a day to 6 million barrels a day, before the end of the decade. In order to hit this target, Brazil’s oil and gas industry would need to tap into these pre-salt wells to safely bring this oil to the surface, which was a challenge in itself. However, at the same time, the government stipulated that all manufacturers adhere to its new local content regulations.

At these depths, subsea trees, which are often called Christmas trees because of the way they look, are used to control the flow of oil out of a well. Specially developed High-Crush Resistant (HCR) high-pressure hose, which is part of Hydraulic Flying Leads (HFLs) that connect manifold blocks to subsea trees, takes hose construction and functionality to a whole new level. Each HFL is actually a bundle of individual HCR hoses that vary in quantity according to project requirements. Prior to 2010, subsea tree manufacturers typically relied on hose sourced from outside of Brazil to bundle hose and build HFLs.

“We approached the tree manufacturers at just the right time,” said Pedro Cortonesi, industrial sales manager for South America at Eaton. “They were looking for a local hose partner to help them meet Brazilian content requirements. We explained that although Synflex HCR hose is manufactured in the USA, it is shipped to our Guaratinguetá facility where we add local content. This includes, cutting individual hoses to precise lengths, attaching corrosion-resistant stainless steel end connectors, wrapping the hoses into bundles and flushing and testing the completed bundles.”

“Reliability is absolutely monumental for hose that is installed under as much as 8,200 feet [2.5km] of water,” Cortonesi said, “making it very difficult and expensive to repair, in addition to the fact that a hose failure can literally shut down a drilling operation. Because of the many challenges and large-scale investment involved in deep sea drilling, hydraulic hose must last a minimum of 20 years.”

Eaton’s Synflex hose has been a critical component in subsea exploration for over 45 years. The hose’s flexible 316 stainless steel inner-locking carcass withstands over 5,000 psi (345 bar) differential pressure and up to 7,500 psi (517 bar) working pressure, extreme forces that are commonplace in ultra-deep water exploration.

“Still, we had a lot of work to do in order to obtain the hose business,” said Cortonesi. To reinforce Eaton’s strength in providing customised hose solutions, Eaton’s engineers met with the wet tree manufacturers to present their approach to each project that includes close interaction with the customer and in-depth analysis of tree configurations and hose requirements.

Knowing that proof-testing is mission critical in the supply of subsea hose – so critical that it must be witnessed by a customer-appointed inspector – customer personnel were invited to Eaton’s in-house testing operations in Guaratinguetá, where the application worthiness of each completed Synflex HCR hose assembly is verified.

“In this business, where hose assemblies can be thousands of feet long, there is no such thing as prototypes,” Cortonesi added. “Each hose must undergo rigorous testing to API-17 standards and tested way beyond its performance limits to ensure it will function on the job. We demonstrated how each Eaton subsea hose is subjected to pounding vibration, rough abrasion, high operating pressures, and more through vigorous around-the-clock testing.”

Impressed with Eaton’s know-how, strict adherence to industry protocol and capability to meet an absolute delivery date, the subsea tree manufacturers awarded their hose business to Eaton’s Brazil operations.

“Our customers are pleased with the performance of Synflex hose and that Eaton is helping them achieve their Brazilian content goals,” Cortonesi said. “In turn, their business is helping Eaton become a major player in the oil and gas market, particularly here in Brazil which has the potential to become one of the largest oil producers in the world.”

Other Eaton products used in Brazil’s oil and gas offshore work include XL series motion-compensation cylinders on an ultra-deep water drill ship, which are reducing downtime and enhancing platform safety; and Eaton ReactoGard filtration systems that are helping local oil refineries improve quality and performance and meet ultra-low sulphur emission regulations.

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