Taking laser technology to the seabed

By 2015 Pro Analysis targets to develop a subsea solution for an oil-in-water monitor. Along the road Pro Analysis is accompanied by a professional subsea network.

Published: 9 April 2013

Photo: An ever increasing water level in production wells worldwide and governments implementing stricter environmental standards, constitutes the background for the subsea R&D-project, according to Managing Director, Gunnar Alfheim and Finance and Marketing Manager, Sigurd Bekkevold in Pro Analysis.

Pro Analysis has greatly benefitted from their partner’s contributions in the development of technologies that measure oil in produced water. Both the Norwegian Research Council and Statoil gave vital support so that the company could finalize the topside solution. When the company decided to develop its laser technology for subsea, it was natural to address the international subsea environment, NCE Subsea which today counts 100 member companies.

Building technology and market

The research based company with fifteen employees, has learned the lesson that there is no easy path to go when new ground is to be taken.

- You have to be out there and show yourself off. Things do not go by themselves. If a company is launching a new and wonderful technology that is better and cheaper than the others, things will go easy. However, as in our case, we have to at first develop a new product and second also build the corresponding market. It is then absolutely essential that we are present out there, such as at the NCE Subsea's events, says Finance and Marketing Manager, Sigurd Bekkevold.

This was a clear experience for Pro Analysis when the Argus technology was developed for topside purposes.

- Earlier no technology has met the requirements the oil industry has set in this field. A common way has been to collect a water sample in bottle, carry it up to the lab on the platform and manually analyze it. Often the result from the single measurement was not ready until the day after. In opposite our technology provides continuous measurements in real time. This implies a great difference in the usefulness for the customer.

The vision of a subsea factory

There are a great number of technological challenges that must be solved by the subsea industry, before Statoil’s vision of a subsea factory can be realized.

- Many technology gaps within subsea separation must be closed, if we are going to succeed by 2020. One important step is to precisely measure the oil content in the produced water on the seabed, before the water either is further purified, discharged to the sea or reinjected into the reservoir.

Joint Industry Project

- At NCE Subsea we got support for a pre-project, so we could define a project and seek partners that could join us in a development process.

After a while they experienced that many of the possible players only were interested in a conditional way.

- Many talked about the importance of achieving this goal, but no one wanted to commit and put money on the table. Anyhow this was still a useful process for us. We defined a possible project and set specifications. Even if this initiative did not lead to a specific project at that time, the work gave certain attention in the industry.

Last year, Pro Analysis was invited into a project by Statoil. The purpose was precisely to develop a subsea instrument for measuring oil in water. The project, Subsea Oil in Water Monitoring Development, got started and is scheduled to be completed by 2015.

- In our offer to Statoil, we drew attention to the subsea network of NCE Subsea which has members who can supply equipment and partial solutions. Clearly the NCE members have experience in taking topside solutions down to seabed.

New development

- Pro Analysis has also initiated research collaboration with CMR, University of Bergen and Polytech in order to develop parts of the subsea solution. With funding from the Norwegian Research Council, the purpose is to develop a glass surface that prevents contaminations to stick to the glass. A clean glass provides more accurate and reliable measurements.

Subsea First Step

The company has several positive experiences with NCE Subsea.

- Subsea First Step was helpful for us. Even if we had reached a further stage of development, than the other participants, it was important lessons for us too. We wanted at this stage to get attention from possible investors. Subsea First Step planned exactly for this. It was also fun to confront students in various disciplines such as engineering and economics. They gave interesting evaluations of our strategies.

Bekkevold highlights that a subsea network also provide "cred" in the market compared to competitors who not have a network of the same quality.

Growing market

Bekkevold sees some major developments that enhance Pro Analysis market opportunities ahead.

- First, there is an ever increasing regulation of environmental emissions. Second, the amount of produced water from wells is increasing all around the world. In addition water injection increases as the fields approach tail production and this also increase demand of oil in water measurements. The understanding of what our technology can do, even on the seabed, will in future increase even more, Bekkevold firmly believes.


Facts

Pro Analysis AS is a provider of Oil in Water monitoring technology for the oil and gas industry, and is located in Bergen, Norway. The Argus ® technology was introduced to the North Sea in 2008. In 2009 the technology was introduced world wide.

The company was founded in 1996 and focused on so-called laser-induced fluorescence as a mean to measure the fluorescent light when it hits hydrocarbons. In 2001 Pro Analysis started to develop laser technology that could continuously estimate the quantity of oil in water. With support from the Norwegian Research Institute from the start and by Statoil from 2004, the pilot was completed in 2007.