Efforts to boost cross-border innovation

Trond Olsen, CEO of NCE Subsea, was invited to talk about the Norwegian cluster model and the accomplishments of NCE Subsea in Brazil at a seminar in Rio de Janeiro on 18 September 18 2013.

Published: 21 September 2013

Mr. Olsen was one of the speakers in a session on innovative environments and the oil industry, together with Marcos Assayag, who is the general manager at Cenpes, the research division of Petrobras. Sub-secretary of the Secretariat of Economic Development, Energy, Industry and Services, Marcelo Vertis, was the moderator of the session.

The seminar for incubators and technology parks in the state of Rio de Janeiro took place in the facilities of Schlumberger, located in the technology park at the Federal university of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). Companies like FMC Technologies, Halliburton and Schlumberger all have research facilities here, and the 10 year anniversary of the technology park was also celebrated during the event this week.

Subsea future

Petrobras is currently the largest operator of subsea wells in the world, while Statoil is the runner up. Norwegian originated subsea companies have more than 50 percent of the global subsea market. About 14.500 people are directly involved in the subsea industry in Brazil, while Norway have about 13.500 directly involved.

Future solutions on the seabed and subsea production systems were topics that concerned both speakers at the session. 

– Integrity, reliability and regularity is essential for subsea solutions in the future. Both Petrobras and Statoil envision a subsea factory down there. Together with several world-class Norwegian R&D institutions and Statoil, NCE Subsea is preparing an application for a Centre for research based innovation with focus on Integrated Well and Subsea Instrumentation. This is a project we are inviting Petrobras to be part of, Mr. Olsen disclosed in his presentation.

Marcos Assayag confirmed that this is an area of interest to Petrobras.

– Subsea is an area that we consider critical, and that Petrobras is investing heavily in. I believe that subsea systems will substitute the floating production vessels on the surface we use today. They are too costly, Marcos Assayag said.

Cross-border cooperation

Trond Olsen also talked about the Norwegian cluster model and about NCE Subsea.

– The cluster model builds on the idea of cooperation. Cooperate when you can and compete when you must. We work closely with the companies in the industry, with R&D and educational institutions. Norway has 12 so-called centers of expertise, appointed by the government with a partial government funding. These are the most innovative, ambitious and internationally focused clusters in Norway. NCE Subsea is a facilitator, we communicate the needs from companies to the government, to universities and R&D institutions. Research shows that companies belonging to clusters perform better. Innovation is based on interaction, clusters speed up the diffusion of knowledge and create a good environment for entrepreneurs, Mr. Olsen said.

The signing of a MoU with the state government of Rio de Janeiro is of great importance to NCE Subsea, Mr. Trond Olsen said in his presentation.

On 17 September, he signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the state government of Rio de Janeiro, committing to assist the local authorities in the formation of a local subsea cluster. Last year, NCE Subsea signed similar MoUs with FIESP, ONIP and the local government in Macaé.

– The intention is to develop a cooperation that will support and stimulate innovation in both countries. These agreements we sign all deal with technological cooperation and with facilitating partnerships, he said.

Mr. Olsen presented the Subsea Index to the audience, a bilingual database for matchmaking between companies in Norway and Brazil, that has 200 Norwegian companies and 100 Brazilian companies registered. – The next step is to promote R&D institutions in the database and also include funding opportunities, he said.

Motivated by need

Marcos Assayag talked about the various technological challenges Petrobras is facing, and presented some of the company's research programs. Petrobras is investing heavily in research and development (R&D) – an average of 1,2 billion US dollars a year. 49 percent of this is invested in the area of production, 20 percent in downstream activities and 10 percent in exploration. Cenpes, the research division of the company, currently employs 908 researchers and 310 engineers and 227 different labs in its facilities located in the UFRJ technology park.

– Innovation is motivated by needs. Needs created by new discoveries, needs to be more competitive and the need for sustainability. This is fundamental to Petrobras, he said. – We are more interested in innovation than inventions, more patents than papers and want to see the research applied and giving results in the production chain, Mr. Assayag said.

Besides subsea, shale gas, a more efficient mapping of new areas, better maintenance and construction of offshore wells, a better recovery rate in mature fields and technologies that can reduce the production cost and guarantee more efficient offshore logistics in the pre-salt areas are other areas that pose challenges to Petrobras today. In the future, Marcos Assayag envisions power generation on the seabed and laser drilling.

– But none of the above mentioned challenges will prevent us from developing the pre-salt fields, and I guarantee you that Petrobras is going to be a completely different company in 2020. We are going to double our proven reserves and double our current production, Mr. Assayag said.