Unmanned Oil Production Platforms | Amec and UPB’s £756m Plan

Unmanned Production Buoy (UPB) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the engineering giant AMEC for the development and construction of its first unmanned oil production platforms for use in small North Sea fields and other reserves in Danish and Irish waters according to a report in the FT.

The expectation is that buoy based production is practical only for marginal fields but UPB estimates that it is possible to recover 2bn barrels from the North Sea alone using their technology and that its European programme will cost £756m. The Scottish governement is supplying funds off £500 for this project. Amec will provide engineering, procurement, construction management and support services for the first three platforms in the Angus, Fife Fergus and Flora fields. The UK governement has granted licenses for these fields.

Richard Selwa is founder and chairman of UPB and started it in Aberdeen in 2009 to develop the concept of providing unmanned production systems to the offshore oil industry to enable access to previously uneconomical and untapped markets of offshore production. He got his inspiration while working in landlocked Wyoming in the US where he saw automated machinery quietly pumping crude oil and thought the system could be used offshore.

His systems are designed to operate safely and autonomously and are 100% redeployable with the seabed restored upon exhaustion of the field. The unmanned buoys use temperature based stabilisation where heat is provided by burning gas from the well itself. This is a slower method than the pressure based system commonly used offshore. There is no requirement for permanent rigs, floating production storage or offloading vessels.

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