Siemens Powers Subsea Factories

Siemens' solution for electrification of the seabed brings the subsea factory vision yet another step closer to realisation.

Published: 22 May 2014

Siemens Power Grid

- One of the major challenges for turning subsea factories into reality as been stable and safe power supply. Our new solution, Siemens Subsea Power Grid, provides the answer. The system enables subsea processing at a completely different scale than before, and we are thus one step closer to the realisation of subsea factories, says Bjørn Rasch, Head of Subsea Power at Siemens.

Developed for a different environment

In simple terms, what Siemens has done is to make use of tried and tested air-based components and solutions, which have been adapted and qualified for use on the seabed. These components, mainly transformers, switchgears and variable-speed drives (VSDs), together with a comprehensive communication and control system, have then been combined to form a complete Subsea Power Grid able to supply and distribute electric power on the seabed.

-  Getting components developed for a different environment to function under pressure and in oil has been the most challenging. The infrastructure required has been considerable, and we have, in connection with the project, established a unique test lab in Trondheim. This has facilitated testing of areas such as pressure, temperature, current and voltage, says Rasch.

Close collaboration

The project received a go-ahead following a thorough market survey conducted by Siemens, which showed adequate expertise available in the company as well as a demand in the market for this type of solution. Next, the operating company Chevron was contacted and informed of the development plans. Chevron came on board, and invited Statoil, Petrobras and ExxonMobil along. In other words, four of the world's largest operating companies have been key in realising this power solution.

- We have been in charge of the development, and the four operators have contributed with their experience and needs. A positive aspect of this collaboration is that the solution is adapted to suit the requirements of all four operators, says Rasch.


In addition to its multi-operator suitability, the solution is standardised for various pressure and depth levels. Standardisation has been widely called for by the sector for many years, and this is something Siemens has taken seriously. - Siemens Subsea Power Grid is qualified to 3000 metres depth, and it also meets the requirements set by Chevron, Statoil, ExxonMobil and Petrobras, says Rasch.

Consequently, the solution can be used for a range of different projects, and at everything from great depths to more shallow waters. Siemens has also worked hard to develop a standardised interface. - One of the advantages is that the solution will be able to communicate with other systems over standardised protocols, says Rasch.

This entails relatively easy integration with solutions from alternative suppliers, such as OneSubsea, Aker Solutions and FMC. - Collaboration with the operators as well as the other large suppliers is the key to success, and is paramount for future growth. Hence, this is an important area of focus, says Rasch.

Ready for delivery in 2016

Another important aspect is that the solution does not rely on any active cooling functions, and is entirely based on passive cooling techniques. This brings obvious advantages. - For example, there are no moving parts susceptible to damage. This prolongs the system's lifespan, says Rasch. The plan is for the solution to be ready for underwater testing in 2015, and for delivery in 2016.

Bjørn Rasch will give a presentation on Siemens solutions for electrification at UTC 18 June. Read the whole interview with Rasch (external site).